Monday, February 29, 2016

Where you live may determine your health level

Trees? You big luckies!
I live in the Sonoran Desert outside Phoenix. It's HOT 6 months of the year. Everyone rides in cars, with public transport not even a close second. When I could walk better, I would walk an hour a day, sometimes along busy thoroughfares with cars whipping by and sometimes no sidewalks.

They studied this location thing at the VU Medical Center in Amsterdam, where I visualize people biking along canals and gazing down from quaint bridges.

Lead researcher Jeroen Lakerveld says the best communities promote healthy food sources and encourage socializing and networking, not to mention opportunities to move and exercise.

This study, published in Obesity Reviews, links Body Mass Index to location. It covered more than 6,000 people across Europe.

People tended to see socioeconomically deprived areas as not as conducive to health behaviors. Well, duh. If you think you are going to get jumped or shot, you may not spend as much time outdoors. If the only food is greasy fast food or overpriced stuff from bodegas, who knows what you will eat.

They had people define their neighborhood--older people outlined a smaller place, as a rule. Men with high edcuational levels thought of their "world" as larger.

We don't have a car, so my neighborhood is walking distance...We have two food stores, a Walmart, some chain restaurants, and assorted businesses we can get to, thank goodness.

How's your neighborhood? Even though Los Angeles, for instance, well appointed, I hear nobody walks.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Good news for urban gardeners

We had urban gardens in DC when I lived there. Vacant lots were sectioned off, water and hoses brought in, and people vied for the little plots.

But one always wondered about the dirt--was it so "urbanized" and polluted that the produce would be bad for you?

In the vast majority of cases, that pollution would be lead, settling in from exhaust of cars. This according to Sally Brown, research assoc professor at the Univ of Washington, as quoted in a story by Michelle Ma in Black Health Matters.

The good news is that the scientists have shown the lead in the soil might harm you if you ate the dirt--but not the veggies grown in the dirt.

Yes, lead contamination is elevated in urban environments with lots of traffic, lead painted houses, and under drip lines of roofs in older areas.

Some root veggies--carrots, turnips, radishes and beets--do take up lead from the soil--but most plants do not.

Adding compost and other soil enhancers can not only make more veggies, but can dilute any lead that might be taken up.

Even the root veggies are more good than harmful. Lead hurts mostly when taken in on an empty stomach. Eating a carrot stick with lunch is good not bad--and helping Mom and Dad grow them down the block is great for kids.

How about building a raised bed with tested soil in it--if you are still worried.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Eating almonds, by itself, can improve diet

Remember those nutcrackers?
They were fun.
Oh, joy! An easy way to up your healthy eating score. Just eat 1.5 oz of almonds for adults or an ounce of almonds or an equivalent in almond butter for kids each day may increase your health eating score.

Groan--what's a Healthy Eating Index score, you ask? It's a measure of how one's diet conforms to the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Below 51--poor diet. 51-80 need for improvement. Above 80--a good diet.

Researchers at the University of Florida picked 28 child-parent pairs in North Central Florida. The parents were told to eat the 1.5 oz of almonds, the kids the 1 oz of nuts or almond butter.

At the end of three weeks, the Healthy Eating Index scores for both increased--the parents to 61.4 plus or minus 1.4 and the childrens' to 61.4 plus or minus 2.2.

Man, we are in the weeds now. Anyhow...

Bottom line--The researchers figured the parents and children replaced salty and processed snacks with the nuts.

Over the last 20 yrs, consumption of nuts and seeds by kids 3-6 yrs old has decreased and consumption of chips and pretzels has increased.

But--they did find kids got sick of crunching down the nuts--and parents had to incorporate the butter or nuts into oatmeal and other foods. My question is--would kids consider these snacks or would they grab a pretzel anyway?

Still, almonds aren't too hard to take...I want some right now.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Will these techniques get rid of double chins?

Jocelyn Lieb, MD, with Advanced Dermatology in Ridgewood, NJ, says people trying to take better selfies have spawned some treatment for double chins.

I have that--and it's sorta crepey, too--what some infomercial I saw called "crazy skin." Gee, that was warm and fuzzy.

Of course, there is a new drug--Kybella, recently approved by the FDA, which is injected into the chin rolls, "with a high rate of                                                          success," Lieb says.

Kybella bursts the fat cell membrane, allowing the liquefied fat to reabsorb into the body Expect to need three to four treatments, one a month, with the worst cases requiring up to six. Does it leave empty skin under there? She didn't say. Side efx are mild pain and swelling.

