Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Here are six baby things you can skip

Time was, all you needed to raise an infant was a crib, diapers, little onesies, and a kitchen sink for washing the tot.

No more! Now you "need" bouncies, swings, car seats that transform into heaven knows what, tricky slings, things that warm, things that cool...on and on.

Lisa Kaplan Gordon, creator of, has some ideas on things you do NOT need to get your own or anyone else's kid.

WIPE WARMER. This one keeps store-bought butt wipes warm. A room temp wipe is not exactly torture.

BABY DETERGENT. If you are so worried about sensitive skin, get any detergent that says free and clear.

BASSINET. This is usable for about a month, then the little bruiser will outgrow it.

BABY FOOD PROCESSOR. If you want to make baby food, use your Cuisinart or any other blender lying around.

EXPENSIVE BEDDING.  Forget those bumpers, kids get tangled. Now they even say forget blankets. I used to get blanker sleepers--feety jams in a fuzzy material--no blanket needed.

BABY BATHTUB. You don't even want to bathe a baby more than 3x a week. The sink works fine. Some bathtubs even go in the big tub--and may encourage you to leave the baby a sec to answer the phone. This is bad.

I would add--those in the doorway bouncy things--at least my daughter hated it and scowled with rage when strapped in the thing--Mom, what the heck?

I did like the towel with the little hoodie in the corner for bath time--nice little thing for their sopping little heads.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Listen to Auntie Star--Binge drinking not great for you

You've heard the expression, "New Year's Eve is for amateurs"? Lots of people feel obliged to drink a lot of this one night--especially the younger ones with enough zip to go out and party.

Binge drinking is defined as enough to get you to the 0.08 blood alcohol illegal to drive. Four drinks for women, five for men, in two hours. One in six adults does this four times a month!

But, according to Loyola, binge drinking in young adults can interfere with the immune system.

In the study, published in ALCOHOL, a peer-reviewed journal, binge drinking increased the likelihood of falls, burns, gunshot wounds, car wrecks, and other traumas. One-third of trauma patients have alcohol in their systems.

And, if that were not enough, the alcohol impedes the ability of the body to heal from such injuries and fight off germs and viruses.

You can read the study protocol in the journal, but basically they gave volunteers vodka sufficient to equal binge drinking and studied changes in the immune system (blood tests).

Anyhow, I am sure you know this is probably true--too much of a good things can be a bad thing.

Happy New Year! (Please don't hate me for being an old scold.)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Mothers of allergic kids want more than food advice from dietitians

Shereen Lehman, Reuters, says mothers of kids with food allergies do want menu advice, but they also want hand-holding and encouragement in dealing with their offspring's issues.

Often this is a daily challenge--and in severe cases, the life of the child can be at stake. Pressure!

In a paper in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Carina Venter, a dietitian and researcher at the Univ of Portsmouth, did some focus groups of mothers.

The mothers wanted more than elimination menus and food advice, including:

Ways to protect their kids and promote a normal lifestyle.

An advocate against health care providers and caregivers who were less sensitive to their kid's needs.

Help reading labels and shopping.

Role playing so the child knows how to respond if offered "bad" things.

I have heard a severely peanut-allergic child can almost die from touching a handrail a kid who had a PB&J for lunch had touched. The mother of that child needs support to feel vindicated for her caution or even what seems to be over-caution.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Exercising in the cold

My father jogged before the word was invented--he used to come back with icecicles hanging off him in winter, nose running as fast as his legs had.

The National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA,org) has some tips on working out in the Hawk.

There is such a thing as "cold injuries." They come in three categories: (1) decreased core temps (hypothermia), (2) freezing of the extremities (frostbite), and (3) nonfreezing injuries of the extremities (chillblains, trench foot).

HYPOTHERMIA. Vigorous shivering, increased blood pressure, core body temp less than 98.6 F. Remove wet clothing and put on warm and dry clothing or blankets and put the person in a shelter. Provide warm, nonalcoholic fluids. Do not massage limbs--this can make frostbite worse if the person has it.

FROSTBITE. Swelling or mottled gray skin, tingling or burning. Wrap the area in warm clothing. If sensation or normal color does not return in a few minutes, immerse area in warm (not hot) water bath for 15-30 mins. So not massage or expose to direct heat such as a heating pad or fire.

CHILLBLAINS. Small red bumps, swelling, tenderness, itching and pain.  Remove wet clothing, wash and dry the area gently, elevate it, and cover with loose clothing or blankets. Do not disturb the blisters or massage or chafe the area.

TRENCH FOOT. This comes from cold, wet environments over 12 hours to 3-4 days. Burning, tingling, itching, blotches, swelling, blisters. Clean and dry the feet, apply warm packs or soak in warm water for five mins.  Put on dry socks.

Always wear layers of clothing in cold weather--be sure to allow evaporation.

Eat a well balanced diet and stay hydrated. Forget the booze.

I will be back with more next Monday--stay safe, warm, and merry, my dear readers.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Buddy, can you save a little kid?

I first learned of this effort from the University of Wisconsin magazine called On Wisconsin. Apparently a professor and his family set up a house, guarded by armed guards, to safeguard albino children, believed to be possessed of evil spirits.

Of course, this is condition is genetic, not spiritual.

But these kids are hunted and killed for their body parts. Like a rabbit's foot as a lucky charm...

The kids can never walk around unguarded--Congress even passed a law. But guarding them is the most effective way to get them to adulthood and to where they can fend for themselves.

The goals it to establish a campus in Tanzania for 200 kids--some with albinism and some with other handicaps.

Currently the professors' friend is caring for 35 kids in a house in Lamadi Village. She is turning kids away--which can be a death sentence.

They have the land and have broken ground on the campus. I am convinced this is not some hanky-wringing scam. Any little amount helps.

Go to

Monday, December 22, 2014

How would YOU frame your medical record?

This is a hot button issue with me. How I appear in writing--entombed forever, mistakes and all, in a paper file or database.

One hospital here pegged Mom as diabetic--this came up every time--she was not. They would not change it--they said we could put a minority opinion--but they would not take out something "a doctor" wrote. The doctor did not write this--some gal sat there in the ER and picked things from pulldown menus--I saw her do it, I was there. Mom was old, so hey, must be diabetic. Bam! Click!

