Friday, December 30, 2016

Weird theory of why we misjudge time for a task

Something as random as the length of a song can mean misjudging the time it will take to do something.

According to a study in the J of Experimental Psychology, people also base the time they think they will need to do something on how long it took them to do it before.

However--outside influences, such as background music, can throw that off.

Say you are running--the number of songs that play in your headphones can cause you to over or understimate how long you ran.

How long something will take is called--prospective memory. Is that an oxymoron?

Some researchers at Arts & Sciences tried to see the difference between young and old people in this respect. They gathered 36 college undergrads and 34 healthy adults in their-60s-80s.

First they were asked to estimate how long a trivia test had lasted--it was 11 minutes for all.  Some did the test with no background noise, the others heard either two long songs or four short songs.

Later, the participants were asked to put together as much of a puzzle as they could in 20 minutes--again no clock.

Both ages groups completed future tasks on time at the same rate--but the older adults reported ignoring the songs and relying on their internal clock. Seniors underestimated on the first test and ran long on the second.

The younger adults who heard two long songs performed like the older adults. But for younger people, the music played a big role in being early or late.

In other words, the tricks we use to stay on time vary as we age.

The researchers also concluded that checking a clock, if one is available, is better than relying on a feeling about elapsed time.


Also, they say good news for older adults--the ability to do complex time-related tasks may be preserved into old age.

I believe they call this experience on other planets.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

How about a medication checkup next year?

I take three prescriptions for blood pressure and two vitamins (for diagnosed deficiency), and several other nostrums. I have to stagger them throughout the day or get nauseated.

Milta Little, DO, associate professor of geriatrics at Saint Louis University, recommends that people over 65 have their doctors go over their meds (many of which may come from other doctors).

Older people metabolize meds differently than younger ones (I have heard that older people should not take timed-release preparations--they don't break down as designed).

"Drugs may not play well with each other," Little says. This includes over-the-counter stuff.

Little says as a geriatrician, she thinks six prescriptions are too many--and stats show that those taking more than 10 have a higher mortality rate.

When Little goes over a patient's meds, she asks herself:

--How old is the patient? A "good" blood pressure for a younger person is 120/80. But for an older person, 160/90 may be OK. If drugs get the top number, the systolic, too low, say less than 130, the risk of falling is greater. Even her prescriptions for someone 90 are different than for someone 65. Over 100--she says she probably would prescribe nothing--if a person gets to 100, she says, it is probably not from anything doctors did.

How long has the person been taking the medicine? Prescriptions are not forever. For instance, there is no evidence that a 76-yr-old with high cholesterol, on a statin, should still be on it 15 years later if he or she has not had a heart attack or stroke within the year.

--Is the dosage correct? A small dose may be fine as you get older. Start low and go slow is her motto.

--What are the side effects? A drug may address one problem, but create another. Antidepressants, for example, can cause more frequent urination--which can lead to incontinence. An anti-diuretic for blood pressure can lead to or worsen gout.

Too many medicines can make you feel crappy instead of better.  Think about it. And get a doctor to go over everything.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Are you in the hospital reading this?

I don't know how many people check their sites while hospitalized, but here goes with some tips for making the most of the holidays while feeling the least festive you ever have.

First, realize you can REALLY get the blues while in the hospital--people drop by, if you're lucky, and then leave you to your little yucky world.

Still, sometimes those people are bringing therapy dogs or singging carols.

Rev Karen Schnell, director of the UCLA Health Spiritual Care Dept, there are some things you can do to celebrate:

--Ask someone to bring in a little plastic tree or Menorah.

--Have relatives or friends open gifts with you.

--Attend hospital services if you feel up to it. You could also ask a chaplain to come if you are not up to going elsewhere in the hospital.

--Send a card to someone you miss.

--And RECEIVE instead of give. People want to give--let them--you will both feel better.

Also, I might add, hospitals can be short-staffed at holiday time--be your best advocate, insist on someone coming in if you need help, don't let empty IVs beep and beep, and if an unfamiliar face is giving you drugs, ask about those drugs...engage in conversation.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Why people eat some "Christmas" foods

I love fruitcake. There, I said it! But people sneer--yes, they do.

Roger Adams, associate professor of the university archives at K-State, has studied traditional foods and says fruitcake got the bad rap because the recipes deviated from the 1487 cookbooks.

Fruitcake has become the ugly sweater of foods.

Fruitcake goes back to ancient Rome. This version was pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, and raisins in a barley mash. Barley mash--alcohol.

 The cake part was flour and eggs preserved with lard of suet. Butter becomes rancid over time.

Suparplums were an ideal treat for kids--they did not contain alcohol.

Mincemeat pies actually contained meat--as well as suet and dried fruits.

How about figgy pudding? Well, English puddings were more like cakes and contained raisins and other dried fruit (hence the figs).

Wassail is a warm punch. It was designed to be enjoyed by a warm fire.

Get out an old cookbook or get one from the library, Adams urges. Try something new--or new to you.

Oh--and feel free to send me any fruitcakes you spurn.

Friday, December 23, 2016

What does blue taste like?

Taria Camerino is a gastoral  synesthete. She experiences all five senses as taste.

If she looks at something blue, she can describe the taste of that shade--the blue oceans on a world map, she says, have a metallic taste like car keys.

No one knows how many people are synesthetes--maybe one in 5,000 has some trace of this sort of crossed wiring in the brain. For some, it means seeing a color when you hear a sound.

But Taria has deficits, too. She has no auditory or visual memory--an hour after seeing a movie, she can't remember if she saw it.

If she tries to talk about the taste of say, the 1812 Overture, she says it starts with a vibration in her chest  and spreads to the top of her head. Taste has a vibration, like sound, she thinks.

Her talent has made her a world-class chef.

Flavor perception is complicated. There are three receptors for vision--red, blue, green--but more than 1,000 for odors.

She can taste feelings--fear tastes like blood and metal, she says. Also ideas--the election was bitter but with a chemical taste like hairspray.

She plans to use her talents to explore the usually negative role taste plays in cancer treatment.

Interesting, huh?

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Safeguarding your voice during the festivities

Parties, chitchat, caroling, church choir--your voice can take a beating at this time of year.

People tend to take their voice for granted, says laryngeal surgeon Anca Barbu, MD. They expect it to be in  good working order no matter what.

Still,  it might be a good idea to take some steps:

--Stay hydrated. Vocal cords rely on moisture. Overheated homes, dry airliner air and cabin pressure, all can impair your voice.

--Plug in the humidifier. Be sure to buy a new one or thoroughly clean your old one. A cheaper option is a steamy shower.

--If you throw a party, keep the music low. If it's not your house, move closer to the person you are talking with.

--Avoid eggnog and peppermint. These two can cause more acid reflux, which affects your vocal cords. If you do eat a spicy treat, don't lie down--take a walk.

--Budget your voice. If you have upcoming choir performances, don't shout your lungs out at a football game or screech at the kids.

--Still experience throat pain or raspiness? See a voice specialist if it doesn't go away in three weeks.

I am prone to laryngitis--and I learned that even whispering when you have that is bad.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Santa--still going at 550 years old

Santa may be a bad role model, says Jennifer Caudle, DO, with the Rowan Family Medicine and an assistant professor at the Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine.

He engages, she says, in risky behavior--racing from rooftop to rooftop in cold weather without a seatbelt and sneaking into homes and gobbling treats.

But--she says--he is still active at 550 and so he must be doing something right.

Carrying all those toys, builds up muscles, she adds.

Also, Santa used to smoke a pipe--but you don't see him with it much anymore.

