Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Lose the puzzles and take a hike?

Senior moments—such fun. Why did I come in here? Hmmmm.. Oh—is that today?

Another senior moment--your knees feel like hot bags of razor blades.

Jennifer Corbett Doorn, WSJ, Oct 23, 2012, says a Journal of Neurology study of 700 people born in 1936 found physically active people had less brain shrinkage than those who got less exercise.

They also noticed that such things as visiting friends, reading, playing games and doing puzzles did nothing to stop brain changes.

More physical exercise means better brain health, the docs said.

BUT—are do people with shrinking brains simply exercise less…like maybe they forget to or can’t (remember the razor blade thing?).

The docs return to better circulation—surely exercise sends more blood up to the top floors.

Research continues. Keep watching for it—if you remember to.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Get funky at a fitness party

Some people are holding early morning fitness parties instead of booze-soaked birthdays at a club.

At least, Health Mag says so—in an article by Dimity McDowell (Nov 2012).

Gyms and fitness centers offer these events. You can google it. A spin party, pilates, boot camp.

Included in some—DJs and mocktails.

One gal said the next morning her glutes hurt, but not her head.

I am not sure how I would feel if I got invited—I am not the most limber and nimble these days.

Make that daze.

No more champagne? Tupperware? Sad.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Avoid a bloody, sickening Halloween--but have fun now

Here we go—the required caveats on how to do a holiday. Hey! Enjoy your wild, pagan moment, I say!

Yet, Loyola says “nothing is scarier than a trip to the ER,” a highly questionable statement, but whatEV.

The Loyola docs recommend not using knives to carve pumpkins—use a kit. I have no idea what is in a kit--a laser?--but that is what they said.

If you have a fire pit or candles, supervise.

Be careful climbing ladders to hang decorations. I would say older people and ladders—forget it.

Make sure kids can see out of their costumes. Forget those contact lenses—they cause infections. Also be sure kids are warm enough.

One adult in each group should wear a reflective vest. Give kids glowsticks.

Look over the treats—make sure the small ones won’t choke.

St Louis University docs say one night of candy won’t mean a life of obesity. Eating candy on Halloween, they say, is like taking a vacation—it won’t be a habit.

Still parents should portion it out—if only to prevent the ever-popular Night of the Living Barfing.

Friday, October 26, 2012

You have to be healthier to be this sick

Laura Landro, WSJ, Oct 23, 2012, says often these days even cancer surgery is put off for weeks or even months so the patient can get healthier to withstand the surgery.

Outcomes are becoming king as some health plans and Medicare plan to pay for good results.

Before operations, docs may look at four things-smoking, nutrition, blood sugar and medication.

Excessive alcohol use can lead to complications and infections—ixnay on that, too.

You may need to quit smoking for a few weeks to have better luck with the anesthesia.

If you had a previous heart attack, you may need to wait as long as six weeks for surgery. Likely there will be a pre-op exam.

So don’t get a bad diagnosis and think they will rush you into surgery—it may not happen.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Call in sick...yes, no...

Sue Shellenbarger, WSJ, Oct 24, 2012, tackles calling in sick.

Either you drag in spewing organisms into the air and grossing everyone out or you are tagged a slacker.

This year, those spews may even contain whooping cough—isn’t that neat?

There is sort of a rule that 24 hours after feeling better, you may not be contagious or as contagious.

But you can give people the flu BEFORE you even get symptoms.

You have to gauge how your office culture works—do people stay home or drag in.

Eighty-five percent of employees say they are honest. Most supervisors say they don’t appreciate the fake cough or madeup scratchy or faint voice on the call.

Other bad excuses cited: Dog having a nervous breakdown, upset after watching THE HUNGER GAMES, sick from reading too much, a bird bit her, sobriety tool would not let the car start.

Some offices give rewards for attendance—this means people will come in. Others allot days for any purposes—sick or not.

Some now offer no-fault sick days—to keep flu patients home.

Some employees see how they are doing—if they are staring and it takes twice as long to do an email—maybe home would be better.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why are hearing aids so expensive?

The Herald Trib ran a story about a guy with a cracked hearing aid.

This could fracture and disappear into his ear, one salesman cried!

He then whipped out a catalog—how about $1,600? Or $2,000—is that OK?

A hearing aid is a microphone and amplifier that fits in your ear. Most hearing aids cost no more than $100 to make.

After hearing about aids with channels, like a stereo, this fellow eventually went to Costco.Those channels are examples of over-engineering, according to this.