Some office nurse once asked my sister how her COPD was--she never had that, not even a cough.

I am always being told "diabetics just get detached retinas"--I am not diabetic, either!

When I went to the ER with pneumonia (it turned out), they said maybe I had congestive heart failure--my own doc said I did not. But it's in there now. My insurance plan called--do you want to be in a special congestive heart failure management program. NO, I DO NOT.

Recently my sister was contacted by a company called INGAGE--they wanted her to fill out a long health questionnaire. She did it! Now I am sure this goes straight to the govt.

Would such an offer be a chance to start over and get all the mistakes (such as the COPD) out of the record? I don't know.

On the flip side--a recent study showed half of patients surveyed withheld sensitive info from their medical records (J of General Internal Med).

A hundred and five people were allowed to withhold certain info from certain providers. Sexually transmitted diseases, substance abuse, other mental health problems--were some of these. They could say which providers saw which.

They also allowed the providers to "break the glass" and get the info anyway.

So...what is the point?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Dunno--would you give these gifts?

Debbie Jansky, assistant nurse manager, Home Health Services, at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, advises "assistive" gifts for the 133 million Americans with chronic conditions.

Some ideas she has:

Medication organizers--slots for pills for daily or weekly.

Pill cutters are good. I use my teeth--probably not such a hot idea.

Pill punch--gets into those hard plastic packaging shields.

ID bracelet or watch--gives important info, such as DIABETIC or ON BLOOD THINNERS.

Grabber--for long distance reaching.

Adjustable cane that folds down for pocket or purse.

Rollator--a luxurious (?) walker with a basket for shopping and a bench to sit on to rest.

And for the loo--hand held shower sprays, toilet seat benches, safety rails.

Most of these would freak me out--except a high toilet--those are great. I mean the whole toilet, not a thick seat perched on top.

Also--no scales. If you want to live.

You decide--would the person appreciate this or feel creaky and like a hot mess?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Zen Sports to debut at Boca Bowl

Barbara Schmidt, author of The Practice, will coach both teams in the Boca Bowl on meditation and mindfulness. Apparently the Seattle Seahawks already tried this with some success.

Zen Sports is designed to eliminate negative stressors--which this is connecting to the recent spate of abuse cases.

Meditation, Schmidt says, is "magical" if combined with exercise. You can access a deep source of energy.

The Boca Raton Bowl will feature Marshall (12-1) and Northern Illinois (11-2).

So...we shall see....Ooooommmmmm.

For more info:

I do wonder--if both teams do it, won't they cancel each other's unstressedness?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Oh, those spendy ultrasounds

Doctors love to order ultrasounds--they don't hurt, don't impart radiation, aren't noisy and cramped, don't require disgusting prep, and therefore people will do it (some people, read on) and they can charge some completely arbitrary and huge amount for a machine that is at the low end of cost for the hospital or office.

Elizabeth Rosenthal, NYT, Dec 15, 2014, wrote about a guy who had two echocardiograms--an ultrasound of the heart. One was at a community hospital, the other at a big-woo medical center in Boston. Weirdly, the Boston one, three times as long complete with cardiologist on call, was $1,400. The one in the little hospital was $5,500.

Whew. Crazy Time!

Testing is a profit center, the article stated. Boy howdy, do I agree.

I had an echo once in the doc's office--don't remember what the purported charge was--but it was no big deal. The guy in the story paid $80 on $500 (Medicare).

One doctor said the threshold for ordering an echocardiogram is for the patient to have a heart.

The guy also got the first echo because he was undergoing cataract surgery--that is not even advised--cataract surgery is not total anesthesia. He also had no heart symptoms and was given to long walks.

Another doc in the article said some docs think, I have paid for this machine, the patient is insured, might as well use it.

This is not to say that all ultrasounds are unnecessary--you have to bore in a little and see how dedicated the doctor is to this test. Certainly the ones of babies are exciting!

I was ordered to get an ultrasound of my kidneys recently--I had a cyst 20 yrs ago. When I called for the appt they asked my weight. I said why. They said their table had limits. I said what is the limit? They said 600 lbs. This irritated me so much--this has to be a routine question? I did not get it! Maybe I am endangering myself...but come on!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Are you sick of the "deadly" holiday stories?

Every year, I obligingly remind you that you will be lucky to live through the hols.

Now, we are told that not only is this the most wonderful time of the year, it's the busiest for the Suffolk County Colunteer Firefighters Burn Center at Stony Brook University Hospital in NY.

(By the way, when I wrote about not putting wet turkey into a deep fat fryer, someone said it was OK if you dried it first--I am skeptical.)

At Christmas and the concurrent holidays, cooking is a rich source of burns. People are not used to cooking so many dishes at once and for so many people. It can get crazy. People are crowded in the kitchen--you are trying to dump boiling water or sizzling fat...and...

---Keep wooden utensils, towels, and packaging away from the stove top.

--Again, deep fry turkeys outdoors and don't overfill the fryer. Be super careful lowering in the bird.

--Keep children from reaching up to the stove or counter tops. Turn pan handles inside.

--Large dishes are heavier than you are used to--be careful removing them from the oven.

Christmas trees--formerly live ones--crisp up fast. Check for freshness before buying--the needles should resist pulling. Do not place it near the fireplace.

Also do not burn wrappings in the fire place. Never leave candles unattended--this happened to us--the side caved in, wax flowed, and my daughter's room was totaled. No candles or incense EVER in our house now.

Keep kids away from fireplaces.

Good grief, I am getting depressed. Please be safe! I need all my readers.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Feeling blue--instead of red and green?

It's almost a cliche--happy holiday, sad feelings.

Erika Saunders, MD, interim chair of psychiatry at Penn State Hershey, says there are signs to watch for.

--The inability to enjoy things others like.

--Feelings of hopelessness.

                                                      --Changes in sleep or appetite.

If this interferes with social functions, urge the person to get help.

But expressing sadness at this time of year does not necessarily mean a depressive disorder!

We tend to think of those we lost at holiday time. That's because we often saw that person only at the holidays--or they were their most memorable then.