Sadly, she observes that Santa's BMI is still quite high. Instead of cookies, how about apples and peanut butter? (Santa has no known allergies.)

On the plus side, he and Mrs. Claus have been married for centuries--some studies show health benefits from a long marriage.

And he has pets--the reindeer--and household help.

The proof in in the um..pudding. He flies to millions of households on one night. He must have some secret.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Drugs older people should avoid

Past 50--let me assure you--your body begins to not be as reliable. You may get the occasional wibble-wobbles. Spicy food? You may regret the extra hot sauce.

And medications--those are a real problem...Older people tend to be prescribed more things--even things to help the side effects of other drugs.

Older people also tend to go along with their doctors and slam in every pill recommended.

Did you know pharmacists--who tend to chitchat with patients and get the skinny--have a black list of drugs older people should avoid?

Certain antibiotics, for example. Writing on the site NextAvenue, Patricia Corrigan details how the antibiotic doxycyline failed to stop a sinus infection, and another doctor prescribed levofloxacin (Levaquin). This drug is not recommended for those over 60--and it attacked her Achilles tendon, the pain awakening her in the night.

The American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (a former client of mine) is the only international processional society dedicated to improved health outcomes for oldies.

Here are some drugs ASCP isn't crazy about for older people:

--Bensodiazepines. This is Valium, Ativan, Xanax, and Librium. They increase confusion and risk of falling.

--Non-Benzodiazepines. These are insomnia drugs--Ambien, Sonata, Lunesta. Highly addictive and can cause sleepwalking, which in turn can be dangerous.

--Anticholinergics. Benadryl, Tylenol PM, and certain muscle relaxants. Confusion, constipation, dry mouth, blurry vision, or bloating. Cumulatively--can lead to dementia.

--Nonsteroidal anit-inflammatory drugs. Ibuprofen (Motrin),  naproxen (Aleve),  aspirin. These are tough on the kidneys and can cause stomach bleeds. For arthritis pain--Tylenol (also sparingly), physical therapy, acupuncture, swimming, or acupressure.

--Anti-psychotics. Too often these big drugs are prescribed not for significant psychosis, but for agitation or anxiety in older people. Not appropriate.

--Old drugs, Sometimes the older meds are still good, but barbiturates are rarely prescribed anymore--they are highly addictive.  You don't want to live in The Valley of  the Old Dolls.

Blood pressure meds can also lead to falls...remember those wibble-wobbles, I mentioned.

Also--watch out for ranitidine (Zantac) for heartburn. A normal dose may be 150 mg twice a day, but in an older person, the kidneys may not clear that amount.

No one should have to live with a problem caused by a drug--that is the ASCP way. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist.

I recommend taking all your pills to your doc once a year for a look-see.

I know this is drastic--but you might also want to read that info the pharmacist gives you--on side effects and dosage.

Monday, December 19, 2016

High cost of drugs

I heard about some newfangled drug for Hepatitis C that costs $90,000 for three months. I am sure there are worse examples,

It's not your imagination if you think the cost of prescription drugs is going up.

Brand name drugs, explains Lixian Zhong, PhD, assistant prof of pharmaceutical sciences at Texas A& M, "due to the high cost of development, start out expensive and then tend to go up in price every year. Combine this with other factors...and you have ballooning prices."

Still, generic drugs are actually going down--it's the averaging of brand name and generic, that brings up prices overall.

The most expensive drugs treat "orphan" diseases--those affecting fewer than 200,000 people. The fewer the potential customers, the fewer people who can buy it before the patent expires, and the less time the company has to recoup its investment.

Specialty drugs--treating complex, chronic conditions, also tend to be expensive. This includes drugs to treat Hep C, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and others.

Still, the $90,000 Hep C drug mentioned above can cure the disease--which saves even more money in hospital feesm which can cause insurance companies to look kindly on such drugs.

Experts point out that most people don't pay these sticker prices. Insurance companies and others negotiate prices with the companies.

If you need an expensive drug:

--Seek help from patient assistance programs (at pharmcos, states and non-profits).

--If you have private insurance, look for copay coupons--ask.

--Shop around--rates vary at pharmacies.

--Ask the pharmacy if they will negotiate--some will. Doesn't hurt to ask.

What a hodgepodge our system is.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Does deliciousness make you gain weight?

There is a concept going around that it is the flavor of a food that makes you eat more and thus gain weight. Say a piece of cake.

But now the famous "taste" lab Monell says that they have determined that good taste may govern what we eat, but not how much.

Researchers have long known that rodents (test rats and mice) avidly eat great-tasting human food--cookies, chips, and condensed milk--and get fat. This has led to the idea that tasty foods make you fat.

So they separated the positives of tasty food from their high sugar and fat content.

First, they established like lab mice liked food with added sweetness or oiliness--they offered rodent food and a cup of chow mixed with noncaloric sweetener. A second group got a choice of boring old chow and chow mixed with mineral oil (no cals).

Next, they got new mice and divided them in three groups. Plain chow for six weeks, chow with no-cal sweetener, and chow with mineral oil. The ones that ate sweetener or oily chow were no fatter.

The sweetener and oily groups both preferred their forms six weeks later.

Now--they say--the key is to create foods that don't have fat or sugar that are good-tasting. Supposedly they won't lead to over indulgence.

I know those low-fat cookies so popular a while back substituted sugar for fat. People ate them and got fatter.

Maybe there is no free lunch...

Also, pardon me, but don't even try to put mineral oil in cake.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

How to keep kids on track in the holiday chaos

I say they are faking it.
St Joseph's University's professor of psychology Jodi A., Mindell, PhD, reminds us (as if we need it) that kids get off schedule, overexcited, and over-sugared this time of year.

Some of her tips for dealing with this:

--Keep bedtimes and naptimes consistent, the usual sleep schedule.

--Stick with the familiar bedtime rituals..bath, story, bed, or whatever.

--Doing the routine in a special way or new location (say Grandma's) can create problems. If you want the bedtime stories beside the fireplace--this can get the kids overexcited instead of the opposite.

As for mornings (especially Christmas morning):

--Stick to the routine as much as you can.

--Set the earliest they can wake you. A nightlight on a timer can click on, cluing in the littlest ones.

What about electronics?

--If the child gets his or her first smartphone or tablet, set limits from the start--using the thing at bedtime can interfere with the normal hormone melatonin and jangle kids.

--Never use the devices for say, the bedtime story.

One way to do this is for the whole family to charge their phones OUTSIDE the bedrooms every night. The kids do this from the start.

Pretty good--but how do you solve the too-many-cookies-and-candy problem?

By parenting--I forgot for a second.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ugh--winter dry skin

My legs feel like rough cement. I slather on lotion--but I have never done it right after a shower as ALL the skin gurus suggest. I may try it.

Jeff Moore, an instructor of pharmaceutics at the University of the Sciences, explains that lotions provide a protective barrier that keeps skin from drying, weakening, and cracking...Those sound kinda bad, don't they?

Moore runs the Industrial Pharmacy Laboratory, where students get hands-on experience in compounding lotions and creams (hands-on--get it?).

Different types of products work best on different types of skin:

--Oil-based. These rehydrate skin faster than other products.  It actually allows healing--like a protective Band-Aid. On the label, watch for petrolatun or petroleum jelly as the primary ingredient.

--Water-based. People like these because there is no oily residue--and they do soothe and rehydrate--but need to be reapplied more often.

--Yes, apply after a shower. Also--keep the water warm but not hot.

