Thursday, October 31, 2013

Docs question that testosterone gel stuff

You know the TV commercials where the guy rubs goo under his arms? Usually, I noticed, he is quite sexy--but we are supposed to believe that, alas, he has lost his mojo.

Elizabeth Rosenthal, NYT, Oct 29, 2013, says they often headline this--Have you lost your ability to play sports?" What they mean is, have you lost your ability to...well, you know.

Sales of skin-absorbed "T" are $2 billion a year in the US.

One problem: No one has proved it works and no one really knows the risks, but these may be heart disease and prostate cancer. A doctor at Scripps said some men are achieving "T" levels that are "ridiculously high."

Actually, there is no disease called "Low T."

And this stuff can cost $500 a month, with many insurers requiring only a low copay. So slather it on!

Low testosterone--measured, tested for--is rarely even a cause of erectile dysfunction. As for the decline in interest in playing sports, you are on your own. I am not sure there is medication for that.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Athlete's foot--fungus among us

I have a relative with foot issues--not athlete's foot--some other crud. So I noticed that Joshua Fox, MD, and John Troccoli, MD, of Advanced Dermatology in NYC, are still interested in this iconic ailment.

Up to a quarter of adults have athlete's foot at any given time. I call that major.

The athlete part comes not from exertion but from the fact that the fungus thrives in warm, funky places like gyms and showers.

Once you get it, you are more likely to get it again.

The Latin is tinea pedia. It is peeling, itchy skin, usually on the foot and between the fourth and pinkie toes.

It likes the inside of shoes. So avoid tight shoes. Wear leather or those with perforated soles.

Don't go barefoot into communal showers.

Always wear clean socks if you wear closed shoes.

Dry feet thoroughly. Use talcum of anti-fungal powder, esp between toes. Put some in your socks.

Men get athlete's foot more than women. Kids under 15 usually don't get it.

It's hard to cure. But try to prevent it it if you can.

I have never had it. Now I am jinxed from saying that, probably.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Helping abdominal surgery patients recover sooner

There is nothing like a big gash in the center of your torso to make it hard to stand, walk, turn over, sleep, and generally enjoy life.

The University of Virginia Health System has a new system for before and after abdominal surgery to keep patients more comfortable.

These patients usually need five to six days in the hospital. One reason is that many such patients develop an ileus, a stoppage of the bowels that makes it hard to eat.

I have had an ileus from adhesions from past surgeries--you do not want this!

It is caused by strong pain meds and IV fluids being pumped in. You swell.

To cut the IV fluids, the Virginia docs let patients have sports drinks up to 2 hours before surgery and immediately following.

The opioid pain meds were replaced by acetaminophen. Tylenol.

Patients are also out of bed for six hours the day after surgery and eight hrs the next day. They even get up in the recovery room.

Twenty patients have tried this so far--and they go home three days earlier with less pain.

Sounds kind of dramatic--but worth thinking about. Ask your doctor.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Offbeat health tips

 Are you sick of the "eat less exercise more" and "eat blueberries" stuff? I know I am. So I had fun with a wacky column by Kate Dailey about some things you can teach your body.


If your throat is tickling--scratch your ear (Scott Schaffer, MD, ear nose and throat doc in NJ). The ear and throat are connected--you can create a throat spasm that stops the tickle.

To hear better, use your right ear for listening to people talk, and the left for soft music tones.

If you need to "go," think of sex--this is a good distraction for a full bladder.

Sinus congestion? Thrust your tongue against the roof of your mouth, then press between your eyebrows with one finger. In 20 secs, your sinuses will begin to drain. Something about the vomer bone--I don't know what that is.

Sleep on your left side for less acid reflux.

If you get a minor burn, cover it with your fingers not ice or cold water--less blistering.

For a nosebleed, put some cotton behind your upper lip and press. Most bleeds come from the septum and this stops them.

You're welcome.

