Monday, October 31, 2011

Toxic bosses can make us sick

A mean person with no boundaries and power over us. Ah—what a dream. Madeline Vann, MPH, Everyday Health, says bosses who throw things, screamers, people who crave chaos in order to excel, all can hurt those under them.

Bullies—a lot of them—bullies with no playground. They can “correct” you in front of others, steal your ideas, talk behind your back, the possibilities are endless.

Lynn Taylor, author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant, is quoted as saying people spend 19 hrs a week worrying about the boss. Six of those hours are on weekends.

This can cause depression, heart problems, overeating, asthma attacks, insomnia, and the consumption of tons of sick leave.

What can you do? First see the problem for what it is—them, not you. Write everything down.

Think of the boss as a toddler—is he or she hungry, tired, overwhelmed…Maybe a juice box?

I added the juice box.

Find a trusted sounding board-OK, person who isn’t sick of hearing about this.

Or—look for a job.

The juice box sounds easier. My advice? Take it one tantrum at a time.

Actually some bosses also wrote in on this--employees who malinger, who steal, who miss deadlines, who don't shower...they had their own beefs.

Friday, October 28, 2011

You are officially off the hook for...

Do you like that Suze Orman person—who screeches "DENIED" at people when they want to spend a buck? I am not a fan. But I do think we need someone to say yes or no on things. Just not her, with her orange canvas outfits.

I saw a story in Working Mother (Nov 2011) about things you can take off your To Do List. What a great idea to cut stress!

The magazine says you can remove:

Zumba Class
Learning to knit
Hosting a dinner party

These come from The Happiest Mom by Meagan Francis.

Now, I have some…

Learning to make scratch piecrust
Cooking all meals on Sunday and freezing
Dog obedience school

And that’s just for starters! Got some more, readers? Let’s go easy on ourselves.

By the way, Working Mother is such a good mag I still get it and my kid is almost 30. I am dropping it, though, because they went to a new design that yellow-highlights things for me in the stories. That is so dumb.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Breathe, people

In the 1970s, I had a job, but also went to a yoga ashram for class every evening—we learned yogic breathing, in which your stomach comes out instead of being sucked in. The way babies breathe, their tummies going up and down.

Since women don’t like to stick their stomachs out, and since people get more stiff and armored, we gradually forget how to breathe.

Sometimes I find myself barely taking in any air—just now, for example.

We need oxygen and that mysterious prana energy stuff that suffuses us from air—this comes from pranic breathing.

A LA board-certified urologist and surgeon named Eric Robins, MD, hooked up with Master Stephen Co to emphasize therapeutic breathing.

This is called the Nine Energizing Breaths—and the book is called The Power of Prana. Robins credits this for helping his own Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

For more info on how to breathe this way, go to

Basically it amounts to relaxing, sitting or lying, positioning your tongue on the roof of your mouth and making sure your stomach is coming out on the inhale, meaning the diaphragm is coming down. Think of your lungs filling from the top down.

Try it up to 10 times, then repeat unless you are dizzy. Also—pregnant women should not do everything in the book—ask your doctor about it. This also applies to people with high blood pressure, or heart or lung ailments.

Still—breathing is free. Might be worth a shot.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Do not reuse needles--got that?

Every time I read about infections, someone says a hospital or clinic has reused needles. Can we just agree that is really, really dumb and stupid?

Laura Landro, WSJ, Oct 25, 2011, says the Centers for Disease Control is launching a new website for cancer patients and caregivers. Prevent infections! Cancer patients are vulnerable. For one thing, chemo can lower the number of protective white cells.

And, I might add— cancer patients ENOUGH PROBLEMS ALREADY!

But patients also need to do a part to prevent infections. They need to wash their hands regularly.

Get someone else to empty the litter boxes and deal with poop.

Of COURSE—no reuse of needles. But also watch for uncapped needles lying around the treatment center.

Get a flu shot. (Read today it’s 59% effective—but better than nothing.)

Staffers are asked to get flu shots, too.

How about common sense? If your nephew is sick, don’t have him come over. Don’t go out in crowds of coughing people.

In other words, wise up.

