Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Let's retire the term "Fatso"

…Gosh, what would any self-respecting schoolyard do without these hateful names for overweight kids?

…Univ of Florida researchers found this is more than “names” versus “sticks and stones.”

…For one thing, the teachers would probably take the sticks and stones away from the kids.

…The names and bullying are worse. The fear of being insulted or picked on is keeping kids from getting exercise.

…In the Journal of Pediatric Psychiatry, Eric Storch, PhD, an assistant prof of psychiatry and pediatrics, says that one in every five kids is picked on.

…Maybe larger kids are easier to catch for these little brats.

…Or maybe society still makes it OK to ridicule overweight people.

…The docs found signs of depression in these kids.

…Guess you don’t get much exercise huddling in the corner and trying to be invisible—or not getting picked for teams.

…In a related story, in the New York Times (May 29, 2006), the idea that weighing kids, putting their BMIs on their report card, not allowing kids to buy seconds, etc., may have gone too far.

…Yeah, just a little.

Elect Gore and PI will wither and die

…Aw, just joshing. Poison ivy is always going to be an itchy menace.

…Now, science postulates that it is getting even more evil because there is more CO2 in the air (in our big terrarium here).

…Carbon dioxide makes the ivy create more of the poison substance, called urushiol.

…Usually, nothing happens the first time and the reaction comes on the second exposure. Within 15 minutes, the oil binds to skin proteins.

…To avoid the rash, you can try rubbing the area immediately with alcohol or plenty of cold water.

…PI is not contagious, no matter how icky the rash looks.

…Scratching the blisters also does not spread it, but while you still have the oil on your hands, you can spread it.

…Calamine or Burrows Solution can calm the blistery rash. An antihistamine like Benadryl can ease the itching or at very least, will allow you to sleep through it.

…Great…now we are warmer, the ice cliffs are crashing into the sea, and we are getting more posion ivy, in addition to less oxygen to make our brains think better about what to do about all this.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Pine could be the last thing you smell

…HA could have told ya. Making your house smell too clean can be “a bad thing.”

…A new study says household cleaners and air sprays with pine, orange, and lemon scents may emit toxic pollutants.

…Yup, this from Univ of California-Berkeley scientists!

…A person who cleans a shower stall for 15 minutes (are these people insane?) with a product containing glycol ethers may get more than 3X the dose of this stuff recommended for an hour. (Well, not recommended, allowed.)

…Don’t use an air freshener with an air purifier machine that emits ozone—or the room can fill with 25% more formaldehyde than anyone should breathe.

…Professional house cleaners who clean more than 20 houses a week are steeped in formaldehyde. This is a known carcinogen (cancer causer, for the non-paranoid).

…Writing for Knight-Ridder, Candace Renalls suggests dumping all the scary caustics and chlorinated stuff.

…She quotes Ellen Sandbeck, author of Organic Housekeeping, who still loves 20 Mule Team Borax (which will set off a certain tune in the minds of those of a certain age). Bon Ami is still a stand-by (cleanser). Murphy’s Oil Soap. Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. Ah, good times.

…One hint to avoid that hideous oven cleaner stuff? Two tablespoons of Murphy’s Oil Soap and 2 tablespoons of borax in a pint spray bottle. Fill with hot water and shake. Spray on oven sides, wait 20 minutes, and scrub off the gunk with a plastic scrubbie.

…Sandbeck’s idea for cleaning drains? Prevention! Don’t let stuff get in there.

…Finally, something HA knew.

Thirst roulette

…The government (ours) has analyzed more than 100 soft drinks and beverages and turned up five with levels of cancer-causing benzene above what the FDA allows us to consume.

…Beware of Safeway Select Diet Orange, Crush Pineapple, AquaCal Strawberry-Flavored Water Beverage, Crystal Light Sunrise Classic Orange, and Giant Light Cranberry Juice Cocktail.

…Benzene can form from vitamin C and either sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate.

…It doesn’t happen in every case—heat or light exposure can cause the chemicals to do their thing.

…A company spokesperson said oh, the amounts were so small compared with benzene we soak up everyday from the environment.

…HA loves that argument: You're already getting it, so what the hell, bottoms up!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Look happy, be happy?

…HA’s favorite phrase is: “Fake it ‘til you make it.”

…Now, someone has noticed that people who smooth their brows—paralyze them—with Botox notice their clinical depression lifting.

…According to a paper by Eric Finzi, MD, in the Journal of Dermatological Surgery, the brow thing worked in nine out of 10 cases.

…This should not make sense. Smoothing a frown to create happiness is like curing a cold by stifling a sneeze, one writer said.

…But wait—it seems the facial muscles control emotions, not just the reverse.

…People with problems that immobilize the face experience emotions less intensely.

…Finzi is patenting this use of Botox.

…Studies do show that smiling releases pleasant endorphins—could the clenching frown muscles be exuding downers?

Shingles belong on a roof

…HA must stop acting out these diseases. Note to self! But she suffered a bout of shingles a couple of years go.

…Not fun.

…Apparently, the herpes zoster, or chicken pox, virus sneaks into your nerves after you get the pox as a tot and waits to pounce decades later.

…Each year, it pounces on a million people, usually the elderly (er, mature) or immune-compromised.

…The red, blistery rash is not only itchy-scratchy but can set off nerve firings of unbelievable pain for weeks pr even years! (HA didn’t get the “big pain,” but she did have to sleep with her miserable left arm propped with a pillow for a few weeks.)

…The creepy zoster zips along the nerves on one side—HA unearthed weird folk rhymes like “On one side, you’re still alive, all around, you’re in the ground.” Gotta love those “folk.”

….ANYhow…There is now an FDA-approved vaccine for this stuff called Zostavax..

…Merck has shown it works for four years, at least.

…The company also promises (oh, here it comes) to study the side effects. In the trials, there were more for vaccine takers than for those who got the placebo.

…Don’t ask for it unless you are over 60. The docs says half the people who make it to 85 will get shingles.

…HA’s advice: You don’t want to.

…Since HA has set out to keep retching to a minimum, if you want to see this stuff go to: Viewer discretion is advised.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Time for sunglass class

…Ultraviolet, ummm, sounds lovely, but UVB can burn the skin and UVA ages it—and both can damage the lens of the eye and the retina farther back in your head.

