Friday, January 30, 2015

So much to think about when getting a tatt

I got my first tattoo at 37--always wanted one. The "artist" was Smoky Nightingale--an old salt type out of the Baltimore docks, then working in DC. A rose--on my back--have never seen it since.

Bad place to put tattoos.

Then, some years later, my sister and I saw a pin we liked in a catalog and got a speed freak named Wade to draw it better (he had been to art school) and then apply it to us--in diff color combos. Mine is on my right biceps, hers on her collarbone (even though close to the bone hurts more). Later she added her husband's middle name to it.

Also remember that in most states, tattoo parlors are not well regulated. They can be dirty or unsanitary.

I remember getting a paper towel taped over mine--this is not medical even though the skin is pierced a sixteenth of an inch. Yes, it hurts, though this is part of the experience.

Check out the place carefully. Go on Yelp.

Find out if the operators wash their hands, wear gloves, autoclave the equipment or use one-time-only needles.

Look at their books of examples--are the tatts clear and crisp, or muddy and like prison ink. Some of the new inks are too crisp for me, but it's a matter of taste.

Also--just my advice--don't apply a person's name--things can change. "Changing" a unit is tricky and can look like almighty heck. So does removing--so be thoughtful.

And--please--no face or neck units. Put it someplace you can cover it, unless--like sis--you are not in the business world or don't plan to be.

And just so you know--tattoos still have a tacky rep with some people, namely older people. You may get an earful.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Some violent criminals don't "get" punishment

Why do violent idiots keep committing crimes, carrying guns, torturing and just being horrible?

Let's go to the videotape. In a study at the Univ of Montreal, researchers looked at violent criminals--and concluded that one in five is a psychopath. They tend to re-offend and don't  rehab into responsible citizens.

Psychopathic criminals are different from regular ones in several ways. Regular criminals are are hyper-responsive to threat, quick-tempered, aggressive. Psychopaths have a very low responsiveness to threats, are cold, and aggressive as thought out ahead.

This shows in their brain patterns. While most people will not step in front of a bus because they can imagine being run over and how bad that would be, psychopaths seem to have different brain wiring that differentiates them in terms of learning from punishment and reward.

Deciding on an action depends on mentally weighing benefits and negative consequences. But psychopaths may only consider the positives and not the negatives. The key is to determine this young and have a way to remold the responses.

Keep studying!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Short hair, pony tail--remember the sunscreen

Winter is no excuse for ditching the sunscreen, say Drs Joshua Fox and Barry Silver of Advanced Dermatology in Summit and Ridgewood, NJ.

Men are at increased risk for skin cancer due to their shorter hair. But women are also susceptible due to thinner hair or wearing a ponytail. This exposes the ears and ear tips are hit.

I thought this was kind of dumb, but my sister said oh, no, when she went for skin cancer treatment, plenty of people had ear tip cancer. you are. Winter even intensifies the negative effects of UV exposure--snow, for one thing, reflects 80% of UV--meaning the rays hit you twice. And wind and snow can wash off the sunscreen you do apply.

Skiers also get it bad--at high elevations, UV is more harmful.


--Apply SPF 30 or higher at least 20 minutes before going outdoors.
--Use at least a teaspoonful just on your face.
--Apply to top and behind ears.
--Use sunscreen while driving in your car.
--Use large wraparound shades.
--On the slopes, use a ski mask.

Most skin cancer is preventable--it comes from letting the sun roast you. Think of it as radiation.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

High BP can threaten vision

A new study in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science ( indicates that chronic high blood pressure increases susceptibility to glaucoma.

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world--it results in too much pressure inside the eye.

The new research was done at the Univ of Melbourne in Australia and is significant because it was previously thought high blood pressure counteracted internal eye pressure.

They even raised BP in young people for an hour to see if it helped the eye pressure.

However, this became a risk factor in older people. Over time, researchers think, high pressure may damage vessels in the eye.

They are testing this in rats--but you know what? Try to control high blood pressure if you can, just in case, OK?

I am all about eyes and vision, since losing sight in one eye--you do not want this.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Consumer Reports Study: Demand respect from your doc

I guess they prefer the term "doctor" to doc. But still, I have spent my life trying to manage my own body--with the help of these trained pros--instead of turning it over to them.