Friday, October 25, 2013

OK, I'll say it: Candy is delicious!

I don't care what anyone says, candy is a good thing in life. It's been in every culture, the most fun articles I ever wrote were about it (including one for WebMD), and it's just plain a nice little corner of life.

And besides V-Day, what is candy day? Hint: It's coming up next week.

No, you would not flourish on an all-candy diet. No, kids don't need to have their mouths full of candy slurry all day long, but candy is not the arch enemy of health--in moderation, anyway.

According to Judith Messura, DMD, a dentist at Wake Forest Medical Center, in Winston-Salem, NC, cavities happen over time--they are not the result of Halloween.

Children should, of course, brush their teeth twice a day--for two-minutes a time (maybe an egg timer).

And at Halloween--and all other times--be aware that sticky foods like raisins, gummis, caramel, and candy corn tend to get into fissures in the teeth more than hard candy.

Foods such as string cheese and sugarless gum can increase saliva and neutralize acid in the mouth.

Brushing also should not be done too roughly.

But as long as you brush and rinse--a few sweets are OK for Halloween or any holiday.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Imaginary friends are good for kids

Children often talk out loud while playing--until about age 7, when they often tone it down.  This private speech improves performance on tasks--they talk their way through hard jobs.

Children with imaginary friends have considerably more "private speech."

There is a study, naturally. See November issue of the J of Experimental Child Psychology.

One hundred forty-eight kids were studied playing--and videotaped. Unintelligible murmurings and whispering were called private speech.

Half of the kids reported having imaginary friends--two-thirds were invisible (and the other one-third?).

Half of the mothers knew about this.

The kids with imaginary friends made twice as many private speech mutterings.

Eighteen of the kids, for what it's worth, including two with imaginary friends, did not mutter a syllable.

Well, as  kid,  I had an imaginary friend named Marble.

Now, I just talk to myself, if you don't count the guy apparently no one else sees in the corner. Hey, I am good company and the dog is a total loss conversationally.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"Manfluencers" changing look of groceries

According to Anne Marie Shaker, WSJ, Oct 17, 2013, companies are changing some foods and packaging to attract male shoppers--so-called manfluencers who are, according to one survey, responsible are for at least half of the grocery shopping and cooking.

Darker color schemes, black yogurt containers, larger portions, beer in long-neck bottles.

Instead of the digestive health advantages of yogurt, for example, the protein is emphasized. Builds abs!

Even frozen yogurt has been manned up. Tastes like premium ice-cream! Well, why didn't ya say so?

There has always been Hungry Man meals, but now "Helper" is getting a makeover. Crunchy Taco--NASCAR, yum!

Even dainty lattes are now COLD BREWED COFFEE, which comes out of kegs like Guinness.

Let me know when they make Lobster Helper. Otherwise, I am neutral.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The knees know

Remember how Granny's knees would start apainin' when snow approached or the weather was damp?

Mine are worse in cold or damp weather, too--they just start up from lowish chronic twinging to stinging jabs.

Hippocrates (in the Wayback) said some diseases were seasonal. In Chinese medicine, arthritis is called wind-damp disease.

All this according to Melinda Beck, WSJ, Oct 15, 2013.

Of course, other docs have scoffed--all in your head.

And then still more studies have showed a correlation between temp, humidity, and barometric pressure and arthritis--and headaches, toothaches, jaw pain, scar pain, lower back pain, pelvic pain...well, you get the idea.

My sister and I ask ourselves how the damp gets inside our well-padded knees. But that might not be how it works--the mechanism may be that pressure goes down outside, the inside pressure is out of whack and presses against nerves and other structures instead of being equalized. Result? Yow.

Knee or joint pain in weather seems to be worse in people with fluid buildup around the inflamed joint.

The Weather Channel even lists the likelihood of aches and pains.

Want more good news--the chance of scattered heart attacks is increased by cold weather--and not from shoveling, either.