You don’t need them.

If you order by mail, of course, you have to mail the aids back if they need adjustment—a fancy clinic can do that on the spot.

Costco also does that.

This guy’s first experience with Costco was not great. The sound was tinny. Later, he went to a Costco in a different city, explained, and got a new one that worked perfectly.

He also brought his old, crusty, cracked aid to a specialist who fixed it for a century note.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Handheld germ balls

Do you know where your phone has been—in the dog’s mouth, a toddler’s paws, a friend’s hand, a counter in a restaurant, on top of gym towels, in the diaper bag—even, oops, in the toity? Also it’s near your mouth, nose and ear all the time.

Some scientists tested some phones—found most often on touchscreens—e.coli—poop germs.

For the raging paranoics, the WSJ, Oct 23, 2012, checked out some disinfectants—alcohol killed 99% of the cooties on a phone, Windex 90%, Nice ‘n’ Clean Electronic Wipes 80%, and water…just a sad little 4%.

But some can damage screens or phone bodies.

Some products designed for phone cleaning don’t do the job gerrmwise. The manufactrurers are also cagy about the materials—so cleaners cannot be crafted.

Some microfiber cloths remove 99% of stuff, but you may only need 10 organisms left to make you sick.

A new approach—UV light—is coming. PhoneSoap, which is not soap obviously, cleans while the phone is charging.

Another idea is to make phones kind of bumpy like sharkskin to stuff won’t stick.

I say—man up or just go over and talk to people in person. Of course, people can give you the flu, too.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Food prep safety

I have two cats who stroll around the counters—you know where those paws have been. So I probably should not preach on kitchen sanitation.

I will let David Shelburn, MS, a family med guy at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the CDC do it for me.

They say, lather up. Wash your hands with soap several times in the course of making a meal, especially after working with raw meat or eggs.

Two cutting boards are a good idea—one for meat and the other for fruit and veggies.

Wash the meat board a lot with hot water and soap.

Don’t drink out of the carton in the fridge. I predict this is not the first time you heard this one!

Do not jam the fridge full of food—it makes it warmer in there.

Reheat leftovers. They could have already picked up something you won’t like.

Defrost in the fridge, not on the counter.

Oh, what the heck—get carryout! Just never, ever go in the kitchen there.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Feeding kids--a word of caution

Tamara Duker Freuman, a registered dietitian, recently blogged on US News about whether you should take your pediatrician’s feeding advice as gospel.

Pediatricians, she pointed out, have no more nutritional training than other doctors. In other words, maybe a day’s worth.

Some doctors recommend putting a breast-fed baby on a schedule—the problem is, with the breast, they get less sometimes, more the next, and really need to let their hunger pangs be the guide.

Formula-fed babies may be able to get on a schedule because you can see how much they drink.

It is also popular to tell mothers to withhold possible allergy-causing foods such as eggs, dairy, fish, and nuts until a year, two years, or even three years of age. This was the stand of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2008, but was retracted. Withholding these foods could actually cause an allergy when they are introduced, according to research.

You might still want to withhold liquid cow’s milk and honey (which can cause botulism).

High fiber, low-carb, and low-fat diets are OK for adults trying to manage their weight, but are not good for growing babies.

Toddlers love cereal, oats, pasta, rice and whole-grain crackers. They cannot possibly eat enough veggies to sustain them. Fat is also a building block of their little bodies.

Doctors can also sort of make things up or get on kicks—no more than two eggs a week or a refined carb cereal will set the kid on the road to obesity.

If something like that sounds fishy—do some research, ask other parents.

Or check with Tamara at

She seemed pretty smart to me.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Morning of the living dead

Sue Shellenbarger, WSJ, Oct 17, 2012, says it is not your imagination—when a kid becomes a teen, their body clock goes haywire.

And—there is a connection between loss of sleep and weird teen behavior.


They are bigger risk-takers, have less self-control, sometimes hook class, and can get depressed or even suicidal.

In other words—teen zombies. And maybe heavy, pimply ones, at that.

In a 2010 study at the Univ of British Columbia, says sleep loss in the teen years can affect brain development.

One teen said he needed 10 hrs a night, and never got it. This made him more emotional when breaking up with his girlfriend.

Only 76% of teens get the full 9-10 hours. Kids don’t get tireder and tireder as the day moves on.

They also become less sensitive to morning light—which in adults sparks alertness.