Every year, 400,000 preventable errors cost people their lives. They get medication interaction disorders, hospital acquired infections, the wrong limb operated on or removed, bad diagnoses, no name it.

In Consumer Reports Safe Patient Study are countless stories of patients frustrated by doctors not listening, tossing their internet finds, and so on. The 19 seconds before interrupting the patient seems to still stand. I have had doctors make the hurry-up hand motion as I talked.

I once went to the ER with horrible abdominal pains--I was blocked. They sent me home to take a laxative--I threw up and went back the next day--they did another x-ray. Nope--not blocked. I said, well, something is wrong! Then the doc came back in--they were looking at the x-ray from the day before, yes, I was blocked. Five days in the hospital on an NG tube--which you do not want, by the way.

In dealing with doctors, according to Consumer Reports, you need for them to see you as a person. This is especially true in the hospital, where your own doctor will probably not take care of you, and a hospitalist doctor will be in charge. This person has no idea who you are. You need to bring up your kids, your profession, make yourself into a "person."

Invite the doctor to sit down--it's YOUR show.

Have supporters with you.

Think of you and the doctor as partners in your care. See if you can get the doctor to buy in.

Write things down or have your people write.

And if you don't understand, ask again--and even again.

You may need to harden up. I have had doctors blow through, barely speaking, tossing out scripts like confetti, casually consigning me to "big drugs"--and of course, there are the bad calls--they had Mom listed as diabetic at one hospital and would never change it. We objected over and over.

My advice: Try to be sweet and nice, but insist on not being glossed over or harmed.

Friday, January 23, 2015


James Stankiewicz, MD, chair of the dept of otolaryngology at Loyola, says winter is to blame for many nosebleeds.

Not to worry--this is normal for winter, in other words.

Yet, blood dripping from your face will be alarming now and again.

Older people tend to get these more--thinner mucous membranes and blood vessel walls.

[Only part of us that's thinner!]

If someone does look at you in horror, first do not panic.

Tilt your head back and apply firm pressure on the nostrils for 5 minutes.

Ice it.

Put some Vaseline on cotton and stuff it into your nose.

If this does not stop, you may want to run to urgent care or something, but I would not.

Yes, sometimes this can be a symptom of something "bad." Teen males can (rarely) get a tumor that results in gushing nosebleeds. Getting frequent bleeds can also signal leukemia or liver disease.

But don't freak out--it is probably not these!

Just get a humidifier and apply some vaseline inside your nose sometimes.

And pray for spring.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Nutrition label we use the hardest to understand

We've all seen it. In fact, a guy I knew in DC--Berky Belser--designed it. But according to researchers at McGill Univ, it's the one of four that's hardest to decipher.

Time is limited when you are standing in the store aisle and trying to decide which product is best for you.  One may be high in fact, low in sugar, the one next to it, the opposite. Or you may not care about fiber, but not want carbs or gluten.

The UK uses the Red-Yellow-Green traffic light system.

In Denmark, Sweden and Canada, foods can be certified as nutritious--but what does that mean?

They don't say which is best--so is Berky supposed to come up with yet another?

Do you have an idea how many people sat in how many meetings to even get what we have?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

You don't even need black ice to fall

Oh, yes, even before I got my senior discount cards, I fell over. Once off the back of a chopper--wet leaves on a wet painted line. Less interesting--another time, while crossing the street--bam! I was down. I have also tumbled over in snow and on ice.

In more recent times, I slow-mo'd to the floor in the laundry room--and yes, I could not get up. I hate that stupid commercial.

I am not alone--a million people a year totter over. Falling also accounts for 15% of on-the-job oopsies.

Mike Ross is author of The Balance Manual. He teaches 50s-and-over at Loyola.

His tips:

Check your footwear. Time for some with more traction?

Keep a shovel and salt in the house. If you have to walk over ice to the garage, well, that's silly.

Check your railings. Are they going to support you in free fall?

Bring a phone when you leave the house. Always.

Slow down.

Ask for help--if you need to hold onto someone, it could be a person. Ask!

Try to keep your legs strong.

Stuff happens. Please be safe.

