Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sperm banks test--but risk remains

Jacqueline Mroz, NY Times News Service, says yes, most sperm banks test for a range of genes and genetically transmittable disorders, but using “store bought” sperm is still a crapshoot.

Yes, yes, once again, this is something I know about. I pursued Artificial Insemination by Donor and then met my kid’s dad. Now, all that remains, is the kid.

But they do give you the impression that they are removing risk—and they may not be. Having a child is a risk—everything is a risk. Conceiving with someone you met at Happy Hour is a risk—or you could catch something, too.

Also some donors are “contributing” to a lot of new people—and these people could meet and date. Ack! There is something called the Donor Sibling Registry. This is to help half-sibs hook up but not as mates.

The FDA makes banks test for communicable diseases in the sperm—but not genetic problems.

Life is messy—face it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wheels coming off over here

Now it’s the dog—and me. Both! First, I had some weird kidney function number—but can only afford one specialist copay a month, and it’s going to be for my blind eye—so the doctor will know me if the other one starts to go.

Sooo….the kidney specialist will wait a month or so…Cardiologist is also a possibility—but everything wrong with me almost is from stuff cardios recommended and I, foolishly, did.

Then I noticed my rescue poodle Jim was pooping anyplace and standing and staring. Dr Google says he may have Doggy Dementia. So…naturally, I decided he needs a good shampoo and haircut to cheer him up. The vet will just cost a lot and say, “Wait..your dog needs a ton of shots…”

So now I have a shaggy dog who never gets an inch from me—they say this is so I, as pack leader, can protect him in his weirdness…some instinct thing.

So I told my kid this…and she said she had issues, too. I said, “You are only 30—back off a while.”

We don’t know how old the dog is—he was a rescue…Over 10, I think.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sure, pay later, no problem

My problem with the health system is that even with a Medicare HMO (as long as those last), I can’t afford to go to the doctor or get anything done to me if I need it.

Big story in the NYT on how out-of-network anesthesiologists are giving people full anesthesia for colonoscopies then dunning like mad for payment. They backbill—won’t accept what the plan pays and go after the patient for the balance.

Writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, May 24, 2012, Trudy Lieberman writes about docs and dentists that hook patients up with medical credit cards at high interest, then when they know they will be paid, they switch to a more expensive procedure or in some cases, don’t even do the whole thing.

When you are in pain and the doctor says you need something, sign here, you may.

Some of these companies even say nothing will be charged unless you use the card, then they dump the whole loan on you right away—send money!

Well-known lenders offer these cards—JP Morgan Chase, GE Capital, and Cap One. Another biggie is Care Credit.

One card even says they concentrate on the financials so the doctor can get you the best care. Oooo, thanks.

Can we ever win? Oh, don’t tell me—I am feeling low today.

I also heard about bill collectors in the ER wearing scrubs.

Friday, May 25, 2012

It's not candy--it's chemicals!

Nomaan Merchant (AP) writes about those new little packets of laundry detergent out there.

Seems kids think they look delish and try to eat them.

No deaths, but 250 ER visits reported.

These are single-use for the washing machine, not the toddler stomach.

They look similar to ribbon candy, one expert said.

Procter & Gamble and other makers are working with parent groups and poison control centers to get the word out.

Don’t forget this is the equivalent of a cup’s worth of chemicals in a bite.

So kids get sick quicker and worse than if they dipped into the box when Mom’s back is turned.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

How one celeb did it

I happened to scan a sort of wandering story by Jeff Vrabel in Men’s Health (Feb 1, 2012). I am always interested in how the beautiful stay that way. Well, actually, I am also interested in why with all their money and time and need for perfection, they sometimes don’t stay that way.

Zac Efron is in THE LUCKY ONE, which involves Marines in great shape.

Zac met some—he observed they were short like him, but also stocky and solid. He trains—first involving a simulated firing range. His trainer was a former SEAL.

He ate a lot of protein and gained 18 lbs. He lived on eggs and protein shakes. He reported a “debilitating soreness.” He no longer could walk a golf course. But he could lift!

What lessons were learned? First, to get a Marine bod, you need a comprehensive approach—according to the Navy SEAL. Sleep. Cut stress. Controlled eating.

Quality workouts—not quantity. Zac worked out an hour at a time, five days a week. Not like those loopy Biggest Loser people.

You can go old school—not a lot of fancy equipment. Just old-fashioned power lifting, squats, dead lifts, etc.

You have to stick with it—the body does not appear overnight.