…Even though you can’t get a tan through a window, some of the most dangerous radiation, UVA and infrared, does get through the glass—and the same goes for the glass in many sunglasses.

…Jane E. Brody wrote about this in the May 23, 2006 edition of the NYT.

…Costa Del Mar, a high-end sunglass company told HA (that’s their Hammerhead frame pictured,, that the polycarbonates that absorb UV are sometimes coated on or included in the glue that holds polarized layers together, but is not melted into the lens glass itself, as their company does it.

…If the blocker is not in the glass itself, the company says, it can be rubbed off with multiple cleanings.

…Then all you are left with is dark-colored glass, which causes your pupils to dilate, letting in even more UVs.

…How can you tell if your protection is slapped on or melted in? According to Costa del Mar, you can’t.

…Brody says to make sure the lens is big enough to protect the eyes and eyelids and is colored gray or amber, so you can still tell a red light from a green one.

…Temple wraparounds, she writes, also block from the side.

…At least make sure the fabbie specs you have in mind block all forms of UV. You may lose them before the coating comes off anyway.

…Oh, and don’t forget wee pairs for the babies and toddlers.

New surgery, different recovery

…Katherine Spitz, a Knight-Ridder reporter, talked to some post-op patients and found their recoveries not only varied widely from others’ but also from previous surgeries they had undergone.

…One woman jumped around like a cricket two weeks after her first knee replacement, but was limping over to physical therapy as often as possible with her second.

…One knee, a surgeon said, can have more scar tissue inside and more swelling, even when you do both at once.

…Younger males tend to have a harder time with knees, the doctor said. They may have more muscle to cut through.

…(He also observed that older women had been through a lot in life, but for younger men, this might be the worst thing that had happened to them yet. Yeah!)

…Speed of recovery is not linked to age, surprisingly. The patient’s general health going in can be significant, though. How much pain they feel on awakening can set a tone as to how much moving around and therapy they want to do.

…Depression can hit after surgery, especially heart surgery, and slow recovery.

…With hysterectomy, the willingness to uncoil and walk as soon as possible can speed recovery.

…Being a smoker slows recovery from most surgeries--although being a drinker has no real effect unless the liver is diseased.

…Here’s an idea: Stay out of the operating room if you can.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Truth of kernels

…Ah, to have been there when the first Aztec got an ear of corn a little too close to the fire and invented popcorn.

…Now, even the National Cancer Institute, American Dietetic Association, and American Dental Association approve of the stuff.

…With some reservations.

…Popcorn is pretty low cal at 55 cals an unbuttered cup (unbuttered, can that be?). It’s rich in fiber, and even contains vits and minerals.

…But..when it’s drenched in butter or those “butter-like” things (ew) and coated with extra powdery sticky salt…it’s not what the doc ordered.

…Try instead putting ¾ cups of kernels in a sturdy, thick-bottomed pot—no oil—and sliding back and forth frantically until it does its thing.

…If you must add lubricants, use unsaturated oils such as canola or olive.

…Add enough to coat the pan in a THIN layer, then add some test kernels. When they explode, add a single-kernel-deep coating of popcorn to the bottom.

…How about those microwave kinds? They are still crammed with bad stuff, even the dreaded trans fats.

…Make your own microwave corn by mixing ¼ cup of kernels with a tablespoon of good oil and your seasonings. Pour into a brown paper sack and fold over twice and put in a single staple (which should not spark).

…Then add butter? Nah. Butter and margarine help the flavorings stick, but add fat. Butter-flavored veggie sprays also are crammed with chemicals.

…According to Phyllis Glazer, of the Associated Press, you could make your own spray with a hand-pump sprayer filled with oil or flavored oils.

…What about theatre popcorn? To hear the Nannies tell it—Death in a Bucket.

…HA can no longer eat popcorn due to her traitorous innards, but death by popcorn—well, how could you get more PC?

Aw...a Babymoon

…Several resorts out here in AZ and in San Diego are offering “babymoon” packages…Massages, menus, and classes aimed at giving the Packmule Mom-to-Be
a big old pampering before the Pamper Patrol begins.

…Oh, yes, Dad is going along. These are billed as a ”last chance” deal before the giant lifechange. (Dad may get a cigar, so don’t think these are all about the health.)

…However, even for a massage, a note from the doctor may be in order.

…Should this be during the second trimester? Well, some women travel in the third, too.

…Studies about traveling preggos are inconclusive. Many were done on pregnant flight attendants, and stress and all the walking might have been factors in a slightly higher risk of miscarriage.

…If you want to book a Babymoon…check out: Estancia La Jolla Hotel and Spa in La Jolla, CA, or (866) 794-6396. La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, CA, or (800) 854-5000. In AZ: Camelback Inn, or (800) 24-Camel.

…By the way, these ‘Moons cost a lot of green cheese. Think Britney bucks.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Nuts to stigmatize the mentally ill

…HA’s father was a psychiatrist (yes, that explains so much), but she isn’t any hipper to the ins and outs of mental disorder than anyone else.

…John Faherty recently interviewed Kathy Bashor, a former “mental patient” who is now a mentor at ValueOptions, the company that handles mental services for Medicaid in Arizona.

…She emphasizes that mental illnesses are “real” biological illnesses based in the brain. You can’t get over them with willpower. They also are not related to character or intelligence…they just are.

…Mental illnesses vary in severity. The most serious and disabling kinds affect almost 6% of adults and as many as 9% of children.

…Mental illnesses are the leading cause of disability and lost years of productive life.

…Treatments are pretty effective. Between 70% and 90% of sufferers have a significant reduction in symptoms and improved quality of life if treated.

…How does Bashor react to the words “crazy” or “nuts”? She says she doesn’t care, but that it bothers others in the field.

…You are very alone with it, she says. You are different—you are always different.

…Secondly, she says, there is a sadness. You lose so much of your life.

…She did not form friendships when she was younger and so ill, she says. So now she has few.

…Much of this can be avoided with progressive steps to deal with these problems.