I have not only unreliable knees, but bad vision--so I am a mess. I take it slow and try to be mindful. Of course, I look like I am a hundred.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How your innards influence your brain

I know for sure this is TMI, but I have "problem innards"--pain, this, that--I guess they call it Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I get sick of being doubled over, take an Imodium, then face the opposite problem and on it goes.

If I open email and something has gone awry--bam! Stomach ache--in seconds.

Now, a prof named Sian Beilock, Univ of Chicago, says the mind-gut connection works both directions. Yes, stress can ick up your insides, but icky insides can also change the way your brain works.

Her book is called How the Body Knows Its Mind.

She is not so much about the gut to brain connection (although there is new evidence on how flora in the intestines can influence the brain), but she goes into how moving the body can affect the brain,

She translates this into letting babies crawl around without a diaper, and begins to lose me...

She also goes into kids who practice the piano--the finger movements make them better at math, she says.

Here are some tips for making this connection work for you:

Stuck on a problem--take a break and move around.

Stand tall--smile.

Write it out--in a journal.

Spend time in nature.

Little things can have a big effect.

I feel like that about lunch!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Tylenol is not like Tic Tacs

No no no, you dope!

Just because they give acetaminophen to babies does not mean it's a harmless painkiller. It should never be used as a cure-all, according to liver experts at University of Texas Dallas Southwestern Medical Center.

William Lee, MD, director of liver diseases there, says it's easy to lose track of the stuff when you take it for pain and it's also contained in cold medicine and other preparations.

Even if you read labels--did you know APAP is acetaminophen?

Too much of the stuff in your system over an extended period can cause liver damage, failure, even death.

More than 200 people a year die of this--and another 15,000 end up in ERs.

So here's the deal:

The average adult should take the equivalent of eight extra-strength tabs or less--3000-4000 mg a day.

For those who drink regularly or have heptatis--this goes down to 2000-3000 mg a day.

Check the Nyquil and all that stuff, too, if you take this daily for arthritis pain like I do--six a day for me.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Here's a hot flash--people sign up for gyms in Jan.

I am not big on the diet-workout frenzy that comes every January. But here are some practical ways to make that gym membership economical.

First, be sure the gym is a good fit. Check out the classes, the crowdedness, and the crowd (if you are a weekend workout buff, a serious bodybuilding or boxing place might not be for you).

Most offer a free week--take advantage of this. Do not give in and sign up after a day or two--use the full trial period.

Try haggling. Sales people have some leeway to bargain. Try for a lower monthly rate and waiver of the initiation fee. Ask for the first month free, more guest passes, extra personal training, free towels, or discounts on child care or spa services.

If you sometimes work out out of doors, a punch pass may be more economical.

Try to get as short a commitment as you can. Try for month-to month.

"Family" can sometimes mean non-blood relatives--sign up with friends.

Look for coupons--Groupon, CouponSherpa, etc.

Check for discounts under your Costco or other warehouse membership.

Look for a variety of classes--yoga, cycling, Pilates, and change up.

Personal training is great but can get expensive--see if you can split it with a friend at the same level of fitness.

Use phone apps to "remind" you to go. Sixty-seven percent of those who sign up, never go.

What a waste of money!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

You can't just eat anything you want during Super Bowl

You have probably noticed I am not all about diets. I have tried them all and the flab wandered around then found me again.

These dietitians on news shows and in print are, to my mind, little self-righteous goody-two-shoes--with their foaming hatred of sugar and fat and pinched haggard faces.

But, of course, I must at least mention some "healthy" choices for your Super Bowl Party. For one thing, these stories are popular with you readers, if not with your blogger.

These come from Jo Ann Carson, a registered dietitian at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

She focuses on people with diabetes--if you think the party will be carb-heavy, bring your own food. Sure. Everyone will do that.


Salad items with low-cal dressings
Water, unsweetned tea, coffee, diet soda
Grilled fish or skinless chicken
Non-fat cheeses, yogurt, skim milk

Whole grain bread, crackers, pasta, rice
Beans and legumes

Cookies, pies, candy
Chips, fatty dips, high fat crackers
Regular soda, booze

OK, pretty standard preaching so far.

