Monday, December 31, 2007

When kiddies take the T-Bird away

…HA is in the sandwich generation big time, clamped between a still-at-home 20-something and half-responsibility for taking care of her mother (shared with her sister).

…HA’s mom never drove. And HA herself also does not drive. But she has many friends who are facing their parents’ scary driving years and wondering what will happen.

…Sooner or later, most of us need to extract head from sand and face the fact that people cannot drive safely into their 80s, 90s, and as one TV commercial ridiculously shows, 100-pluses.

…Recently, AARP took on these issues in its AARP Bulletin (Nov 2007) in a story by Reed Karaim. HA has written about this for WebMD, also.

…Reflexes slow as one ages, attention wanders, even the physical ability to hold onto the wheel can be compromised by arthritis and other ailments or meds. You need a flexible neck, strong arms and hands, and a sharp mind. Even decades of experience cannot compensate for the lack of these.

…Car design can help some—better mirror placement, driver seat positioning (at least 3 inches over the steering wheel, even if the person has shrunk), and reliable seatbelts are examples.

…If your parent has had some fender benders and is vague on them or you have noticed some other sign of faltering ability, AARP offers refresher driving courses ( Also check out CarFit at

….You also may be able to find a physical therapist specializing in driver fitness at

…If you think your parent will freak out if the subject of turning over the car keys is raised, have their doctor broach it.

…Some states require retesting more frequently as people get older. See what help is available there.

….And do some research on Ride On buses, cabs, shuttles, drivers from health insurance plans, and other resources that could fill the gap for your parent.

…But recognize, that for people used to their independence, this is a huge transition. Expect a lot of discussion.

…Or more accurately, in some cases, shouting.

…And guess who is doing more chauffeuring.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Frozen Shoulder--brrr

…For some reason, ever since HA read about Frozen Shoulder in a story by Lauran Neergaard of the AP, she has been encountering people talking about their bum shoulders. HA’s mother also was warned at one point that she might have it.

…What is Frozen Shoulder?

…Neergaard calls it the Curse of Middle-Aged Women (like we don’t have enough of those).

…FS happens when the shoulder’s smooth lining becomes so inflamed it “resembles cherry Jell-O,” as Neergard puts it.


…It’s really called adhesive capsulitis in doc-speak. Sooner or later (bet on later), 2-3% of the population will get it, the majority women. Diabetics are at 20% more risk, and underactive thyroid can also be a risk factor, as can a trauma.

…FS is not a rotator cuff injury—and the cure for that can make FS worse. Charming.

…Oine doctor says if sufferers come early enough (qithin 2-3 mos after it starts), she can inject some cortisone, give the shoulder a nice twist and if it lifts up over shoulder height, not only did they have FS, but it is now cured!

…And if it doesn’t lift up? HA shudders.

…If you wait too long, it can linger on for years. The early cortisone, apparently, prevents collagen buildup.

…Too aggressive physical therapy can also make it worse. PT is what HA’s Mom got for the rotator cuff. But she also got the cortisone shots.

…Go know.

…The bottomline, though, seems to be if you wake up and can’t lift your arm and it doesn’t ease out, consider the doctor for that nice twist.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Welcome to Ramen World

…For the sake of argument, let’s say you don’t want to eat Kraft Dinner at every meal (80 cents for four servings). Even HA tires of the Orange Stuff.

…That means meat, cheese, fruit and veggies.

….Writing in the NYT, Tara Parker-Pope says some Univ of Washington researchers checked out 370 foods in local supermarkets. (J of Am Dietetic Assn.)

…Higher calorie, energy-dense foods are a better bargain for the cash strapped. These foods cost $1.76 per 1000 cals. Low cal but nutritious foods, on the other and, cost $18.16 per 1000 calories.

…Tara isn’t having any of it, though. She points out that a pound of lentils costs about 60 cents and you can get 10-15 meals from it.

…Yeah--10 to 15 meals of LENTILS! Aren’t we more spoiled than that?

…And bulk foods like that require COOKING. Cooking requires culinary skill. (HA concedes some of you may possess that.)

…So then you are back to looking at the $10 packs of chicken breasts to liven things up.

