Friday, June 23, 2017

Reminder: Staying healthy on vacay

Ah, yes, infectious diseases--they are ever with us.

Brent W. Laarta, MD, author of How to Avoid Contagious Diseases ( says 40% of travelers who bring back a major illness from their foreign travels.

He was one--on a horseback riding trip to Costa Rica (in his younger, more naive days).

Some tips he learned the hard way:

--Avoid local water in all forms. When you shower, no water in your mouth or eyes. Ask for a drink without ice. Bring iodine tablets and a water boiler to sanitize water for yourself,. Drink bottled. Be sure even bottled water is sealed.

--Protect your feet. Wear flipflops in the shower. Parasites can enter you through your feet. Never walk barefoot in any area of a foreign country--including in your hotel room.

--Beware of fruits, veggies, condiments. If you can't get an apple or banana that can be peeled, avoind fruit. Any fruit served fresh can be washed in local water or wiped by a kitchen rag (you don't want to know). You could even bring your own peeler. Forget coleslaw or anything with mayo.

--Bypass road stands and street food. It might smell great but not have been heated hot enough to kill things you want killed. In a restaurant the to-go Styrofoam box may be cleaner than the plate.

I had the parasite giardia once. You don't want this. Unfortunately I got it from a local takeout joint, not a nice trip to South America.

Even in America, see that sparkling stream tumbling along? Not fit to drink!

None of this is foolproof. Bring Imodium--in fact, carry it everywhere, even in the US. My advice.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Write your way healthier

Writing on the website, Lucy Whitehouse says grab your pen or computer and write your way to better health.

The Journal of Research and Personality, had a study that seemed to show that writing on positive subjects might boost your immune system.

Writing also helps you sleep better, according to Applied Psychology. Spend 15 minutes before bed writing about things you are grateful for.

Writing or journaling has been shown to reduce symptoms of asthma and arthritis.

Writing perks you up and helps keep feelings of anger and hostility in check.

Writing makes you grateful. Good vibes.

When vibes are good, you may want to get out and exercise.

AND--writing helps keep your brain cells working and connecting...Thinking and expressing yourself on hard subjects may even keep dementia at bay.

I used to know a guy who would copy a paragraph from The New York Times just to get some words in his mind and then he took off from there for a day of writing.

As you readers know, I write about everything. It doesn't make me feel better all the time, but it can't hurt.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Removing breast implants--tricky

I know I sound like a dope for saying this, but the plastic surgery show on E! Channel, BOTCHED, is back--and I missed it. It is such an entertaining mix of trans-this, trans-that, weird bodily obsession, physician showboating, etc, I love it. I cannot lie.

In the episode I saw a female impersonator had a burst breast implant--basically, a wad of goo, that had to be cleaned out.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 400,000 women in the US had breast implant surgery in 2016 (cosmetic augmentation and reconstruction from cancer surgery).

At year seven, half of all implants need to be removed. They do not last a lifetime, says Constance M. Chen, MD, a plastic surgeon in NYC.

They can cause trouble:

--They are foreign bodies or substances, so the body forms a capsule around them. This shell can become painful. It can also account for that stuck-on half-tennis ball look.

--They can get infected.

--They can push through the skin.

--Under investigation by the FDA--whether there is a link to a rare immune system cancer called anaplastic large-cell lymphoma.

What is involved in removing:

--A complete capsulectomy--time-consuming procedure involving removing not only the implant but the shell around it. This can involve peeling tissue off the lungs, in some cases.

--After removal, the patient may face a breast lift, fat transfer, implant replacement, or even natural tissue free flaps.

If you have large breasts and small implants, you may get a pleasing result with removal alone. The opposite goes for small breast with large implants--can end up looking like collapsed pillowcases.

You might want to hang onto your "naturals." Think?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Have you ever been Mommy-shamed?

I have been Mommy-shamed...Once in a grocery store, my kid, then about 8, was lobbying for some stupid sugar item and I was resisting and she got louder and louder--and an older lady decided to inform me that all my daughter wanted was a little thing and why was I so mean?

I also know I stay-at-home guy who was approached in a store and a woman said, "I hope you won't let your daughter get fat like you." So it's not limited to women.