--Ingredients like shea butter, aloe or cocoa butter can soothe cracked skin.

--Avoid products with heavy fragrances or dyes.

--And remember, a high price does not necessarily mean the best cream.

Still confused--Moore says ask the pharmacist. You may not need to run to the dermatologist.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Have more joy than worry at this magical time

Some people just love to diss the holidays or try to make them annoying for others. I have no idea why. I still get a thrill like I did when I was a child.

These people and all the "have-to's" create stress.

To minimize this, Jennifer Caudle, DO, a family physician and professor at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine:

--Forgive yourself for not being perfect, Maybe two kinds of cookies are plenty. The tree can be fake and hauled out of the garage. Some trees come with lights on them (see picture).

--Forgive yourself if you eat too much or don't work out for a few weeks. You will get back to it--nothing is ruined forever.

--Go casual--potluck is fine, Yes, people can bring something. Tell them what--appetizer, main, dessert.

--Say no if you don't want to go someplace.

--Exercise is a great stressbuster..walk at least, in the cool air.

--Think less. WAY less. Sit and try to empty your mind--even five mins makes a difference.

--Focus on others...For some, the hols are a sad or angry time, a self-accusatory I said above. Recognize this and try to think of some little way to make it better for someone.

And I might add--DO stand under the mistletoe! At every opportunity.


Monday, December 12, 2016

Shoulder replacements zooming in popularity

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the number of partial and total shoulder replacements has gone from 18,000 in 2000 to 45,000 in 2013.

I know two people who have had this surgery. It's less common than knee and hip replacements, but equally good at relieving arthritis pain.

One patient cited by Loyola, which performed ten times as many shoulder replacements in 2015 than in 2010, could not lift his arm above his head, put dishes away or even stay asleep--the pain would wake him up. He regained full range of motion and is pain free.

According to one doctor, patients often say they should not have waited--the results were that good.

A total replacement involves a metal ball and plastic socket. A partial is just the ball, fitted to the patient's own socket.

What about recovery time? The surgery usually means one night in the hospital and a sling for a month or so as activity is gradually increased. Full recovery takes 6-10 months.

If you are dealing with bad should pain and restricted activities--ask your doctor about this. Of course, any surgery has some risks--get all the facts.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Do people who give "bad" gifts do it on purpose?

Typically, each US consumer will buy 14 gifts this season.

New research looks into how many of these will cause dissatisfaction--and whether the gift giver gives an inappropriate gift deliberately.

Deborah Y. Cohn, a school of manager associate prof at NYIT, says that people who give bad gifts do it knowingly.

Prior research said bad gifts were mistakes. But Cohn plumbed in-depth interviews and data from message boards, and describes five categories of bad gifts:

--Gifts that threaten the recipient's self-concept (a pregnancy test for a childless daughter-in-law)

--Gifts that benefit the giver (say a big screen TV for the household but given to the wife)

--Gifts meant to offend (I Am With Stupid T-shirt)

--Gifts given out of obligation (grudging, maybe bland or regifted)

--Gifts allowing the giver to out-gift someone else (such as a gift from a grandparent that the parents do not want the child to have)

Cohn also sees an opening for retailers to score in taking back unwanted gifts or finding an easy way for recipients to give them to charity. Stores should also provide gift counselors to help shoppers. Gift counselors? They would have to be psychiatrists!

I almost got my perennially late daughter a "pointed" gift--a watch with all the numbers strewn at the bottom and the caption: "WhatEVER, I am always late anyhow."

Then I thought better of it.

Also, men--most women don't want appliances or power tools. What are you intimating--their motor needs to get revving?

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Older people toking up

Eight states have legalized recreational pot, and 26 allow medicinal use.

But who is smoking? Not just young people. The Boomers, in fact, have reported higher rates of substance use than any preceding generation.

This is a never before seen cohort of older adults using recreational drugs, says Benjamin Han, MD, MPH, a geriatrican and health services researcher at Langone Medical Center in New York.

Han and his team led a study published in Addiction to determine the prevalence and patterns of cannabis use, attitudes, and other info among adults over age 50.

They looked at 47,140 such adults who responded to an earlier survey on Drug Use and Health.

--They found a 71% increase in marijuana use among adults over 50 between 2006 and 2013.

--Adults over 65 and a lower rate of use that the 50-64 set, but it had increased there by 2.5 times in the right years.

--Only 5% of the adults felt using pot once or twice a week was a health risk.

The researchers thought older people scorned drugs as risky--but surprise, this is the 60s generation.

Since the majority of self-reported users started before age 18, they either used it all this time or started again recently.

Of course, researchers worry about brain changes, already a worry in the elderly, and many older people use it for pain control, but the team persisted in wondering if it could lead to more falls.

Awww, maaan, chill.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Bikini waxing linked to increased risk of STDs

HealthDay News ran a story on grooming of the nether parts, shall we say. In a study done at the Texas Dell Medical School in Austin, it was learned that frequent groomers of pubic hair are three to four times more likely to get a sexually transmitted disease such as herpes, HPV, or syphilis.

The study did not prove that one CAUSED the other, but there was a clear association between the grooming and the STDs.

Such grooming is becoming more popular worldwide. So the researchers surveyed 7,580 US residents, 18 to 65, about their grooming habits, sexual behavior, and history of STDs.

Eight-four percent of the women said they had tried grooming at least once--66% of the men, same.

Seventeen percent of the groomers were "extreme," meaning they removed all hair more than 11 times a year. Daily or twice weekly earned 22% the label of "high frequency."

Extreme groomers have a quadrupled (4 times) risk of an STD--high frequency had a 3.5 times risk.


Maybe, thought the researchers, the grooming itself left little cuts allowing in infections.

Or do people who groom more often engage in more sex? (I would lean toward this one.)

Still, even those who said they had EVER groomed had an 80% increased risk.

On the bright side? Grooming eliminates most of another problem--crabs.

But maybe--this hair had some purpose? Think?

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Tiny tots love streaming

I am such a relic. So vintage. OK--old. But in my defense, I am developing some kids' cartoons.

And DHX Media is one place my work has been read (no sale, sad face). Anyhow, this is a Canadian kids programming giant, and they did a survey of 2,700 parents in the US, Canada and the UK to understand how kids 0-12 get their entertainment (and their commercials, of course).

According to the Animation World Network site (, they are talking about what they call the global on-demand generation.

Surprise! Kids love mobile devices and streaming. And parents are "very comfortable" with this--even though these venues include commercials.

Tablets are the kids' preferred "screen." In the survey, 72% of daily kid viewing is from streaming services, such as YouTube, Netflix, Amazon and others.

--78% of  the households had at least one tablet

--29% of those had a tablet just for the child

--40% of the kids used smartphones.

----90% of the households with kids under 13 had at least one smartphone, 14% had a smartphone for the child alone

YouTube is by far the most popular streaming platform, specially the ad-supported Video on Demand (AVOD). YouTube Gamers captured 24% of the kids.

Perhaps a little disturbingly, parents also liked a new concept called One Click Content to  Retail--that allows viewers to click directly from a commercial to the buy site. Eight-one percent of the parents even liked the idea of their kids keeping a wish list with One Click Content to Retail.

Oh, well, folks--it's a brave new world...My cartoons have great merch possibilities--anyone? Anyone?

Monday, December 05, 2016

Meat, dairy and eggs--without involving animals

I don't just mean shaped tofu, either.

Liz Specht, PhD, a self-described "science nerd," is interested in global health problems.

She started her career in the area of simplifying diagnostic tests for use in underdeveloped countries--and  got interested in the global food situation.