Money woes surface at the hols..people want to separate and start the year fresh..all these can lead to depression.

The amount of sunlight also enters in--seasonal affective disorder.

Of course, the doctor advises talk with a doctor. If you think this is beyond you, do that. One thing that is not so great is to overdo the eggnog and alcohol--the self-med route.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Holiday foods that trigger migraines

A post I did once on migraines attracted the most views and comments ever. In eight years! Apparently many people around the world suffer from these beastly headaches.

The American Migraine Foundation's chair David W. Dodick, MD, is trying to help sufferers avoid trigger foods during the holidays.

These tips can be found at:

--Eat regularly--missing meals is a more common trigger than any particular food.

--Avoid eating within a few hours of bedtime and drinking caffeinated beverages after early afternoon.

--Keep a diary and see if you can identify your triggers--foods followed by a migraine at least half the time after your eat them. Avoid those foods.

--Red wine is a major trigger for many people--so choose white or another bev. Drink in moderation, anyway--dehydration is a trigger.

--Limit intake of processed foods high in sugar, caffeine and carbonation.

If you don't know your triggers, Dodick recommends eliminating red wine, processed meats, nuts, chocolate, aged cheese, monosodium glutamate, and gluten-containing foodsto see if you can cut your attacks.

That pretty much takes care of the buffet--but you may have a pain free holiday.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

AMD eye vitamins may be hyped

Have you seen those TV commercials promoting vitamins for aging eyes?

Published in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, study looked at 11 supplements. Seven did not adhere to proven formulas--those validated by research--and 11 were found to have misleading claims.

Take Age Related Macular Degeneration. In 2001 there was a landmark study called AREDS showed that a specific formula of supplements containing high doses if antioxidants and zinc could slow the worsening of AMD in those with intermediate AMD and those with advanced AMD in one eye only.

In 2011, a followup study AREDS2 showed that the fomula was still effective if the beta carotene was replaced by lutein and zeaxanthin. (Beta carotene was suspected of increasing lung cancer risk in smokers.)

A study based a Yale and several other hospitals then looked at the commercial brands of supplements.

--Only four had equivalent doses of AREDS or AREDS2 ingredients.

--Another four had lower doses.

--Four products also had other ingredients and herbs that were not part of AREDS or AREDS2.

All 11 supplements also had promotional claims--such as "support," "protect," "promote."

The science is not there to support routine use of these products for AMD and cataracts. At best, these are for patients with specific stages of these disorders.

Aw, I know...If only there were magic pills.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How to deal with diaper rash

Dermatologist Lawrence F. Eichenfield, MD, chief of pediatric and adolescent  dermatology at the University of California San Diego, says the best way to prevent and treat diaper rash is to keep the baby as clean and dry as possible.

This means changing the tot as soon as possible--even if the diapers are only wet.

Be gentle--use wipes that are alcohol and fragrance-free. If the rash is severe, use a quirt bottle of water. Allow the area to air dry.

Apply a zinc oxide diaper cream if the skin is always red. Layer it on like frosting a cake.  Remove it only at the end of the day.

If you see blisters or pus, or the baby is screaming and hard to console, consult a doctor.

Babies wear diapers for three years or so--you need to develop a routine to keep the little rugrats comfy.

I figured I changed 5,000 diapers...You have to be in it for the distance.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Are you a worrywort? Go to bed!

I am--a worrywort. I fret, brood--and mostly in bed at night. I can lie awake for hours--and then the next night, sink into slumber so blissfully I see why other people look forward to bedtime.

Researchers at Binghamton University in NY, says people who sleep shorter periods and go to bed late at night are more overwhelmed with negative thoughts than those who keep more regular hours. Check out Cognitive Therapy and Research.

People who have negative thoughts worry too much about the future, delve too much into the past, and endure annoying thoughts. This can be typical of people suffering from generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, and a load of other "disorders."

These scientists asked 100 young adults to complete questionnaires and two computerized tasks. They assessed how much they ruminated or obsessed. Then they figured out of the students were night or day people.

I guess if you sleep at night you won't be awake worrying at night. But isn't this kind of circular?

Monday, December 08, 2014

Taking care of older people between the settings

Home, assisted care, rehab, hospital, nursing home, hospice--Older people don't necessarily have a health problem, cure it and go back to "normal." Sometimes there are steps.

I wrote a chapter of a book on care between the venues--30 years ago--and apparently these problems still exist.

A team at Johns Hopkins is now looking at this issue. One big problem area is the new "pay for performance" standards under the health care law--if a patient has to return to the hospital in a certain period of time, the hospital has to eat the cost.

I know there are also issues with how long the patient has to be in the hospital to get rehab hospital or nursing home bills reimbursed under Medicare. Sometimes this means a long hospital stay for fiscal reasons.

The handoff can also be garbled. Most people have experienced this--cursory ER directions on what to do when you get home--sometimes older patients (actually any patients) don't know whether to take the prescribed meds in addition to their regular ones or substitute--often this is not clear.

Also patients may not know what home care is available--or what supplies to get and where.

This is the beginning of the list.

I say let's emphasize this more in health care planning. Delirium and confusion can affect older people from being an a hospital setting--especially intensive care. Figuring out what next is a challenge.

Once we took Mom back to assisted care and they gave another patient her pills. Dandy!

Friday, December 05, 2014

Uncle Wiggily redux

One of our favorite board games in the Wayback was Uncle Wiggily.

"The old Rabbit gentleman," as he was referred to often in Howard Garis's 1930ish books, suffered from the "rheumatiz," which I take to be arthritis. He walks with a candy-cane crutch and sometimes canes of the assistive sort..

As he wends his way to the doctor in the board game version, hapless children are directed by cards they draw to put him in the way of various villains--the Skillery Skallery Alligator, the Big Bad Pipsiswah, and the Wicked Skeezix, to name a few.

He is also aided by Nurse Jane Fuzzy Wuzzy and other "good" characters.

What if this were updated to present day?. Even if he could hobble to the doc, he might be late for his appointment and bumped. Or have to fill out a long, irrelevant form with his stiff paws.

What if his medicine was not "covered" by his health plan--no healing herbs for the old rabbit gentleman!