…For more info, check with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Maybe we'd be "healthier" if everything weren't a disease

…Restless legs, diabesity, syndromes galore…have you been “medicalized” lately?

…HA has a friend who avoids doctors because “they always find something wrong.”

…In this month’s edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the docs analyzed people’s assessments of their own well-being as well as some tests like diabetes, and blood tests associated with heart disease, and concluded that the English are healthier than Americans.

…Or: Americans are much sicker than the English.

…They tried to decide how fat the English were, though, and found out that no one is keeping score on that the way we do.

...The English also do not do skin inspections or routine PSA tests.

…The English do calculate life expectancy, though, and theirs is almost identical to ours.

…One American doctor said, the more problems you look for, the more you find.

…Another called it disease-mongering. A doctor at Dartmouth was quoted as saying that if every American had the tests for cholesterol, blood sugar, body mass index, and diabetes, 75% of adults would be labeled diseased.

…Some screening here picks up cancers to little they might have never caused a problem.

…Thyroid cancer may be overdiagnosed. Incidence is up two and a half times over the last 20 years, yet the death rate is the same as then.

…Americans have lower cholesterol than the English, on average.

…With all this screening people are being labeled—and not in a way that benefits them.

…One doctor was asked to define a well person. He thought a minute. “Someone who has not been worked up yet,” he replied.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Wouldn't you just know

…HA hates these stories where she comes off as one of those dreadful National Nannies snickering and fingerpointing.

…A University of Arizona study (Tucson), however, shows that even one puff of a cancer rod can stiffen the heart muscle a bit. (They watched people puff and then squinted at their slightly hesitating hearts in an imaging machine.)

…The docs tried this because many smokers have normal tests, but still get winded.

…Half the subjects smoked, the other half chewed nicotine gum.

…Then they dragged out the ultrasound machine.

…The reseachers didn’t know which was which—cig or gum—but did notice that the heart’s left ventricle didn’t fully relax in those who had smoked.

…No change in the gum chewers.

…The stiffening meant that heart did flood with blood the way it was supposed to, so
the lungs got less, leading to shortness of breath.

…About half an hour after smoking, the stiffness was gone.

…But in a smoker, not a test subject, the process would be about to begin again.

Babies can't wait to get here

…According to Rob Stein writing in The Washington Post, for some reason, babies are rushing their due dates.

…The percentage of tots born slightly early--like a week--has been increasing for more than a decade and is now a record.

…In fact, these over-eager types have pushed the curve so a normal pregnancy is now 39 weeks instead of 40.

…A combo of factors seems to account for this. Mothers are older, meaning they may not hold a pregnancy as long.

…Defects and problems are being discovered before birth and because care of preemies has improved so much, they may take the baby early to treat him or her.

…Predictably, some docs say all this is good—deliver the baby, treat it, save it.

…Others say skipping those last few days in the womb can produce more jaundice, breathing, and feeding problems.

…Some researchers say long-term developmental problems can develop if babies don’t “bake” enough.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Hiring a health advocate for yourself

…If you've been in the hospital, you know the feeling. People are putting stuff directly into your bloodstream.

...If you are lying there, half drugged up, how can you tell what the heck is pouring into you?

…Hope that nurse got it right. Can’t read it from here.

…At least out here in Arizona, HA has noticed doctors taking your picture when you come in so they can refresh their memories about who you are—and some of them don’t
even check back after they have sent you to the hospital to see how you are.

...And don't even get HA started on hospitalists, those supposed specialists who oversee your hospital care. She has war stories!

…HA used to think of doctors as your personal advocate with a stake in your getting better. Maybe some are, but not all.

…A story in the LA Times on May 15, 2006, talked about the importance of having an advocate in the medical setting. On one level, this means a person to come to important doctor appointments and take notes.

….On a deeper level, this may mean hiring your own private duty nurse to sit with you in the hospital or a privately hired physician to oversee your care.

…HA once sought out a managed care consultant, a doctor, to tell her what tests to demand for a problem.

…According to the LA Times story, Sarah Lawrence College offers a master’s degree in patient advocacy. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a Center for Patient Partnerships. The University of North Carolina, apparently, is not far behind.

…Hospitals say they have people who are patient advocates on staff. HA, at least, has found these people less than helpful, though she never called one while confined. Maybe next time. As far as she can see, they pass copies of the complaint letters around and then tell the complaining patients they can't tell them what happened as a result.

…Other advocates work via telephone, researching trials and treatments.

…When you’re sick, miserable, scared and feeling alone, chucking out some bucks for backup can be appealing.

...But you don't want the hospital staff and your advocate to start tussling over your bed.


…In the early 1900s, according to a story by Hilary E. MacGregor in the Baltimore Sun (May 19, 2006), soy used to be a near to miraculous food.

…The protein-packed dynamo was credited with preventing breast cancer, increasing bone mass, and banishing hot flashes.

…People added the powder to everything, bought everything soy-enriched, and between formal soy-loaded meals, munched on edamame, the salty soy pod snack.

…Now the little soy bean is being attacked. “The Soy Online Service” purports to track the criminal and dangerous issues, as they put it, surrounding the plant.

…Soy can create a little too much estrogen-like activity (from isoflavones) in some cases (think “man boobs”).

…Now, the American Heart Association is pulling back, MacGregor says, from the claim that soy lowers cholesterol.

…Mainly, the docs seem irked that this is not as wondrous a wonder food as they said. It may slightly reduce the risk of breast cancer.

…For breast cancer survivors, it might even be better to ixnay extra isoflavones, which might coax tumor cells to divide.

…Soy might also interfere with synthetic thyroid hormones, although a later review did not find evidence of this.

…In mice, one isoflavone called genisten seems to affect the reproductive health of the mice.

…Would feeding of soy milk to babies also be a no-no? A panel met in March and said no, but some docs are iffy on it. See HA's archive for May.

..Still other doctors say if teenagers consume soy while their breasts are developing, they are less likely to get breast cancer later.

…We are left with the M-word again. Moderation.

…And the J-word. Judgment.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Get the gain without the strain

…Mary Beth Fuller, writing in the Arizona Republic (May 16, 2006), talks about repetitive motion injuries.

…Some people can type, scale fish or whack a tennis ball over and over—nothing. Others gradually crumble.