In fact, if you have a child, you will soon learn that EVERYONE knows better how to raise that child. The most adamant? Those with no kids.

Even big movie stars don't skate. Reese Witherspoon was recently criticized for giving her toddler a cinnamon bun for breakfast. Coco Rocho (Iced T's wife) was slammed for using formula.

In a recent survey done at the University of Michigan, six out ot 10 mothers of kids under 5 had been shamed.

Reese Witherspoon aside, most shaming comes from within the family. And the worst of those--the mother's parents--37%.

Next up, the spouse's parents or the other parent--36%.

Others who shame: Child care providers, doctors.


What do they focus on, all these supposedly well-intentioned butt-inners? Diet, nutrition, sleep, breast v bottle, and child care. Not to mention--begging in the store! (Thought I would mention it again.)

Another shame area is safety--"what we used to do" may not longer be applicable.

Mothers in the survey thought they got the blame, but not the credit.

YEAH! Take that!

And what do the shamed do? Avoid those who are too critical.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The importance of mouthfeel

The other day my daughter was making scrambled eggs and asked me did I want mine hard or soft. I reacted immediately, "No egg slime."

Sure, food is sweet, salty, bitter, or salty and the fifth--umami--but mouthfeel is often overlooked.

Ole Mouritsen is a food scientist and author of Mouthfeel: How Texture Makes Taste. He was interviewed by Russ Parsons.

What is mouthfeel? We also call it texture, Mouritsen said. Technically it is on the tongue, but taste is also in the nose, ears or eyes. (Think of something that should be crisp, but is soggy. You will notice.)

The Japanese have 400 ways to describe food texture--we have 80.

Say fish--not much taste by itself--so mouthfeel is important. (I have heard certain fish--swordfish is one-- described as meaty as a steak.) The Japanese "pickle" vegetables--they may seem rubbery, but when you bite down, they have a crunching feeling all over your skull.

Seaweed is another one. The Japanese eat a lot of it. Chewy, slimy, crunchy, soft, or hard--depending.

Food scientists do a test where they puree foods--only about half of the participants can identify cabbage or tomatoes by taste alone--when it's a puree.

If you have to chew, say a piece of tomato in ketchup, it may "taste" different.

Mayonnaise--another example--has small gobbets of fat so it tastes creamy--large globules will "taste" oily.

All this is called neurogastronomy...And you thought you were just getting a snack--your whole body is involved.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Preemies not at educational disadvantage once thought

My niece was born at 26 weeks, a little over 2 lbs. She is now a college grad in her 40s with a talented and gifted son of her own.

Yet, parents of premature babies often fret that their kids will be held back or do poorly in school.

They did a large-scale study at Northwestern that should reassure these parents.

--Two-thirds of babies born at 23 or 24 weeks were ready for kindergarten on time.

--While these extremely premature babies scored low on standardized tests, those born after 25 weeks were almost on par with full-term infants.

--After 28 weeks, the difference was negligible.

This study was unique in that it focused on educational prospects, not medical or physical development prospects.

Few studies focus on middle school performance of such a large group--1.3 million.

What about that standardized test performance gap? The study investigator said the glass was still more than half-full.

Did the children perform well in school on their own--or did they get extra help all along because of their prematurity? This was not determined--but by middle school, the kids were up to par on the tests.

Doctors can tell parents of premature babies, said the researchers, that they usually do "brilliantly."

Of course, this is statistically speaking. Individual experience is well...individual.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

OOGA OOGA--Alarm bells over health care bill

Obamacare was passed without a single Republican vote, and time to vote was even extended to get in all the stragglers. Some reluctant types got sweeteners.

But that legislation was the subject of many hearings and much publicity (yes, some of it dishonest--"You can keep your plan, keep your doctor").

But now, as I type this, the Senate Republicans are working in SECRET to to pass a massive change in the next three weeks.

Meanwhile, the baseball shootings and the endless wrangling over the president's Russian dealings (I guess alleged) are overshadowing how tens of millions are about to lose their health insurance--all "justified" by saying Obamacare is dying (when the admin is actually starving it).

