Friday, May 29, 2015

Hip hop and mental health--not what you'd expect

There is a group in Britain called Hip-Hop Psych, which tackles mental health issues through the music of hip hop. They published a paper in Lancet Psychiatry. (Medical News Today, written by David McNamee)

Kendrick Lamar is a rapper from Compton, CA, who has released three albums since 2011. His "To Pimp a Butterfly" is the number one album of 2015 so far.

The group contends that hip hop lyrics go beyond swearing, money lust, and exploitation of women.

Instead, the music is rich with mental health references to addiction, psychosis, conduct disorder, borderline personality disorder, bipolarity, and other ailments.

They cite a Lamar song called "Swimming Pools," about Lamar's hard-drinking grandfather--citing genetic and environmental risk factors for alcoholism.

Another song, called "i," addresses Lamar's belief in God and how this has helped him overcome traumatic circumstances.

So maybe "the kids" won't see a psychiatrist or pick up a psych book, but they might get a different viewpoint from a song.

We have a lot of hip hop playing around here--some of it is very unimaginative in the cursing and dumbed-down words, but it is also catchy...and there may be a message in there someplace.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Wow--just realized I am a shut-in

 I used to run a group for people who worked at home--I ironically called it The Shut-Ins. Now, I realize, I am not so ironically, a real shut-in. We have no car, my mobility is limited, the cabs are those stupid Prius things you can't get in.

I am a grease spot on the sidewalk of life. And I am not alone.

A recent study from Johns Hopkins, published in the J of American Medical Assn, said shut-ins are nearly invisible.

The homebound population is 50% larger than the population in nursing homes. Only 11% get medical care at home--the rest receive next to none or none.

I HAVE been wondering how I can get to the doctor in Sept to get my meds renewed.

Completely homebound people tend to be older, female, non-white and have less education that non-homebound people. Usually they have been hospitalized in the last year.  

Medicare defines homebound by a number of criteria. The Hopkins people are behind an intervention called CAPABLE--for Community Aging in Place, Advancing Better Living fro Elders.

I am not quite to that point-my daughter lives here. But things can change. If you know someone living alone, check  in sometimes.

There was a terrible story on the news about a man released from cancer treatment in the hospital who called the police and said could someone bring me a sandwich--I can't get out of this "damned chair." The dispatcher brought him a bag of groceries on her own dime and now he has visiting nurse checkins. Still--awful story.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Can it be--not all women love the skinny models

I think there may be a gradual sea change happening as we become more well upholstered, shall we say?

Some men want to date models, with their coathanger ranginess, but others are more into the Kardashian backporch and curves.

Baylor did a study--A marketing professor there, James Robertsm, PhD, did a study with his daughter, Chloe, a freshman at the Univ of Alabama. It's called "Does Thin Always Sell?"

Advertisers, Roberts says, buy into the thin thing without really looking at other options.

The women in the study were polled as to whether they considered thin to be the "ideal."

Twenty-five percent disagreed with the thin ideal concept, and 45% did not fully subscribe to it.

Then they were shown purse ads--with thin and fleshier models. To those who did not consider thin to be the fallback, model size did not affect the effectiveness of the ad.

They concluded in many cases and with many products an "average size" model might be more effective.

Uh-oh--what is average size? I do look at models in say, Marie Claire, and think, those stork legs, really? Almost deformed.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Most dog bites come from family pets

I am actively thinking about getting another dog. I fear tripping, vet bills, trying to get rides to vets, paying the vet who comes to you, etc.

I was not really thinking of getting bitten--although my daughter was once savaged by a pitbull--19 stitches (don't bother writing me that it was the owner, not the dog).

Study in the J of Pediatric Surgery showed that more than 50% of dog bites at Phoenix Children's Hospital were from dogs owned by an immediate family member.

They looked at a 74-mo period between 2007 and 2013--670 dog bites at the hospital. Of this, 282 were severe enough to require a look by a trauma team. Sixty percent required an operation.

Both genders were bitten--but males slightly more often (55%).

The most common patient age was five--but as young as 2.5 years.

28 dog breeds wered involved--most common, pits.