And even MORE good news--there is no climate that will eliminate these problems. A warm dry place may be good for a while, then your body will start to react to changes..

Monday, October 21, 2013

Obamacare scamsters out in force

Aside from the fact that 80% of the population did not need a new system, and almost 100% cannot even look into one on the govt Obamacare website, the third-party scammers are swarming.

In Michigan, scam artists pretending to be govt employees are telling people they need a special card--so let's have your SS and bank account numbers, please.

Phishing emails lead to fake websites promising to work--yeah, they work to funnel your info into the wrong hands, in say, Russia or China.

Imposters call and offer to set you up on the phone. Hang up.


Legitimate enrollment people will never ask for money. Supposedly that isn't due until Dec anyhow.

Always ask for ID. If someone threatens you with legal action--scam!

If you are on Medicare or in a Medicate Advantage Plan--you do not need to worry about this.

Hang up!

And what is it with these robocalls--the DO NOT CALL list must be in the hands of the HHS IT people!

Friday, October 18, 2013

This presentation touched my heart

As you might imagine, I am contacted by dozens of people and PR firms each month, asking me to feature their clients or products. I am not always so inclined, but for some reason, this one got to me.

Cavin Balaster is a musician who sustained a horrible traumatic brain injury--and I am interested in concussion and even wrote a booklet on it (

Most people who get what he had lapse into a vegetative state but after a few weeks in a coma--he woke up. Unlike in the movies, this is not a zippy process--the patient does not say, "Oh, hi, where am I?"

You'll see.

Watch the video on this site:

It's worth a few minutes.

Cavin is trying to make lemonade out of this pretty crummy situation. I think on Kickstarter if he does not each his goal of $15K in money to publish his book and distribute his music, he gets none of it.

So--it's your call.

PS I wish there were a Pay Pal option, but there does not seem to be.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

New child carseat rules coming

I thought it was so endearing when Prince Wills put the baby's carseat in himself (wrong, I heard) and also drove his family home from the hospital himself.

But I digress.

According to Maria LaMagna, WSJ, Aug 14, 2013, a proposed amendment to the federal motor vehicles safety standards, would require that a child's carseat be held by a seat belt and top tether, rather than a latch system--if the child and seat total more than 65 pounds.

Latch means lower anchors and tethers.

Ya lost me.

Well, kids are required to be in seats longer--up to 90 pounds in some cases.  Are today's seats up to it? Probably not. Or the cars--they need a anchor point under the cushions to attach seats to.

The laws on seats differ by state. New regs may require listing what weight the seats will take.

This is a better safe than sorry effort--no seats have failed at the higher weight.

Use your own judgment, in other words. If your state says until age 3, do it. Until age 8, do it.

Isn't parenting a riot?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Columbia anatomy students rewrite their manual

Jason Bellini, WSJ, Oct 9, 2013, says medical schools are experimenting with ways to use computer technology to give students a better grasp of internal structures.

At Columbia, cadavers are still used, but iPads can enlarge pix of things the students should be looking for.

Some textbooks and workbooks are also digital.

At Columbia, the students even created the book to replace the 60-year-old favorite, "Grant's Anatomy Lab."

I wonder if they can ever build a complete simulated cadaver--to remove the smell, cringe factor, and scarcity of lovingly donated corpses.

Corpses--well, Halloween is coming. (I know, I am juvenile--these classes help students not to snip the wrong thing in surgery, which you do not want.)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fake study--my work is never done

John Bohannon, a science journalist who received his doctorate in molecular biology at Oxford, submitted a fake study to 302 open-access medical journals over a period of 10 months.

Science printed it. Acceptances came more than rejections--Bohannon thought maybe 10% would bite.

All the journals charge submission fees.

Bohannon thought they were still reputable, but maybe not.

He called it a "sting" operation--outing journals with names similar to reputable ones.

Many of these open-access pubs are in India, he found, but look like they are in the US.