Even the unpredictable president reportedly finally tuned into this bill and said it was "too mean." Will he intervene or just make remarks? Who knows.

Nice, huh?

The key thing here is to repeal the taxes, or some, in Obamacare so they can show the money to cut taxes for rich Americans in the proposed tax bill. No insurance? Well, tough. Sounds too dastardly to be true, huh? But it is.

What can you do?

Call your senators' offices--

Say you want the CBO report to be considered. You want hearings. You want a chance to say how this will affect you.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Chill baby chill

BYOS--Bring Your Own Shade
See, here's the deal. The sun is actually a big nuclear reactor in the sky. Its rays (radiation) beam down. Yes, those rays can cause your body to make Vitamin D--but really the rays are more dangerous than healing.

One blistering sunburn as a kid doubles your chance of a deadly melanoma.

Now imagine your thin-skinned infant or toddler basking in the nuclear rays.

Sheila Fallon Friedlander, MD, professor of pediatrics and dermatology at University of CA San Diego, has some suggestions for keeping the little ones safe:

--Keep the babies in the shade, at least for the first six months of life. No shade? Make some--an umbrella, hood of the stroller, something.

--Dress the baby in protective clothes, such as a lightweight long-sleeve shirt and pants.

--Always put a wide-brimmed hat on the baby. And sunglasses with UV protection.

--Don't slather sunscreen on children younger than 6 mos. If there is no shade, apply an SPF 30 very sparingly.

--Sunscreens  with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are less likely to irritate a baby's skin. Reapply every two hours if swimming or sweating--there is no such thing as "waterproof" screen.

--Be careful on hot days. Give the baby plenty to drink. If the baby cries or looks red, take him or her inside immediately.

You can also check out the American Academy of Dermatology's video "Infant Sun Protection" at the site or on YouTube.

Big powerful sun...small sensitive child. Even the odds.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Don't scream--this is about snakes

What's that WHIRRING sound?
Yes, it's summer--you are outside--snakes are out of their dens. In fact, you are in their habitat. Do the math.

My own daughter announced the other day that she and a friend had been in the hills of AZ the evening before and saw a rattlesnake. EEEK.

She hastened to say it was a "small one." Well, I  know from watching interminable hospital and vet shows, that small does not mean lacking in venom.

Snake venom can spread through the tissues quickly and blacken and kill them. If this gets extreme, it can kill you.

If you reach down into grass--or a boot in your tent--or someplace with bad visibility--and you feel a sharp pain...It could be a snakebite.

Do this:

--Grab your cellphone, your most important first aid tool. Call 9-1-1.

--Do not try to grab or capture the snake--it could bite again.

--Do not take the snake to the ER. Take a picture with your phone if you can do it safely.

--Stay calm. Fewer than 10 people die of snakebites in the US each year.

At the ER, you may want antivenin--but not get it right away. For one thing, it's crazy expensive. The docs will monitor you for a while.

The snake might have given a dry bite--no venom. Or it might not even be a venomous snake.

If you start to have trouble breathing or rapid heartbeat, the doctors may intervene.

The best way to deal with snakes? Don't deal with them. Be alert, watch where you step,

But be aware--snakes can make a home in the brush in your backyard.

That happened when I was a kid--we had a big brush pile and the landscape guy and his sons would routinely clear out the copperheads.

Enough--just be OK.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Cat yoga...for you, not the cat

According to a story in The New York Times, some cat shelters are offering yoga classes, with sinuous, calming cats wandering about or sitting on the participants.

One is the Good Mews shelter in Marietta, Georgia. They clear the cat "trees" out of the way and 15 people take yoga amidst the kitties. The cats head for the mats immediately.

The humans find it relaxing and a good chance to commune with animals. One woman even said she sometimes goes to the dog park to just to watch animals.

For me, veterinarian shows in TV really lift me from my usual thoughts.

Each class is different, a woman from Meow Parlor on the Lower East Side said. Cats will scratch in the little box or meow so loudly the instructor can't be heard.

They also are good stretchers--and sometimes will mimic the yogis--even doing a downward dog. Heh.

