Friday, December 30, 2011

Hangovers, of course

Did you know that a fourth of people don’t get the classic “no loud noises” hangover? No headache, no spacey feeling into the afternoon, no vom.

Not fair, is it?

I am in the one-fourth, but don’t hate me.

Of course, this is where I tell you some neat hangover cures. I won’t even insult your intelligence by suggesting the best of all—don’t take the last six drinks.

Let’s see…well, some people take Tylenol before going to sleep—this is now considered bad because Tylenol and alcohol are some sort of lethal combo, sorta maybe.

So stick to ibuprofen.

Drink a lot of water is more advice—even while at the bar. Not sure on that one—ever done it?

Stick to clear drinks—the dark ones have cogeners, which just sound bad— you don’t want cogenors.

Eat food before toasting and drinking.

Some people swear by peanut butter sandwiches.

And of course, they say not to take the hair of the dog—but you know, I noticed over the years that people who had a Bloody Mary seemed fine in early afternoon.

Anecdotal, of course.

Sooo…cheers, my babies!

Oh--and that picture? My good-bye to 2011.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Save money, time, life itself

In 2012, as usual, we can ignore all medical advice and start following all old advice—or something like that. This stuff goes in and out of season.

But I read a story recently that had a few new wrinkles in it.

First, forget loading in the vitamins. Folic acid, magnesium and zinc, in one study, actually shortened women’s lives—statistically.

Liposuction—so sad, too bad, but it just moves fat someplace else—or rather, sucks it out and it re-establishes elsewhere. You know fat—very tricky.

Household appliances may make asthma worse—it’s the electromagnetic fields moms are exposed to in the form of microwaves, vacuum cleaners, and hair dryers that gets passed to the kids.

Staring at a screen before bed keeps the sleep hormone melatonin from secreting. Keep it dark at least an hour before trying to sleep.

Pick only winning teams—cheering for a losing team can bring on an ER visit.

Watch the commute—more than 45 mins for one person can make a couple 40% more likely to split.

The bigger the city you live in, the more stress. One doc even said if everyone were born in the country, there would be 30% fewer people with schizophrenia.

I have no idea if that’s true or what you should make of all this—just thought it was interesting.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The fat trap

Maybe we need to SHUT our fat trap.

That is the term NYT health reporter Tara Parker-Pope uses for the body’s built-in resistance to losing pounds permanently.

You can read the whole sad tale at:

This is all I heard at the holiday parties—“I shouldn’t..” “I am completely stuffed…” “I will regret this…” On and on.

This fat stuff has careened out of control, so to speak. Do this, don’t do that, this person is fat, that one is…you’re doomed, you’re weak, you’re stupid.

You know a book I loved—Candy & Me: A Love Story by Hilary Liftin. Buy a used copy on Amazon. It chronicles this gal’s love of candy. She goes into each of her favorites and when and where she first savored it.

Candy—the enemy. But it’s this woman’s reason for living.

Life is short, it’s funny, it’s horrible, it’s frightening…sometimes a cookie is not evil.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Music as pain reliever

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have money these days—and can’t afford doctor copays or a lot of medical nonsense. I am also not crazy about slamming in a bunch of drugs, even if they are cheap, which they seldom are.

So…I was interested in a December The Journal of Pain piece on how music can ease pain for some people.

This came from the Univ of Utah Pain Research Center. They think you can substitute a concentration on music for concentration on pain.

This takes er…concentration. The music pathways compete with the pain pathways.

At first the researchers thought those with lowest anxiety about pain would be able to switch concentration to music better—but it turned out to be the opposite. High anxiety people who could absorb themselves readily did the best.

Anxiety and absorption were linked—they may look at that more.

Do you find these science snippets interesting? I do.

Monday, December 26, 2011

No snow--just wait

Well, here in the desert, the wait is long. But elsewhere there is plenty of the white stuff and it needs some relocation.

Snow shoveling injuries started in October!

Thousands of people injure themselves every winter slinging the stuff around.

Heart attacks are the least of it—7%.

The lower back is usually the focus of the agony. Muscles are cold and tight, with less blood supply—they cramp, they spasm, ouch!

Andrew Peretz, MS, of Somers Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine Group (, says warm up first—5 or 10 minutes. March in place. Run up and down stairs.

Use the right shovel—not the one invented 100 yrs ago with the short handle and big wide surface. Get one with a curved handle and made of lighter material.

Use your leg muscles not your back.