The danger is that patients consulting Dr Google will come across unvetted studies.

Still, it's hard for even experts to judge the vetting.  Bohannon suggests some independent monitoring agency.

Also, the better vetted studies should be made available online--maybe researchers will pay more for this to happen.

I see so much "pop" info--drink this, don't drink this, eat that, oh no, bad idea...Sometimes I hardly know what to tell you--but I do try to evaluate.

Monday, October 14, 2013

One, two, three--ski

A board-certified orthopedist, Stuart Styles, MD, of the Somers Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine Group, suggests pre-season training before you hit the slopes--or the slopes hit you.

Equipment improvements have cut injuries in half since the 1970s, but about 144,000 ski-related injuries are still recorded each year.

A third of injuries happen to knees, the most common being a sprain of the medial collateral ligament on the inside of the knee--as a result of a slow, twisting fall.

Another third of injuries are to shoulders or arms, because skiiers use these to break falls.

About 20% are to the head, occurring when your head hits a tree or the ground (often sans helmet).

To get ready, you should work on flexibility--stretching hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, calves, glutes, and trunk muscles.

Strengthen using resistance such as sports bands or dumbbells.

Work on balance using balance board squats, physio-ball kneeling, and ski simulation machines.

Build endurance though running, walking, or hiking.

Do all this for at least six weeks before hitting the slopes.

Me, I am hitting the bar. I can hardly walk as it is.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fit kids learn better--maybe

Conventional wisdom has it that exercise increases brain power. But how about just being fit--will that improve the performance of kids in school? Say, your kid?

One study of 12,000 Nebraska schoolchildren (J of Pediatrics) each child was measured for fitness (timed run, BMI, and achievement scores). Better fitness seemed to be linked to significantly higher achievement scores. Body size, surprisingly, did not come into it. (In other words, fat kids were not stupider.)

Then some researchers at the Univ of Illinois-Champaign-Urbana, found 24 fit and 24 unfit 9 and 10-yr-olds of both genders to work on some memorization tasks.

Since studies show kids learn best if they are reinforced with quizzes and repetition along the way, they had a test like that and another one with straight memorization of some maps of fictional countries, each with a four-letter name. (How do they come up with this stuff--I always wonder.) The country, name, and correct location were shown to the kids who tried to memorize them.

Then they were asked to correctly label and place the "countries."

Both the fit and unfit did the same when there was "testing" along the way. But when it was straight memorization, 40% of the fit kids did it right, and only 25% of the less fit.

I dunno--sometimes these studies get so complicated, I glaze over. What do you think? To me this does not necessarily mean the fit kids could do it the hard way--maybe that was their learning style, who knows.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Yard work and allergies

I am fixated on weeds--even in the desert, we have them. The heat doesn't bother them a bit. They fly out of the ground all gnarly and disgusting. I have a huge bank of grass alongside my pond and no money to get someone to hack it down.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology says it is possible to reduce the allergens in your yard.

Timing--Mid-day and afternoon may be when people get around to yard work, but this is the worst time if you have pollen allergies. Morning and evening are when pollen counts are lowest. After a rain shower is good. Thunderstorms, however, can increase allergens.

Dress wisely--Buy a pollen mask and gardening gloves. Wear large sunglasses. A hat will keep pollen out of your hair.

When you buy plants--make sure they are not allergy  producers. You should have pretty good luck with trees such as apple, dogwood, pear, plum and begonia flower. As for plants and flowers--daffodil, lilac, magnolia, rose and sunflower.

Clean up fallen leaves--they can get moldy. Keep grass short. Mow through the fall.

Shower after working in the yard.

Take your allergy medicine two weeks before symptoms usually appear and well after the first frost.

If none of this works--track your symptoms by what you are doing and talk to your allergist.