Mostly, they bring their energy. If you ask me, this can be positive or negative. My personal cat tends to wander about squalling like a fire alarm.

Friday, June 09, 2017

How to deal with motion sickness

Our family--except for Dad--was prone to car sickness. Mom always brought along a "spit bowl" (she could not stand to say the word vomit).

For his part, Dad's rather warped sense of humor led him to describe giant barbecue dinners while his family laid flopped on the seat, green as peas.

Summer--with car trips, boat trips, and amusement park rides--is motion sickness central.

Basically,, your body combines info from your eyes with info from the part of you on the ground and tries to mix that with input from the fluid-filled cavities in your inner ear's vestibular system.

When all this info does not agree--the body may say, hmmmm, might as well throw up.

Researchers at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center are trying to figure out why some people have this problem and others don't.

--Genetics may play a role.

--Age definitely does. The whirling ride that was fun when you were a teen may be sickening as an adult.

--The vestibular system degenerates as you age.

--Some people can suppress the feeling--others no.

Some tips:

--Roll down the windows in a car--fresh air.

--Focus on a point on the horizon, not things going by the window.

--Get a windo seat on flights.

--Never sit backwards on a train.

--Close your eyes.

--Stay well-hydrated.

--Get plenty of sleep before a motion sickness type activity.

--Breathe deeply.

--Relax each part of your body in turn.

And I would add--don't even think about reading or looking at a map! That is where I lose it.

There are also over the country drugs you can take--but they may make you drowsy. This would be bad in a driver--but usually drivers don't get sick. That was my dad's secret.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Friendship holds more power than family as people age

According to William Chopik, assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State, a pair of studies, involving 280,000 people, show that not only do friendships become increasingly important over time, but in older adults, they can be a strong predictor of health and happiness--sometimes stronger than family ties.

In the first study, Chopik surveyed info about relationships reported by 271,053 participants in nearly 100 countries.  The second study looked at data from another survey about relationship support/strain and chronic illness--in 7,481 older adult in the US alone.

In the first, both family and friends were linked to better health and happiness overall, but only friendships predicted health and happiness ad advanced ages.


--Chopik thinks it may be because we can choose our friends and keep the ones we like and lose the rest over time. Friends also support those without spouses or supportive family members.

--Families can be enjoyable, but also can develop serious, negative and monotonous overtones.

Speaking personally, I have always valued my friendships, some of which are more than 50 years in duration. But I have also "lost" friends, who changed over time (or I did) or seemed to not be the people I thought they were. Recently I friend of 25 years stabbed me in the back. Didn't see that coming.

I have half a dozen people I want in my life and am in contact with every week or more.

Family members? Fewer.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Come on, guys, get with the program

The majority of American men do not consult health professionals at the same rate women do.

In a 2014 CDC survey, 61.5 % of the men consulted said they had been in contact with a doctor or other professional in the last six months--if only via a phone call.

For women, this was 74%.

In the past two yrs, 13.7% of men and 5.7% of women had tagged up.

Adult children can convince dad to:

--Get his blood pressure checked once every two years.

--Get cholesterol checked every five yrs. (sooner if he has heart disease in the family).

--Get screened for diabetes if he takes meds for high blood pressure.

Men often think if I am not sick, why go to the doctor? This can become seductive--sometimes I think like this myself.

But a checkup every few yrs won't kill you--and it might prevent something else from killing you.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Some ER docs pass out opioids like Tic-Tacs

I have been in the Emergency Room several times lately, and through the curtains of the treatment booths have heard the doctors discussing the painkiller prescription the patient would be getting. The patients, as far as I could hear, were not crying or squirming in pain, but "big drugs" like hydrocodone and oxycontin were being dispensed.

Time was, ER docs were very suspicious of patients with frequent visits for vague pains, suspecting they were trying to get painkillers. Has this really changed?

There is no doubt that opioids are being overprescribed, resulting in an abuse epidemic.

Hospitals and doctors differ widely in prescribing these drugs for, say, a sprained ankle.

Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at Penn says US ERs prescribe 15 to 40 pills.

Those who received 30 pills were twice as likely to fill another opioid scrip in 3-6 months.