Also non-surgical is Cool Sculpting, also FDA approved. Carefully controlled cooling to the chin rolls freezes the fat inside and over time, your body gets rid of it. Two treatments--and in 2-3 months, you should see great things.

A third approach is Ulthera--using ultrasound to treat tha tissue under the surface of the skin to stimulate new collagen and elastic tissue. Over 2-3 months, you should see firmer, less saggy skin.

She mentioned no prices for these treatments, so I am assuming you must really want better selfies to undergo any of these treatments. Really, really want.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Savor the Flavor

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is encouraging everyone to "Savor the Flavor of Eating Right."

Food keeps you alive, provides fuel to help you thrive and fight disease.

But, says registered dietitian and group spokesperson Kristen Gradney, food is also a source of pleasure. Healthy foods bring happiness!

PLUS--family meals promote healthier eating and strengthen family relationships.

Food has color, texture and of course great taste. Eat slowly. Savor each bite.

Try not to multitask--say working while eating or watching TV.

If you want to deepen your relationship with food--instead of making it your enemy--you could consult a registered dietitian.

Dietitians can separate facts from fads, too. If you are, for example, eliminating all carbs, a dietitian can tell you why this is not a great idea.

Or eating all fats and meats--just this week, a study came out questioning the so-called Paleo Diet.

Sooo..what's for lunch?

Monday, February 22, 2016

A bandage for a canker sore?

We have all gotten canker sores...Those painful, white ulcers in the mouth.

There are few good treatments--you usually have to wait for the body to heal them.

If you are prone, these can pop up three or four times a year and last up to a week. Yick!

Now, a researcher named Xiahua Liu, PHD, assistant professor at Texas A&M's University's dentistry college, is working on an adhesive patch loaded with medication than can withstand saliva and stay stuck.

Alas, they are only approaching animal studies. Application to afflected humans may be a ways off.

By the way--canker sores are not the same as cold sores. Cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus type 1. Canker sores do not have a single known cause.

I don't know--a bandaid in your mouth? Thank goodness, I don't get these. Ouch--probably jinxed myself.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Some shelter dogs are mislabeled as pit bulls

Mislabeled? Misunderstood?
Everybody in the known universe knows I want a new dog, but can't get to the shelter because of my disabilities (and the Craigs dog people are lunatics). Almost as many people also know my daughter was savaged by a pit some yrs ago--17 stitches from a detached upper lip. My sister's greyhound also required intensive surgery from a pit bull attack out of nowhere.

So when I see listings and click on a picture--I go, "Pit," and click away.

But, now researchers at the University of Florida says shelter personnel guess breeds by appearance alone--and this may not be accurate.

Pits are even illegal to own in many states, can cost you an apartment if you have one. The stakes are high for Fido if he resembles a pit bull--assuming you accept the idea that such breeds can be too combative to be safe.

For one thing, pit bull is not a breed, the researchers point out. The term is applied to any bog derived from American Staffordshire terriers or Staffordshire bull terriers. The purebred American pit bull terrier is also lumped in.

The Univ of Florida people looked at the assessments made of 120 dogs by 16 shelter staff members, including veterinarians, at four shelters These staff members all had at least three years of experience.

Then they did DNA profiles of the dogs.

Even when staff members are the same shelter looked at the same dogs, they did not always agree.

And when DNA was brought into it, the dogs were corectly identified only a third to three-quarters of the time.

Basically--the staff could not tell which were actually pits.

Plus you can't tell behavior from appearance--that is the larger takeaway.

The researchers suggested it would be more productive to reduce risk factors for all dogs--supervise children, recognize a dog's body language, avoid unfamiliar dogs in their own territory, neuter dogs, and raise puppies to be socialized to humans.

Does this make me feel better? Not really. I still remember my kid's grossly swollen face and those big, black stitches.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Can some antibiotics trigger delirium in older people?

I once went to a doctor for a weird symptom and his explanation was, "Sometimes the body just goes kerflooey." Well, sometimes--according to a review in the journal Neurology--some antibiotics may cause delirium, an increasingly recognized case of kerflooey in older people.

Delirium is a mental state of confusion, sometimes with hallucinations and agitation.

In older people, delirium can have lasting consequences, even if the state itself only lasts a short time.

The study, done at Harvard and Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston, looked at 70 yrs of past patient data.

The antibiotics looked at ranged from intravenous versions (cefepime and penicillin) to the sulfonamides and ciprofloxacin.

Where neurological side efx occurred, 47% were halluncinations or delusions and 14% were seizures. Fifteen percent had muscle twitching. And 70% had abnormal EEGs (heart).