…Remember when these were around $4.50? HA is geezin.’

…Eggs went from 89 cents to $1.35 in the last year. Gas prices to tote this stuff around aren’t helping. Bread is up 16%. Coffee—up 10%.

…Still an omelet is a pretty tasty bargain—coming in around HA’s standard of $2 or less per serving.

…Wonder if our lovable politicians ever have to contend with this—or if someone else steps up and pays the bill for the corndog they pretend to eat at the photo op.

…HA knows many dietitians will start sputtering and say it’s better to eat simple, nonprocessed foods.

…But those are the ones zipping up the price scale.

…Mac with no cheese, anyone? Hold the lettuce, which has to be shipped with high cost gas and picked by a dwindling force of cheap labor.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Yuk-tropical diseases moving north

…Writing in the NYT on Dec 23, 2007, Elisabeth Rosenthal talks about a little village of 2,000 in Italy suddenly beset by a disease featuring high fevers and excruciating bone pain. People thought they were dying. A hundred people got it.

…People were so sick they could not stand or feed themselves.

…Doctors were stumped and the people started blaming water pollution and immigrants.
(Seriously, we have to watch this immigrant blaming deal, it’s getting out of hand.)

…Finally, someone discovered this was a tropical disease called chikungunya.

…No—HA hadn’t either!

…And the “immigrants” had six legs. It’s a virus spread by mosquitoes.

…To be specific, the tiger mosquito seems to be finding Europe a warm, atttractive place.

…Now, the charming fountains in the city’s gardens have been replaced with mosquito traps.

…Some sufferers still have arthritis pain from the disease. And summer is coming again.

…What’s next—malaria in New York?

…Al Gore, call your service. Pronto.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Eat like a peasant

…HA once went on a press trip to Majorca and looked out on the satiny, grayish Mediterranean. The conference was on the benefits of olive oil—and for years, HA noshed on EVOO as much as possible, then sort of got away from it.

…She may return. Writing on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet in the Jan-Feb AARP Mag, Melissa Gotthardt cites a new NIH/AARP study that shows that sticking with Greek and Southern Italian eating patterns cuts the risk of death from all causes by 20%.

…You don’t have to die!

…Quite a recommendation.

…First, you have to eat plenty of fruits and veggies (is there an echo in here—that is what everyone says). Included in this are beans, peas, and other legumes. Do you think legume is a funny word—HA does.

…Nuts—chow down on nuts (remember, though—they are caloric.)

…Healthy fats (where olive oil comes in) is good.

…Red wine—you can drink it.

…Whole grains…bread, pasta, rice.

…HA remembers the speakers at her meeting saying meat and fish should be the side dish.

…Look for green stuff. It contains nutrients, such as B vitamins and folate, that cut cancer risk, according to reputable studies.

…Learn to like fish or eat more of it. This is good for your heart and may prevent Alz.

…Lay off excess salt and spice things more. Sage, organo…you won’t even miss the white stuff.

…Tomato sauce is also good…Try a little Italian, some fish, a nut or two…

…By little Italian, HA does not mean a cute Italian guy. But that is an idea, too, and gives new meaning to the term Mediterranean Diet.

Friday, December 21, 2007


…HA hopes you have no idea what a hospitalist is. That would mean you had not been hospitalized within the last few years and found out that your regular doctor will not take care of you or maybe even learn you are there.

…Uh-oh, HA is being mean to doctors again. Well, she has her reasons. She has run into hospitalists who barely speak English, want to prescribe things for her without even coming into the room, and who are not as accessible and hip to hospital routines as they are billed to be.

…This specialty is the fastest growing—and a recent study showed that hospitalists can reduce the average hospital stay 12% (let’s see, why do insurance companies love them again? And often insist on their use?).

…Tufts looked into this and found that a hospitalist managing your care can take half a day off the average stay.

…Despite their rep for hospital savvy, multitasking, and management skills, hospitalists in this study were shown not to save much money—it was speculated this was because they had to redo tests you might have had done at your doctor’s office (and of which they would know nothing).