Check out the CDC stuff at

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Old-age commune--with pool guy

My sister and I oversee our mother’s care in assisted care—and have for 17 yrs. She cannot manage on her own.

She can pay $3000 a mo—we will never be able to when it comes our turn. And our turn is sort of here, we are both quakier that she is.

So….My friends and I jokingly talk about banding together and taking care of each other—maybe with a cute employee to fetch our prescriptions, cook, clean the pool (a must), and mix the Cosmos at twilight.

Could this happen, though? I guess it’s sort of a Golden Girls scenario with diseases and disabilities.

Could we swing it on SS? We need to do a budget.

It would have to be someplace warm…

Monday, October 24, 2011

Breast cancer followup--ask your doctor?

Anahad O’Connor, NYT, Oct 24, 2011, reports on a decent-sounding study that suggests that letrozole (Femara) improves the odds of survival to a greater degree that the gold-standard followup medicine tamoxifen.

I am not a doctor, I do not play one on TV, but this may be worth talking to your doctor about.

Sixty percent of breast cancers are sensitive to estrogen or estrogen-receptor positive. This study in The Lancet Oncology, financed in part by the National Cancer Institute and yes—by the maker of letrozole—looked at 8,010 women

They followed these women for about eight years. After surgery, letrozole and tamoxifen were given some of the women alone for five years, or in sequence, first one, then the other.

The women who took letrozole five years after surgery had a 20% lower chance of recurrence and were 21% less likely to die over those who got tamoxifen alone. The combo did not lower the likelihood of recurrence or death over letrozole alone.

So…while each individual person is not a statistic—this might be worth asking about.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Secret plan to kill us

I am trying to decide on a new Medicare plan—or maybe I will keep the old one. I am increasingly convinced, however, that this process is a nefarious plan to frustrate seniors and raise their BP to fatal levels.

First, I made the decision to get an HMO—a so-called Advantage plan—when my supplemental went up and up in price. I loved that supplemental—I wanted to marry it. But it was too expensive.

So…I decided to ride the Advantage plans down—the admin has vowed to gut them for being just too darn nice to us.

The Advantage plan I had in 2011 was OK—I could not afford to see a specialist ($35), but that was probably OK since they just make you feel sicker or more fat and decrepit.

But—I had a grievance against the one specialist I did see—and this plan did not give a fig. Hmmm.

Also they chirped around about how they would send a doctor to my HOUSE to assess me—thanks but no thanks.

So…I called my broker. Brokers are good, by the way, they can cut through a lot of BS.

Before he came, I called one of the plans I was considering. They had sent me a “Tool Kit.” This tool kit consisted of an alphabetical list of docs—does not help me in finding another eye doctor. Also the tool is a blank piece of paper you can write your doc’s name on and your meds—then apparently you take this to some meeting in a nearby motel—then what, I have no idea.

There was also a blank page in there for “Doodles,” it said. I like a health plan that focuses on creativity.

In the fullness of time, the broker came over and went compared apples, oranges, kiwis and bananas on several plans—bottom line, I am sticking with the one I have.

Whew. Over with and I lived.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Candy you hate? Seriously?

Yup—the Loyola Center for Fitness is so worried you will bolt down the Halloween candy, it advises only buy the kind you hate.

Also, delay buying it—less time for it to call to you from the garage or wherever.

Don’t get chocolate—people eat that. That means YOU!

Eat a healthy meal so you won’t be hungry, Loyola says.

Chew sugarless gum.

Oh—and I love this one—keep the wrappers so you can see how much you ate.

Also, confiscate the candy. Dole it out for desserts.

Mom used to do that last—we found it months later, all nasty and chalky.

Loyola also says give out Halloween pencils instead of comestibles. How about stickers instead of Snickers? Raisins? Packages of microwave popcorn?

Oh, stop, stop, stop.

Fun is officially dead. RIP, fun.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Disabled can get slighted on tests, treatments

David Song, writing in the Harvard Crimson, tells of a paraplegic woman who could not weigh herself to get the proper amount of chemo.

Another woman with cerebral palsy was duct taped to keep her still—they did not have Velcro straps.