…The experts say it’s luck and genetics. Something you don’t even know you are doing, the way you are holding yourself or using a muscle, can bring it on or prevent it.

…(HA hates things where she can’t blame herself.)

…Anyway, people often wait too long to seek help…A searing shinsplint can turn into a stress fracture, Fuller writes.

…Untreated carpal tunnel can lead to numbness or hand weakness.

…The doctor will tell you to rest the part, not by lying in bed but by adopting a new way of performing the action.

…Athletes can switch sports or workouts. Get hurt running—do some yoga, for example.

…A splint may be applied.

…Thumb killin’ ya from using your iPod? It may be De Quervain’s tenosynovitis—doctorese for a sore thumb-side of your wrist. A splint may be prescribed, or a cortisone shot.

….Overall, it’s good advice to learn to do things correctly. Have a coach watch you run or hit the ball.

…As for the computer user’s curse, carpal tunnel, try to stroke the keys more softly. Take frequent breaks and don’t bend your wrist up or down. Also--don’t slump! (Some Mom threw that one in.)

…Long fingernails can also force your wrists into a bad position.

Black women have harder time losing weight

…Researchers at East Carolina University in Greenville examined the belly fat of some large African-American women.

…The stats show that such women have a harder time losing weight even on low cals and high exercise. Even after weight-loss surgery, the pounds came off slower.

…During that surgery, though, the docs took a fat sample from deep in the abdominal layers and found more adenosine receptors.

…What this means is….more research.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


…Newsweek (May 22, 2006) notes that this is National Dog Bite Prevention Week.

…Each year, 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs, 150,000 of them badly enough to go to the ED.

…HA’s daughter was one of those unlucky ones. Twenty-two stitches. Pitbull.

…The owner would not cover the part of the bill not covered by insurance (plenty), so HA’s daughter turned her over to the health insurance company, which is going after her. Outcome unknown at this point.

…Of course, that doesn’t help HA get her money back--or her daughter, her original face.

…It’s best to prevent such occurrences. Teach kids never to approach an unfamiliar dog.

…Don’t look unknown dogs directly in the eye.

…If you get a nip, wash it with soap and water. If it’s still bleeding, apply pressure.

…Check with a doctor within six hours.

…Infections are more likely with dogs who eat fresh meat, so ask the owner.

…If you or your kid is ripped up, ask the ED doctors to get a plastic surgeon.

…HA worships dogs, but isn’t too crazy about the zaggy rip in the upper lip of her beautiful daughter. The scar may need to be revised at some point (no plastic surgeon was called).

…She learned later that many dogs do try to tear the vulnerable fleshy lips of their adversaries.


Ooo-ooo that smell

…Is your nose constantly twitching with each little breeze?

…Can you walk through a perfume department and remember every old boyfriend or girlfriend associated with a scent?

…Smell is the most evocative of the senses, causing unsummoned memories to leap full-blown into your head.

…Scientists call this the “Proust Effect,” after the author who nibbled a cookie and was plunged into a long memory that lasted the length of “The Remembrance of Things Past.”

…Smells are processed by the limbic system of the brain, a group of structures known as the rhinencephalon or “smell brain.” This is an older, primitive part of the brain used to detect danger, fire, poison, or prey.

…People usually cannot describe a smell in words, but can convey the emotion that accompanied it.

…Sometimes that emotion is disgust. Peee-ew, that guy in the next office who never takes a shower or if he does, the shower doesn’t “take.”

…Writing in the Albany Times Union, Kristi L. Gustafson says offensive office odors are becoming a real issue.

…Burned popcorn, leftover tuna, outdated colognes applied with a front loader…All can pollute the place.

…Everyone’s sensitivity to smell varies—and bad smells are more readily recognized by the brain that good ones.

…If you don’t want to tell an employee or coworker that he or she…er…stinks, there is (of course) a website. Check out

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Heart attack on a plate

…Southerners love their soul—and soul means fat, carbs, sugar, and cals.

…A recent article by Dahleen Glanton explained the wonders of a hamdog—a specialty of Mulligan’s Bar in Decatur, Georgia. A hamdog is a half pound of hamburger wrapped around a hot dog, which is then deep-fried and served on a hoagie with chili, bacon, and a fried egg.

…Another Mulligan’s special? A hamburger on a Krispy Creme. Yes, a doughnut!

…Their menu puts a little warning label about not eating fried foods everyday—but still.

…Is it any wonder that the 11 Southern states and DC are dubbed “The Stroke Belt”?

…Many poor Southerners shop at convenience stores, which are a little low on the old fruits and veggies.

…Is there any chance the culture will change?

…Well, one restauranteur has switched to unsaturated peanut oil for the frying, does that count?

…And HA does remember a mess of greens being part of the great soul meals she has eaten.

…Of course, they were smothered in bacon grease.


…Melatonin is a natural hormone that helps you shut down for sleep.

…Up to 40% of Americans have trouble sleeping or staying asleep.

…Does melatonin do squat? Studies vary.

…A recent one, at Harvard, found that melatonin was more effective in helping people sleep during the day—or when they ordinarily wouldn’t be sleeping.

…Maybe this confirms its efficacy for jet lag and for people who work quirky hours.

…Interestingly, the docs found that a teeny dose of even one-third of a milligram was as good as the 3 mg or 5 mg tabs you see for sale.

…Nature’s Bounty carries the small dose, if you’re wondering.

…The researchers also found that the largely unregulated melatonin business was pretty regular and that almost all the brands contained what they said they did.

…HA has found she can take a mellie even as late as 3 AM and get up by 6:15 without feeling like a slug on ‘ludes.

…But don’t take her word (she can’t even find anyone to hire her to play a doc on TV). Ask your friendly neighborhood physician.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Say again

…Everyone in HA’s middle-age afflicted group is going deaf (or tuning out, there is some of that, too).

…Apparently people will go get some specs, but if they do get a hearing aid, one in six plops the thing into a drawer.

…Hearing aids also don’t work as well as glasses, and to some people scream “old” or “disability.”

…You have to relearn how to listen, says one man in a recent story in U.S. News & World Report (May 22, 2006).

…Even after you get one, the brain has to learn to interpret sounds.