Still, school starts as early as 7:30 AM. Some schools start later—which has improved test scores—but most school systems say no because of afterschool sports schedules and the cost of bus operation.

Also, teens tend to sleep the same amount as their friends do—which makes sense because they probably keep each other up.

One thing teens to respond to—the idea that sleeping more cuts weight gain and may make for clearer skin.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Truth be told, I am pushing 70 and am having some weird dizzy/nausea spells. Funny story—apparently some older people can’t stand up correctly anymore.


I had the intestinal side effect or separate ailment or whatever it was that took me to Urgent Care. They screwed up my tests—but some industrial strength antibiotic they gave me took that down to a dull roar.

But, weeks out now, I am still dizzy at times and queasy and just…hmmm, what is the term of art… crappy-feeling?

Two days ago, I could not walk to the couch without holding on. I was scared--I ended up in the ER and they could not find anything wrong. They gave me a dramamine pill, which made me sleepy, but I may need to try it again.

I think it’s related to my inner ear—there is such a thing as vestibular disorder, where your ear goo gets crystals in it that screw up your balance. I called them “ear rocks,” which caused my family to mock me (which they love to do, by the way). Then I saw that term someplace else.

There are exercises you can do to shift the "sludge," which I have tried. See Epler on YouTube.

I need a balance specialist—this is Chandler AZ! Home of Sheriff Joe! I see horses running around. We only have one balance clinic here—and it’s not on my plan.

Anyhow, I was interested in a study done in Canada on why older people actually fall—they watched some of us through closed-circuit TV (waiting for pratfalls?).

The biggest cause was not falling over a loose carpet or misplaced piece of furniture—it was turning your head or shifting your center of gravity wrong.

Slipping on water was only 3% of falls.

Soooo…I think we need more balance docs. What do you think?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

UnitedHealth "gaming" the system

UnitedHealth may provide teens video games

In 2010, the health insurance giant got interested in engaging teens in their own health care.

How? Well, not with a fat manual of instructions—but with videogaming.

They “gamified” health.

Actually this is happening for people of all ages—even the older people are using Wii to stabilize themselves with their Parkinson’s and address other ailments.

United also has a program on the web called Baby Blocks—to encourage pregnant women on Medicaid to attend their prenatal visits—and later, their well child visits.

Every time they unlock a block in the game, they get a gift. This could be something for the baby—or something for them.

Another initiative is exergaming—the member is “observed” doing the exercise and corrected if doing it wrong.

Will Angry Birds be replaced with Happy Patients?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Tips for male caregivers (women can listen, too)

Kelly Green, WSJ, Oct 13-14, 2012, says more men are taking care of kids and aging parents than ever before.

Many still have day jobs, too—like women often do. Forty-five percent of caregivers are male—despite the idea that this usually falls to women.

This costs men almost $90K in lost wages over a life time. Also an estimated $145 in SS benefits and $50K in pension benefits.

Men are also less likely to seek help from govt and other agencies.

The National Council on Aging, developed a free benefits checkup at This tells older people and caregivers what they are entitled to get.

There are also local agencies to help find funds and facilities, or services such as transportation.

Many companies also help with caregiving being done by their employees. This can be information—or a referral service.

Geriatric care managers can help.

War-time vets with more than 90 days in qualify for “aid-and-attendance” benefits.

There are also caregiver support groups.

Why should men need any of this less than women?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Don't be a quitter

When I write about diets or how you should exercise, I am like a 3-yr-old being dragged to a museum, slow, reluctant, whiny.

Eat veggies, walk, interval-train, take out the dog, buy kettlebells, suspend from a rope—ACK!

Robert Hopper, PhD, a former swimming champ and exercise physiologist, has a book out called Stick with Exercise for a Lifetime. I actually know people who have done this—of course, they are getting joint replacements now, but whatever…

It can be done.

The American College of Sports Medicine has softened some—they allow participation in less strenuous programs, such as dog walking.

Fun should be a factor! Now there is an idea.

Hopper suggests finding a passion. Backpacking, bocce ball, kayaking, you name it.

Get a coach, learn the pastime correctly.

Get on a team—your team members will keep you coming.

Take the time—it takes time to drive someplace, change, play and perform the activity, then shower, dress, go someplace else. Allow the time.

Have a side dish activity to supplement or alterate with your main one.

Work for continual improvement—this gives positive vibes.

Once people get really good or win a championship, they tend to slack…fight this.