The most common injuries were lacerations on the face, but there were also fractures and injuries to private parts.

They think familiarity with the animal confers a false sense of safety.

--Never leave infants or young children alone with a dog.

--Make sure all dogs in the home are spayed or neutered.

--Train and socialize your pets.

--Keep dogs mentally stimulated--play with them and walk them.

--Teach children appropriate ways to play--not grabbing the dog's food, for instance, or teasing it with food or pulling fur.

My daughter was in her twenties when a friend's pitbull did not want her to nuzzle it and tried to tear off her upper lip.

I am going on Craigs a lot--you would be surprised how many listings say, not good with cats, has to be only pet, not for young children, very energetic, and so on.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Want to look laser sharp this summer?

It's almost bikini time--or maybe tank top time anyway. This means laser treatments for permanent hair removal for some, says Jayme Bashian, director of Simply Posh Aesthetic Spa.

She says laser is more effective, less time-consuming, and less painful than creams, shaving, waxing, and tweezing.

Here is how it works. A low-energy laser directs light to the target area. The heat is absorbed by the pigment (melanin) in the bulb of each hair follicle. This damages the follicle so it can't grow.  Since dark colors of hair, brown or black, absorb laser light better, this works better on darker hair.

Supposedly this is permanent, although some ligher, finer hair may find its way back. Between three and eight treatments several weeks apart may be needed to get hairs in all stages of growth.

You need to avoid plucking, waxing, and electrolysis as well as sun exposure a few weeks before and after treatment.

During the treatment, a cooling gel may be applied. You may not feel anything but that. The laser is applied several minutes to the upper lip and larger areas.

There may be some redness or swelling for a few hours--apply more lotion. In a couple of weeks, the treated hairs fall out.

Of course, this might not go so smoothly if done by some amateur--you need to be sure it's under the supervision of a properly trained and experienced doctor.

Read that last sentence again. Thank you.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Do not carry your own golf bag

Doctor's orders! Spine expert Kaixuan Liu, MD, founder and president of the Atlantic Spine Center, warms golfers about three routes to back trouble.

The lower back is by far the most common site of injury among golfers--a 2007 study showed that a third of amateur golfers have suffered lower back injuries.

This is not a "low risk" sport when it comes to your back.

Three main injuries:

Muscle strains and sprains. Usually resolve in 2-4 weeks.

Disc injury. These are the shock absorbers between the vertabrae--tear these and you have trouble and pain in the back and legs.

Degenerative arthritis.Joints in the lower back can be worn down from years of use. Swinging a golf club makes this happen in the lower back.

What can you do--or not do?

DO warm up.  Slowly stretch the torso, shoulders, and hamstrings. Do you spend more than 10 mins doing this? You should.

DON'T carry your own bag. Shell out for a caddy or a cart. Golfers who carry their own bags have twice the  injuries.

DO get help with your swing. Hire a pro--if only for a short consultation.

Best advice? Don;t start playing again too soon after an  injury. Make sure it's really resolved.

And take those preventive measures--warming up, the cart, the caddy, the pro.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Are you a sunscreen scorner?

Too late--you dope.
See that big fusion reactor in the sky--it is spewing radioactivity on you that can cause cancer.

Yet, in a new study in the J of Am Acad of Derm, a majority of Americans do not regularly use sunscreen--I mean, radioactivity screen.

Guilty--I am one. I hardly go outside with these knees, but I should and do know better.

Women--42.6%--are more likely to use sunscreen on their face--yeah, for WRINKLE PREVENTION. Only 34.4% use it on the rest of their bodies everyday.  About 18.1% of men use it on their face, 19.9% on other exposed skin.

Men are more likely that women to NEVER use it. Forty-three percent of men say they don't. That figure is 27% for women.

Some people complain the SPF thing is "too hard." It's easy--use broad-spectrum SPF 30.

Apply it at least 15 mins before going in the sun.

Use enough for you whole body--maybe an ounce! Ears, scalp, tops of feet and legs.

Get help with smearing it on your back.

Reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating.


Stay in the shade between 10 am and 2 pm.

Wear protective clothing and hat.