…Sometimes audiologists have to get people to lower their expectations.

…The fleshy-looking things are much less obtrusive now, many fitting behind the ear, or way inside (pulled out with a string).

…HA could probably use one, but so far putting the TV volume on “20” and yelling “huh?” a lot is cheaper, if not less irritating to those around her.

Who gets the Bird Flu shot?

…With the “normal” flu shot, the young and old are considered most vulnerable and have priority to get the vaccine.

…That may have to be revisited should the Birdie Bug get raging.

…Authorities now are saying health care workers get it first, then the elderly.

…But this bug seems to zero in on the health 20- and 30-somethings. And these are the folks who will be keeping up deliveries, the water supply, electricity and so on.

…The government’s medical ethicists (they have those?) are suggesting young adults go to the head of the line.

…Still others are suggesting children be given priority, because they have more life left to live. But who will take care of them?

…What about air traffic controllers? Many are weighing in with “critical” professions that need priority.

…Naturally “key government leaders” are among the above.

…In Science (May 12, 2006), two experts said medical workers first, young adults next, then people 41 to 50, and those 50 and up last. Children would be protected by being kept at home.

…No professions were named. How could they forget Health Asses, that's what HA wants to know.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The future of the future

…Half of all kids under 5 in the U.S. are a racial or ethnic minority. HA is not sure that would have been foretold a few years ago.

…Some TV station did revisit of one of their future stories—nothing had come to pass,
no flying cars, few hardworking robots bowing to our every need, HA cannot even remember all the things that didn’t happen.

…In the summer of 2005, Newsweek did an issue about health in the 21st century.

…Let’s see what lies in store. Or not.

…Addiction and Alzheimers could be as manageable as high blood pressure. Several Alzheimers drugs promising to be more effective than those now on the market could be available when the boomers reach 70.

…Gene mapping and genetic testing will help docs customize therapy to each person.

…Cancer researchers are already concentrating on getting tumors to die by cutting off their blood supply. Early detection by biomarkers in the blood—like measuring cholesterol—will guide treatment.

…Also, the medicines that rob tumors of snaking vessels around and getting blood to grow are less toxic—your hair does not fall out, you don’t get sick.

…Genetics will become such a powerful customizer that drugs can be created to treat individual races or ethnic groups. (This has already happened to some extent.)

…HA will include some more of these later, but doesn’t it make you feel better just to read this?

…Now if only George Jetson were a doctor.

…Maybe Astro could at least be a therapy dog.

Defining malpractice

…The eggheads at Harvard checked some malpractice suits and learned that 40% of them were groundless.

….Or at least said that 40% were.

…Fifteen percent of them were paid off anyway.

…The findings, published in the NEJM (May 11, 2006), were a wet dreamlet for the American Medical Association, which wants suits capped.

…But wait a hot second.

…Apparently to file a suit you should be injured—not just scared, furious, and loaded for bear.

…But only 3% of the claims they looked at showed no injury.

…Of those with an injury, 2/3 resulted from medical error.

…But the rest lacked evidence of a medical mistake.

…Stay with me. In this latter case, one example given was of a woman with no family history of breast cancer who underwent mammos for four years, all negative.

…But she had breast cancer—and it had spread to multiple other parts of her body.

…This was declared to not involve medical error, though, because everyone had done everything they should have.

…(Except catch it.)

…She did sue—and got a settlement.

…Sometimes, it depends on who defines what.

...Sometimes? Often!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Wash before cutting?

...According to a literature review done in Australia, washing or showering with an antiseptic before surgery does not reduce the risk of post-op infection.

…A once-over with any old soap will do.

…Likewise, removing hair at the site has not been shown to cut the danger of infection.

…If the surgeon does need to remove hair, clipping it is as effective as the razor.

…Plus! The antiseptic sponges often issued to patients are expensive and are running up the bills.

…The docs are just sayin’.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

What about the four-leggers?

…ABC-TV’s bird flu movie actually featured a teenager opening cupboards and saying, “Mom! There is no food except rice and flour.”

…Listen to HA, now, and sock away some supplies. See “The Bird Flu Preparedness Planner” (right).

…But HA digresses.

…She honestly believes the Bush-Brownie gang could have come out of Katrina looking a teeny better if they had said, “We are also going in to get the pets and animals.”

…Barbara Basler, writing in the AARP Bulletin (May 2006), points out that people died because they would not leave their furry loved ones.

…Pols from Newt Gingrich to Barney Frank are now behind federal disaster planning for pets.

…States and communities would have to show concern for the pets in their disaster plans before they would get any FEMA money, according to bipartisan legislation in the hopper.

…Under another bill, localities would be required to rescue pets prior to, during, and after a disaster. Federal money would also be allowed for shelters allowing both people and pets (during Katrina, people smuggled small animals in or would not go in themselves if their pets were not allowed).

…Helping pets is helping people, said one Humane Society spokesman.

…Some changes are also needed in how states and cities deal with rescuing pets. Throwing them in cages and then setting a deadline for the shell-shocked to find each other has been criticized.

…Many pets that were rescued never found their owners. Animal groups, large and small, turned out, slopped around in the mess in New Orleans, plucked animals off cars and balconies, fed, housed, and gave them medical attention—but the owners never got reunited.

...More thought needs to be given to this.

…No, pets are not people. But some of us think they come close.

Big silver petri dish?

…Ever sit next to someone with a heaving chest cold? Or worse?

…The Centers for Disease Control has decided maybe air travel might be a little iffy infection-wise. They are looking into it.

…Plane air is recirculated, people spew infectious droplets, and you might touch something an infected person touched.

…Still, some experts maintain that air travel is no more dangerous to your health than sitting in an office.

…The airlines say they filter germs, bacteria, and viruses. About half the air is recirculated—to circulate more burns more fuel.

…Carriers that flew mumps carriers (cough American Airlines cough) contacted customers and flight crews immediately.

…About all you can do is, all together now, frequent handwashing, avoiding door handles, and staying away from a particularly wheezy or sick-looking person (sure, there may be room on the wing).