With all your new-found strength.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Shag those test results--trust no one

“No news is NOT good news” when it comes to medical test results. If the doctor or some functionary or robot does not call you—you start calling.

I had a doctor say don’t bother us about tests until 2 weeks has passed. Most results get back to them the next day unless it’s a culture. Call!

I am in a swivet over this because I depended on an urgent care center during my last illness (my doctor too busy, it was a weekend, some idiotic reason…).

One thing I might have had was BAD—it kills people. They were unclear on how to do the samples—I even called, they said toss one receptacle—well, darn, that was the one needed to do the test for the bad thing.

Of course, someone called, right?

NO!!! I called half a dozen times—they kept saying they called the lab. No one did. Lie! Finally I called the lab directly—all this while sick as a dog, head on the desk—and they showed immediately that the test was “pending.” It was not pending—it had been cancelled.

Can anyone in this damn system play this game? The urgent care said their doctor would call—two doctors supposedly called. Nope.

You have to be relentless—they sure don’t care—so you have to!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

So cute when they are asleep--but you worry

Not a parent alive has not heard of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome—the bogeyman. This is still the leading cause of death in the first year of life.

Snuza ( is a souped-up monitor. Originally the Snuza was a “halo” scanning movement.

Now, it’s a high quality video and audio device. Originally, the halo attached near the baby’s middle on the diaper and watched movement constantly. If there was none for 15 secs it vibrated to jolt the child a bit. No movement? Then an alarm went off.

The new Snuza adds audio and video to the original system. It even plays a lullaby.

Not cheap—about $330. But what price do you put on peave of mind—if this does provide some of that?

I used to just watch the kid the whole time. No wonder I was tired!

I once heard that having a child was like wearing your heart on the outside of your body—there is always worry.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Bald is the new workplace mojo

Or so says a study done at Wharton. Subjects looked at pix of men with hair and with the hair digitally removed. The shorn guys were described as taller, more powerful, and more dominant.

Think Michael Chiklis or Telly Savalas.

The thinning, male pattern baldness (35 million American men) was least attractive.

Bald is associated with the military, athletes, superstars (Bruce Willis, Jason Statham).

Also seizing up the clippers is seen as gutsy and bold.

The cue-ball look, according to a story on this in the WSJ by Rachel Emma Silverman, can be seen as menacing, so try to smile a lot.

I have heard that balding means you have a lot of the sex hormone testosterone—sexy. But I guess if a few hairs still cling, this cancels out the alpha male deal.

Do you agree? I never minded balding

But how do you know ahead of time that you have a nicely shaped head and no crud on it? Part of the gutsy call thing, I guess.

Monday, October 08, 2012

You could make your pet sick

Put this in your “I don’t have enough to worry about” file.

As many as 100 million households have a cat or dog. They defecate pretty much everyplace, drink toilet water, smooch you all the time—and sometimes people, some people, think they are unsanitary.

But it could be YOU threatening them!

Giving a disease to an animal is called reverse zoonosis.

We all know that some of the more trendy flus—H1N1 (avian), swine, etc somehow leaped from animal to human.

But H1N1, at least, has also leaped back the other way, according to Oregon State Univ researchers.

The docs suggest steering clear of your pet if you have flu-like symptoms—fever, headache, coughing.

Ferrets can also catch H1N1, they say.

Oh—by the way—get a flu shot.

Friday, October 05, 2012

How to tempt a picky eater

Some kids hoover up everything. Others dawdle over a full plate, rearranging, maybe nibbling a bite or two.

Youngsters can also get on kicks—and want only maccy cheese or maybe chicken nuggets.

Sarah Guinn, Joplin (MO) Globe, Oct 4, 2012, talked to Andrea McGrew, a registered dietitian at the Freeman Health Center about how to make sure picky kids get enough nutrition.

Veggies can be a sticking point—sticking to the plate not the ribs.

First, introduce veggies early—make them a habit. Usually you have to introduce a veggie many times.

Or you can puree them in sauces, Or put them on a pizza—anything on a pizza will get eaten. Well, my kid is 30 and no olives or peas, ever!

Or make yogurt dips.

You need to bring in the disliked veggie 2-3 times a week.

Think about 2-1/2 cups of veggies a day, 2 cups of fruit, 3 cups of dairy, 5-1/2 oz of protein, 8 oz of whole grains.

To me, this sounds like a lot for some of those skinny, wild-child kids leaping up from the dinner table!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Pee Wee football--is your kid ready?