What if you sort of trail off the 8-egg omelets? They didn’t say. So I would be guessing.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Is a failing brain inevitable?

First, some people live long lives and stay sharp. So that isn’t fair—or at least not equal.


Others start having senior moments and worrying and this impairs the joy of life. Big time.

But all this is relatively new. People used to die before 50. Now, they decline.

The brain shrinks in size. The groves widen and the raised places flatten out.

Supposedly in some people, goo forms and interrupts signals—but now scientists aren’t sure that is the cause of Alzheimer’s.

Maybe less of the chemical dopamine is produced—this also accounts for Parkinson’s, they think.

So what are we left with—lifestyle changes are worth a try. Weight should be normal (they always say that, don’t they?). You need to think a lot to keep the connections going (that puzzle deal).

Exercise is good—again, a favorite.

Eight hours sleep a night.

Normal blood pressure.

And cut stress.

Oh, please—cut stress. This whole segment is stressing me!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hope for the future

Malcolm Ritter, Associated Press (an organization which is rapidly losing credibility with me, but never mind), writes about brain-controlled robotics.

This, in layman’s terms, means using the brain’s electrical signals to control a mechanical device.

Apparently some paralyzed people are able to do this.

The latest is a report in NATURE from scientists at Brown. A sensor the size of a baby aspirin was implanted in the brains of paralyzed people and they then imagined moving their arms. The cells affected then signaled a computer, which in turn signaled a mechanical arm.

Two participants were involved. They were able to make the thing squeeze a foam ball.

Even though one had not moved her arms in 15 years, apparently the brain was still sending useful signals.

There is hope—that was the message. But practical applications may be a way off. Maybe a decade or more.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rx: Video game

You know those games where you stand in front of the screen and jump back and forth like you are chasing a tennis ball (Kinect sports)—or even dance (Dance Dance Revolution)?

United Healthcare Group is encouraging its members to play these.

The company is also urging game makers to incorporate heart rate and other sensors into these so patients (er, members) can chart their progress.

There is no silver bullet to this problem (obesity), said one doc.

Silver Bullet—great name for a game!

How About Grand Theft Adipose?

My advice—don’t tell people this is good for them. People like to do things others don’t want them to.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Head whacks can impair learning--sort of

Is this one for The Big Book of Duh? A new study in Neurology (May 16, 2012) says head impacts from football and hockey may worsen some college athletes’ ability to acquire new info.

They looked at college athletes in three Division I schools and compared 214 athletes in contact sports to 45 in noncontact sports such as track, crew, and Nordic skiing. The contact sports group wore helmets recording the data on head impacts.

These students got an average of 469 head impacts during the season. (No concussions—if they had one, they were not in the study.)

The groups took thinking and memory tests before and after.

Although there were not dramatic differences in scores between the groups, a higher percentage of contact sports people had lower scores than would be expected. This was about 22% of the contact sports people.

Still, there were few differences in the initial scores of both groups—meaning that previous head blows had not hurt thinking or memory?

Is this a big deal?

You can still get my booklet on concussion if you want. Go to

All things being equal (like that ever happens), getting hit in the head is probably not a good thing.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Without cellulite...

...I would not have flesh.

But, then I also think popcorn ceilings have an interesting texture.

Frederic Delavier, a fitness guy, wrote Delavier’s Sculpting Anatomy for Women: Core, Butt and Legs.

Any title with the word “butt”…never mind.

Cellulite is pretty much a woman deal. Waste, toxins and so on get built up in fatty areas.

There are two types—lack of elasticity is one. When you pinch and it’s like orange skin. The second kind is spongy tissue and flab. This one comes after 35.

Tell me something I DON’T know.

The reasons for this, according to Delavier, are water retention, This happens in periods of stress or before your period. But this crud can also gel and stay there…yick.

Hormonal changes are another cause. Stress is another bad actor. Prolonged stress—oops, this economy.

And, of course, you can inherit the tendency—just like the tendency to be fat.

Of course, the best shot is to never eat sugar or salt.

That sounds familiar.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tumbling on the rough

Melissa Kossler Dutton writes on playground surfaces. Yes, the little angels do go flying off equipment and get major boo-boos.

Some people sort of put pillows underneath play equipment—in the form of shredded rubber.

Asphalt and concrete—well, they are hard.

Up to seven feet high, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends 9 inches of mulch or padding.

Wood mulch is less expensive than rubber but breaks down over time and has to be augmented.

Sand an pea gravel get spread everyplace.

Under the mulch—they recommend a plastic barrier to prevent weeds.