OK, you already have a problem—but what if you get another one that requires treatment. Will you get it?

What if you can’t get in a scanner or MRI, or even onto a table?

Women with disabilities may not be urged to get mammograms or Paps.

Perhaps providers feel their lifespan is limited anyway.

This is pretty darn crappy when you stop to think of it!

I once saw a show where a paralyzed woman was pregnant—I wondered how she could push. They actually went to great lengths to help her—and I don’t think they just gave her a C-section.

Maybe because it was on TV?

We have to look out for this kind of thing.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

You probably need a new pillow

Karen Haywood Queen writes about pillows in the Costco Connection for October.

Signs you need a new pillow are: You wake up with a sore back or neck. Your pillow is so flat, you have to bend it to get any loft. Or maybe it was from a bargain bin. Or maybe you heard someplace that pillows can get infested with microscopic ickies.

A good pillow can last 20 years, a cheapie only 3.

The biggest pillow is not always the best. Seventy percent of people sleep on their side. Twenty percent on their back. Ten percent on their stomach.

A side sleeper needs the most support. A back sleeper can use a medium-firm to firm. A stomach sleeper might want a mooshier (medium density) number.

You might also want allergen-free if you suffer from sniffles. These can even contain feathers and down if done right.

Memory foam also lets air circulate—some people get hot heads.

Use a pillowcase—protects against oil and dirt. Usually you can wash a pillow if you want—check the tags. Do not wash memory foam, though.

I use a memory foam cylinder I got when I had eye surgery ( and love it. Lets my nose hang off to breathe.

I used to have a pillow named Flat Pat—good for balancing a book on. When I could no longer read books in bed (I listen now), my sister took Pat.

You don’t name your pillows? Silly puppy!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Good time--or eye infection

Please do not stick weird crap into your eye. Listen to Auntie Star now. She is missing two-eyed vision and believe me, she liked having it.

I am talking about “funny” contacts for Halloween—to make you look like a bloodshot zombie, steel-eyed robot or a cat or something.

All contacts require fitting and proper care. Including ones to make you cuter or uglier.

Huge risk—huffs one doctor. You could ulcerate your cornea.

Ew—I did that because a surgeon had cut the nerve to my eye surface—had to have my eye sewn shut for 2 mos. Pretty bad, folks, although from the stares I got, I think it would be a good horror touch.

Are you seriously going to slam some plastic from Toys are Us in your eye?

If you do, don’t come crying to me.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wait--those pills may have expired

I once got a cough in the night—tried water, tea, and finally a slug of some old goo in the cabinet—which resulted in a banging case of the trots.

Don’t take expired drugs. Misty Vo wrote about this in the AZ Republic, Oct 14,

First—says Ms Vo—they determine expiration in a variety of ways. Some companies study the stability of the drug and its potency over time.

Others use mathematical formulas.

When the drug reaches the date, it does not mean it’s a placebo—it just means it may be losing effectiveness or has lost it.

Other factors besides time can be involved—was it stored in a hot place, etc.

Expire antibiotics can be weak-ish and just taunt the bugs and make them stronger for when they hop into the next person.

Or after taking weak stuff, you may take a full-strength prescription and get a bad reaction.

Liquids can get stronger—some of the filler evaporates and oopsie.

So look at those dates, people!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Life's a bowl of...

CHERRIES! I love them. I will admit upfront the Cherry Marketing Institute is behind this!

Oh, so what—cherries are the bomb.

Yet—you people are slacking…the top fruits people eat are oranges, bananas, apples, and watermelon.

Still, only one in five of you are getting the 1-2 cups of fruit a day the national nannies recommend.

People have…wait for it…”Fruit Fatigue,” says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, author of MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself and Your Family Better.Tart cherries—not the gooey pie kind--are a good way to add “red.”

Yet people say they throw fruit out too much, it costs too much, it’s too hard to prepare, blah blah. Yes—I have said all this. Esp the cost.

Cherries have antioxidants—the good stuff.

Go to to ideas on these little red beauties.

Yum—want some right now. What do I have in there? Bananas.