A knee replacement? Only if the Skillery Skallery Alligator were to nip him in the leg. And it would be a copay of 200 carrots.

And that kindly doctor? He would immediately send Uncle Wiggily to a specialist--more walking and limping--maybe a A Rabbit's Foot Specialist--uh-oh, ask questions, how lucky would that be?

And if Uncle Wiggily did not lug along enough carrots, then what? The Big Bad Pepsiswah Collection Agency would hunt down the poor rodent.

Even Nurse Jane could not save him!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

IUDs may affect rheumatoid arthritis risk

Women using IUDs (intrauterine devices) may be at increased risk for producing the antibodies that lead to rheumatoid arthritis (not the bone kind older people get).

RA is chronic, causes pain, swelling and limitation of motion in the joints.  Women get it three times as often as men. It can manifest in young people--child-bearing age.

Researchers in Colo, Neb, CA, NY, and Wash State looked at different forms of contraception. They looked for a substance called anti-CCP that can be found in blood prior to RA becoming evident.

They looked at 976 women with a first degree relative with RA. They checked for anti-CCP and asked about contraceptive use.

--Those currently using in IUD had significantly increased risk of anti-CCP positivity.

--Other studies showed a decreased risk from the pill.

--Pregnancy and breast-feeding did not seem to affect RA.

The scientists think IUDs may increase inflammation in the body and this leads to the autoimmune reaction of RA.

Something to consider anyway.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Baby steps diet

Notice I hardly ever write about "diets." By this I mean--the latest reducing brainstorm. In my very extensive experience, these don't last or don't work.

What if you had to make teeny changes only? David Zulberg, author of  THE 5 SKINNY HABITS, suggests:

Week 1. Replace on meal a day with a lighter meal--salad or cereal and milk, maybe eggs and toast.

Week 2. Replace your big meal with protein and veggies--you can have a glass of wine if you want.

Week 3. Eat your third meal as you normally would, proteins, grains. If you want seconds, veggies only.

Week 4. Ten minutes of cardio--3x a week.

Week 5. Replace snack with water, veggies, low-fat dairy or fruit.

He says this does not rule out food groups, teaches habit formation, and allows you to continue life with energy and well-being.

You decide. I just put this out there.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

How to keep kids healthy this holiday season

You don't need to buy expensive gadgets to keep kids active and entertained, says Allie Matarasso, RD, clinical dietitian, Montefiore Medical Center, New York, NY.

In fact, the much vaunted exergaming equipment has been shown not to affect kids' weight.

Keep it old school. How about a scavenger hunt--hide clues in the house or outside.

Hula-hooping...ball with a balloon, indoor hopscotch (tape on the kitchen floor), dancing, Zumba moves, chores--all keep kids going (and tire them out).

Keep one eye on food consumption--involve kids in meal planning, serve soups at the start of every meal.

Little kids eat little meals. If they take too much, don't insist on plate cleaning.

Make hot chocolate with skim milk and cocoa powder--less sugar than those packets.

Keep nuts, dried fruit, and bars available--not candy or cookies. Save those for dessert.

Kids also get overstimmed during the holidays--keep consistent bed times.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Yipes--you could be allergic to your tree

You know me--I luv the good news! Not.

Doctors at AFC/Doctors Express urgent care are trying to tell us about "Christmas Tree Syndrome."

Respiratory illnesses peak around Christmas and trees don't help. You can be allergic to the pine resin (terpene) or various molds that develop around live trees.

Within 2 weeks of bringing a live tree into your home, mold counts rise.

The result can be asthma attacks, fatigue, sinus infections and more.

Some tips for live trees (which I have had):

--Wear gloves and long sleeves when bringing the tree in--the sap, you know.

--Spray off pollen before bringing in.

--Keep a live tree seven days or less.

Even artificial trees can cause allergies--wipe them off before putting them up. Ornaments, too.

Forget that spray-on snow.

We used to put on fiberglass "snow"--very bad for you. We are lucky to be alive.

I am being sarcastic--but still, trees can attack. Be careful.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Coffee may cut Alzheimer's risk

Finally, slurp, slurp, some good news. Or at least news I prefer to think is good, solid, and valid.

They had a big Alz conference in Europe and did a giant overview of studies--and moderate coffee drinking seemed to cut the incidence of Alzheimer's by 20%.

This means 3-5 cups a day.

Another plus: The Mediterranean Diet--dish, fresh fruits and veggies, olive oil, and red wine--is also associated with less risk of Alz.

Notice the word "associated." This means it is not a lead pipe cinch (where did that expression come from, I wonder).

In the case of java, the caffeine and polyphenols may prevent formation of those gooey amyloid plaques, which stop signal transmission along nerves. Coffee also reduces inflammation.

I once went on a press trip to Majorca and learned about the health benefits of olive oil.

Both coffee and more wine and olive oil seem like reasonable approaches to me.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Are your fingernails a mess?

Winter is tough on nails--according to Loyola dermatologist Rebecca Tung, MD. Stress, poor eating, cold weather--and pretty soon you are a mangled mess.

Some tips:

Don't overdo buffing--it can make nails thinner and weaker. No more than once a month.

Apply a base coat--prevents staining and gives polish something to cling to.

Don't use quick-dry polish. It can make nails weaker.

Also use a top coat--reduced chipping.

Use non-acetone removers. Moisturize the nails themselves.

No toluene, formaldehyde, and bibutyl phthalate.

If your nail person uses UV rays to dry no-chip gel polishes, at least use SPF 30 on your hands. The dangers of this sort of drying, if any, are not yet well known.

I am allergic to nail polish, so go bare. But I do take biotin when my claws get particularly flaky and brittle. It seems to make a diff.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Yikes, deep frying turkey can be a hot time!

Guess what--there are more than double the number of home fires on T-Day as a normal day (US Fire Administration, whatever that is).

Splashes, spills, burns, cuts--it's not pretty in the kitchen. This according to a burn surgeon at Loyola.

Burn surgeon--shudder.

The new trend of deep frying turkeys has accounted for a rise in injuries. Plunging something heavy into boiling fat--what could go wrong?

Sometimes people even try to do this INDOORS!!! No no no no!

The turkey must be moisture free--meaning at very least, not still frozen.