Push snow aside if you can—don’t lift.

Use kitty litter or sand under your feet to prevent slipping.

If your doc says shoveling is OK—it is good exercise.

And that cocoa sure tastes good after.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Jump for joy, why don'tcha?

When I was young, I clicked off the years from Christmas to Christmas—that was my high point. Now…the economy, the wear and tear of living…it’s sort of a job. But kids still have that sparkle.

It snows and they scream with happiness! When the radio says school is closed, they swoon! They play outside until their little hands are too cold to hold hot chocolate.

So… let’s look at it through the eyes of kids—that special excitement.

But…of course…playing outside also works off calories, Healthy Schools reminds us…to wit:

Dashing through the snow—half an hour—330 cals.

Jumping for joy…330 cals

Sledding—220 cals

Decking some halls – 120 cals

Reading stories – 30 cals

Building a snowman – 140 cals


Making snow angels—107 cals

Merry Christmas, all!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Someone in the hospital?

Hospitals at Christmas can be sort of extra-sad. I once wanted to play with a security guard’s German shepherd when hospitalized at Easter—no one was around.

The Univ of Alabama-Birmingham has some tips if you have a relative or friend in the hospital at this giddy time of year.

This Alabama hospital system does try to cheer things up, by collecting toys and stockings for kids and maybe some music.

If the person is not in intensive care, you can bring some decorations. If the doc says OK, maybe a favorite treat or dish.

Ask if the patient can get a massage—that would be a good gift.

Or how about Skype—most hospitals have wifi.

If your friend is well provided for cheer-wise, then look for rooms with no visitors or signs of the season—maybe you can bring a little cheer there.

Under no conditions, though—The Little Drummer Boy. You have been warned.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Should you take up running?

My Dad ran—before the word “jogging” was invented. My sibs run—my sister, in fact, ran everyday for 20 years. Now—two hip replacements, a sore knee, bad back…and when people tell her they run, she cannot resist warning them that they are courting disaster.

I say let people find their own disaster—no wait, I do warn against bad eye surgeons and weird approaches to atrial fib. Never mind.

Chris Sebelski, asst prof of physical therapy at Saint Louis University, says running is the sport for everyman and everywoman.


First, get an overall checkup. Talk about your exercise plans, Better to prevent injuries than deal with them later.

Set realistic goals. If you are a slug, start small—running and walking. Maybe even journal what you do.

If you can’t go one day or a few days—just get back to it ASAP.

You may be hungrier—but don’t start stuffing…Eat lean meat and whole grains.

Maybe consider cross-training—some yoga or resistance (weights).

Running can be boring—go with someone. Go to different places, maybe a nearby track.

Put your times on Facebook.

And I would add—take one day off a week. Those muscle fibers need to reknit. Also—if something hurts really badly, don’t just run through it.

You could be sorry when you get old.

But in the meantime--did I mention that you will get a huge rush? Why do you think people do it?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Moms of preemies need extra care, too

My niece was under two pounds—she’s now almost 40 with her own strapping son and my sister had no real problems after the birth.

But researchers at the Univ of Wisconsin-Madison says the stress of a low birth weight child can affect the mother’s health in a lot of cases.

To be low birth weight—the kid must be under 3.3 pounds. More than 63,000 such children are born each year.

The Wisconsin docs studied 297 mothers of babies under this limit (2003, 2004). Also—290 mothers of normal weight babies during the same time period.

Five years after the birth, the mothers of low birth weigh babies tended to have more physical problems.

The more time in the NICU, the more likely the mother was to have problems in five years.

The key to minimizing problems was a good social support network. Mothers need to tend to their own checkups and preventive steps.

So…mothers…the baby is not the only patient.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Seriously--220 lbs in 3 mos?

I don’t usually harp on the diet thing—and I find the title THE BIGGEST LOSER disgusting, but supposedly that winner lost 220 lbs in 3 mos?

This is way more than people who have their intestines short-circuited down to nothing so they absorb almost no food.

I saw reports of people in this program—was it Medifast—that stay on the treadmill 8 hrs a day. But even then...

Also, I saw comments that this guy was sort of a jerk—thanked his wife by getting her used car.

No—I am not tossing my TV—but am unable to see how this is really possible…I guess someone documented it, right?

Well-this confirms it—men lose weight more easily than women!

Is he going to need some skin surgically lopped off--anything? This defies logic!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Music to soothe the savage Santa

Feeling…um…freaked out? I’m not—life is simpler when you can’t afford gifts.