…You as the patient are being handed, often abruptly, to a stranger, when you are sickest, then back to your doctor when you are discharged. What information has been sent back with you about your hospital stay? Sometimes only what you can convey yourself.

…HA remembers her first hospitalist encounter. She was a pleasant young woman from Eastern Europe, good English, but HA had no idea who she was. HA kept asking for her doctor—and this woman had never heard of him. Finally HA called her doctor’s office—and the nurse said, “Your doctor does not come anymore. They will take care of you.”

…HA also remembers some hospitalist saying she needed blood plasma, which can be a little scary because of the diseases it can transmit, even though it is screened. The man had never even seen or talked to HA!

…She demanded he talk to her about it. Oh, he had left, but eventually his partner came in standing on one foot and the other, dying to leave.

…HA said, “I am not numbers in a chart or some case in the New Engliand Journal of Medicine! I am a person!”

…When she got out of the hospital, her regular doctor had no clue about any of this. When HA complained about being “abandoned,” he sent her a registered letter saying she was no longer his patient.

...She found a primary physician who says he still rounds in the hospital.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Eye yes or no

…Look good, feel good. That’s criminally sappy, but true.

…Especially now, with one eye gone dark (more or less) from a detached retina, HA is eye-conscious and at the same time, cannot lard on the goop.

…As we race around to parties (or YOU do), Real Simple magazine has some tips for dropping the eye luggage and looking rested.

…Those crow’s feet are caused by collagen under the skin decreasing with age and not fluffing up the wrinkles. Use an eye cream in the morning or at night. Use one that mentions collagen, not just an eye moisturizer. Be sure it contains a sun screen if you use concealer in the morning.

…If you do have lines and wrinkles, don’t use concealer—it can make the wrinkles stand out.

…For puffiness, watch the salty foods and apply a cold compress to your eyes for 10 minutes before going out in the evening. Put some teaspoons in the fridge and lay them over your eyes. Cold wet teabags can also be soothing, though they irritate some people.

…HA also gets a little camomile ointment stick from a cheap beauty catalog that comes every so often. It works.

…If you are older, forget the metallic or shimmery eye shadow.

…If you are prone to dark circles under your eyes, plump the area away from the veins that are showing with an eye cream. If you use a concealer there, be careful. Find one with a yellow undertone to cancel out the purplish dark areas.

…You can make the whole area look better with mascara—and it can even substitute for garish eye shadows.

…HA doesn’t like the hairy lengthening kind with little fibers in it—do you?

…Better yet—and more economical—smile a lot and back away slowly from the glitter.

...By the way, don't automatically head to the dept store for this stuff. HA's ex- used to work on a cosmetic assembly line in NJ and said they made the same stuff for the big names as the drugstore brands. It just depended on which label they were using that day.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Desk reference for pets

…Aw, don’t get ‘em in a bunch—HA knows the difference between people and animals.

…Or at least she has heard there is one.

…But if your pets are members of your “primary social group,” you may want to buy the new Merck manual…Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health: Home Edition.

…Writing in the NYT (Dec 18, 2007), Erica Goode says the new tome will do for our animal buds what the revered Merck health bible has done for people.

…And that would be provide useful information, as well as endless light reading for hypochondriacs.

…This thing is almost 1,400 pages long.

…In it you will learn about weird diseases that affect baby birds, what to do if your pet is shot with an arrow (uh-uh, don’t yank it out), causes of liver injuries in horses, and other arcana, in addition to tips for selecting a pet and providing a good home. (Sugar gliders chirp all night, so they might not be for you.)

…Let’s face it. We love our animals in this country. Almost 70 million households have at least one pet.

…This thing started out being for vets and it is written by vets. But it is for regular people—giving them much fodder for concern when fretting over their own health gets old.

…And you know that fretting. It’s bad for ya.

…Incidentally, although HA has a dog and three cats of the fur inclination, she recently hooked up with a two-dimensional dog, a purebred Clipart called Scribbles. Check this out: and

…If Scribbles gets a paper cut, HA will whip out her Merck.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Old wives use their noodles

…According to the Mayo Clinic, sometimes it’s okay to use funky little home remedies instead of big flashies.