Be extra lubed up around water or snow.

To look "tan," use a self-tanner with sunscreen.

OK--it does sound a little "hard." But I know a woman who just--much to her relief--had a clean checkup from a past melanoma. This is not a joke.

Of course, you also manufacture Vitamin D from being in the sun 20 mins a day without protection.

So this is a double-edged sword...You'll figure it out. Summer's on the way.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Misunderstandings about miscarriages

Full disclosure: I had two miscarriages before bringing my daughter to term. I still think about those embryos--both around 8 weeks--all these years later.

A study done by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University and the Montefiore Health System show that feelings of guilt and shame are common after a miscarriage and that most people think "misses" are rare. (J of Obstetrics & Gynecology)

Nearly one million miscarriages occur in the US each year. This is one in four pregnancies. Most people thought maybe 6%--it was 25%.

They did a 33-item survey--crowdsourced in the internet. Each participant got 25 cents. Participants numbered 1,084--over 3 days in 2013--45% men, 55% women. Fifteen percent had suffered a miss or their partner had.

--22% thought smoking, drinking, or drugs caused it--60% are caused by genetic problems. Or the structure of the uterus may be at fault, endocrine disorders, or autoimmune issues. Lower educated or men tended to blame lifestyle choices more.

--28% said celebrities talking about their miscarriages eased their feeling of isolation..46% felt less alone if friends had shared.

--Almost three-quarters felt stress might be at fault or lifting heavy objects or an STD or IUD, even past use of oral birth control. Incorrect.

--47% reported feeling guilty, 41% of feeling alone. Fewer than half said they got good support from the medical community.

An overwhelming majority wanted to know the cause and how another could be prevented.

This should not have a stigma, the doctors said--there are some tests to find out what went wrong.

After two misses, I asked should I continue. Finally, I was put on progesterone to make the uterine lining spongier and more likely to hang onto the embryonic sac trying to adhere...And it worked. But every patient is different.

May I add one other thing. Many women feel bad because they had some drinks before they even knew they were pregnant. Yes, it's better to not drink steadily in a pregnancy--but look at our mothers--they drank two cocktails a night and had healthy babies. This cannot be the huge bugaboo they would have us believe.

And it certainly is not flushing babies from the womb right and left.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Everything you ever wanted to know about olive oil

First, it's yuh-um!

According to the Institute of Food Technologists, the olive tree is native to the Mediterranean basin--oil was produced as early as 4000 years BC.

Olive oil is not only a food, but medicine, lamp fuel, soap and skin softener.

Olives are shaken out of the trees with special vibrations.

Spain is the largest olive oil producer--followed by Italy and Greece. It is also produced in AZ, TX, GA, FL, OR, and HI.

A range of types of olives are used to produce oils of different flavors.

The term"virgin" means produced with no chemicals.

Extra virgin is the highest quality--followed by virgin, refined, and olive pomace oil.

Pomace and vegetative water--coproducts of production--are being explored as foods and cosmetic ingredients.

A while back, I was invited on a press trip to Majorca off the coast of Spain to a conference on olive oil. The dinners and buffets featured a staggering array of olives of every type. Platter after platter--every color imaginable.

Consuming the polyphenols and other factors in olive oil has been credited with helping prevent breast and other cancers.

This is making me hungry.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Those limp handshakes--say goodbye?

Some days I just feel cynical. I think what seemingly wacky stuff am I supposed to believe today?

Here comes your diagnosis.
The latest is the contention that the strength of your handshake is a reliable predictor of general health and the likelihood of dying.

Nice to meet ya---arg!

Larry Husten writes about this on

In what he describes as a large, global study (140,000 adults in 17 countries), people's hand grips were measured and then they were followed for four years.

As the tightness of the grip lessened, the chance of dying increased.

This was considered a more reliable indicator of death than systolic blood pressure.

One scientist even said flat out, "There can be no doubt that grip strength predicts all-cause mortality."

Isn't all-cause mortality--you know--100%?

Yes, it could mean you are getting weaker... Or maybe you just don't want to squeeze your painful arthritic finger joints--or you don't think it's polite to crush people's hands...whatever.