Orthopedic surgeon Victor Khabie, MD, of Somers Orthopedic & Sports Medicine group in Carmel, NY, says 5- to 14-year-olds are headed onto the football field in pee wee football season.

Each year, 450,000 youngsters end up in the ER from football.

First, kids are not small adults. Their muscles, tendons, bones, and ligaments are still growing. This makes them vulnerable.

They also have different coordination, strength and stamina than an adult.

Although football produces more acute injuries than say baseball, 95% are from soft tissue damage, bruises, muscle pulls and strains and sprains.

Concusion gets the buzz, but is not the big offender.

Little kids are slower and get fewer injuries. The damage comes in junior levels.

Be sure your kid is ready to “go out.” Most kids are ready by age 12, Khabie says.

Get the right gear, neck, shoulder, elbow, chest, knee, shin. Helmets, faceguards, everything.

Be sure your child is in a good, organized program with trained coaches.

Condition young muscles. Stretching, cool-downs.

Be sure kids are learning the proper ways to tackle, block, and play.

If you are concerned about concussion, I have a booklet on it. Go to

For more from Dr K, go to

Hut, hut!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Stay safe while hunting

Getting mistaken for a deer and taking a round is the least of it.

The Mayo Clinic has some tips for hunters heading for the woods this fall.

Heart attacks, injured backs, and broken bones are also a hazard.

This is according to a ER doc named Eric Grube, MD, of the Mayo Clinic Health System in LaCrosse, Wisc.

Grube is himself a hunter.

Wear suitable clothing, he urges. Both for visibility and for the weather.

Watch for heart attack signs…You will be walking over rough or uphill terrain, dragging a heavy animal if you do shoot one. Unless you exercise a lot, take breaks.

Falls are a problem if you go up a tree—it’s easy to slip.

Use a safety belt in a tree. Permanent tree stands can rot and be unsafe—avoid them. The fall from a stand can be 15 feet—that’s a lot.

Avoid alcohol—it can bring on hypothermia, among other problems.

Let family members know where you will be—take two-way radios, or loud whistles. Many places do not have cell service.

Practice firearm safety. Treat every gun as if loaded. Point the muzzle in a safe direction. Be sure of your target—and what lies beyond it.

Keep your finger outside the trigger guard.

The people who are most likely to let safety rules slip may be those who hunt most often.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

What your doctor really thinks of you

Boston Globe’s Liz Kowalczyk, Oct 2, 2012, says although the HIPAA allows patients to request their patient record, including the doctor’s private notes, many people don’t do it because they think they will read something they don’t want to know.

Such as “patient a fat pig who won’t go on a diet”?

Or maybe you could find out right away, as we did NOT with our late mother, that you have a condition like atrial fibrillation—no one ever told us.

Or—and most importantly—you could find out the doctor thinks you are diabetic—and you are not.

Some researchers at the Geisinger Health System in Penn and Harborview Medical Center in Washington published a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine (Oct 1, 2012).

There were 13,564 patients and 87% opened at least one doctor note. Of that, 77 to 87% said the notes made them feel more in control of their health care.

Almost 62% thought they should be able to add to the notes—the vast majority of the docs disagreed.

We tried to add to the diabetic note on Mom—saying it was wrong. They would not take it out but let us say we didn’t agree, like this was a matter of opinion. They had checked the wrong pulldown option! That was lame.

Knowing the notes will be read led doctors to making them more complete—if a cancer test was done, the doc might add—that it was a precaution, cancer was most unlikely.

Do you get your chart after every visit? I do sometimes, other times, not.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Do you ever call your plan's nurse line?

You know how doctors won’t call you back—just have someone tell you to get dressed, get a ride, or get in the car reeling sick and go someplace and wait and wait, then ask a question?

“You will have to come in.”

Well, your health plan probably has a number where you can talk to a registered nurse even in the middle of the night.

I have dug out this number recently and used it to good effect. This is a real service. Recently, I had what I think was a med reaction—have been punk for 2 weeks. Just today am feeling somewhat more normal and not walking into walls.

The plan nurse even called me to see how I was doing. When is the last time your doctor did that? Sure, the plans want to keep costs down—but I also don’t want to slog to a doctor for no reason, so we agree.

I also think pharmacists are useful sources of information—they pick up the phone.

No—these people are not doctors. You may indeed need to go to the doctor. But it can be a useful first step.

Think about it.

PS--Donna at SCAN, no, I do not visualize you as this picture.