One guy "basically fried himself," as he put it--spilling thirty quarts of hot oil on his leg. He tripped.

Also, $15 million in property damage is done by fryer accidents.

--Get a new fryer with a sealed lid.
--Keep the fryer in full view while in use.
--Keep it away from walls, fences etc
--Never use in a garage or under a carport.
--Never cook in short sleeves or with bare feet.
--Make sure the turkey is completely thawed. Be careful with marinades.
--Don't overfill--the oil can ignite if it overflows.
--Don't do this while drinking.

So the choice is yours--nice dinner or trip to the ER?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Do you want the good or bad news first?

OK--the good news. They did a survey of eleven countries--Health Affairs (Dec). Older, sick Americans can get a specialist appointment faster than in any other country surveyed--except Switzerland. Still, the average wait was four weeks.

The bad news? Well, there is a lot. First, only 57% of older Americans can only get same-day or next-day appts when they are sick.

And older Americans are sick, sick, sick. Sixty-eight percent had two or more chronic conditions. Fifty-three percent took four or more meds.

Still, good news dept, 83% had a treatment plan they could carry out in everyday life.

Hardly earth-shattering news to us creakies...

Add in docs falling in and out of our insurance plans, skyrocketing medication costs, medication reactions--and arg--it's enough to MAKE you sick.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Meet "Normal Barbie"

Her real name is The Lammily Doll...and her creator is a Pittsburgh graphic designer named Nickolay Lamm.

She is sturdily built, a few extra pounds around the hips, and comes with stickers of zits (see pix) and stretch marks that realistic tots can affix.

He is working on Normal Ken, too--chubby with some dirt stains, maybe. (Guys are grosser, Lamm notes, there are more things he could add.)

Lamm had his own body issues, trying like mad to get a 6-pack while being only 5'2" in HS.

His Mom loves Normal Barb.

No, you can't get it this Christmas at Toys R Us--but he has raised half a million and has 22,000 orders. Stay tuned.

To me, Abnormal Barbie's problem was she was nine "heads" high--and living people are about seven heads high. Elongated.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A bit of wine for thy stomach's sake

David Zulberg, author of The 5 Skinny Habits: How Ancient Wisdom Can Help You Lose Weight and Change Your Life Forever, says alcohol can have many benefits--if used correctly. Especially dry wine.

He bases this on his own weight struggles and extensive research into the bible, philosophy and scholars.

The five benefits include: Improved heart health, prevention of various diseases, fewer common colds, boosts in mood, and yes--weight loss.

Hippocrates, the bible, and many other sources approved of the vino.

At the holidays, alcohol enhances the experience, Zulberg says. People laugh more, let down their guard.

But--of course--this is in moderation. Seventy-nine thousand people a year die from not drinking in moderation.

What is moderation? According to Mayo, one drink a day for women and men over 65. Up to two drinks a day for men under 65.

What is a drink? 12 fluid oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, or 1,5 oz of distilled spirits.

If you think you will run over this allotment, prepare yourself before going out. Resist peer pressure.

Start with water, drink water between drinks if you have more than one.


No shots--they go in too fast. (Yes they do! I remember shots.)

Don't mix--if you start with wine, stick with wine, etc.

If you can't do this or don't want to, alcohol may not be the enjoyable health elixir you want.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Young kids may choose "healthy" food, but do they eat it

I try to stay away from politics on this site (I have other places for that), but our present administration is fixated on controlling kids' diet at school.

And now, a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health Study of 274 K-2nd grade NY public school kids. At one chicken and veggie entree day, they watched to see if the kids chose a fruit, a veggie, whole grain bread, or low fat milk.

Seventy-five percent chose the lean entree. Only 58% grabbed a piece of fruit. Fifty-nine percent took a veggie.

But--sadly--only 75% even took a bite of the entree, and 25% ate a morsel of the veggie.

Inerestingly, the kids were more likely to finish their food if a teacher ate in the cafeteria with them. More ate fruit and veggies if the atmosphere was quiet.  Also, food cut in smaller pieces was more likely to be consumed.

If lunch hours are too short, noisy, and distracting, little kids may pick or rush off.

I also venture to think that soggy, steam table veggies may not be appealing or even taste bitter. Apples may be hard to eat with teeth missing. That sort of thing.

I know some of the admin programs have drawn complaints that calorie counts are too low for kids with athletics after school and that kids toss a lot of the food.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

You don't need fancy software to have creative kids

Remember Baby Einstein--a popular set of games to enhance your youngster's intelligence? It was sort of pooh-poohed along the line. And it was spendy.

Now, Richard Hass, a visiting asst prof of psychology at Rowan University in New Jersey, has said that any activity can be a creative one--from making dinner to developing your career.

But, he adds, kids are not getting the right training to develop these processes. Only "gifted" children are considered eligible.

So what, as parent, can you do?

Try to take kids to museums, street fairs, cultural events--not just plop them in front of a video.

Play word games. Tell jokes.

Play UNO with your child--it requires adaptation to changing rules. Or work on a puzzle or collage with your kids.

Sometimes kids are only "creative" in one area--that's OK.

Acting or improv is fun for kids.

Encouraging "pretending" with toys.

Let kids fail sometimes--it's part of the creative process.

This isn't about raising a genius--it's about having fun, being interesting, learning, and feeling a sense of wonder and accomplishment.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Be a better pill popper

For some people, swallowing a pill is like running downstairs two at a time. If you think of it, you will fall. Or in the case of pills, choke.

But some German scientists are thinking about it. In a story in the LA Times by Karen Kaplan, Univ o f Heidelberg researchers came up with two techniques to make pull swallowing easier.

The first is the "pop-bottle method." And the second is the "lean forward" technique.

One hundred fifty one volunteers tried these (half reported trouble taking pills). They tried all shapes and sizes of pills.

Tablets were the worst. For this, the scientists suggested the pop bottle method. Put the pill in your mouth, close your lips around a flexible water bottle opening and suck. About two-thirds noted improvement. The ones without previous difficulty could swallow even larger pills.

For capsules, the docs suggested the lean forward method. Put the pill in, put the water in, then lean your head forward from the neck and swallow.