If a doctor shakes your hand and then says, Uh-oh, get worried, I guess. I get worried if they EVER say uh-oh.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

No no no!

According to Chris Weller, Medical News Today, a new study in Psychopharmacology has pinpointed a new street drug called FLAKKA (alpha-PVP) as the deadliest stuff around--worse than "bath salts," even.

It's more addictive than meth. It can make you strip off your clothes without a thought, attack police stations, be so aggressive someone shoots you, hallucinate--all the usual fun things people take drugs for.

They got some hapless rats on the stuff and made them push a lever to get some--the rodents pressed hundreds of times to get a tiny dose. This was right up there with bath salts.

And it's cheap, drug fans. Five bucks!

This crap is mostly in South Florida, but it's seeping out.

Flakka was banned temporarily in 2014. Bath salts in 2011.

Can we go over this again--the brain you have now is the one you will need the rest of your life. Don't ruin it or you will be sorry. If you can even think enough to BE sorry.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Those walking aids probably won't make you fall

That dog could be a falling hazard, though.
I have bad knees--am not getting into any more surgical extravaganzas since my 4-operation eye debacle--and everyone is trying to get me to get a walker.

I do gimp around and am pretty housebound. But I just hold onto the walls--or use them as a guide on my blind side to keep me upright.

My friends actually get mad--get a walker, get a walker.... I, ever the charmer, say bite me.

In the last decade older people have increased their use of walking aids--canes, wheelchairs, scooters, walkers--by 50%.

Some previous research seemed to show that there was a correlation between use of these devices and falling. Falling is the leading cause of death among adults 65 or older!

They looked into this at the Univ of Vermont and published findings in the J of Am Geriatrics Soc.

No link.

Why do older people still rely on these devices--that is another question. The Univ of Vermont people think it's because of increased acceptance and people living longer. Or maybe more senility or obesity leading to more falling.

More than nine percent of the aged population also rely on more than one device. More than 16% of seniors use a cane, 11.% use walkers, 6.1% use wheelchairs, and 2.3% rely on scooters.

Still, exercise and mobility are key to not falling. Cane users, in particular, still have a great fear of falling.

The upshot? For now, I like my walls. I am deathly afraid of breaking something--I am tentative, gingerly.  And I try to be ever-vigilant. I even say out loud, "Mindful, mindful" when getting out of the shower.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Dr Google can make you nuts

DIY Medicine, via Google, breeds hypochondria, according to Chris Weller, writing about a paper on the effectiveness of search engines in finding medical diagnosis info (37th European Conference on Information Retrieval, 2015).

Don't I know it. Although I try to think through and vet the info I offer here, often I skid right onto the Google and scare myself to death!

My toe started hurting in the night. Gout! I bet! Wait--stress fracture? Does that look discolored (sorry, bad eyesight, don't know). OMG--I once knew someone who had a toe amputated--can you walk without a big toe? On and on.

Most people's first thought when they get an ache or twinge is not to call the doctor. It's to turn on the computer. Five billion searches a month are about health...and sadly...Dr Google turns out to be a quack.

If you already have a diagnosis, though, the search engine can help you find super specialists and detailed info.

If you don't get a clear diagnosis after one search, an expert says, you may do another. And another.

This results in cyberchondria.

Not helping--the algorithms---pages about brain cancer get more hits so users are driven to them.

Eeek. Help.

Wait--my toe feels a little better. Never mind.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Seriously--you may need dirtier food

The other night on the panel show THE FIVE on Fox, the talkers were saying oh, noes, they would never eat an insect.

First, there is now cricket flour available--yes, in the US, on Amazon even. And federal regs also allow a certain number of bug parts in some foods.

Yet, since the 1990s, cases of food-borne illnesses remain high.

Some scientists think our food is now TOO clean!

Those sanitizers, antibacterial veggie washes, and red hot dishwashers may be killing off good bacteria that bolster health. And eliminating so much bad stuff may impair our building up of immunity to it.

This according to a story in the NYT, May 10, 2015.

There is a line there between clean enough and too clean, one authority said--we just don't  know where it is.