Darn those weeds! Imagine me shaking my fist.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Dear Parent: Your kid is fat

Many schools are now weighing, measuring, judging and berating--and sending notes home saying a child is "at risk" of the dreaded obesity.

I saw one case of a 5'3" volleyball star who weighed 124--her mother was outraged. The girl pictured was perfectly "normal."

Don't administrators know that larger kids are prime bullying material? It is still OK to ridicule overweight people. They deserve it, the lazy pigs! Ever seen that in print on the internet?

I was the "fat" one in my family--the abnormal--all the rest were "normal." My father was a psychiatrist and screamed, spittle flying, and forced me to run, to fast, to take those Dexedrine pills popular in the 1950s.

I am still large. But my childhood was a nightmare. He apologized decades later. Sure, accepted.

I hated weigh-day at school. I hated climbing the rope in gym. The awful shorts.

Yes, they could have a salad bar in the cafeteria or parents could keep junky stuff at home to a minimum--sure, do it. But all this stuff from the White House on serving arugula or giving HS athletes a 500-cal lunch is garbage--and garbage is where many of these recipes land, I hear.

When my daughter was born, her dad looked at her as she toddled on her long legs and said, "Are her legs fat?"

No, you don't! That is not the only reason I left, but it is one.

The only "diet" advice I took in later life was to walk one hour a day. No gym, no expense, no miles, just an hour on the clock. I did it for years. I did not get thin, but it didn't hurt me.

Now, my arthritis is too bad to do it and I miss it.

Obesity is a complex subject--be very careful before tagging some kid with it.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Drowsy drinks

It was inevitable. People pounded in those 5-hr energy drinks and then were jittery and awake, so they needed a drink to relax them.

Sarah Nassauer, WSJ, Oct 2, 2013, says the marketplace is glad to provide Balance Relax, Neuro Bliss, and Marley's Yellow Mood (as in Bob Marley--who I believe used another calmer-downer, ganja).

These are often sold in the soda aisle, though they are not soda.

These, said one expert in the story, are the result of an over-medicated society. Amen to that one!

This is not water, said another, although the story said they are OK for most adults--the rub would come if they interact with your other meds--[all together now] check with your doctor.

Most of these contain melatonin--the sleep hormone. And valerian root.

Xanax in a can, said one doctor.

Promotes a "Chill Mentality."

Well, it costs more than melatonin--and people take them during the day. People that might be coming toward your car in their car.

Oh, well, I am a fuddy duddy--and darn tired without some overpriced herb drink.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Cheap shot on my part--or a lesson for us?

 Maybe this is an internet scam, but Snopes did not have it. Supposedly the young woman is Christine Keeler, the woman who almost toppled the British govt in a sex scandal 50 years ago and the older one is her now, as a poor woman living in govt housing.

Yes, we are all older--wrinklier--fatter--but have we all completely given up--no haircuts, no lipstick?

If you look good, you feel better. That is my philosophy. My mother was 95 when she died and we made sure she looked cute. My sister harassed her over lipstick--which took it too far and caused stress--but some effort is always worth it.

Or do you agree?

On a related subject, I saw an ad for Cigna health insurance telling "older" women that their wrinkles were marks of their deep life of wisdom and emotion. Oh, gag me. Wrinkles are the result of thinner skin, less underlying fat, and sun damage. How patronizing can you get. I am sure some young MAN in his twenties wrote that lame copy.

Let's be real, people.

As for Christine, I wish her well. I sometimes see people I knew in DC on the news. I have aged better, so there!

Friday, October 04, 2013

Early flu in your area?

Out here in Cowboy Country--and we have heard from friends, in Washington state, and Tennessee--there is a bad bug going around. Fever and chills, then those sort of leave, and a bad cough ensues for weeks--so bad your ribs are screaming--then that lets up and horrible fatigue follows for weeks. This whole cycle lasts over a month.

One doctor here called it H1N1--swine flu. Finally a doctor here gave a stepped set of steroids that helped somewhat (suggest it--they won't).