From there she hit on animal agriculture as an underserved opportunity to do enormous good. Not only could more food be produced, but it could be healthier to eat--addressing obesity, chronic disease, and antibiotic resistance.

At the Good Food Institute, she works with scientists, entrepreneurs, venture capital firms, and the public to advance new food technologies to make animal agriculture obsolete.

Already there are companies making milk and eggs without animals. Other companies are working on making clean meat--grown from cells.

Plant-based foods that taste more like meat are also a focus.

The field, she says, needs more human capital--more researchers, companies, and bright minds.

Also more money.

Won't the big agriculture companies throw up roadblocks?

Tyson Foods, she says, are already invested in Beyond Meat, which creates plant-based alternatives to meat.

Interested in getting involved. Go to GFI,org and check out the opportunities section.

Friday, December 02, 2016

How to select toys that are fun not funky

It's such a cliche that kids will toss the toy and play with the box. Maybe the cat will get in the box, but kids like the toys.

Obviously in shopping for the tots, no sharp edges or long strings or cords.

Equally importantly, though:

--Be mindful of age. Play is the WORK of childhood," says Sue Rzucidlo, a nurse practitioner at Penn State Pediatrics. But don't think a child will grow into a toy--say a bike--without the "work" skills to operate it.

--Remember, younger siblings may try to play with an older child's toy. Little kids put everything in their mouths...tiny movable parts on big sister's toy--not good.

--If a child is under three, make sure none of their toys would fit through a toilet paper tube.

--Those small, button batteries are often swallowed.

--Latex balloons can choke.

--Small magnets, when swallowed, can glom onto each other through the intestinal wall and cause a blockage or infection.

--When giving a toy with wheels--bike, skateboard--also give the safety gear.

--See what the toy is made of. Some plastics are toxic. Older toys--say from yard sales--can have lead paint on them.

Remember those lawn dart recalled some years ago--yeah. those were genius...

And ant farms? Those ants can escape. Take it from me.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

"Suicide headaches" affect men more than women

They are called "cluster headaches" because they occur in clusters, usually at the same time of day or night, for several weeks. Spring and fall can be especially bad.

They are relatively short in duration but extremely painful--like being mutilated by an icepick, according to one doctor.

Cluster headaches are three times more likely to occur in men than women. They strike one side of the head, often behind or around one eye. They may or may not be preceded by a migraine-like aura and nausea. The intense pain lasts about three hours and can awaken people.

Other symptoms include tears, runny nose or congestion, sweating and redness on one side of the face only.

Luckily these headaches are relatively rare and can be treated. Migraine drugs can work within seconds. And there are preventive drugs, too.

If you suffer from these, seek out a headache specialist at the United Council for Neurologic Subspecialities.

What causes these? Unclear. The important thing is to not suffer in silence, much less commit suicide.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Grown-ups can also be picky eaters

I once knew a kid who would not eat mushrooms because of the word "mush" in there. My own daughter won't touch a pea, and since an unfortunate food poisoning incident as a toddler, won't eat rice.

Do most people outgrow these little quirks?

Well, says Nancy Zucker, a psychologist and director of the Duke Center for Eating Disorders--as quoted in a piece in the NYT--many adult food dislikes (veggies #1) start in childhood.

How many is many? No stats--adults tend to keep these things on the down low.

One said--there is not a lot of empathy for picky eaters.

Researchers at Duke and the University of Pittsburgh did an online questionnaire of 40,000 adults.

Still, the causes of adult picky eating are not well understood:

--A childhood scare with choking or vomiting

--A lingering fear of certain foods

--A different way of tasting--foods contain hundreds of compounds that determine taste and smell--individuals may perceive these differently.

--Texture--okra, canned spinach--can also play a role. Someone else did not like to cut into tomatoes and "watch the guts spill out."

You can learn to like something or a way of preparing something, of course, My kid would not eat a pea, but she would eat artichoke leaves in sauce when a year old.

Some people come to Duke to relearn eating of certain foods.

Oh--and if you know a picky eater...don't force them to eat one bite.

They don't want to--and you can't make them.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Californians to meet mall robot

Yeah, that's him.
Mike Murphy, in Nextgov, Nov 23, 2016, says the bots are coming to spread holiday cheer.

The Japanese telecom SoftBank will bring a personal robot named Pepper to two shopping centers in California (Westfield San Francisco Center and Westfield Valley Fair in Santa Clara).

No, this eager fellow won't argue with you over returns or pick out a scarf to go with that jacket. Pepper can, however, say Hello in six languages, take photos of customers from its chest, play games with customers and start up dance parties with its built-in tunes.

Customers can also provide feedback on their experiences in the mall to Pepper. Maybe they can say they didn't come there for a dance party.

Other less chummy robots are already coming to shopping--touchscreens instead of cashiers,  security bots that cruise around and sometimes run over customers.

So Pepper is just the beginning...He may be an automated selfie machine now...but wait...

Personally, I preferred Rosie on the Jetsons. She was no Roomba.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Should medical research take in gender and sex?

Wait a hot one--aren't sex and gender the same thing? No, according to Cara Tannenbaum of the University of Montreal and Janine Austin Clayton, NIH.

These two have written a Viewpoint article in JAMA making a case for dividing research into sex and gender.

By their definitions, sex refers to biology, anatomy and sex hormones. Gender, they say, encompasses social, behavioral, and cultural interactions and the roles between men and women.

Too often, they say sex and gender-specific results are missing in evaluating therapies--because scientists trained last century learned to conduct research mostly in men, believing these results would also apply to women.

But now we know women metabolize drugs differently than men. Sick women may also be pregnant--not segregating results may mean not treating women safely.

Reasons to separate results by sex and gender:

--These results may be hidden in combined results.

--To provide raw material for meta-analyses, a way of combining results to see if results are the same or different across diverse populations of men and women.

--To avoid the need to repeat a trial to check for gender-specific matters that arise.

This brings us to dosage--same for men and women? The FDA is already recommending lower doses of some drugs for women, so no, this probably needs to change.

Also, Addyi, a drug to boost sexual desire in women, was tested for compatibility with alcohol on 23 men and two women--even though it was FOR women. Even in men, the drug increased the likelihood of fainting, dizziness and low BP.  The risk was probably greater for women.

When will the research be 50/50 men and women? Stay tuned--some journals have already adopted guidelines in this direction.

About time! Stay tuned. And stay skeptical.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Dementia decreasing--let us give thanks

According to findings of a team at the University of Michigan (JAMA Internal Medicine), despite the rise of diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity, which are thought to contribute to dementia, the percentage of Americans with these various memory disorders has dropped 3%.

Interestingly, they also found that those with the most years of education had the lowest chances of developing dementia. (Today's seniors are more likely to have a HS diploma than a decade ago.)

However, the number of seniors is going up (Boomers) so the overall burden of dementia is still rising.

So if you have someone at the Thanksgiving table with this condition, Rebecca Aline, LCSW, supervisory clinical social worker at Houston Methodist's Nantz National Alzheimer Center, recommends creating new traditions, instead of insisting on old (such as Grandma doing the cooking).

--Keep celebrations simple. Engage the senses--cookie baking, decorations, church.

--Communicate beforehand to explain how the person may have changed from a year ago.

--Realize the person has changed, so the holiday celebration may be a little different, too.

--Focus on new memories.Grieve for old times, but try to create new times.

--Be sure to follow doctor's orders and get the person their meds on time, provide rest periods, and reduce stress.

When Mom was at the holiday table, sometimes someone would say, "Mom? Remember when..." And then stop. Not a great phrase in these circumstances.