It seemed like tilting the head back would work better--my mother's method, by the way--but leaning forward won.

This morning on National Public Radio, some pill averse people tried these--and I did hear some choking noises.

My mother tilted back and stamped her feet three times like a horse counting. We used to laugh about it.

Friday, November 14, 2014

"Larks" and "owls" not only types of "people"

My ex and my kid--night people. They happily stayed up until all hours--while I slept. In the morning, I was raring to go--and they were slug-a-beds. This is the "lark" (day) and "owl" (night) body clock thing.

Olga Khazan, The Atlantic, Nov 12, 2014, writes about this, telling the story of Erwin Schrodinger, the Austrian physicist, who turned down a prestigious speaking invitation saying he could not work in the morning. For him--they changed the time.

Now scientists in Russia think there are actually four chronotypes. The other two are people energetic morning and night and people who feel lethargic all day.

They studied 130 people (J of Personality and Individual Differences).

Twenty-nine (according to their questionnaires) were larks with high energy at 9 am than 9 pm. Forty-four were owls, who were opposite, going to bed two hours later.

But--there was a high energy group of 25 who felt spritely morning and evening. And 32 others who felt dozy morning and evening.

What bird name can we assign--albatross and peregrine falcon? Nah--that part needs work.

How about hummingbird for those who keep on ticking and turkey for the slugs?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Internet and text can make college students (a bit) healthier

Late nights, beer bongs, hookups, tobacco--there may be room for improvement in the health of some college kids.

The Univ of Florida (Gainesville) did a study in which students nationwide from 18-24 received individually targeted messages. (J of Nutrition Education and Behavior)

The results were not earthshattering--no one gained or lost weight. But the researchers said the awareness gained moved from from contemplating a change to acting on that and changing.

In fact, the scientists called their messages interventions, or less drastic sounding, "nudges.". Most were aimed at getting the young people to eat more fruits and veggies.

The messages varied depending on whether the student was pre-contemplation or an active phase.

To me this is sort of like nagging, but I guess propaganda does have its uses.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Stop back pain before it starts

The other day I was emptying a wastebasket--leaning over--and my back HURT! Whoa, whoa, whoa, thought I -- what fresh hell is this?

Brian Bannister, MD, pain management specialist at Atlantic Spine Center in NJ, says back pain is a signal that something has gone wrong in the lower back or pelvic area, most often a muscle spasm or sprain.

That I figured out. Something went wrong. Or as we like to say, went kerflooey.

Most back pain will resolve in a couple of weeks with rest, ice, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories.

But what if you could keep your back in shape so it does not wimp out like this?

The abdominal muscles create 6-packs, but also support the spine. They are the spine's front anchor.

Google how to do elbow planks, abdominal crunches, and pushups. Yoga and Pilates are also effective. Do these 2-3 times a week.

If you already have back pain--consult a therapist or certified trainer for a regimen.

I once woke up with agonizing back squeezes--spasms. I called the doctor--they said oh, you're just middle-aged. A shot of bourbon eventually eased it.

Wait--did I type that out loud? Well, use your own judgment.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Solved my doctor dilemma

In today's healthcare environment, everyone has a hobby: Trying to get and keep health insurance.

I was notified several weeks ago that my primary doctor no longer "took" my Medicare Advantage plan.

Since I pretty much don't get along with all doctors, and could tolerate this woman's Physician Assistant (he got me, would discuss studies, etc), I thought, "OH NO!"

In typical fashion, I fell apart, called my insurance broker, got him worked up, called my plan, called the doctors, got the book of providers, tried to find a plan that took him--on and on.

Hours of hideous atonal "hold music" drilling into my skull, chirpy interruptions--"We value your call..." and my favorite, "Since this is open season to change insurance, we are probably too busy to discuss insurance."

Finally, I got a woman who said, why not get another medical doctor in your Physician Assistant's group who takes the plan? This can vary within a practice, some take a plan, others don't. Oh.

I changed to a primary that takes it--and now can see the PA. The one specialist I can still stand may be gone, though.

This is enough to make ya sick.

Monday, November 10, 2014

What to do to get out of a workout rut

Christopher Harrison invented Anti-Gravity Fitness and is a trainer to the stars.

Sometimes, he says, you reach a plateau in your "training." The scale seems stuck. Your clothes are no looser.

If you have been doing the same workout for a year, chances are the strengthening exercises are no longer working. Muscle tissue adapts. He recommends an Anti-Gravity yoga class to engage more upper body and core muscles.

Another tip is to change your brain by moving in new ways. How about some Anti-Gravity AIRbarre?

Also, try to detach from your familiar routines--you may be getting close-minded. Opening space in your body opens space in your mind, according to Harrison.

Or maybe vice-versa.


Friday, November 07, 2014

How to save yourself from medical errors

The third leading cause of are medical mistakes (heart disease and cancer are one and two).

About 400,000 hospital patients die of errors--preventable errors.

Gwen van Servellen, MD, UCLA professor emeritus, wrote The Healthcare Handbook. Go to

Errors occur in hospitals for a number of reasons...

Unnecessary treatment
Medication mistakes
Never events--that should never happen--like operating on the wrong limb
Malfunctioning devices
                                                      Sent home too soon

My advice is try to spend the least time in the hospital you can. Try not to stay over a weekend. Question medicines being given or hung in an IV--if you can't, have someone there who can. Just say, "What's that do?"

Also...insist on talking to the doctor, probably an in-house physician called a hospitalist, not your familiar doctor. Ask how you are doing. What is the care plan. When can you go home.

The biggest thing you can do is speak up! "This feels funny." "I went to the bathroom and almost keeled over." "I am not hungry for some reason."

When a new shift comes on, tell the new nurse what has been going on.

It is also important to be nice. If you are a screamer and curser, they will stay out of your room. You don't want that.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

NJ teen driver decal cutting accidents

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia studied the effects of New Jersey's Graduated Drive Licensing (GDL) decal over a two-yr period. Apparently, as published in the Am J of Preventive Medicine, the decal prevented 3,187 crashes compared with yrs without it.

In May 2010, Kyleigh's Law was implemented--all youths 16 to 20 holding a learner's permit or intermediate license had to display the decal on the front and back license plates.