…A friend of HA’s saw someone wear a mask on a plane. Starting to look less kooky?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sandwich generation getting toasted

…Carol Fleck, writing in the AARP Bulletin (May 2006), talks about a woman who got a simultaneous call about her elderly mother, who had a bad reaction to oral surgery, and her daughter who had gone into labor.

…Is there enough caregiving to go around?

…People are living longer and their kids are taking care of them (although we have seen some examples in taking care of our mother of kids who basically dump the parents off and scoot).

…My sister and I are of granny age—and we take care of a great granny. HA also has a 20-something at home.

…According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, 44 million Americans care for aging relatives. Of these, 29 million also have a job.

…By 2008, 54% of the workforce will have this other “side” job.

…About 16% quit and 13% retire early because they cannot do both.

…Billions in productivity are lost when employees try to take a call from Johnny’s school while on hold to the assisted care center to deal with a problem there.

…What’s going to give? Many experts say employers need to be more tolerant.

…Some now offer support groups for elder caregivers during work lunch hours (take it from HA, bitching and venting helps).

…Others offer elder care benefits, such as an on-site social worker or gerontologist.

…You also could take unpaid leave in an emergency. Go to and click on “Family and Medical Leave Act.”

…Believe HA when she says an assisted care center calling is just as urgent and worrisome as a call from the school. She has taken both calls. Many times.

…The difference is that when the person is older, someone else is less likely to step in. It’s a “you have to be there” kinda deal.

Have you forgotten 9/11?

…What is this big push to remember that awful day? HA thinks about it several times everyday.

…Now there is one movie, with an Olly Stoner coming soon.

….Do kids need to see the bursting buildings again—over and over? HA knows she doesn’t!

…Some of these kids (now 5) didn’t even see it the first time and now will.

…Websites exist to help parents talk to their kids about this.

…HA thinks about it because no steps to prevent this again seem to have been taken. The same people are mad at the same people. The same people are not doing their all. It’s the same big CF it’s always been.

…Assinine comments like “Obesity is the terror within” are being bandied. What is a hefty kid to think of that—that he or she is inherently evil, capable of murdering thousands?

…Yes, everything is evil, evil, evil.

…HA does not need to relive 9/11 until the time when she might actually have to.

…How do you feel, readers?

…Is all this a free-form anxiety attack?

…Oh, well, if you want to regale the kiddies, the website is

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Swim--or sink?

…HA once heard a famous starlet talk about partying on a yacht off Manhattan, something happened, and the thing sank.

…Many of the people from New York could not swim and drowned.

…She said, “Luckily, I had learned to swim.” Very luckily! Or maybe her Mom insisted.

…HA is from the Mid-West, where swimming lessons are almost a principle of faith.

…Swimming is at least as valuable a skill as recharging a cellphone.

…According to an AP story by Justin Pope, most colleges are now abandoning the swimming test as a requirement for graduation.

…The University of North Carolina was one of the last to toss the kids in the pool.

…In the past, Pope writes, swimming was considered a good safety skill—but also a good social skill, allowing one, presumably, to loll about at country clubs or get lifeguard jobs allowing for upward mobility and good networking.

…Now the military academies almost stand alone in pushing the waterborne option. At the Naval Academy you have to swim 40 minutes to pass.

…(HA remembers a 10-minute Junior Lifeguard test swim that almost put her in a cast.)

…At West Point, cadets are strapped with heavy packs and must struggle through tasks in the pool amid artificial rain, deafening noise, and waves kicked up by a machine.

…Now that’s a swimming test.

…At very least, let’s hope tomorrow’s leaders and movie stars learn the crawl so they can fall off yachts and live to tell about it.

All the weird herbs and supps, oh my

…Consumer Reports, which still has street cred, is cranking out a database on herbs and supplements.

…All you do is pay $19 a year, which also gives you access to their prescription drug evals.

…The database is assembled by the Therapeutic Research Center in Stockton, CA, and receives no pharmco $$.

…Americans are spending $20 billion a year on things that (1) might not help, and
(2) might hurt.

…Other databases, such as those maintained by the National Institutes of Health, carry a lot of information but may not work “backwards.” In other words, you can’t put in an ailment and get a list of herbal approaches, rated for effectiveness.

…HA cannot say this often enough. You take herbs to help, so you must believe they “do” something. If they “do” something, it could be something bad, as well as good.

…So check first. Don’t just swig the stuff down, start feeling funky or rashy in a few days, and then think, “Uh-oh.”

…”No more uh-oh’s” is the submotto of this website.

…To access the new info, go to

Monday, May 08, 2006

Enter taverna, eat a date

…HA’s father’s half-sister used to send a tray of dates every Christmas. Yu-umm.

…This fruit is almost as old as recorded history. In fact, it got started in the area of our new client state Iraq and was one of the first plants deliberately farmed, rather than just harvested.

…Nowadays, date palms sometimes need some help to reproduce. Plants are male or female, the pollen must get from one to the other.

…Out here, volunteers brush the pollen on the right places by hand. They also bag up the developing fruit so the birds can’t get it.

…Dates are so soft, just washing them can sort of dissolve them.

…But these babies carry their nutritional weight. Ten of the shriveled beauties contain a fourth of your day’s potassium (needed for regular heart rhythm, among other things). Vitamins A, B, C, abd D also lurk within.

…Apparently dates are also a nice sticky form of medicine. The Arabs have more than 300 medicinal uses. One use that continues into the West is as a chest poultice for colds.

…You wouldn’t have to work too hard to get that one to stay on!

...(Let HA know how that turns out, that poultice, if you try it, OK? She is trying to imagine lying in bed with brown jam on her chest.)

Pinkeye may not mean trip to the doc

…HA and her spawn both had pinkeye recently. The curtains of green slime draining down the cheeks are not a plus.

… This will go away on its own, researchers say. Now they tell us! The drip of antibiotics may just shorten its course.

…In a recent review of studies by the Cleveland Eye Clinic, even the bacterial pinkeye that might respond to antibiotics may not need them. The viral kind, of course, will not even respond.

…Nevertheless, the docs concluded, many physicians will continue to prescribe drops. Without them, a third of patients may call back and say they are not well yet.

…Or their parents will. Most pinkeye sufferers are kids. And many may be kept out of school until this scourge passes.