Just let the warmth and love come through. This people never forget.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

350 slices of pizza a second

Yup--that is how much Americans consume. For 15% of the country, this is the top comfort food.

In the November issue of Food Technology, assoc editor Melanie Zanoza Bartelme outlines eight things about pizza:

--58% of US pizza eaters say they would buy more frozen pizza if it had more gourmet ingredients.

--76% of consumers have eaten at a pizza restaurant in the past year.

--Pizzas are trending toward thinner crusts--but hand tossed is Number One is restaurants.

--Gluten-free trust is also trending. Launches of gluten-free pies increased 58% between 2012 and 2015.

--Tomato-based red sauce remains the most common topping, but ranch, alfredo, and white sauce are gaining.

--Mozzarella is the most common cheese, ricotta and Parmesan a distant second. But also look for comers like gorgonzola, fontina, goat, Romano, asiago, provolone, feta and pepper jack. Even gouda is popping up. (Or being popped on top.)

--Sausage and pepperoni are still the top meats--but bacon is also widely available now as is chicken breast. Other meats include prosciutto (up 27% since 2010), meatballs, salami, and anchovies.

--Onions, tomato, mushroom and peppers are on 73% of restaurant menus.

We like artichokes and of course, I invented Black Pizza--anchovies and black olives. Some people at your table may recoil.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Arguing with teens over food this T-Day

For many reasons, teenagers start responding to messages about obesity and the environment and embark on diets that don't just limit intake, but eliminate entire food groups.

This can lead to "discussions" and confusion at big gatherings.

C.S. Mott Children's Hospital did a survey of 910 parents with at least one child between 13 and 18.

--One in six said their teen had tried a diet that is vegetarian. Six percent said, gluten-free. Four percent said vegan and two percent said paleo.

Half of these parents said this had caused trouble at holiday and family meals.

And it wasn't just Aunt Emma getting hurt because the kid would not eat her famous Mac 'n' Cheese.

Families also had trouble finding a restaurant all could enjoy (61%). Fifty-five percent spent extra time finding and preparing special dishes. Stress was a factor--with this stressing 54% of those surveyed. And the special foods represented an extra expense for half.

Parents, the researchers said, could ask the teens to prepare his or her own meals or find good substitutions.

But why did the kids come up with these requirements?

--A third said their kid's rationale was health-related.

--29% said another family member was on the same diet.

--A friend's suggestion (17%)

--The diet's environmental impact (14%)

Half of the parents also said they looked into the teen's diet and suggested vitamins or supplements.

But just 17% took the kid to a doctor to discuss the regimen.

So how do the teens fare on these diets?

--Half the parents said it made the teen feel healthier

--41% said no difference

--7% said the teen's health was impacted negatively

Well, kids--you know... They won't stay on anything too restrictive too long--unless, of course, it leads to an eating disorder. Then shunning turkey will be the least of the problems.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Just try ringing for a nurse

Sophie Quinn, author of Help Wanted: Why Willing Workers Aren't Filling Open Jobs, writing at Stateline (Pew Charitable Trusts), takes on the nursing situation.

What's the most in-demand worker in Houston? A nurse.

A fourth to a third of all nurses are set to retire in coming years, even though many nurses are postponing their retirement. And even now, nurses with certain skills are great demand. Hiring a nurse in Houston can take 55 workdays.

Couldn't we just graduate more nurses? We are--but hospitals, nursing homes, home care agencies, doctor's offices--all have specific requirements. They may want, for example, experience as an operating room nurse and not be able to afford a nurse with that.

So many new nurses find that their degree is not a ticket to ride. Many employers are beefing up their internships and in-house training. New York City even has a program to help new nurses find work.

Most nurses are RNs--Registered Nurses. These are the nurses who hand out medicine, monitor vital signs, and help patients manage their situation when they go home. Licensed practical nurses provide more basic care, such as helping patients dress and changing beds.

But--as the tide of new nurses continues to rise, employers are raising the ante. For one thing, an associate's degree will be bottom rung--the Institute of Medicine recommends that by 2020, a bachelor's will be required.

Even now, in Houston, nurses with an associate's degree have trouble getting an interview at the big hospitals.

So, the next time you are in the hospital and need a nurse, you may need to take a Chill Pill.

I love nurses...they can make or break a hospital stay. But salaries will have to go up to fix this problem--and medical care is too expensive as it is.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Teething pains

Every parent has been through it or soon will be--the eruption of relentlessly emerging teeth through tender gums.

Most babies get their first tooth at around six months of age. Some start as early as three months--or those teeth could not sprout until eight or nine months.

First up--usually the bottom middles. On top, the front teeth come in first, then the molars, and then the eyeteeth (pointy canines). The gums may also be swollen and red.

This process is uncomfortable--we can't remember--it may even hurt! Babies react by crying and fussing and/or chewing on anything they can get.

Besides red gums, the baby may be irritable, have trouble sleeping, drool a lot, and not seem hungry.

And, of course, with chewing on everything--they may pick up a bacteria or virus.

Is there anything you can do?

--If the baby is fussy, give it a plain, solid teething ring. Some parents chill it--but don't freeze it, which creates more problems. The baby can decide how much pressure to put on the sore spot.

--Offer cold yogurt or applesauce.

--Do not jump for the pain relievers--they probably are not necessary. Forget teething gel--it contains benzocaine, which should not be swallowed, as it will be if on the gums. Also--"teething tablets" have been warned about by the FDA.

A child will get 20 baby teeth. About age 3, it's time for a trip to the dentist. Yes, the baby teeth need to be kept cavity-free. Even though they will fall out, baby teeth are placeholders for the permanent teeth and help those come in correctly.

Use a soft pediatric brush and plain water on those adorable baby whites.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How to prevent heartburn

Holiday festivities provide many delicious opportunities to get heartburn. Yick.

About a fifth of the American people get this--which in doctorspeak is called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

You may know the sensation--a burning in the throat and chest and a bitter taste. This usually comes after overeating and affects overweight people more often.

Actually it has nothing to do with the heart, though the symptoms can mimic a heart attack.

Losing even five pounds can help it...

Some other tips:

Skip the after-dinner mints. Peppermint may feel like it's clearing the aftertaste, but it relaxes the muscles between the stomach and the esophagus, which allows stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus.

Other triggers? Tomato-based products, citrus fruits and juices, spicy food, high-fat foods, chocolate, alcohol, and caffeinated beverages (including soda).

Chewing gum can help if you are prone to heartburn. This stimulates acid-neutralizing saliva.

Try "Rest and Digest." Stress is "Fight or Flight." Rest and Digest is eating slowly, chewing thoroughly, and savoring. Use s smaller plate--overeating is big culprit.

Taking a short walk after meals instead of flopping in the recliner allows gastric juices to flow in the right direction. Wait two hours before lying down.

The first time I experienced heartburn was when I was eight months pregnant--my partner was astonished--I had never had it before? And now, when everything else in my innards seems to be wacky, I don't get heartburn often--but I do know people who do.

And it's no picnic.And the frequent bathing of the esophagus in acid can lead to more serious problems.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Sunshine, you make me happy

Positive thinker Norman Vincent Peale used to recommend that if you feel sad, just think of the sun...Not go out and bask--just think of it.

Now--researchers at Brigham Young say the time between sunrise and sunset is the period that matters most for mental and emotional health. This goes for everyone, not just people with seasonal affective disorder.

And within that period, sunshine keeps the level of emotional distress stable.