Well, I like those, too.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Visiting health service? I don't THINK so

Are we too cynical? Can one be TOO cynical? Now, when I get a letter from the bank or my health plan—much less the G—I know it is not to help me and will possibly work against me.

I got a letter from my Medicare so-called “Advantage” plan saying they would call me to make an appointment for a doctor to come to my house to assess my “wellness.” Then that doctor would report back to “my” doctor about my health. Of course, I could have “my” doctor do this if I wanted.

Or I could refuse. I think that’s my choice.

What the heck is this? Send some doctor to my house—report back to the G that I am broke, poor or whatever, and fat, and limping?

Butt the heck out!

I am what doctors call noncompliant—I want a doctor who is up on the research, can point me to studies, does not automatically attribute everything to body size, in fact, who knows how hard to impossible it is to change that permanently—oh, and a doctor who speaks English well enough for me to discuss these things.

In the meantime, renew my BP pills and stay off my lawn.

But that’s me—this may appeal to some of you.

I am turning into a crank. Oh, shut up--I know I already am.

PS Not me in the pix--I never wear scarves on my head.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Knife in the heart

Peanut butter is going to become scarce and spendy.

Oh, whatever! Why don’t our masters just mark up ramen to $5?

I shouldn’t give them ideas.

Seems…oh woe…there was a failure in last year’s peanut crop—too hot or something.

Peter Pan, Jif, Smuckers—the lot—are raising prices by as much as 40%!

A ton of raw peanuts has gone from $450 to $1,150!

Ninety percent of households eat the stuff—good protein source.

Oh—and this is nifty—chocolate is also on the hit list.

I notice the slant in this story, though—Huffpo—it went from a hot season to “climate change” causing all this sandwich mayhem.

Still—peanut butter…not fair!

What can you do? Stock up! The prices haven’t hit yet.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Robotic surgery--measure twice, cut once

Especially if you are facing prostate surgery and especially if your doctor’s hospital has purchased robotic equipment, you may be hearing about robotic surgery.

This is not a robot clanking in and leaning over the table—it’s robotic arms and tools being manipulated by a surgeon at the computer.

Recently, a writer friend working in a hospital PR dept told me they were really touting the robot and she wasn’t so sure it was always the better option. She was conflicted.

Gary Schwitzer wrote about this in his HealthNewsReview blog.

His take was that the manufacturers of the robots were VERY interested in this technology being offered, recommended, and used. He cited a study in the Journal for Healthcare Quality on 400 randomly selected hospital websites on robotic surgery. About 41% of hospital websites talk about it. Of these, 37% put it on their homepage, with ¾’s using manufacturer photos or linking to a company website.

No websites mentioned risks.

Robotic surgery has jumped by 400% in the last 4 years. Proponents say it’s more precise, requiring smaller incisions and shorter hospital stays.

Others say these surgeries take longer, cost more, and the patient is under longer.

Randomized studies showing benefits are non-existent.

New does not always mean better—one doctor reminds us.

So…Look into this if it’s recommended. Who is saying it’s better--the hospital or some copy the maker wrote. See how many the doctor has done—some of this training is in weekend courses…

This is your body!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Rake those leaves--forget the gym

Exercise does not have to be some hothouse deal in the gym amongst the hardbodies.

You can do yardwork, for instance.

Now is the time for it. Those leaves won’t take themselves. And let’s face it, leaf blowers are just plain dumb.

You should be happy to be outside in nature. They say.

Double digging a bed is work! Stretch first, warm up.

Concentrate on deep breathing.

Rake right-handed 15 times—left-handed 15.

Get the kids out there. There is a link between ADHD and too little time outside.

Plants are good for people’s mental health—why else bring flowers to hospitals?

Try to switch up on activities—don’t get blisters.

If you have allergies—take a Bendryl but still get out there.

Try to keep it healthy—see a bug, don’t reach for poison, rinse it off a plant with water.

And by all means—put a bench outside—sit, enjoy your efforts.

My brother used to rake leaves and sit in the pile and read.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Not just for cantaloupes

Listeria is out there killing people. No, it’s not some unshaven sociopath—it’s a pathogen. A bacterium.