We may be damaging our microbiome--fancy speak for the bacteria, viruses, fungi, mites, and other passengers that live in our bodies.

This means the immune system is raring for a fight--the theory goes--and may attack body tissues when it can't find anything else to attack.

Zap--asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and IBS!

So bring on the Cricket Burgers and don't bother washing that kale.  Remember mud pies--those were delish!

Friday, May 08, 2015

What you should eat--just ask an actress

You do have organs to do this.
Julia Belluz wrote a story on celebrity health advice. She notes upfront that we will probably be healthier if we exercise, don't smoke, eat a variety of whole foods (not to much of them) and watch the booze and sun exposure.

But this is apparently so simple--people want harder, weirder and more complicated advice--such as actress Gwyneth Paltrow's recent vagina steaming guidelines.

Or ways to "detox" with weird juices. Or with maple syrup. (Your kidneys, liver, and immune system also do this.)

Another one is swishing coconut oil in your mouth to whiten teeth and draw out impurities from the entire body. I tried this--20 mins of swishing goes crazy slowly.

There is now a book out by Timothy Caulfield called, Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?

Hope they don't write one of those about me! But I digress.

Apparently Gwyneth is ignoring this dude.

Still--he insists there is no science behind detoxing, a big Gollywood craze right now.

But why do people follow celebs in this area? They just do, Caulfield says. Case in point--wanting a BIGGER rear end because a certain Kardashian has one.

Are people pushing back. He says maybe a little--Dr Oz took some heat and some of the anti-vaccine people are being ridiculed.

But--when Angelina Jolie had both breasts removed, along with her ovaries, in the wake of testing that showed her at increased risk of those cancers--she was mild about it--but genetic testing spiked up as did prophylactic surgeries of this sort.

Those are big surgeries--and long-term gambles.

A lot of celebrity advice centers on short-term goals such as getting a bikini body by June.

Better to just try to be healthier. Swimming is good--bikini or not.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

If you think life in the US is all rainbows--we have fire ants!

I have many foreign readers and lest you guys think it's all flat screens and cheeseburgers, let me introduce you to fire ants.

I live in the Sonoran Desert and I can be sitting at my computer and suddenly I get a screamingly painful nip on my bare foot--then another, then another. I look down--fire ants everyplace!

How do they get in? The tiniest crack, maybe even at ceiling level... Bam!

I quickly grab the Amdro--some crumbs I sprinkle everywhere--then all day, the ants carry this off to their evil nest and wipe out themselves and their pals--until the next time. Literally a cup of crumbs on the floor will disappear. No noxious sprays to alter your DNA...just the crumbs.

Now, some researchers at Mississippi State has confirmed what Arizonans already know--these ants are a menace!

The venom can be very deadly to the allergic--and this includes pets as well as children.

You need to treat bites in these people immediately.

Best, though, is to treat your yard if you harbor these insects.

Control products for yards are relatively safe if you follow directions--and this includes looking at the re-entry interval--REI. Some of the older remedies make you keep everyone out of the yard for many hours--Amdro says it's OK to re-enter immediately.

Remember--your yard may contain 50 to 200 mounds per acre.

The only problem is that crumbs often have sugar--to attract the ants--but this also attracts pets. And children. So store all products carefully.

Amdro, I love you so.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Treadmills may be riskiest workout machine

Everyone is sad about the death of Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg's 47-yr-old husband, David Goldberg, in a gym in a resort in Mexico.

Apparently, he was in the hotel gym alone for many hours and was found on the verge of death when someone wondered where he was.

Although motorized treadmills are considered tricky, there were only 30 reported deaths from them between 2003 and 2012 (US Consumer Product Safety Commission).

Injuries are far more common, according to a story in the NYT by Sabrina Tavernise, May 5, 2015.

In 2014, there were almost 25,000 injuries from treadmills that rose to the ER level. This is a pretty big percentage of all injuries from exercise equipment--62,700.

One physician quotes said he had seen a man thrown off by using a treadmill for the first time and setting it to go too fast. The guy was really banged up.

But it is also true that exercise can cause heart problems to surface. Mr. Goldberg had a small gash on the back of his head---if he had lost his footing, would it not be in the front as his feet went out from under him and he went down face first?