…Chicken soup, for instance. Ironically inclined docs have done some studies and found that it does contain anti-inflammatories, The miracle meal also flushes out nasal congestion an makes your whole chest feel warm and pleasant. Oh—and canned soups work just as well.

…HA had a bug last week and craved ramen—it had the same effect.

…If you have dry, itchy skin, grind up some oatmeal and sprinkle the fine power in the tub and turn on water full force. Soak as needed.

…If your drain plugs up, lose HA’s email.

…Milk of magnesia can cure a canker sore—dab on 3-4 times a day. This is also good for itchy seborrhea on your forehead.

…Duct tape—they recently found—can help remove warts. Put a piece on for 6 days, peel off and soak the little devil in water and use a pumice stone.

…Aloe—even from a split leaf from your houseplant or cactus in the yard (in HA’s case)--can help a minor burn. HA remembers her daughter getting a curling iron burn and running out in the back yard to get the cure.

…And just today, HA read that a teaspoon of honey can soothe a child’s cough as well or better than the commercial goo. (No honey for babies under age 1, though.)

…Got any others you like, guys?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Pitfalls of the white powders

…Nah, not cocaine. Something more insidious—artificial sweeteners. Every place you go, there they are—the pink, blue, and yellow packets.

…HA is suspicious of ersatz edibles.

…Writing a special story for the LA Times (Nov 19, 2007), Emily Sohn says many Americans are leery of these “almost too good to be true” substances. Researchers come up with links to cancer every so often, but follow-up studies always soothe us, saying not to worry.

…Meanwhile one hundred million Americans consume an average of four artifically sweetened products each day.

…The first to get the hairy eyeball was saccharine.

..Recently, Italian scientists said aspartame causes cancer in rats. Similar studies have raised fears about Splenda (sucralose).

…One scientist said, look what happened when scientists got in the food game—Kool-Aid and Velveeta.

…But the other end of the spectrum is also bogus—organic food is not coming out of pristine soil, with little Disney birds carrying banners overhead.

…Now, of course, they are trying to meld “natural” with artificial—this would be stevia, a sweetener from a plant, not yet FDA-approved for use in foods.

…All of these products trick the tongue into tasting sweetness by triggering certain molecules.

…One problem with this is that these chemicals may not add calories, but they up the craving for sweets so much that if you get your mitts on a real-sugar product, you may flip and gobble too much.

…Eating “diet” foods has not been shown to help much with weight loss.

…As ever, it’s your call. HA, personally, puts sugar in her java. Sugar has been around a few millennia.

...If that's not a test of time, what is?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Is your doctor wired?

…The other day, HA experienced a minor miracle. She faxed her doctor a note and he had someone call with an answer—all within the same day.

…Julie Deardorff wrote about this subject in her blog on the Chicago Tribune’s website. Check out Julie’s Health Club at

…Julie says only half the nation’s docs have interactive websites--the kind where you can schedule or cancel, refill a prescription, print out those tired clipboard forms and fill them out ahead of time, etc.

…Some physicians, however, experienced the lightbulb over the head and realized this is a good way for patients to check test results (one of HA’s docs says wait two weeks before calling) and ask non-urgent questions.

…(How can I make this bleeding stop, by the way, would not be a non-urgent question.)

…Some doctors are even blogging and creating educational podcasts.

…The latter is good—their post-op instructions are usually horrible—photocopied off websites or out of textbooks.

…One daring type even texts with patients—and makes housecalls. He also engages in video chats. Assuming everyone ponies up for a camera soon, this could catch on.

…One expert Deardorff quotes says the doctor’s willingness to learn this and do it shows how confdent they are. Does your doctor stand up to respectful criticism?

…Some patients worry that this will cut face time with the doc. But how much do you usually get anyway? Think about it.

…The International Association of Dental and Medical Doctors offers docs websites at a discount. They can even get a dot-MD designation.

…HA googles docs before she sees them. She also checks with the medical examining board online for lawsuits and to see where the doctor went to school.

…One doc has an online store. She is a dermie, so you can imagine—high-end beauty products. But a doctor’s “store” boggles the imagination,and with HA, that is not easy, that boggling thing.