…Enter our old and overused friend—antibiotics.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Some zzzzzzzz's missing?

…May is Better Sleep Month—and Mental Health Month. The two can go together, the National Mental Health Association points out.

…A recent survey showed that people say they want better sleep but more than half will not alter their bedtime routine (like not watching TV, exercising, or eating before bed).

…Over half also will not cut caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine.

…Almost two-thirds will not consider getting a different mattress.

…Sleep problems can be a sign of depression, you know. But—and most people don’t know this—not getting enough can make you depressed!

…57% of those who got seven or more hours a night rated their mood at good.

…Only 45% of those who got less were all chirpy.

…Consider getting a new mattress every five to seven years, experts say.

…Try limiting or changing the things mentioned above.

…Schedule a good time for sleep. This is an appointment you cannot miss!

…Make sure your room is uncluttered, dark, quiet and cool.

…Before bed, wind down. Take a bath, meditate. If you mind is racing, write down the thoughts and get rid of them.

…Don’t lie there and fret. If you can’t sleep after 20 minutes, get up and do something boring.

…Reading HEALTH’Sass would not be that thing.

No wonder some women are grumpy

…The National Headache Foundation ( reminds us that women are three times more likely to get migraines as men—and 60% of these women will suffer migraines tied to their menstrual cycle.

…In a recent survey, 87% of female migraineurs said their headaches were worse during their period.

…Menstrually-Related Migraines (MRMs), happens around the period, but also at other times of the month. Pure Menstrual Migraines occur only during menstruation.

…These “M” headaches are more painful, last longer, and creep back more often when medication wears off.

…Estrogen is at the basis of these pests.

…Pregnancy and breastfeeding can help. Almost half said their headaches let up during pregnancy, with a difference apparent in the first trimester.

…It is not “normal” to have a headache with your period—check with the doctor if you do.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The motion of the ocean--car, train, rollercoaster

…HA gets motion sick. Big time. When someone hands her reading matter in the car, she charmingly screeches, “Do you want me to puke?”

…Her family pathology is rife with cars full of bilious kids careening down mountain switchbacks. (In one instance, HA’s father regaled his pea-green family with tales of the barbeque dinner they would have later...good times, good times.)

…Dramamine—ah, the coma medicine…gotta love it. It saved HA on a deepsea fishing trip. Her Dad hung tough and was miserable throughout.

…Writing in the Arizona Republic, Connie Midey tells about people who get the "green wave” from watching basketball games, staring at ceiling fans, or even being hauled through a car wash.

…Is the human body supposed to act like this? Apparently yes. Nine out of 10 people have been sick at one time or another, Midey writes.

…It can start when you are a child…and never stop.

…Basically, your brain is getting conflicting messages from your inner ear, eyes, and other senses and decides to make you throw up. (Seems like a good idea to the body at the time.)

…One key, according to an herbal medicine expert Midey talked to, is to try to relax and let your body sort it out. One woman even laid down on the deck of a boat and tried to become one with the vessel.

…Some remedies include a wristband called Sea Band to press on an acupuncture point in the wrist; Queeze-Eze, a ginger-based tablet (used on the expedition to find the Titanic); ear patches containing scopolomine, or prescription-strength pills containing the element in Dramamine or Bonine.

…Eat a light starchy meal a few hours before leaving. Avoid high-fat and alcohol. Nibble dry crackers.

…Sit away from smokers and in fresh air. On a plane, sit over the wing. In a car, drive or call shotgun. On a ship, spend time on the upper deck.

…Rub your belly clockwise. (It’s hard to hurl doing that, but OK.)

…In the car, we always carried a “spit bowl.” The word VOMIT would never have passed HA’s mother’s lips.

Magic bifocals

…The University of Arizona has invented some self-adjusting glasses. Electricity is delivered in doses to liquid crystal film, changing the correction.

…The result? Automatic focus!

…Good news for bifocal wearers—93% of those over 45.

…The wearer’s distance prescription is ground in, then the electricity adjusts the focus for near-in viewing.

…Right now, they look like Mr Wizard’s safety glasses. But in two years, scientists predict, they will be de-geekified and will sweep the market.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Sunscreen not for amateurs

…HA used some bodywash the other day that reminded her of Coppertone. Remember those days? When you wanted to get tan? The baby oil? The “deep tanning” lotions?

…Well, this is no longer allowed without great dollops of guilt and dread.

…Now we must block the warm, buttery rays that soak in and feel so elemental and good.

…And you can’t just slap on some SPF 15 and be good to go. SPF 15 supposedly means you can stay in the sun 15 times longer than you could without it—without damage.

…The vampires among us want SPF 400 or something (OK, 40).

…And there are different things in the goo that behave different ways.

…And you have to apply half a cup or something and wait before going out. Writing in that weird little attenutated Life Magazine thing (have you seen it?), Joanne Chen talks about different approaches.

…It you’re oily, use a gel or spray.

…If you have zits, use acne medication first, then sunscreen on top. If this becomes a glary mess, apply some sunscreen powder.

…Freckles? Check labels for niacinamide or active soy. Then use a sunscreen foundation, too.

…Sensitive skin means using a zinc oxide or titanium oxide barrier.

… Ah, zinc oxide. That’s what the lifeguards put on their noses in sunnier days gone by.

…Oh, and just a note. Rickets are showing up in some tots again—Vitamin D deficiency. It seemed a little farfetched to HA, but one expert said this was from using too much sunscreen. The sun helps the body make Vitamin D, which strengthens bones.

Bird Flu could wreck lives as well as bodies

…HA has started a little cache of survival supplies in case the bird flu hits and grocery shelves are emptied and her household quarantined.

…As she wrote before (see March archives), people would probably be taken care of at home.

…But are businesses ready? Would anyone be there to give HA work? Or let her get cash? What if she couldn’t make a mortgage payment?

…Maybe there would be no one at the mortgage company to take it….so this is OK?

…(Weirdly, this bug seems harder on younger, fit people than the babies and old—this is the workforce, basically.)

…These are all things Katrina victims faced. Multiply that by the whole country. Then multiply that by 18 months.

…The White House is releasing a plan that notes that movement around the country would be limited. International flights would be limited and passengers quarantined.