Heart problems account for 80% of sudden deaths during exercise.

Apparently no autopsy was done--and we may never know in Mr. Goldberg's case. According to all accounts he was an upstanding person and many, many people liked, respected, and will miss him.

Any lessons here? Well, maybe get a checkup before starting a rigorous program.

Have someone (trainer) check you out on all the machines.

And maybe don't exercise alone--this, of course, would eliminate home exercising--your call.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Guidelines for managing a community garden

I remember when I lived in Wash DC, there were pretty large community gardens dotted around town. On Saturday, you could see people dragging hoses to their little plots, chatting, and generally having a great time.

There seems to be a little farmer in most people.

But growing communally, especially in dirty cities, can present health issues.

Now some researchers at the Univ of North Carolina have developed some guidelines for preventing unsafe practices.

Enter this in your browser...

For one thing, gardening means working with your hands--and unwashed hands can tranfer E. coli and other baddies to food. Since people gardening know they are not applying pesticides, they may not wash food thoroughly. So it's best to wash your hands before harvesting produce.

The researchers also wondered if these guidelines would alter behavior. They looked at 20 gardens--and even gave them hand soap to address the above issue.

Significant improvement was found not only in handwashing, but in assessing previous contamination of the ground and checking the safety of the water supply.

Now the scientists are considering other methods of education--such as webinars and YouTube videos--to see if additional improvements can be achieved.

Glad they are looking out.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Money still huge issue when it comes to health plans

The other day, I filled my 3-mo prescriptions for three generic blood pressure meds, and my Medicare HMO paid...15 cents of the $30!

Gee, that was helpful.

But even those who are supposedly basking in the fantastic Obamacare plans are trying to find ways to cut costs.

For one thing, there seems to be a trend to accept smaller networks and more limited choice of doctors in exchange for lower rates.

Half the plans offered on the public health care networks are "narrow network."

A fifth are "ultranarrow."

Employers also tend to like these.

The plans ask a small group of docs and hospitals to sign on--and promise them the bulk of the patients in exchange for discounted rates.

If you go to a doctor or place outside the network--you may have to pay the freight.

This was all intended, says a spokeswoman for Georgetown's Univ's Center on Health Insurance Reforms.

Consumer advocates continue to push for clearer explanations about who is "in plan" and who is not.

When you get sick or hurt is not the time to try to figure this out.

My personal issue is that I have been through so many providers in my little area--for one reason or another, I do not go back. I have had eight cardiologists, for example. All objectionable. So now I have none.

I  know--I am noncompliant and picky. But every time I find someone I can work with--bam, they are out of network!

Friday, May 01, 2015

Older people often come out of hospital in worse shape

One in three people over 70, admitted to the hospital with acute conditions such as pneumonia, are discharged in a state of functional decline. Walk in--leave in a wheelchair and probably an adult diaper.

Some researchers at the University of Haifa (J of American Geriatrics Soc) looked into this. They cited a hypothetical case of a 78-yr-old man, able to walk, eat, and use the bathroom, who was admitted for 3-4 days for a heart arrhythmia and left needing a cane and soiling himself.

What was it about hospitalization that was causing this?  They looked at 900 cases of people who did not go to the hospital for loss of functioning. That came from the hospital stay.

A third left with reduced functioning and almost half of those reported reduced functioning a month after leaving.

A big factor in this--they found--was the patients' lack of mobility in the hospital. Patients think they are so sick they have to stay in bed--they don't get up and walk around the room or the halls. Half the patients never even left their room!

Another factor was unnecessary use of catheters and diapers for urination, use of sleep medications, and inadequate nutrition. People were not hungry or did not like the food. Or they had to fast for this test or that one. Sixty percent did not get their daily recommended intake!

The most important recommendation was to stay mobile--walk. Remember that when you have an elderly relative in the hospital. Or if you are hospitalized, push to get up.

Also--I know from my mother's experience--that they are pretty quick to catheterize people--it's easier for them but bad for the patient. Besides not making people get up and walk to the bathroom, catheters can cause infections.