How about some suggested substitutions?

Taco salad bowls instead of burgers
Lean ground turkey instead of cold cuts
Subs with lots of salady fixings
Grilled veggies


Baked chips
Low-fat sour cream or yogurt dips
Thin crust veggie pizza
Baked skinless chicken wings
Meatless chili
Vinegar based BBQ sauce

Thin crust veggie pizza sounds OK...

Still, I should not have said "pinched haggard faces."

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Have an elderly neighbor?

Bitter cold, slippery steps, glazed sidewalks--many times in winter, older people don't dare venture out--and if their heat fails or they fall, it can be dire.

You can keep an eye on the place--are the walks shoveled, the lights on?

Debbie Jansky, assistant manager of Gottleib Home Health & Hospice, says people who live alone may be too proud to ask for some help. You need to offer.

Her staff often finds homebound people at the window waiting for a friendly face.

You just can't take for granted that all is well, one nurse said. Older people can take too many of a pill and get dizzy or trip over a pet.

You, as the younger, healthier person, should exchange numbers with a nearby older person.

Offer to bring groceries if you are going to the store.

Sit and visit when you bring things.

What else can you think of? Getting the mail, shoveling, a daily check-in?

Remember, if you are lucky enough to get "old," this is good karma.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Steps to take to make your surgery safer

Anesthesia is a somewhat mysterious situation--and can be tricky. Yet, modern technology has made being rendered unconscious to the point where even pain will not rouse you and you can't breathe on your own, safer than ever.

According to J.P. Abenstein, MD, president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, most people are unaware of the crucial role of the anesthesiologist and how to interact with this practitioner to make surgery even safer.

Abenstein urges patients to meet with their anesthesiologist and share all information about lifestyle, health, family history and even their fears.

There will be anesthesia care plan--supervised by a physician specializing in anesthesia, pain, and critical care medicine--or there should be.

You need to meet with this person--and I think they mean besides the brief confab outside the operating room door, where the anesthesiologist says you won't feel a thing and pats your arm. This should be about diabetes, smoking, lung problems, kidney disease, allergies, the over-the-counter things you take, supplements, vitamins, Are you sedentary, how far can you walk...Have you or anyone in you family had a bad experience.

They should ask if you are afraid. They should discuss your recovery, where the anesthesia team will continue to take care of you.

Well, this sounds pretty utopian to me! I have never had this conversation--and I have had pretty bad anesthesia. Also you should know that your breathing will be stopped and monitored by the doctor--that is scary.

Can you insist on this level of care? I honestly don't know. But if I ever succumb to surgery again, I will try!

Also--I once had a partially completed colonoscopy--they told me in advance they would discuss it with me while I was still groggy--how stupid is that?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Migraine sufferers registry

Migraine headaches afflict 36 million Americans. I know people who lie in a dark room for 2 days or near the toilet with their cheek on the cold bathroom tile floor. Miserable!

The World Health Organization says migraines are the third most prevalent health disorder in the world.

Yet, headache research is underfunded--only one class of drugs has been developed in the last 30 years.

Now, the American Migraine Foundation is creating the first Migraine Patient Registry and Biorepository.  This will be an international database of every person with migraine, along with saliva, blood, and other genetic fluids--and brain images.

Senator John McCain's wife Cindy is behind the funding campaign--they hope to raise $36 million for this.

This data, described as a "treasure trove," will be used for research. Similar repositories exist for Parkinson's, epilepsy, Alzheimer's and other disorders.

To find out more, go to
Maybe you can be a part of this if you suffer from this dreadful condition.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Majority of parents face carseats to the front too early

The rule is--face the child backwards until age 2 or if the child has outgrown the weight/height limits of the seat.

But, according to a University of Michigan poll, a fourth of parents turned the kids before age 1.

In 2011, a third of 1-4 year olds had been turned to face front at or before 12 months. Just 16% of parents waited.

Motor vehicle collisions are a leading cause of death among children under 4 years. This is because kids are either completely unrestrained or do not use the method for their age.

If you have kids, you know why parents turn them--in order to see what they are up to, are they asleep, did they throwup. It is also easier to pluck them out of a forward-facing seat.

But this might be an unnecessary risk...Think about it.