The decals were meant to be seen by police so the officers could enforce teen requirements. In the first year, there was a 14% jump in citations.

New Jersey already had a low teen crash rate but managed to lower it more. Experts recommend all states enact a decal requirement and raise the age to 21.

Does your state have this?

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

A veggie is not just a veggie

Jo Robinson,, says the storage and preparation of vegetables governs how many antioxidants and other nutrients you get.

Veggies today are not the same as the veggies our ancestors grew and ate. They are less nutritious, less fibrous, and more pulpy than 400 generations ago (the good OLD days).

Generally speaking--the more bitter the item, the more antioxidants. But we don't like bitterness these days.

SHAPE. Lettuces with broad leaves and more exposure to sun are usually healthier. Iceburg receives less sun exposure.

SIZE. Smaller tomatoes have more lycopene.

STORAGE. Store veggies in plastic gad with small holes punched in.

COOKING. Some veggies--carrots for example--have more nutrients cooked. Other veggies are better raw.

CHOPPING. If you chop garlic, let it sit 10 minutes before heating.

Eat all veggies 2-3 days at most after buying them.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Why don't we demand more palliative care?

With some ailments, you may need to settle for feeling better not getting better.

Palliative care is more than helping people die--it's about comfort and support. Also, I have heard--music, companionship, being with pets, good food. This according to Barbara Sadick, WSJ, Sept 15, 2014.

Such care--combined with the regular care--helps people live longer. Sadick interviewed Diana Meier, director of the Center for Advance Palliative Care.

Meier emphasizes that this is NOT brink of death care. It's a medical specialty--recognized in 2008.

But the health system is in flux between fee for service and paying for volume. Palliative care prevents or delays hospitalizations--hospitals need that money.

Most patients and families don't know about palliative care. Most doctors also don't understand it and won't recommend it until the patient is "dying."

Check out

My own mother went into "hospice" late in the game, already unconscious from some cerebral event. They withdrew all food and water and she lay there on heavy doses of morphine, although she had no pain, until
she died in eight days. I was shocked at this, water, too?

I am sure good palliative care is a comfort to families and patients. I am sure our experience was not typical.

At least I hope not.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Getting more detailed about predicting outcomes

According to Laura Landro, WSJ, Sept 15, 2014, physicians rely on studies and their own experience as well as gut feelings to tell patients how they will do on a given therapy. In the case of cancer, the disease is often "staged"--one through four--and therapy outcomes predicted from there.

But this does not take into account the type of cancer, the patient's age, gender, and other characteristics.

So docs are turning to more sophisticated methods. One of the physicians pioneering this, Michael Kattan, Cleveland Clinic, was diagnosed with cancer of the lymph nodes in his early 20s. He was lumped in with older patients in wheelchairs and on oxygen.

Now, he uses "nomograms," statistical models, using large databases from medical studies.

These nomograms are usually for doctors' use, but one on prostate cancer risk is on the Cleveland Clinic website. Still, a physician is needed to interpret it.

A friend recently found out she had the breast cancer gene--she is considering having her ovaries removed. I wonder if there is a nomograph to help make that decision.

I know when I had my detached retina bleeding into my eyeball--the blood oozing up and down like a lava lamp--the doc said I had a 90% chance of using the eye after the surgery. After the thing detached again, eventually requiring four surgeries, my eye is blind.

I often wonder if the doctor pulled that 90% out of his ...well, you know.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Price we pay for not sleeping

I admit it--I have a Teddy Bear.
They say that the (ahem) older people sleep less. I sure do! I have always been a spotty sleeper--couple of hours, wake up, then back, tossing around through the night.

Now daylight savings is ending. We don't go on it in Arizona, but we do have to adjust our thinking--our East Coast buds are now only two hours later, the cable shows are one hour later.

From oldies to tots, not sleeping exacts a toll. Sleep is when the body restores itself, hormones adjust, memories are solidified and the whole immune system is set in place anew.

Sleep loss in adults accumulates--and can lead to heart disease, diabetes, high BP, depression, and of course, our favorite, obesity.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends:

16 hours for infants
12-14 hours for toddlers (1-3)
11-13 hours for preschool (3-5)
10-11 hours for school age (5-12)
8.5-9.5 hrs for teens
7-9 hours for Adults

I am doomed. I get about 5-6 hours, all broken up.

I don't perform vigorous exercise within 4 hours of bedtime, I don't use a phone or tablet, I avoid medications. I do listen to audiobooks in the dark when not feeling sleepy--eventually, I drop off.

If I don't, I just "rest."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The doctor hunt--new notes

As I reported (scroll down), my primary provider (actually a Physician Asst under supervision of a doctor) is no longer taking my Medicare Advantage plan.


I called the plan, as reported, and got some suggestions--which boiled down from eight to one when I looked into each doctor.

I also tagged up with my insurance broker--and he is searching for a new plan that will take my old doctor.

I also requested the 2015 Provider Book from my present plan. Imagine my surprise--it is almost half the thickness of the old one!

So...did the doctors quit because of chintzy reimbursements or did they fire docs because too many of their patients would not scurry from test to test or come to their "talking physicals" or fill in health histories only the CIA could love.

So I am pending. I have until Dec 7th. The problem is I did agree to tests in December and that doctor is no longer on my plan, either. If the tests require followup, I would have to find a new specialist.

This is completely aggravating--and probably not good for my health, either.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hey, doc, what level are you?

Finally--a good use for video games.

Yes, these excellent time consumers are credited with making better surgeons--dexterity, you know.

Hand-eye coordination, reaction time, problem solving skills--surgery simulators are weirdly similar to video games.

A 2001 study showed that laparoscopic surgeons, working in tiny incisions in the body using joysticks, made 37% fewer mistakes if they played video games three times a week.

Other studies have backed this up. World of Warcraft, for example, was shown to improve the team skills in the operating room.

See? Junior may become a doctor after all!

Experts say you can even ask your surgeon if he or she plays games.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Think of those adorable teeth!

How exciting when a kid pops a tooth...all gleaming white and perfect. Then comes Halloween.

Certain types of candy can damage teeth--and I don't mean cavities.