The vast majority of patients, of course, have no side efx, so bear that in mind.

And, of course, the infection that prompted the use of the antibiotics could have a role in creating the neurological side efx.

So...there you are...Remember that when you are handed a nice prescription. Antibiotics can be life-saving, but on the flip side, can wreak havoc.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Retirees: Volunteering good for your health

Sonya Stinson,, writes about retirees that spend their golden years helping others--such as a couple who go out on the Mercy Ships treating sick children in underdeveloped countries. One remembered a child who had gained sight for the first time--from the deck of the ship, the mother pointed out a tree, the sky...

Mercy Ships now operate in Africa. The couple, both 79, now works mainly in the home office in Texas.

In May 2012, the Corporation for National & Community Service said 18.7 million adults 55 and over contribute more than three billion hours of service.

This helps not only these countries and communities--but the volunteers.

Older people who volunteer tend to live longer. A spokesperson for Senior Corps, a program within CNCS that hooks up older people with organizations needing help, said this contention is borne out by studies. A sense of purpose? More physical activity? Whatever the reason--it's good for you.

Volunteering also exercises the brain. You learn problem solving, maybe another language.

Just teaching reading is very tricky and takes lots of brain power.

And--volunteers are less lonely and more social. They experience shorter periods of depression after a loss.

One geriatrician prescribes volunteering.

So what do you think? You up for some fun, travel, and good works?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Weird facts about America's second favorite cookie

Nah--there is no Cheeseburger....
I would say the first favorite is chocolate chip.

But Oreos are a close second. Someone dug up some weirdness on this crunchy treat.

It takes almost an hour to make an Oreo. (In a year, twenty million pounds of cocoa and 50 million pounds of the white filling.)

How you eat them can reveal your personality. Kraft Foods did a survey. Those who twist them apart are sensitive. Energetic people dunk. And those who just take a bite are self-confident.

Double Stuff does not contain twice as, Stuf.  It's really only 1.86 times the Stuf, not 2 times.

They really ARE addictive--they did a study in 2013 and rats got hooked.

Hydrox cookies are not a knock-off--they came first.

Flavor makers craft Oreos to the tastes of various countries...There are Green Tea, Alfjor, and Filed Cupcake...but alas, no Cheeseburger (see illustration, used to see if you are paying attention).

What are those designs stamped on Oreos? There are many theories--involving, naturally, the Freemasons and Knights Templar.

No one knows where the name Oreo came from. Maybe from the French word for "gold" since they were wrapped in gold foil in France?

Oreo is a street name in NY--15th and 9th Avenue, where the first iconic cookie was made.

Russia just got Oreos--in 2015--we have had them since 1912.

Milk anyone?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Here we go--heart advice

February equals Valentine's Day and that makes people think of hearts, so February is also heart month. I hate succumbing to those fakey "months" and "days," but will quell my distaste and go over the special symptoms of heart attack women sometimes face.

Most people think a heart attack means some chest pain or pressure that keeps getting worse, shortness of breath, sweating or pain in the left arm.

According to Joy Cotton, MD, a cardiologist at Penn State Hershey, some people don't get any of that--they can be in trouble without knowing it.

I always love hearing that, don't you?

There can be subtle pains in the arm, neck, back or upper chest. Maybe some queasiness or nausea. Or fatigue. Or you might just not feel "right."

Heart disease is THE a leading killer of women, but women often don't get the classic symptoms.

Women need to scan themselves for risk factors--high blood pressure, being overweight, no exercising, smoking or a family history of heart disease--and discuss this with the doctor.

Exercising can reduce those factors by 40%.

Too vague? Apparently this can be vague. How are you feeling right now--and I don't mean just in February, either.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Days of wine and ro...I mean, chocolate

Yes, good old Valentine's Day is coming up and thoughts turn to love...or is it wine and chocolate?

There's a reason for that. Both contain tannins, naturally occurring compounds that are bitter or astringent.

Washington State University oenology prof Jame Harbertson has partnered with a chocolate company called To'ak Chocolate in Quito, Ecuador.

They want to scope out this tannin stuff. Seems the To'ak chocolate becomes less bitter as it ages. And wine becomes less astringent.

Tannins in chocolate are more stable and predictable. They will be looking at chocolate aged in cognac barrels, as To'ak does.

This will be a 20-year time line--see how the tannins change. Should keep them busy.