They try that out here in yards—it can look like a dog’s dinner. All scrappy and showing.

Other tips—keep equipment away from fences, trees, wires, and streets.

Be sure the equipment is bolted properly and maintained.

If it’s wood—look for splinters and sand if necessary.

Don’t have a rope for kids to swing on—it can loop around…and strangle.

Oh, great.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (, pollen is not the only enemy in summer.

I mention this because I have a runny nose—me! A runny nose. So now I am all about this!

First, people with grass allergies can cross-react to summer fruits and veggies. If you feel funny, avoid that food, however “healthy” they tell you it is.

Changes in the weather—temp, humidity--can trigger an asthma attack. Wind spreads pollen and mold, too.

Campfire smoke—you won’t be loving those ghost stories if you get an attack.

Stinging insects can even be life-threatening. Carry your epi pen in summer if you are allergic.

Chlorine—oh, it’s cruel, but the pool could sink you.

It’s not all fun and games out there. Heads up and be cautious.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Drink flavor--not cals or carbs

It’s water, with a HINT of flavoring such as watermelon, honeydew, hibiscus, blackberry, mango grapefruit, pomegranate-tangerine, lime, raspberry-lime, pear, cucumber, and strawberry kiwi.

Now it also comes in fizzy water—like Perrier only fruitier.

Ten thousand retailers carry it—

It also has been “placed” on Grey’s Anatomy, Boston Legal, and CSI.

When I see it on the Cocktail hour of TODAY, I will be impressed.

I tried it—tasty. And, I concede, probably better than the sugary drink mix we often indulge in around here.

But I would not say it’s a poor person’s dream bev.

Still, throw down a few bottles and see what you think. No aftertaste like Diet Coke. Also no aspartame, which I distrust.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Clothes for teeny weenie preemies

My niece was 2 lbs at birth—she is now grown and her son was normal weight—but it was scary.

Julie Howard, a Virginia mother, had a much scarier time—her IVF pregnancy went awry and she almost died. Her son also had rare abnormalities—and was not expected to survive. He is now two and cranking along pretty well at 29 months. He can walk or even run a little and spouts Spanish and even some Chinese.

They weren’t sure he would ever talk, so they taught him sign language, which he also uses.

Julie left the Army to take care of her baby and saw a need—the onesies and clothes she could find were too big for her son—by far!

“His feet didn’t even come to where the knees were,” she says.

She founded It’s a Preemie Thing ( The site has dresses and duds with cute sayings, such as “I am older than I look.” Or “No, really, I am 1.”

Got one of these little angels around someplace—check out the site.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Dental health and fertility may be linked

It may be a “suggests,” not a cause—but some Aussies compared the rates of periodontal disease with the time it took women to conceive.

They rounded up 1,956 women (average age 31), all trying to get pregnant. Three-fourths had healthy teeth and mouths, while the rest had cavities. Those with cavities took 42% longer to become pregnant.

They theorized that inflammation from the mouth affected the health of the placenta and could affect the health of the pregnancy later.

If you eat sugary things, brush soon or immediately.

Some foods like raisins, cranberries, and green tea may even prevent cavities.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

When can a child stay home alone?

Gremlyn Bradley-Waddell, AZ Republic, May 2, 2012, writes about when it’s safe for a kid to lose the babysitter.

Of course, this depends on the kid. The adorable little adventurer—maybe not. Some 12-yr-olds are more mature than 15-yr-olds.

There usually is no law about when the kid can be left—but if something goes wrong, you can expect DETAILED questioning about what you decided.

Ask the child about it—does he or she want to be left. How do they feel about it?

Set clear boundaries and run through scenarios—when to open the door, what to say on the phone if someone calls. Really get into it!

Work up to long absences.

Write down all contact numbers.

Have a trusted neighbor or friend in your child’s phone or on a list.

What is the kid going to eat—will the stove be off limits?

If there is a fire or emergency—would the child know what to do.

We had that—my daughter’s room caught on fire. I was out. She tried to find a fire extinguisher—it did not work. Then she got the hose…then the fire dept. She was in her twenties—but this could have had a worse ending that a totaled room.

What would your child have done?

I think 12-14 is an OK range myself. I was a babysitter at 12. But plan it.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

It's melanoma season

The beach, the pool—melanoma is the bad skin cancer and is now the most common cancer among young people 25-29.

You should check yourself for weird stuff. According to Julie Pena, MD, founder and president of Likewise Skincare in Nashville, try to remember the letters ABCDE.