Martin Hogan, DDS, division director of dentistry at Loyola, says he sees parents and kids undergoing pain and expense from Halloween candy.

First, hard candy. Kids don't suck and savor--they chomp, Hogan says.This can lead to cracked teeth, punctured gums (ack), and tender roofs of mouths. Lose the hard candy and substitute bags of pretzels or cheese-filled crackers. Sealed, of course.

Bubblegum or gumballs coat the teeth in a bath of sugar and can loosen teeth or braces. Maybe a candy with xylitol would help teeth (it can cause diarrhea, though).

Caramels--not only does it coat teeth with sugar, it can lodge between teeth and stay there. Wax lips don't.

Gummies--worms, bugs--can cause decay.

Taffy--oh, don't even! Sticks in teeth and braces.

How about packets of sunflower or or pumpkin seeds. peanuts?

I know, none of these substitutes sound fun. I agree. Still, as an adult, a broke a tooth on movie candy--and that was no joy ride either.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Check out 60 Minutes on nursing people with Ebola

I was very impressed--even shed some tears of admiration--for the nurses who took care of the first Ebola patient here--Thomas Eric Duncan.

You can see their story at:

The times I have been hospitalized, the nurses made it bearable--they were great, while the occasional doctor was often stiff and snooty.

Ebola is a horrible disease with waterfalls of vomit and feces and bleeding from every orifice. Even one virus--one!--slipping in can start up a case in someone.

These nurses had to learn on the fly--they had incomplete info on protecting themselves...they are truly heroes. They sucked it up and did it.

But if you ask me, the succeeding cases were treated more casually. I feel nurses and doctors--of all people--should be overly cautious. Instead, they waltzed around bowling and flying to try on wedding dresses and so on.

I also was irritated that one nurse did not want to be isolated. Sitting out 21 days should be part of the job. The suits should know that.

We had quarantines when I was a kid--measles, chicken pox, mumps--a big sign on the house. Maybe we need that again until this burns out.

Friday, October 24, 2014

This year's Halloween warnings

First, let me say I don't think all the nutty fears of weirdos putting razor blades in candy have ever materialized. People set their hair on fire with this every year--they take candy to be x-rayed--and nothing comes of it.

Maybe you could keep the kids from eating the treats while out on the streets--and check it over in the light--but calm down.

The really scary part, says Loyola pediatrician Bridget Boyd, MD, is pedestrian safety.

Tell the kids where they can go--which streets, how far--and drill them on it. They must use sidewalks and crosswalks.

Usually, here in AZ, the parents are with the kids, I have noticed. Kids can go alone if they can follow directions and read a map, know the neighorhood, know how to call 911, and know their own number.

This will be about junior high age.

If you child has a nut allergy be very careful of what they eat.

If a costume is black or dark, be sure it has reflectors on it.

Make sure the costume is short enough so kids can walk without tripping.

No scary contact lenses.

No candles--even in pumpkins--use battery-operated.

I know this sounds like a buzzkill-but Halloween is so much fun, it's hard to kill the buzz completely.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

The doctor hunt is on

My doctor is no longer taking my Medicare Advantage plan. Oh, goody.

I liked this guy and rarely see a doc more than once. He is a Physician Assistant, too, not even a medical doctor.

My plan has two networks of doctors--I called the networks and tried to get lists of docs within 10 miles of me. They tried to turf me back to the plan, but I persisted. Each had four docs or physician groups.

Of that eight, five had either mistreated me in the past or my sister or my late mother. One doctor had a reprimand from the Medical Board for not recognizing a heart attack.

Of those two, one was another name for the group I had--that no longer wanted me.

So that left one.

At this point, I called my broker. He is going to see if I can change plans to one my PA takes.

So that is in play.

Are we having fun yet?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Some hospitals more likely to recommend C-section

According to Angela Davis, writing for CBS Minnesota, says researchers at the Univ of Minnesota and Harvard have looked at C-sections nationwide, and whether you get one depends more on the hospital than your medical condition.

They checked out childbirths at 1,300 hospitals in 46 states. The likelihood of C-Section varied between 19% and 48%.

In other words, a woman could walk into one hospital and stand an 11% chance of surgery and that same woman in another hospital could have a more than one in three chance of a section.

You may know your doctor, but you probably don't know your hospital's take on C-sections. You need to ask.

I remember my pre-delivery classes--they joked that if you didn't read the chapter n C-sections, you would end up with one.

I didn't read it--and I did.

But I also had huge fibroids--the baby could never have gotten out. They apologized for not seeing those on the sonogram.

Yeah, cool.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

You have my permission to skip a workout day

Who am I kidding? I am too crabbed up to work out in my old age--but if you aren't, it's still OK to skip.

Yet may people don't want to break up their momentum--they feel if they skip they may lapse.

Elizabeth Quinn wrote about this on Rest days are critical to performance, she says.

Some reasons for this are psychological--but most are physical. Muscles need time to repair and rebuild.

Too few recovery days can lead to overtaining syndrome.

The body needs to adapt to the stress of exercise for the real training effect to take place.

If you don't let the tissues knit (the tiny muscle tears) and fluids to be replaced, you can feel kind of sick, stales, depressed, and not do as well with each form of exercise.

Yes, alternating strength and aerobic can help, but you also need to knock off sometimes.

Short-term recovery is at the end of a session, but long-term recovery must be built in a year's schedule, Quinn says.

Key to the short-term, especially, is getting enough sleep.

What if a day off turns into three days or more...Catch yourself and start anew.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Don't overdo the acetaminophen for kids

Acetaminophen--Tylenol in branded form--is a parents go-to medication. Yet, every eight minutes a child experiences a medication mistake in this country.

And it's the parents' fault.

A new study in Pediatrics shows parents are quick to dose kids with over-the-counter meds.

Liquid OTC preparations are as common as food now.

But they are medicine--and they can be dangerous.

Tylenol posts a safety chart and the FDA says, as of 2008, kids under age 2 should not be given OTC cough and cold medications.

Some advice a la Mayo Clinic: Be sure your child needs the medicine--a low fever can burn out an infection--why push it down right away?

Often the child is fussy or even hysterically uncomfortable--things can get chaotic. One common event is to dose the child twice.