…We could be looking at 2 million deaths, they say.

…Sick workers and those caring for family members would stay home.

…Employees should be at least 3 feet apart…teleconferences would replace face time.

…People exposed would have to take sick leave and stay home.

…Colleges could close so dorms could be used for the sick.

…The military would be involved in a lot of this. Like that’s a surprise.

…In a related story, a computer model showed that these efforts would do little to stop its spread.

…There is no magic bullet, according to one epidemiologist.

…Some people even thought of using the vaccine given to chickens. While some doctors
went eeek-ewww, others seem to be considering it.

…If we had enough antiviral medicine (and if we knew for sure it worked on H5N1) and we gave one-fourth of the people 10 doses before they got sick, only about 84 million Americans, instead of 102 million, would get sick.

…But we don’t have that much. And probably that isn’t going to happen.

…HA still recommends an excellent little book (see right): The Bird Flu Preparedness Planner.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Some states checking for postpartum depression

…Since Tom Cruise can’t be everywhere at once (laws of physics), according to an AP story by David Crary (Apr 26), New Jersey decided to screen new mothers for hormonally caused depression following a birth.

…Women don’t want to come forward for fear of being labeled crazy (yes, on “The Today Show” by some clown who barely knows them).

…One mother described her feelings as a black hole she fell into.

…Another mother cried and cried.

…Yes, you’re tired but what about a sense of joy? A neutral blank feeling toward the newborn can be a bad sign.

…New Jersey docs, nurses, psychologists and social workers ask screening questions about emotions now. (The Nanny state, literally? What do you think, readers?)

…Of the state’s 115,000 births each year, 10% will be to mothers who could use a hand with this.

…Drugs and psychotherapy are used, most effectively in combo, to combat these rollercoastering emotions.

…The kid will make you nutty enough later. Don’t rush it.

…Speak up and say, “I don’t feel normal about this or like I expected to feel.”

Clean, baby, clean

…As if the Birdie Bug isn’t scary enough, scientists tell us infectious diseases are creeping back everywhere, mumps, whooping cough, the oldie goldies.

…What place is filthiest? In a recent survey, almost all said the restroom, but others nominated the shopping cart (that warm, sticky handle—ewww), and restaurants.

…When HA’s kid was little, HA used to wash off the binky when it fell. She did this half a dozen times then said, “Hey, more antibodies.”

….How do you think the 5-second rule got started?

…But for those who still believe in germ theory, check out the Potty Poncho. You know those flimsy white paper seat covers—this is like a giant plastic one so when little kids grab on to keep from falling in they don’t grab something icky.

… Similarly, the Clean Shopper blankets the shopping cart, making a fluffy nest for the kid.

……The Clean Diner protects junior against filthy booster seats coated with Kids Meal fare.

…And the Drop Stop is like a bingee cord for throwables. They don’t reach the disgusting ground.

…Some of these websites didn’t open as HA wrote this, so google away if you’re interested.

…HA has one question. OK, two. Who is going to lug this stuff around and when the tot grows up, how and he or she ever go in the Peace Corps with no antibodies?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Hip to golf swing problems?

…HA is not a golfer. Although she took golf in collitch, she also took bowling and canoeing and does not do those, either. She gets her exercise jumping to conclusions.

…But esteemed health writer colleague Tara Parker-Pope wrote in the WSJ of April 20, 2004, that tight hip muscles inhibit the swing of some golfers and stop their swing.

…The upshot is not hip pain—but back pain.

…Going to a golf pro for pointers can help you avoid surgery or painkillers.

…But what it amounts to is strengthening the whole body, not just the back or hips, and this applies to non-golfers with back pain, as well.

…The docs checked out 42 professional golfers, 14 of whom had a history of back pain, according to Parker-Pope.

…The ones with back pain had less flexibility in their lead hip (the left in right-handed golfers, and the opposite in left-handed ones).

…This is the hip that pivots in the swing. If it’s stiff, the force goes to the back instead of the hip.

…A pro or sports doctor can videotape your swing and examine it frame-by-frame.

…A common swing mistake is ending the swing with most of your weight in the back leg instead of the front leg.

…According to News-Line, a newsletter for physical therapists, you should warm up for 10-15 minutes before playing golf.

…Use good-quality equipment, shoes, socks, and clothing.

…Take lessons.

…And if something goes south, ice it down. If it doesn’t let up promptly, time for a trip to the doc.

…Maybe it would help to take golfer’s yoga. Miami’s Doral Golf Resort has devised a regimen that is helping both pros and amateurs.

…Hip openers, spinal twists, and stretches are hallmarks of this special yoga, which would probably set a swami’s head spinning.

…Or improve his handicap. Who knows?

Calling any geriatricians

…HA and her family have had bad luck with doctors keying in on older patients and appreciating their outlook and problems.

…Some docs talk semi-baby talk and ooze out the charm, then when the elderly person says something wacky or can’t answer a question, the doctor acts all confused. “Why, there is something wrong with this old gal, she doesn’t make sense.”

…(In the interest of full disclosure, HA’s mother does make a point of asking the doctors if they know they have long eyelashes. But still.)

…Older people can’t handle meds as well or the same way as younger ones. They can’t process those jugs of pills in some cases.

…In a way, they need specialization just as children do.

…Yet barely 1% of all doctors specialize in the elderly.

…Of the nation’s 144 med schools, only five have geriatrics departments.

…In Britain this would be 100% of schools. In Japan 19 out of 88 med schools have such training.

…So why not train all doctors to be more cognizant and tolerant of the needs of the elderly?

…The Bush admin just axed the money to start on this out of the House version of the 2006 budget, though the Senate reinstated some money.

…HA once saw a doctor come to the waiting room in person to fetch an older patient and he all but yanked her from her chair, saying, “Hurry up, chop chop.”

…In another case HA knows about, an old man needed hernia surgery and the doctor said, “Well, why don’t we let God take care of it?”

…No! Why don’t we operate?

…The man is fine now.

…God can take care of these problems soon enough.

…In fact, recent studies show that older people do as well with chemo and cancer surgery as their younger counterparts and may not want to wait for the Almighty to take over in His special way.