And if you are plopping kids in the seat with just a regular seat belt--you really need to change your ways.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

College students are flu factories

Beware, college students--and faculty and university employees. As students return from winter break, they are bringing viruses from everyplace with them. This according to Stacey A. Gorski, PhD, a biology prof at University of the Sciences in Philly.

The flu vaccine is proving less effective than hoped--the guess as to what strains will appear isa always a crapshoot. But doctors insist it is still important to get the shot--it does protect against some stuff going around.

Also there are some bad stomach viruses raging in various parts of the country.

The bitter weather in many places is also helping viruses spread.

Colleges are breeding grounds--kids stay up late, weaken their immunity, bring in microbes from around the country or even the globe, and well...swap spit with some frequency.

It is important for kids to wash hands at least before meals--often they eat finger food like hot dogs and burgers. Soap and water works best, sanitizer is second.

Clean doorknobs, phones, keyboards, anyplace people touch with disinfectant wipes.

Germs and viruses can be transmitted even before a person gets symptoms or after they feel better. Keep a few feet of distance around you.

No sharing spoonfuls, straws, or, alas, saliva--at least until it gets warmer.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Even cavemen did not eat the Paleo Diet

In an article in the Natural Standard, we learn that the Paleolithic age--or Old Stone Age--was about 2.5 million years ago to about 10,000 years ago, ending when stone tools began to be used to deliberately grow food, not just whack it on the head and take it home.

In the Paleo Diet, as described in countless books, up to 40% of the calories are from meat and fish, with the remaining being unsaturated fat, fruits, and veggies. Grains, legumes, dairy, potatoes, and refined sugar, salt and oils--generally excluded.

Recently, in the Quarterly Review of Biology, though, researchers say early hominids did not follow any given regimen--they lived in various areas and ate what they found there. In the northern climates, this might be more animal-based, in the southern, more plant based.

OK, this is interesting, but is it significant? We live in various habitats now and can focus on Moon Pies or lobster, depending.

Is a primarily animal, protein-based diet best just because cave folk scarfed it? Is dairy bad because cave mothers did not have milking cows?

I tend to be skeptical. I think throughout, men have been omnivores--eating pretty much anything that tasted OK and did not kill them.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Looking cool can be stupid

With arctic blasts screaming through almost daily in some parts of the country, yoga pants, shorts, baseball caps, and sandals (even with socks) can be bad for your health and body parts.

I am writing this in shorts, with a blanket on my legs--but I am in AZ, where cold means maybe 45 degrees outside.

We all need to listen to Arthur Sanford, MD, a burn specialist at Loyola. Frostbite starts at the furthest extremities from the heart--fingers, toes, nose, ear tips... To preserve body temp, these areas start to constrict and the tissue starts to die--eek.

He has treated all sorts of frostbite victims--a kid wearing tennies that got wet and froze, a teenaged girl with cotton leggings. An old lady who goes for the mail, slips, and lies there.


Dress in layers. If a sweater or pair of socks gets wet, you have an alternative.

Weat a hat, gloves, and proper footwear. Texting gloves may look cool, but better to use a "fat" gloved finger to text, than to not have that finger.

Stay dry--you don't want trench foot (scroll down).

And hats--you may get hat hair, but you will still have ear tips!

Monday, January 05, 2015

Women, synch quitting smoking to your period

A researcher at the Univ of Montreal has studied the female cycle and shown that the uncontrollable urges to smoke are stronger at the beginning of the follicular phase--right after menstruation. Estrogen and progesterone deepen withdrawal symptoms, she theorizes.

They worked with 34 men and women who smoked more than 15 cigs a day. The subjects filled out questionnaires and underwent MRI brain scans while they looked at neutral pix or pix designed to make them want to smoke.

The women were scanned twice--at the beginning of the follicular stage and later in the cycle, the luteal phase.

Women have a harder time quitting than men--even when they smoke the same amount. Among young people, tobacco use by women is on the increase. The scientists think stress, anxiety and depression have a lot to do with it.

So instead of vive la differenace--we have darn that differance.

What does this mean in terms of timing cessation? I would say maybe not stop right after your period. The researchers offered no advice on this.