But remember—music—those beautiful carols—are healing.

The ancient Greeks and even those before them touted music as soothing—the savage beast and all that.

Low tones—stringed instruments—60 beats per minute—ah, bliss.

Of course, there are neurological reasons. They have done studies on surgical patients—hearing music through headphones resulted in better outcomes. Same for heart patients.

Music—they theorize, this is still mysterious—activates the powerful parts of the brain that respond to food, sex, and drugs.

They stuck people in a machine—yup—responding.

So…with the exception of The Little Dummer Boy—enjoy those carols. They could save your life.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Diet" fast food--sorta

Jessica Bartfield, MD, an internist specializing in nutrition and weight management (oh joy) at Loyola, says even the dreaded fast food can be OK to eat.

She favors sandwich shops that allow lots of veggie toppings and less dressing or mayo. Subway, cough Subway? (Their dressings gag me, but don’t mind me.)

A cup of soup or chili is OK No bread bowls—what were you thinking?

Always go for grilled, not fried. Hold off on cheese or dressing. I like hamburgers without cheese, which my kid thinks is positively warped.

Go for the smallest—that would be the Dollar One.

She also says save half for your next meal.

Yeah, am getting right on that one.

In DC, every place I lived had a Mickey D's in the same block. Sometimes kids would spill the shakes on the sidewalk and all day, in summer, they would not melt.

That was scary.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Followup for donors important

Yes, getting a kidney is a big deal—but the donor also undergoes a big surgery and is left with only one kidney. Sometimes this fact is lost.

Docs say complications are rare for donors, but according to a story by Laura Neergaard, AP, long-term consequences for people left with one kidney are often not tracked.

Really—one doctor was quoted as saying—no one is taking care of the donor.

The United Network for Organ Sharing is thinking up some fixes for this. A checklist better explaining the potential consequences is one idea. Plus—more monitoring of donors. For instance, can donors get insurance?

In 2009, the Univ of Minnesota looked at 3,700 people who had donated a kidney---they found normal lifespans.

Now, though, donors are older, may be overweight. More African-Americans are donating. The game is changing.

Now, one study showed that a year after the surgery, the centers only know if 2/3 of the donors are alive or dead—much less more detail.

Comments are open on the new proposals through late December.

Some info here:

Being a donor is giving the gift of life--you deserve some TLC yourself.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What if a holiday also marks a death?

What if someone you loved dies at holiday time? Is the holiday forever changed—or even ruined?

Debra Gelbart writes about this in the AZ Republic, Dec 7, 2011.

The holiday—with the emphasis, the gathering of people—can intensify the loss.

You may want to change traditions—substitute new ones. Or, some people like to hang on to the old ways.

It’s important not to set things in stone—you may do it the old way for a couple of years, then maybe go away at holiday time, do something new.

The person who is not there will always be in your heart. If the customary celebrations make the loss for painful, try changing it up.

The first year, when the pain is new, try not to overdo, though.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas care for caregivers

The University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ says 70% of the five million people with dementia are cared for at home.

Big job! Stress, anxiety, burnout are never far.

The holiday season can really amp this up.

Some caregivers don’t want help—they don’t want to bother people or appear to wimp out.

So what can you do?

Well, first, call before coming over. If the caregiver always refuses—then show up for a SHORT visit—bring a treat.

Don’t ask what you can do—be specific. “I am headed for the store—what can I bring back?” “Want me to pop in the laundry?”

Be a good listener. Encourage the person to call.

Offer to spend the night.

Do the research for them—services in the neighborhood, including respite services.

If you ARE the caregiver, accept some help!

You are not Superman or Superwoman! Everyone needs a hand sometime.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Would you buy medicine from this guy?

Connie Midey, AZ Republic, and HealthDay recently come forth on “thyroid support” supplements to “fight fatigue” and “lose weight.”

These contain the hormones T3 and T4, from chopped up animal glands.

These two hormones are supposed to be only in prescription drugs. They actually do something to ya!

Also risky are the herbs guggul, which can screw up your prescription thyroid medicine, and ashwagandha, which has not been tested much.

Also in this stuff: selenium. This can increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

The prescription thyroid meds or bio-identical stuff mixed by a compounding pharmacist are better if you have deficiencies.

As for losing weight, you would have to take a dangerous level of thyroid hormone.

Especially of some crap mixed in a basement in Mexico or someplace.