Forget hot or cold temps, air pollution, and maybe even threatening rainclouds--these won't get you down, but lack of sunlight will.

Winter has fewer sun hours--and thus is a busier time for therapists, the researchers said (J of Affective Disorders).

Mark Beecher, clinical prof and licensed psychologist at BYU, and Lawrence Reed, a physics prof there combined forces. Rees had weather data for Provo, Utah--Beecher had emotional health data for the same area.

They analyzed several variables such as wind chill, rainfall, solar radiance, wind speed, temperature, and more. The weather data could be analyzed down to the minute in the exact area where the psychological clients lived. And they used a mental health treatment outcome measure, rather than suicide attempts or online diaries, to analyze psychological distress.

Amount of sun was the determining factor in lack of distress.

I live in the Sonoran Desert, where it is sunny most days--and you may be heard, this makes it HOT. But even on the hottest day, it's all about the sun to me--a clinical sample of one.

Monday, November 14, 2016

For some, sad times lie ahead

In my Blue Cross/Blue Shield newsletter, they talked about how to cope with grief during the holidays. Since the holidays are usually a time of family closeness, a missing member can hit hard. So many memories of when that person was there.

Grieving people ask:

--Should I act like everything is OK?

--Is it OK to skip some traditions if they are too much for me?

--Should I change rituals?

First, you need to accept your feelings. Don't feel guilty if you are not into the holidays--or if you find yourself enjoying moments despite everything.

Don't judge yourself...and others should not judge you either.

Just do what feels right.

Have an exit strategy if you go to a party or event you shared with the loved one.

Take a friend to events.

Or--create a new tradition:

--Donate to a charity the person loved.

--Volunteer or donate food.

--Plant a tree or sponsor a plaque or bench somewhere.

Many people add new people and new activities each holiday--you can, too.

My sister married a guy whose son, 4, had died at Christmas--they never had a family dinner, he would not come to my house for one, they didn't decorate. It had been decades. It made me sad.

But I guess not as sad as he still was.

Friday, November 11, 2016

How to burn calories--do the holidays

Not a mess--a calorie burning
We think of holiday time as eating time, but there are also chances to burn off a few cals. By a few, I mean a few...

Gift shopping: 95 cals

Standing in line: 47

Food shopping (pushing a cart): 13

Baking cookies: 95

Changing beds for guests: 40

Housecleaning: 191 (wow, we have a winner, wait, it's housecleaning, never mind)

Caroling: 140 in an hour, singing while standing
                   204 walking between houses at 2 mph

A nice big piece of pie is what...250-400 calories? That's a lot of bed changing.

Still--you may also be sightseeing with guests, going up and down stairs more, shoveling walks, making snowmen with all the kids, and otherwise getting off your routine--every little bit helps.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Skin care varies by age

First some general skin care advice, much of which you have probably heard...

--Select products geared to your skin type--sensitive, dry, oily or a combo.

--Protect your skin from the sun, that big nuclear reactor in the sky.

--Use a retinoid unless it dries or irritates.

Now for the ages:

TWENTIES. It's never too early to start thinking about your skin. Young women need a simple regimen. Wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser and use SPF 30 every morning. You can also add a retinoid at this age if it agrees with you. Remember--sun damage is cumulative--you need to start early to keep it from building up. Also women in their twenties may still have acne. There are many treatments--ask your dermatologist.

THIRTIES: The dark spots may be showing up--sun damage. This can happen even through SPF 30 everyday. In addition, a retinoid and topical Vitamin C may help and help prevent more. Wrinkles may also be making an appearance. But beware of heavy-duty wrinkle treatments aimed at older women--they can cause acne or milia (small cysts where dead skin cells get trapped under the surface). This means retinoids. Women in their 30s should also use a light anti-oxidant serum and if you are worried about wrinkles, maybe botox or hyaluronic acid. Spider veins can also be a problem in this age group.  See if you can afford treatment for those.

FORTIES: The skin begins to lose collagen and elastin and sag. There are non-invasive treatments such as microfocused ultrasound and radiofrequency microneedling. Fillers may also help. At this age, you may also lose fat in the face and hands (my problem--the hands). There are treatments for this. You may also want to address unwanted body fat in the torso and legs (not subject to exercise). Again, focused ultrasound, thermal energy treatment, and cryolipolyisis are something to ask about.

Ooops--the advice ends in the forties. I guess if you're older, your rmoney is gone or you are beyond saving.


Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Nearly half of clinical trials never published

Yes, we argue over whether a clinical trial really shows this or that, but apparently almost half are so inconclusive or ambiguous, they just slide off the radar.

This info comes from the University of Oxford.

Between 2004-2014, 11,714 trials out of 25,927 on Clinical has not been published within two yrs of being completed.

This encompassed 8.7 million patients who gave their time and hope to the research.

The problem is this--if  negative, non-significant results or no results are not reported, and positive results are, this overstates the effectiveness of treatments.

According to BuzzFeed News, the worst offender in this respect is Sanofi, a French pharmco. It published only 285 of 435 trials.

Novartis came in second, with 201 unpublished trials.

One company, Ranbaxy (Indian) published none of its trials.

On the flip side, Shire, an Ireland-based company, published all 96 of its trials.

When trials are not published, so-called evidence-based medicine is not possible or is skewed.

The researchers also said not publishing betrayed the participants, who had undergone a lot of inconvenience or pain to benefit patients like them.

The pressure is there to publish only high-impact results, as one researcher put it.

Novartis did fight back, saying their results were published on their own website.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Uh-oh, zombies could overtake Chicago in 2 months

Researchers at the Argonne National Lab used a computational model designed to study the spread of MRSA and Ebola to game plan a zombie invasion. You know those scientists--pretty playful.

It would only take 60 days for 2 million Chicagoans to be zombified.

While there seemed to be little resistance in place to the walking dead--strategies such as training ordinary people to kill zombies and communications from city officials that tell people how to avoid them did make a difference.

This experiment draws attention to the model for strategizing public health issues.

This ChiSIM model can simulate the complex behavior of millions of "agents"--in this case, Chicagoans, moving through 2 million locations in the city.

Recently the model was used to identify a "hub" for MRSA--the Cook County Jail.

Where is Glenn when you need him?

Monday, November 07, 2016

Do you get "stuck tune"?

Almost all of us do--you know, when a song gets in your head and repeats and repeats a phrase or two all day, like a "private screensaver," as one researcher put it.

The Germans call this an "ohr wurm"--ear worm.

What makes a song so "sticky"? Dr Kelly Jakubowski from the music dept at Durham University has made a large-scale study of this.

Sticky songs are usually faster with an easy-to-remember melody and some unique intervals.

Viz: Bad Romance (Lady Gaga), Don't Stop Believing (Journey), and Can't You Out of My Head (Kylie Minogue).

Tunes that stick also tend to have "common global melodic contours."

Country songs tend to have a simple "contour"---the first phrase rises in pitch, the second falls. As in Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

My Sharona (Knack) and In The Mood (Glenn Miller) both had unusual interval structure--which makes them sticky.

How often the song is on the radio or high on the charts is also a major factor.

Ninety percent of us, the scientists say, get a tune stuck at leas once a week.

How can you shake an ear worm?

--Listen to the song all the way through.

--Distract yourself with a new song.

--Or wait for it to fade. It will...but another may take its place.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Thinking of becoming a sperm donor?

Many men think of donating sperm as a quick buck--like selling their blood.

But Tamar Lewin, NYT, Nov 3, 2016, says your odds of getting into Harvard or Stanford are higher than being accepted at any of the major sperm banks.