And it’s not usually on veggies and fruit as in the Colorado cantaloupe outbreak—it’s usually on meat and cheese.

Deli meat is a huge culprit—sitting around with surface area breeding this stuff. The meat in the packages is less prone.

The listeria bacteria get on workers’ hands and onto food. Cold does not kill it. It creeps into slicers behind the counter.

Watch unpasteurized cheeses—can be lurking.

Keep meat and veggies separate.

Listeria is less likely to get ya than e.coli and salmonella—still, another bad actor on the scene.

Listerosis, by the way, can be fatal, as this cantaloupe thing has shown. Most likely to die are infants, old people, and people with bad immune systems.

There is a new food safety law with more inspections of delis, but money is short and it may not be fully funded.

As is happening a lot these days. So we play Sandwich Roulette.

Aw, it's not that bad--just don't go to really creepy looking delis.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Will it hurt?

I got my flu shot—I heard on the news that they were using a smaller needle that barely hurt. It didn’t hurt much or even at all…So get one.

But as for other “procedures,” as doctors like to call disgusting things, some really do hurt. Is it better to know what you’re in for?

Health Dialog has now whipped up something called the HD Care Compass, telling you what to expect from cardiac caths, colonoscopy, gall bladder surgery, knee and hip replacement and other “procedures.”

Go to:

Usually a doctor will tell you about this stuff—or make that, sometimes the doctor will tell you. I have had many instances of not being told.

That is why I wrote my facedown recovery paper——for one.

Sometimes, the doctor does not know—he or she has probably never had what you are getting.

Just sayin’.

For some reason this makes me think of a really stupid test I had once for reflux--they forced radioactive orange juice into my chest with a belt around my ribs--I left the room. Now THAT needed some preparation. And I didn't have reflux!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

This is getting old

Man, oh, man—the limping, gimping and nod. Getting “on.” We are, but we don’t want to look it. Or feel it.

Well, good luck.

Everyday my email is bulging (figuratively) with nostrums to make me look younger or correct my impudent joints.

Wendy Schmid, Harper’s Bazaar, quotes a Harvard geneticist as saying aging is treatable. Hmmm. Turns out he is referring to resveratrol—the red wine stuff—and some stuff called TA-65.

Resveratrol is a polyphenol that activates enzymes called sirtruins, which tend to slow down in midlife. These dealies promote cell survival and even makes your bod think it’s dieting and exercising when it’s not.

Ooops—statements like that make me hair stand up.

Maybe it does cut inflammation and thus wrinkle production. In mice.

TA-65 is from T.A. Sciences—it comes from the astragalus root, an antioxidant. This may lengthen the time between cell divisions and thus cell death.

But cell life length can also be a factor in cancer cells—so this could turn precancerous into cancerous.

More research needed. Also this stuff costs thousands of dollars a year.

Some docs are popping the resveratrol. Me, I await the next news story of unintended consequences. If I live long enough.

Maybe a glass of wine would be nice.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Doctor nurse?

Gardiner Harris, NYT, Oct 1, 2011, says some nurses are getting doctorates and being called “Doctor.”

The nerve.

But, hey, why not? We need all the health care pros we can get—and this will continue into the future.

Nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists—all are claiming the title doctor.

Of course, the physicians are not pleased.

The nurses say the title helps them get administrative positions in hospitals. But it also helps with getting legislatures to give them the power to prescribe.

The physicians say patients will be confused. So they are pushing those same legislatures to limit who can be called doctor.

Also at issue—who does the patient see first—usually the “doctor.” But often now—physician assistants and advanced practice nurses. It’s a team now.

But it’s easier to get the title for some professions. Six to eight years of study for pharmacists, physical therapists and nurses—twice that for physicians. In 2004, pharmacists needed a doctorate. By 2015, PTs will need one.

There are many levels in between—specialized training for nurses, say, in epidemiology.

Many observers don’t see the benefit to the patient of a nurse with a doctorate and one with a master’s.

Twenty-three states already allow nurses to practice without a physician overlooking their decisions.

Nurses don’t want to be doctors, according to one expert—if they did, they would go to medical school.

Is anything EVER that simple?