A is for asymmetry—one half of the thing different from the other.
B is for border—irregular, scalloped or jagged.
C is for color—multicolored moles—brown, black, blue, red or white.
D is for diameter—size of pencil eraser (but could be smaller).
E is for evolving—changing.

If a spot looks different than your other spots, ask the doc.

Dermies still recommend the full body exam from a doc, too.

Monday, May 07, 2012


Polly Baughman, Arizona Republic, May 2, 2012, writes about drug recalls. These can be tricky—because, of course, you already took the stuff and may need to continue to.

Consumers apparently are getting more uptight about this and signing up for warning emails at MedWatch—an FDA service at You can also get updates from the Consumer Product Safety Commission—

Better yet, check out (all products, not just medications).

Subject to recalls are drugs for humans and animals, medical devices, vaccines, blood and blood products, transplantable human tissue, and 80% of the foods in the US.

If a prescription drug is recalled, there is a record that you got it—and you will or may be contacted. Over-the-counter—you are basically on your own.

Keep your eyes open. It’s your body.

Don’t just stop taking a prescriptions drug without asking the doctor’s office, though. This can be bad.

Yeah, that check with the doctor deal. I know it's a pain.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Many video gamers disabled

According to the Entertainment Software Assn, the average video game player is 35 and getting older.

They used to be young…But one tenet of gaming is, “Once a gamer, always a gamer.”

So with 60% o households owning a game console and one in 10 Americans being physically disabled in some way—it’s a natural that gaming is not only embraced by the disabled—but is being studied as a medical approach.

A group at the Georgia Health Sciences University in Augusta is studying the use of the Wii Sports Package for people with Parkinson’s.

Wielding the Wiimote and playing tennis, baseball, bowling, boxing and the other games a few times a week has been shown to improve the ability of patients to stand up and walk a distance and perform other tests of their abilities.

Depression, which affects as many as half of Parkinson’s patients, all but disappears.

Another group at University of California SF, in connection with Red Hill Studios, a game developer, is also creating games that target Parkinson’s symptoms.

Gaming is fun!

For more information on gaming for the disabled, go to Able Gamers at There you will find games for the Play Station, Wii, Xbox, and other platforms.

There is also a forum for questions.

I wanted to do some full motion video gaming, but my TV is too lousy.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

In this vein...

Women, especially, dislike ropey leg veins and aching legs.

Luckily, we can do without the veins near the surface. If they splay out or cause trouble, we can “kill” them.

If our health plan agrees or we can afford it.

Varicose veins make your legs feel heavy or throbbing. They can itch or feel numb. You can get leg cramps at night—or restless leg syndrome.

This can also escalate to clots and sores.

There are valves in your leg veins to keep blood pumped down there from pooling in your feet. When these don’t close, the blood settles in the veins and they expand.

By 50, half of adults will have this.

There are many approaches—usually involving heat or radio frequency energy to seal the vein shut. (They used to strip the vein out, which required a lot of recovery time.)

To see a video, go to center.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Facebook a kidney

Now, US and UK Facebook members can register as kidney donors on FB.

If you are already a donor (on your driver’s license, say) you can also put this on your FB page if you use Timeline.

Zuckerberg says he was inspired to do this because of Steve Jobs’ efforts to get a liver. His girl friend is also a med student—and pushed for this.

More than 112,000 Americans are waiting for organs—18 die each day waiting.

I am not sure what you do if you need an organ—how does this mesh with UNOS…Do you got to the page and press LIKE. As in yes, please, I would like one?

Anyone know?

As for whispers that this is just to make FB look good for it's upcoming public offering, some people are so mean, aren't they?

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Are you a problem patient?

I am.

I want to see studies. I want to ask questions. I may not do what the doctor “orders.” I dislike “ordering” in any form.

I want to “consult” my doctor—talk a minute. I want my doctor to “get” me.

Newsweek had a story on how doctors these days with their huge patient loads and low reimbursements barely know your name.

I have followed doctors into the hall with my questions—they were checked out, gone, I was history.

I don’t want an hour-long appointment. Why won’t I lose weight—because I tried all my life and it came back. End of that one.

Health Affairs (May issue) says patients who make decisions “along with” the doctor are better informed. When informed, they may take a lower cost alternative.

Patients need to be able to question the doctor. A study at the Palo Alto Medical Research Institute finds than some patients are afraid to not be a “good patient” – meaning compliant.

I had a doctor once demand, “Who went to medical school, you or me?”

Uh, I guess you. But your point is?