…Now if her doctors would just call with those darn test results.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Food and clothing now an item?

…Leaving aside the edible panties, have we had a lot of clothing with food value?

…Now, a company called Tehama has clothes to “make you feel as good as you look.” They are selling shirts enriched with Vitamin C—that supposedly “infuse” the vitamin into the wearer’s skin.

…These duds are also UPF 30.

…I asked the rep how this would work. But got no answer.

…HA has heard varying reports on whether Vitamin C can be absorbed through the skin in makeup form. Some say no.

…Tehama is a fancy golf club in Carmel, CA. They have a high-end line of casual clothes.

…I know being on the golf course in the sun will cause your body to make Vitamin D,
but Vitamin C from your golf shirt?

…What do you think? What about washing the clothes? Does it cut the nutritional value?

…HA does see potential for clothes that provide energy and jammies that put you to sleep.

…Can you think of other adaptations?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What if the anesthetic didn't work?

…HA had this happen—briefly—on one eye surgery. It was not numbed…She FELT it and was awake and talking so she could point that out immediately. Make that BEFORE immediately. They knocked her out again to restick the eye with needles.

…In all fairness, in all her other surgeries, it occurred to her that she might not go under, then blackness…out!

…But now there is a movie out called ‘Awake’ in which a guy feels a scalpel cut into his skin. (His doctors are trying to kill him, which may be a spoiler, so this was not a mistake.)

…But HA has seen stories on cable about the anesthetic not working sometimes. Although she tries not to freak you out or lead you astray, HA is mentioning this because the NYT dealt with the impact of the movie on medical practice.

…Melissa Lafsky wrote the story (Dec 11, 2007). This happens. It’s called anesthetic awareness—the patient is not far enough under.

…The American Society of Anesthesiologists warned their members to be aware of the movie. They didn’t like the line, “’Awake’ will do for surgery what ‘Jaws’ did for swimming in the ocean.”

…Yeah, good one.

…The problem is, when you are under full anesthesia, you may also be paralyzed with a breathing tube down your throat. You can’t show that something is awry. The number of people who experience this each year may be 20,000 to 40,000 of the 21 million patients who undergo anesthesia. Someone else changed this to 1,400. Quite a spread there.

…If this worries you, ask when the anesthesiogist comes around for that little “chat” before your surgery. Tell him or her about any other problems or incidents you have had. Spit it out—ask. HA believes there are ways the anesthsiologist can tell from your heart activity that you might be too lightly sedated.

…If this is freaking you out just reading this, HA says, don’t see the movie.

…Movies aren't the best way to learn about medical matters. Would you consult Hannibal Lecter for recipes?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Different day, same old slop

…When you serve your family, do you talk up the food?

…In the Wayback, people used to have “nights.” Monday was hot dogs, Tuesday was store-bought pizza, and so on. Do you still do that?

…Of course, that is not the point of this post. Moving on…

…Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Univ Food and Brand Lab, in his column on, says glorifying food with tasty descriptions helps people try and appreciate new things.

…This sneaky practice has a name, of course—confirmation bias.

…Wansink, author of Mindless Eating, says we can preprogram people to think something tastes good.

…HA remembers traveling once to her aunt’s goat farm and worrying all the way that she would have to drink goat’s milk. Her parents blandly said, “Oh, it’s Louisville
Dairy milk.” Years later, HA discovered—it WAS nanny goat product.

…Oh, there are reasons HA is bitter. But again she digresses.

…This researcher did a study of sorts. Wansink and his colleagues offered six different foods to cafeteria diners. Instead of red beans and rice, they said, “Traditional Cajun Red Beans with Rice” and instead of “seafood fillet,” they said, “Succulent Italian Seafood Fillet.” Guess which was gobbled up faster?

…Wansink says this is especially effective with kids (see? SEE? HA was a kid on the ill-fated Louisville run). Preschoolers will eat broccoli if you call it a Dinosaur Tree or peas if they are called Power Peas.

…Even adults, though—look at your next restaurant menu. Does it say, “Mystery Meat”?
No, it says, “Meat Loaf, delicious comfort food like your mother used to make.”