I have been convinced for many years that some "germ" will get us before cancer (or, certainly, obesity) will.

According to a story by Robert C. Hutchinson in Emergency Management (July/Aug), the powers that be are currently worried about MERS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, which kills the majority of people it infects.

This author wonders if we are ready for MERS to hit our shores (or probably fly in on a plane).

There have been three pandemics in the last 100 yrs--the Spanish flu in 1918 (500,000 Americans and 20 million people worldwide dead). The average life expectancy was reduced by 13 yrs.

Other pandemics in 1957 and 1968 killed millions, too. My sister and mother had the Hong Kong flu in 1968--and it was terrible.

The government updated the procedures in 2006. But there are many agencies that must coordinate--when they get the disease, then what? Are agencies prepared to shoot people who try to leave quarantine? I once wrote on the latter subject--they said they would.

A pandemic is a military event, not just a public health one.

Wait--isn't that why we have preppers? I once wrote on the bird flu, also--best for people to take care of the sick in their homes. The hospitals will be overrun pretty quickly.

Fun subject? Yeah, I thought so. Maybe a flu shot? Whaddya think?

At very least, if you are sick sick sick...don't go to work and spread it.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Ugh--Pink eye

Pink eye is not just for kids. My kid and I both had it once. Curtains of green.....oh, never mind.

Khalilah Babino, DO, an emergency care physician at the Loyola University Health System, says this revolting, sticking condition is very contagious.

Pink eye is also called conjunctivitis--because the conjunctiva, a thin membrane on the surface of the eye, is the part that gets inflamed and red.

It is often bacterial, but not always. Pink eye can be caused by viruses, allergens and other irritants.

There is thick, discolored drainage (the green...never mind) and your eyelids can be stuck in the morning.

If someone has it in your family, wash your hands with warm soapy water--frequently.

Use a hand sanitizer if water is not available.

Avoid eye makeup--and throw away any you used.

Wear glasses, not contacts, until it is cured. Clean your contact case thoroughly.

Until you have had 24 hours of antibiotic treatment, do not go among polite society.

This is gross, but not the end of the world.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Your primary may be your shrink--kinda

Melinda Beck, WSJ, Sept 25, 2013, writes that some medical practices may have one psychiatrist per 500 or more patients--with the primary doctors or "care managers" actually dealing with the patients.

The new laws require that insurance plans provide mental health services comparable to physical ones--which is hard to do when a psychiatric appointment may be almost an hour and 15 mins is allotted for doctor time.

Also, there is a shortage of shrinks (I can call them that because my father was one).

About a quarter of primary care patients are estimated to need or want mental health services.

What do you think of this idea?

Tuesday, October 01, 2013


To me, taking pills--especially big chalky ones--is like running downstairs two at a time--if you think about it, you will screw up.

But there is a large contingent of people who just cannot take a pill. Unless this is a physically-caused dysphagia (swallowing difficulty), this can come from a fear of gagging or a past difficulty getting a pill down. The throat muscles clench--and it goes wrong.

This was covered in the WSJ, Sept 24, 2013.

Swallowing takes place in three steps--the moistening of food, the closure of the larynx, and then the contractions of the esophagus pushing the item down.

But you don't chew a pill--and this interrupts the three-part cycle.

Do not dissolve a pill or cut it up. Sometimes there is a time-release element and you don't know it.

If you stop dead with a pill in your mouth, practice with Gummi bears--when you feel calm.

Tell yourself--this is way smaller than the last piece of steak I ate.

Sometimes you can put the whole pill in applesauce and it will just go down without a to-do about the chewing thing.

Or turn your head to the side.

I had a med reaction once that led to swallowing problems--horrible. You overthink the act and then it becomes a real issue. I had to eat radioactive goo and get x-rayed to see what was going on.

Jeez, even little kids can swallow.

Hope this story does not create any problems for you...