In the meantime, Cheers! and have a chocolate truffle.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Attention, all bionics

I remember back when my father got artificial hips--they made him wait and wait because the hips only lasted so long and he wouldn't want a second operation in his lifetime.

Well, those artificial joints still have a lifespan, and this is a problem for seven million people in this country.

People are living longer and being very active on those new knees and hips.

Rush University Medical Center researchers are studying this. Total hip replacements last 15-25 years, but can fail in five yrs or less if the patient reacts to this insertion. Fifty thousand recipients need a do-over each year because of infection, instability or loosening of the joint.

And now corrosion from use is becoming a suspected culprit and ways to measure how much of the metal "wears off" are being explored.

The scientists are boring on why these things fail, looking back over recorded uses of these joints and the results that ensued.

There is also new technology to examine well-finctioning implants without damaging them.

More than 1000 people have already agreed to have their joints looked at after they die.

Extending their life is hard--they are already made from long-lasting materials such as titanium and cobalt-chromium-based alloys.

But a massive look at what's what here is a start.

I have two siblings with double hip replacements, in addition to my late father. So far, so good on them.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Common causes of impotence

Erectile dysfunction. Everyone's favorite subject. But here goes.

You all know what it means--the inability of a male to keep his parts in the ready position.

This problem increases with age--22% of men over 60 and 30% of those over 70 experience it. Thirty million Americans in all.

--It can come from medical conditions. One big one is heart disease.Narrowing of blood vessels in the heart can also come to the vessels in the groin area.

ED can even be a sign of an impending heart attack or stroke.

--Medications can trigger it. Antidepressants, antihistamines, or blood pressure meds.

--Emotional distress. Relationship problems, depression, low self-esteem, guilt and fear and interfere with erections.

--Lifestyle. Being overweight, smoking, alcohol abuse or substance use can cause it.

--Physical injury. Some people think prolonged cycling causes ED, but this has not been shown in studies.

May I raise a related issue? Someone asked me whether her boyfriend's not climaxing during sex, even though he did not have ED, was a commentary on her attractiveness. Apparently, this is quite common and most experts say not to worry about it.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Know your anesthesiologist

I read an article the other day that said many visits to the gastroenterologist before a colonoscopy are not necessary--and I commented that I would rather visit with the anesthesiologist.

If you have had surgery, you know that often the one and only time you will see this person--who may even be breathing for you--is right before surgery and only for a couple of minutes.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists recommends that especially with an older patient or child, the patient needs to work closely with this doctor (or nurse-anesthesiologist).

Patients need to know what will happen and what will be done to make the experience as comfortable as possible for them.

People fear anesthetic--I know I do.

You need to make sure the anesthesiologist knows the following--not lie there passively listening as he or she jokes about the "cocktail" you will get.

--Past medical conditions--allergies, asthma, sleep apnea foremost.

--Medications you are taking or maybe just stopped because of the surgery. Ibuprofen, aspirin, St Johns Wort--many things can complicate a surgery.

--Smoking. Stopping even a few days before surgery can make a big difference.

--Problems with anesthesia in the past? Tell all.

Being older can make you a candidate for post-operative delirium. This can make you confused or unable to listen to the details of the surgery you just had. If you have experienced delirium in the past--tell the anesthesiologist. Ask for a recovery room with a window--so you can tell if it's day or night. Have your glasses and hearing aids handy so you can tune in.

Children are another case. You need to be calm and comforting as the parent. Don't overpromise--saying it will be like home or even fun. Discuss the anesthesia at length--how long will the child be "out," will he or she be sick afterward? Anesthesiologists are working with the FDA on a program called Smart Tots--you can look it up.

Surgery is a big deal...and being rendered deliberately unconscious is also a big deal. Engage!

Monday, February 08, 2016

Even older drivers support checks on those over 70

This is in England. The Institute of Advanced Motorists worked with a researcher at the Warwick Medical School at the Univ of Warwick to survey more than 2,600 drivers and former drivers on their opinions and driving history.

More than half of the over-70s said they self-regulate, staying off the road in busy traffic, after dark, or in bad weather.

These drivers drove significantly fewer miles than other age groups--and 84% rated their skills as excellent. Only 6% had ever considered giving up driving.

Nonetheless, almost 60% of those surveyed said drivers should be tested every five years after age 70. Eight-five percent said they should get an eye test every five yrs also. (They also wanted an eye test every 10 years for everyone.)

Around age 70, more than half said, drivers should get a medical exam.

Ninety-four percent said doctors should be required to tell patients when their medical condition affected their ability to drive.

Eighty-two percent said driving is very important to them (more women than men).