California Cryobank and Fairfax Cryobank, the two largest, take only one in 1,000 applicants.

White men under 5'9" need not apply. Some ethnic groups can be shorter.

You must keep your sperm count high--meaning 2-3 days of abstinence before donating.  And donors must produce a good specimen once or twice a week.

Don't count on quick money. To prevent the spread of of HIV and other diseases, the FDA requires that sperm be frozen for six months and the donor retested before it can be used--and the donor can be paid.

Lots of forms--lots of tests.

There will be many questions about your sexual history, drug use, travel, hobbies, etc. You will undergo physical, personality, and STD screening.

You may be asked for a childhood or adult photo and write an essay or make a tape for users. There will also be genetic testing.

The pay is also variable based on how many vials your specimens fill. You could make $1,500 a month if accepted.

You can't wait for the mood to strike--donations are made during business hours and some banks have short hours.  You will agree to donate at least once a week for six months to a year--to justify the $2,000 they spend screening you.

How many babies can you create? The biggest sperm banks have rules that limit on donor to 25-30 family units. Some people prefer the same donor for 2-3 children. It is not unusual for one donor to father dozens.

But you may not get to meet these offspring. Some donors join the Donor Sibling Registry to see how many they have fathered, but sperm donors can remain anonymous. Still, even anonymous donors are being identified by curious children.

So--sound like something you'd like to get into?

Full disclosure--I started out to conceive with donor sperm and have been through this process, but along the way, I met a guy, he "donated" to me, and my daughter ended up being his--not #234's--the Irish guy with musical ability.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

What's up in the world of fitness

Even though some studies show wearing a FitBit does not result in the pounds sliding off, wearable technology still tops the list of the American College of Sports Medicine's annual fitness trend survey.

Technology is a must have in our daily lives, chirps the lead author of the survey.

The ASCM surveys more than 1,800 health and fitness pros to get these trends.

1. Wearable technology. Activity trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors, and GPS tracking devices.

2. Body weight training. You use your body weight in pushups and pullups and the like rather than a lot of equipment.

3. High intensity interval training (HIIT). Short bursts of activity followed by a short recovery period. All done in under 30 mins.

4. Educated and experiences professionals. Many places "certify" people--be sure the certification program is certified by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. Of course, they think ASCM is the best.

5. Strength training. Still a staple of many health clubs.

6. Group training. Self-explanatory.

7. Exercise as medicine. Doctors recommend physical activity.

8. Yoga. Includes Power Yoga, Yogalates, Bikram, Astanga, Vinyasa, Kripalu, Anurara, Sivandan, and others. (I did Sivananda for yrs.)

9. Personal training. This means training to be a trainer.

10. Exercise for weight loss.

So what's trending in your life? Is trending a word?

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Ads for toddler food may be misleading

Milk, formula, or a "milkshake"?
Jennifer L. Harris of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut analyzed the content of ads for infant formula and toddler foods.

Often, she found, the messages promoted manufactured alternatives as better than breastfeeding or homemade food.

This contradicts the beliefs of many health professionals.

Yet, in 2015, companies spent $77 million to advertise these foods and bevs to parents.

Nearly 60% of this advertising promoted oroducts not recommended by doctors--notably "toddler milks," which were pushed as being "formula, poor toddler snacks, and a child's liquid nutrition supplement.

In fact, ads for toddler milk are displacing ads for actual formula and are aimed largely at Hispanic parents.

Toddler milks contain added sugar. and are less expensive than formula, so parents buy them.

Maybe not if they read this. Pass it on.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Medical clothes--what's your take?

At the University of Rhode Island's biomedical engineering dept, professors and students are working on ways doctors can better prescribe for Parkinson's patients--based on their symptoms.

The approach is to transform gloves, socks, clothes, and shoes into high tech items.

Smart textiles are the focus--wearable items embedded with sensors, electronics, and software that can collect data from patients and deliver it to doctors.

They already came up with a wristband that monitors tremors of people with Parkinson's and sends that info to doctors.

Now--the emphasis is on textiles. Gloves can monitor tremors, too.

They are also working on high-tech socks for people who have suffered strokes. These socks gauge the walking stride and gait.

In the works--smartwatch tech for patients with psychiatric illnesses and autism.  These will measure daily activities.

Incidentally, the URI students are also working on a smart dog collar to scare away coyotes. How do the collars know there is a coyote around? Good question! says the prof. do they?

As for the human electronic wearables--my question is: What doctor would have time to look at all this messaging...You can hardly get a prescription refilled without six calls or a trek to the office.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Environmental elements of PCOS

Excessive facial hair can
be a PCOS symptom.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) us a condition with genetic links that affect some women's bodies their entire lives with symptoms such as weight gain, irregular periods, infertility, acne, hair growth on the face, and hair loss.

PCOS also increases the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease as the women ages.

Dr Fiona McCulloch, author of 8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS, has some tips for controlling environmental factors contributing to PCOS:

The key is to control endocrine disruptors--meaning factors that affect female hormones.

--PLASTICS. Avoid using plastics---use steel, glass, or ceramic containers. Never heat plastic containers of food in the microwave. Don't reuse plastic bottles. Get canned foods with BPA-free cans. Never use plastic sippy cups for kids.

--FOOD. Choose organic foods--especially "the dirty dozen"--apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, peaches, nectarines, potatoes, snap peas, spinach, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, and kale./collard. Drink reverse osmosis water. Peel all non-organic fruits and veggies. Avoid nonstick pans.

--BEAUTY. Avoid products listing parabens. Avoid BHA, BHT, Use chemical free soaps whenever possible. Avoid nail products with bibutyl phthalate. Check your products on

Soy can be a problem for women with PCOS--he vast majority of soy is sprayed with glyphosphate--which we know as Roundup.

Women with PCOS have estrogen secretion issues--soy can complicate that.  So watch the tofu, soy milk lattes, and edamame.

We reuse plastic bottles...and don't buy organic produce. I wonder if we should be looking at this. We don't have PCOS.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Tim Gunn on the science of getting dressed

The design professor turned Project Runway adviser, Tim Gunn, says he believes in semiotics--using signs and symbols such as clothes to influence perception.

Ephrat Livni, writing in Government Executive, says five studies by Columbia University psychologists concluded that dressing up makes people feel more powerful and changes their thinking and way they speak.

When dressed informally, people spoke differently, acted differently.

When dressed formally people are less approachable and appear more powerful.

Clothes can also be a defense mechanism--the late Bill Cunningham, street fashion photographer par excellence, said, "Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everydaylife."

Getting dressed is an important rersponsibility, Gunn adds.

The business suit, for example, evolved from European and British court outfit. It was darn easy to wear.

The little black dress also became a go-to.

Gunn recommends giving dressing some thought. Whatever your style, he says, "Make it work."

You may be making more of a statement than you think--and to people you aren't even aware of.

When I was looking for pix of Tim, yes, he was often in his signature pinstripes, but he also had on a black leather jacket in one, pressed jeans in another. He also is not afraid to pattern-mix. But whatever he dons, he always looked polished.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Less than 7 hrs of sleep? Here is the price you pay

According to, experts say we need a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night.

But currently, sleep deprivation is considered a health epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly 30% of adults sleep less than six hours a night.

What does this do to your body?

Sleep is a brain function, reminds Shalini Paruthi, MD, associate professor at Saint Louis University and spoxperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. When you don't get enough shuteye, the effects are immediate.

--Your abililty to react quickly slows down.

--You make mistakes. (Under four hours lowers your reaction time to that of a person under the influence--driving sleep-deprived is like driving drunk.)