…Or you will see things like, “Tasty melange of fresh veggies.”

…Not sucko-tash.

…Or “In a velvety, neon-orange sauce,” not Kraft Dinner.

…HA made that up. That seems to be the whole idea.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bad humbug

…HA loves Christmas and Christmas trees.

…Yet, she has learned that some people are allergic to live trees.

…Not oaks or elms in the spring —but Christmas trees.

…Writing in the Baltimore Sun on Dec 6, 2007, Linda Shrieves says docs have long suspected Mr Tannenbaum over there for causing sniffles, sneezes, and sinus symptoms around the holidays.

…Allergists would tell people to take down their trees, but were greeted like latter day Grinches because they had no proof.

…Finally Connecticut allergist John Santilli placed a tree inside an intern’s apartment and took air samples for two weeks. For the first three days, Shrieves reports, mold counts were around 800 spores per cubic meter of air (normal is 500-700). By day 14, this had rocketed to 5,000.

…The longer the tree is up, the worse it gets.

…The mold is nature’s way of breaking down the dead tree.

…Canadian researchers also looked into this seasonal allergy and decided that as many as 7% of people with allergies may be allergic to their trees—though they blamed the resins.

…Nope, Santilli, says, mold.

…Well, the Christmas Tree Association has another take on it. Trees outside can collect allergens, they sniff, but so can artificial trees stored in basements.

…To HA’s knowledge no one has subjected an intern to artificial tree cooties. So the jury is out.

…Out here in Chandler, Arizona, the city makes a giant tree out of tumbleweeds. Sounds dorky, but it is actually sorta cool.

Friday, December 07, 2007

How to stick with the fitness thang

…This time of year, HA is wading through tons of stories on how to fill up on veggies before a party, only drink wine spritzers, etc.

…Every olive adds a pound or something. That can’t be right, but something like that. Certainly, a cup of eggnog will send you to the truck scales on the interstate.

…So this entry is not about that stuff—it’s about how to make yourself stay on your plan after the holidays—something to look forward to, you know.

…Rovenia M Brock, PhD, aka Dr Ro, has some ideas.

…First, buy cool gear. Look good, babies! The shoes, the outfit, ahhh.

…Make exercise a family activity—after dinner, on weekends.

…Start small. Ten minutes a day at first. If you get off the treadmill at the hols, start small again.

…Don’t wait for that first heart attack. Beat the rush.

…Notice small improvements and don’t peck away at them. Every pound is hard-won.

…Do it for three weeks. It takes three weeks to start a habit.

…If you slack, don’t beat yourself up. Just start again.

…For more rah-rah, go to

…Seriously, next year? HA is definitely standing up. Let’s see how that goes.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Makes shaking hands drafty

…Don’t get HA started on those horrible paper towel exam outfits doctors expect you to wear.

…Ooops, too late. She's started.

…Connie Midey, our intrepid medical reporter at the East Valley Tribune (Dec 4, 2007), took on the subject and got HA all riled up.

…First, Midey points out that even if you are lucky enough to get a cloth number, a crucial tie in back is always broken off or knotted into a Gordian horror.

…Doctors usually don’t bother with those cloth numbers anyway. Instead, the assistant, shivering herself in the frigid confines of “the little room,” hands you an assortment of paper towels to wear over your shame.

…These gowns are fine for the hospital—why goop up something you own and would have to replace? And it gives the staff a sense of power to be the only ones to figure out
the snap shoulder thingies allowing for removal over IVs.

…But how about that paper “vest” thing they hand women before a gyno exam? With a larger paper towel to go below. The paper is so stiff, the thing moves as a piece, up, down, in, out, gap, gap.

…All the while you are sitting there with your scars and cellulite hanging out while the fully clothed doc sits on a little stool below you staring upward into your stiff openings.

…God forbid you should have to walk next door or to a lab.

…One physician’s assistant said he kept his t-shirt and boxers on himself. Even though the gowns might have been laundered, he told Midey, he was put off that sick people had worn them. He may be in the wrong line of work—but also..HA had not thought of that! Oh, ick.