Come on—people—wise up.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Ranch--get out the ranch

Anybody who reads this rag knows I am not the hugest fan of veggies. I eat broccoli everyday just about, but if pressed, will eat iceberg, which is like eating water…er, ice…nutritionally.

Veggies do contain bitter antioxidants—good for you, bad for bugs…Arugula, gack! Field greens—stay in the pasture.

Jennifer Orlet Fisher, director of the Family Eating Lab at Temple, has found that 70% of children have a hypersensitivity to bitterness.

Adding a small amount of dip, she says, helped these kids eat more of the good stuff. (Journal of American Dietetic Assn, December).

She looked at 152 preschoolers in Head Start who were served broccoli at snack time for 7 weeks. Adding 2.5 ounces of ranch dressing increased consumption by 80%. Low fat ranch worked, too.

I once wrote an article for WebMD that said that putting a little real butter on veggies made adults eat more. I bet ranch would work, too.

Maybe this sounds obvious, but sometimes the urge to cut out things like dressing is self-defeating and people do it anyhow.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Don't let kids play with gasoline

It’s that time of year again—time to give advice on children’s toys that kill and maim. This is from the docs at Cincinnati Children’s.

First, read warning labels. These are so over the top now that they will mention every conceivable thing that could go wrong.

Buy age-appropriate—obvious.

Look for sturdy toys—ditto.

If there are little ones around under age 3—even if they are not the recipient-- make sure no little parts come off that could get in their mouths. One inch around,, three inches long minimum.

No cheesy jewelry that contains cadmium.

Under age 10? No plug-ins. Batteries only. Watch those teeny button batteries—they can get caught in the throat.

No strings more than a foot long.

Throw away plastic wrap immediately—the kid may run over and asphyxiate.

Now—how do adults get in those blister packs—besides holding a butcher knife and slashing while yelling eee, eee, die!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Are you careful with your contacts?

According to a study in the Nov issue of Optometry and Vision Science (Am Acad of Optometry), a significant proportion of contact wearers are not following all the recommended steps for safe use.

Yet, more than 80% say they are.

Most of those studied in the Dallas-Ft Worth area and at a university eye clinic could name complications. 58% in D-FtW, and 91% in the clinic.

Risk factors for complications include: “topping off” rather than replacing solution, exposing lenses to tap water, and poor hygiene.

In actuality, only 2% were doing everything they should! Only ONE patient was perfect.

Hey, I lost vision in an eye—you don’t want to. Time to rethink.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Running clubs for kids

Time was, kids ran around.

Now they are in clubs to run around. Still, it’s probably good for them. Here in Chandler AZ, they run as many laps as they can in 30 minutes. This is as much about boosting brain power as cutting obesity.

Some clubs as 450 runners!

This started a decade ago. First I heard of it.

They are told to drink plenty of water, stretch, not run in the worst heat, and relax.

Kids under 13 run more more than three miles.

Kids—like horses—like to run.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Energy drinks + sports could equal danger

Robyn Norwood, USA Today, says some athletes are turning not to ‘roids or blood doping, but the legal booster Red Bull.

Meaning caffeine. Lots of caffeine.

I remember a big debate on coffee when I was in HS—when could kids drink it.

Now, docs have to write in PEDIATRICS that caffeine is bad for kids and adolescents and should not be chugged during sports or physical activity.

This stuff can whack our your heart. Or even cause seizures. Trips to the ER because a kid feels "funny" also cost.

Red Bull isn’t the only one, of course. There are dozens, some containing mysterious herbs, too.

Yes, they contain less caff than a cup of ‘Bucks.

The problem is cold drinks go down faster and kids drink more than one.

Come on, parents—look into this. It also doesn’t help that some athletes and NASCAR people endorse this stuff.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

HIV patients not getting best care

David Brown, Wash Post, Nov 29, 2011, says only 28% of Americans with the HIV virus are getting tiptop care.

The goal is to suppress the virus so it’s no longer detectable—only a little more than a quarter have achieved that. This is according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The problem is people who don’t know they have HIV—for those in treatment, 77% have suppressed the virus.

More than 75% of those who find they have it get into care within 4 mos—but only half of those stay in care.

People drop out because they don’t like taking all the pills, the side efx, expenses and just plain denial.

The average person with HIV lives 11 yrs if not treated.

So…this is an ongoing problem.

When we lived in DC, I lost three friends to this and I can still cry my eyes out over it if I let myself.

That was in the Bad Old Days—but those could come again.