--Your mood and ability to control your emotions are affected--you are more grouchy and irritable, sad or angry.

--Your heart is affected--those who sleep under six hours a night are twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack.

--Your blood sugar levels are affected, resulting in a pre-diabetic condition.

--Your metabolism slows--making it harder to lose weight or keep it off.

--Your appearance suffers. It's not called beauty sleep for nothing. You can have redder eyes, darker under-eye circles,  more wrinkles.

--Your love life will suffer. More fights, less sex.

Sooo--turn off those blue screens and check out. You are excused for seven hours.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What's in that Halloween candy--no, not razor blades

Charles Platkin, PhD, executive director of the New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College and editor of, looks at the ingredients of Halloween candy.

CANDY CORN. This stuff  has been around 100 yrs. First ingredient: Sugar. But not high fructose corn syrup.  But these waxy little treats also contain "confectioner's glaze"--This is "lac resin"--a secretion of the lac bug. Yes, a bug...or larvae of a bug. Basically, this is edible shellac. Candy corn also contains gelatin (made from animal hides and bones).

Now to the flavoring. In candy corn, it's artificial. This means it has been "generally recognized as safe" by the FDA. Yellow 6 can cause allergic reactions. Same for Yellow 5--esp to people with aspirin issues. Red 3 has been known to cause thyroid tumors in rats and has been replaced in many items by Red 40.

SMARTIES. Dextrose, calcium stearate, citric acid, and dyes. Dextrose is sugar. Calcium stearate  is a fatty acid that appears in almost all fats.  The dyes are "lakes," a term for dye used in fatty foods--to be avoided. Blue 2 (LAKE) may cause brain cancer in rats--though the FDA says there is "reasonable certainty of no harm."

That is just two. Am I being a big buzzkill? All the more reason, I say, to give the tots chocolate...and lots of it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Kids could be key to saving the honeybees

First time ever--seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees have hit the Endangered Species List.

These bees, which resemble small wasps more than regular bees, were able to get to Hawaii on their own, rather than being imported or stowing away on ships, built up colonies and now are in decline. The protected status will help stabilize them.

But what about the honeybee you may see out your window? Like all pollinators around the world, bees are in crisis in the US.

A prominent children's writer, Robbie Shell, has published a book called Bees on the Roof (Amazon).

The story is fiction, but the plight of the bees is real.  The hero, Sam, needs to find a science fair project and save his dad's restaurant. He and three friends raise bees on a roof in NYC. Included in the story is a great deal of info on Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which is threatening crops relying on pollination by bees. This disorder occurs when the bees in a hive disappear, leaving the queen, food, nurse bees and baby bees with no worker bees to bring nectar back to the hive.

What causes this? Several things. Scientists think, anyway. One is the overuse of pesticides and also the attack of parasites (varroa mites) and other pests. Another factor are zombie flies--which lay their eggs in the bees' abdomens, which then hatch and the larvae eat the bees' brains, creating ZomBees.
These afflicted bees may then fly off and leave the queen.

This book could get your child interested in science in general.

Shell says she first got interested in this when he visited her brother's backyard beehives. When she saw that these incredible creature were in danger of being wiped out, she took action.

Oh--and don't forget--if the bees go, so does a lot of the food we eat.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Diabetics--Go to the eye doc!

With only one sighted eye, I am eye-conscious. Yet, even I have not been to the eye doc for more than a year.

Still, I don't suffer from diabetes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently looked at 2,000 patients over age 40 with type 1 and type 1 diabetes.

Over a four-year period:

--58% did not have regular followup eye exams

--Smokers were 20% less like to have such exams.

--Those with less severe disease and no eye problems (yet) were least likely to follow recommendations.

--Those who already had diabetic retinopathy were 30% more likeluy to have followups.

Well, duh, on that last!

One in 10 Americans have diabetes, putting them at risk for blinding eye problems.

Exams can reveal problems early enough to treat them. Diabetics should see an ophthalmologist once a a year.

Friday, October 21, 2016

New in the world of beauty

The October issue of Marie Claire highlights some advances from Beauty Lab, an incubator where various companies partner with the magazine to create new beauty approaches.

PERFUME. I tear out those perfume samples in the mags all the time--but they sort of smell like paper. So people shop online--but how can you tell if a scent meshes well with your own chemistry? has a quiz based on syesthesia--the brain phenom of senses mixing, as in say, smelling a color.  Or you could go to The Harmonist ( to use Chinese astrology to match yourself to a new perfume. Or--if you insist--you can get two samples of scent for $10 at

NAILS. There is new technology. The Inail S8 printer ($2000+) will be coming to nail salons. It deposits designs on your nails. For home use, Preemadonna's Nailbot--pick a design, stick your finger in the machine...for $199 by year's end.

BEAUTY BOXES. From Influenster;s VoxBoxes ( or write reviews and you can get free full-size products to review. With PlumPerfect's Girl Seeks Sample plan (, you upload a photo and get customized suggestions of products. Samples are two bucks or less.

WANT TO LOOK LIKE SOMEONE? With Rimmel London's new app (iTunes, google), you click on a face with makeup you love and learn which of the brand's products will achieve it.

And new and hot now in beauty nutrition? Fortified Honey. Forget green juice--it's over. Go to

You look mahvelous, darling!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

How to "talk" about addiction

If you have someone in your circle or family who is addicted to substances, this can get very fraught. It seems so intractable, so expensive, so avoidable--you may want to lash out at times.

But you have to remember, says addiction specialist  Russell Surasky, Surasky Neurological Center for Addiction, that we have to become more sensitive to words that stigmatize. Addition is a disease, it lays waste to families and entire communities.

Addiction is a chronic ailment that changes the structure and functioning of  the brain.

We don't refer to people with physically apparent disabilities as spastics, cripples, or crazies, do we?

Shouldn't we regard addicts with respect and confer their dignity, too?

Surasky recommends:

--Avoid words like crackhead, junkie and addict. People with cancer recover--we don't refer to them as ex-cancer patients. But we often say ex-addict. Instead use words  like "person struggling with addiction," or "person with a substance use (not abuse) disorder."

--Avoid "drug abuse" and "substance abuse."  These sound like child abuse, sexual abuse, domestic abuse.

--The word addict labels a person...preferable is use of the word "addiction."

If you have this situation in your family, you know the person is not a weak crackhead or something--so let's clean up the language.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Look who's happy

How about "beachin'"?
I have a sort of weird one for you today.

According to a story in Nextgov by Ellie Anzilotti, Spur Projects, a suicide-prevention group, collected data on people's moods from around the world in an app called How Is the World Feeling?

They looked at 7 million people's emotions periodically over the course of one week.

Users of the app were asked to select from six possible emotions:

The author of the piece was contacted and and was relatively happy working, surrounded by people, and indicated she was HAPPY. The app then informed her that around 7,000 people were also happy at that moment. 9,000 came in as peaceful. And 6,000 were anxious.

A map was presented showing distribution. Most of the data points were in the US, Europe, and Australia. But one person in Lebanon came on as angry, and one in Laos was happy.

The idea, apparently, is for people to check in on how they are feeling from time to time during the day. They also think this data trove will help structure work and workplaces--say more people are Happy at quitting time--what does that tell them?

As I said, this is weird. For one thing, I think they need more emotions...I discussed this with three people...One said they need OK on the list. Another said WORRIED. How about CONTENTED. Or AFRAID? And when I asked my daughter which one she was at that moment, she said HUNGRY.

But for what it's worth...