…Changes maybe coming…kimonos, drawstring pants, or ankle length gowns that at least cover your butt.

…Yeah, sure. Take a deep breath and hold it.

…Sometimes doctors don’t have you change until they talk to you and see what exams might be needed. Another doc HA had once always met with you fully clothed after the exam for the discussion period.

…Midey even suggests bring your own gown. Personally, HA does not plan to see the doctor that often.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Brrap--skinny on heartburn

…Everybody thinks they have GERD these days. Writing in the NYT on Nov 8, 2007, Peter Jaret talks about the huge wave of gastroesophageal reflux disease people are being talked into.

…Millions of people now think they have an incurable disease that leads to even more…stern voice on TV commercial…”serious conditions” like cancer.

…Hold up a minute.

…Heartburn occurs when the valve between the esophagus and stomach relaxes without your permission and acid spills upward. Almost everyone experiences it sometimes.

…Over the years, doctors thought, the acid would erode the lining of the esophagus, leading to a precancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus.

…Of course, the truth was slipperier. Some people with horrible heartburn have no damage. Some people with damage have no heartburn.

…Only 10 to 15% of heartburn cases have GERD with signs of damage. Even when there is damage, it usually doesn’t get worse and worse.

…For occasional heartburn, antacids like Tums and Maalox are fine. Drugs called H2 blockers are prescribed for mild, recurring episodes. For more severe cases, proton pump inhibitors may be suggested.

…People with documented damage (tube down the throat to assess) may need daily meds. Other stay on meds because the TV ads scare them.

…Proton pump inhbitors have been linked to increased chance of hip fractures.

…It isn’t prudent to take stuff you don’t need. Auntie HA said so.

…Incidentally, giving up certain foods like coffee, chocolate and spices has not been shown to help much. Raising the head of the bed can help a little.

…Of course, the doctor will also say to lose weight. When don’t they say that?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Well, there's fun and then there's fun

…John Morley, MD, is a prof at St Louis Univ and author The Science of Staying Young.

…HA wonders if you have to actually BE young to work at being young this much.

…Aw, kidding.

…He says feeling young does not have to be a chore. You can eat dark chocolate and drink wine and maybe do other things.

…OK, HA is listening.

…Things like fidget in your office chair. Oh.

…Work in your garden (sorry, HA’s is a desert death pie).

…Go dancing. HA prefers the Tucker Carlson approach—chair dancing.

…Take the stairs….

…Oh, these park far from the store and take the stairs deals have been around, what else..?

…Eat a nutritious, balanced diet. What else?

…Do Sudoku. HA does not know what that is and probably won’t be finding out.

…Screen for cancer…OK, not as much fun as promised…

…Stay on your feet. Probably good advice—HA is turning into the Tin Woman.

…Schedule a checkup.

…With a doctor? HA avoids that and anyway, they found out too many people are glowing in the dark from CT scans.

…OK, a mammogram. Weirdly, HA’s health plan gave a $15 Target gift certificate to any member who got her mammogram. She likes this new bribery angle. Health plans should do more of it.

…But let’s get back to the chocolate part.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Dirty job

…Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators at Stanford are studying…er,
infant droppings.

…You thought your job blew at times.

…Lucky volunteer parents in Silicon Valley (nannies more likely) collect the “evidence.”

…They call it the poop project, so we might as well use the P-word.

…The idea is to see what bacteria newborns have onboard. They collect samples for a year.

…Families got little freezers in case they didn’t want the science stuff near the ice cream.

…Researchers and parents actually bonded and decided thhis was fun. Oh, heck, why not?

…Mom’s also supplied samples of internal secretions prior to labor to see what baby might be picking up on the way out.

…Babies apparently are born with a sterile intestinal tract. But the bacteria swarm in in short order. A normal adult has 10 times as many bacterial cells as human cells.

…Each baby was different, but fraternal twins showed the most similarity. Could genetics and the environment work together to establish these colonies?

…In the end, certain bacteria live well inside us and tend to get established.

…The 14 families did this for a year. HA once estimated that each kid messes up 5,000 diapers.

…At least this was for the cause of science.