The authors of the study say there is an urgent need for guidelines for prescribing these drugs for minor injuries.

These meds are extremely addictive, and prescribing them for minor injuries results in thousands of pills getting loose in the community.

Prescribing varies by state. In Delaware only 1.6% of patients got an opioid. In comparison, 16% in Mississippi did.

Just writing such prescriptions for 20 pills, would result in 37,721 fewer pills rattling around the community.

When I had my surgery six weeks ago, I stuck with Tylenol--they offered me the hugely addictive Fentanyl as well as a home supply of Percocets. I said don't need 'em.

Also--this stuff makes you crazy constipated, nauseated, and probably wobbly and not fit to drive. I know old people who are given these drugs for arthritis. They are not really for long-term use...soooo...this is not a good idea.

Also--over the counter painkillers like Advil or Aleve cut inflammation. Tylenol does not.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Be mindful of water quality when kids swim

Lakes, rivers, streams, and the ocean are not the wholesome playgrounds of yesteryear.

To pretend all is perfect can endanger your kids.

Even the backyard wading pool, says a professor of infectious diseases at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in NC, can be contaminated. After all, it is non-moving, warm, shallow water and kids in diapers may have been in it.

Some tips:

--If your child has had any gastrointestinal disease--diarrhea, for instance--keep him or her away from swimming pools and all water.

--Don't swallow water at water parks.

--Freshwater lakes and streams can harbor leptospirosis, a bacterium from the urine of mammals that come to drink from the water. So don't awallow lake water either. Maybe nose plugs?

--Even if a stream looks crystal clear, don't drink from it.  Remember, wild animals have done the same and may have stayed to do their business.

--You super want to avoid Naegleria, a rare, deadly, brain-eating amoeba that is almost impossible to treat.  NEVER jump feetfirst into warm, stagnant water--the water will go up your nose, and if the amoeba is present, it will get forced into your brain. Fun over for sure.

--Salt water can be less of a problem, but you should not go in the ocean with a wound.

And stay away from jelly fish--even the dead ones on the beach. Ouch!

Friday, June 02, 2017

Freaky Brazilian treatment for burns

I debated whether to even post this. It is not approved in the US.

But some Brazilian doctors are using the skin of tilapia fish to cover burns and help them heal.

Frozen pig skin and human tissue has been used for years, keeping the wound moist and transferring collagen, a protein that promotes healing. But sometimes this involves a gauze bandage, which can be agonizing when it's ripped off.

Brazil, apparently, does not have a big supply of pig skin, so scientists at the Federal University of Cesara found that the skin of the mild-tasting tilapia fish had many of the properties of human skin.

Collagen protein types 1 and 3, which are very important for scarring, are found in large numbers in the fish skin.

The tilapia treatment--which is a little disturbing-looking, at least to me--speeds healing by days and reduces the need for so much pain medication.

Will US doctors eventually turn some burn victims into mermaid-like creatures--at least for a short time? Research continues. Burns are terribly painful--I would rather look fishy if it would cut down the time and pain of healing, wouldn't you?

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Good news on antibiotic resistance!

Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute have given new "super powers" to a powerful antibiotic called vancomycin.

According to the scientists, this breakthrough could eliminate the threat of antibiotic resistant infections for years to come.


Vancomycin has been around 60 years, and bacteria are only now developing a resistance. This seems to indicate that bacteria have already had a hard time overcoming its "mechanism of action," which is to disrupt how bacteria form cell walls protecting them from the body's immune system.

Now--the docs have added two modifications to make it even more powerful and deadly. This means you need less of the drug for it to be effective.

A third modification is also under study. All told, the changes amp up vancomycin by a thousand times.

Work now centers on manufacture--to bring down the number of steps it takes to make the new super drug. The researchers described this as "the easy part."

This drug would not be for every bacterial infection--just the big horrible ones.

And remember--don't beg for antibiotics if the doctor thinks you have a virus--antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses.

And if you take an antibiotic, finish all the pills as directed--or you may just weaken the infection you have and make it able to resist the antibiotic you took--and then get loose in the world able to resist antibiotics others might take for it.

But--way to go, Scripps!