So...should we adopt these rules here in the US? I know several personal stories of people who drive and who should not be.

In one instance, when my daughter was a toddler, an elderly driver almost smashed her stroller with her in it. The driver momentarily thought the green light at a cross street was for her.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Student invents app for university gyms

Rachel Koretsky (pictured) is not only a gym rat, and American Univ student, but also a tech startup mogul. She invented the phone app upace.

The app allows students to click and find out how crowded the gym is, plan their times, and sign up for classes.

She told the website DC Inno she is adding new features all the time.

She developed upace through the AU Entrepreneurship Incubator. AU also served as the pilot for the project.

More schools will be added in 2016. A couple more offer it now.

Has her age and gender been a factor? Age cuts both ways--university decision-makers know she understands the problem, but on the other hand, it may make her seem like a student and not deadly serious.

Still, she is marching on. I mean, "working it out."

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Weed can damage short-term memory--but not by much

I came up in the 1960s, marijuana was around, I never cared for it, but I still know adults who smoke everyday.

There is no question in my mind that it makes people kinda boring to be around if one is not sharing the bowl.

New research in the JAMA J of Internal Medicine confirms it--if you smoke a LOT of weed, it can damage your short-term memory. But only, dude, like a little.

They have a fun new term--marijuana year--that is a year of smoking daily. A marijuana year is also if you smoke every other day for two years or once a week for seven years.

(If you got that, you must not be smoking too much.)

The more you smoke--the worse you perform on memory tests. Kind of.  To wit:

Two groups of 10 people...You give them a list of 15 words and 25 mins later, see how many they remember.

--The first group, non-smokers or those who smoke only occasionally--Maybe nine out of 15 words.

--The second group, smoked every day for a period of five years. 8.5 words out of 15.

Doesn't seem like a dig difference? Researchers admit it's not. But they say if you smoke every day from 20 to 45, you may remember 2.5 fewer words.

So to me the bottom line is you can toke up every day for five years or more and it has little effect on your cognitive abilities and focus. At 45, you can search for a word as it is.

Maybe I am the boring one. Or I need to start using it. Or this is a nothingburger study. I report--you mellow out.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

You may not be getting evidence-based treatment in hospitals

I was hospitalized once for a drug interaction, but they claimed it was asthma (which I did not have). The nurse who took care of me--I could hardly breathe--said she was doing what she did for her son, which was moisture and sitting with me as I gasped. Apparently, there was no protocol for how to handle people who could not breathe.

According to Berndadette Melnyk, dean of the College of Nursing at Ohio State, use of tested practices is relatively low.

Many hospitals get poor scores in handling pressure sores or falls.

A substantial percentage (30%-40%) of hospitals do not meet national benchmarks for quality and safety.

 The study appeared in Worldviews on Evidence-Based Bursing. The team interviewed 276 chief nurse execs.

Most nurses interviewed believed in evidence-based practices, but said their organization employed these only sometimes or not at all.

Case in point: Children with asthma continue to be treated with nebulizers in the ER, although studies have shown better outcomes with a bronchodilator with a metered dose inhaler and spacer.

Evidence-based techniques yield at 28% improvement.

The nurse team also concluded that more nurses need to learn more about evidence-based practices and how to meausre outcomes.

Melnyk recommended you ask your nurse or doctor about the treatment--is it backed by science? Look it up--demand answers.

I got the nebulizer--and "breathing treatments" from a couple of techs who came around every so often during my stay. I went home with an inhaler. Stopping the offending medicine, though, ended the so-called asthma.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

"Affordable" generic drugs becoming less obtainable

In an article in Blood, the American Society of Hematology says pharmaceutical companies use several strategies to keep cheaper generic drugs from market.

In 2013, Americans spent more per capita on pharmaceuticals than Canada, the next-highest.

Some drugs can cost a patient $100,000 a year.

One in five Americans say they have not filled a prescription because of cost.

Generics emerge when the patent on the name-brand drug expires. They save the system $1.5 billion a year. Yet, many patients cannot get them.

The researchers say drug companies use many strategies to delay, prevent, or suppress generics.

---Pay for delay. The patent owner pays the generic company to delay putting the generic on the market.

----The patent holder creates its own generic. This would be OK, except it is often done to threaten the generic company that does not go along with pay to delay.

--Product hopping. The name-brand drug company makes a slightly altered version, maybe with a different tablet or dose, and the patent on that has not expired.

The doctors said they saw leukemia patients (they are blood docs) everyday who could not afford the life-saving meds.

Well, this sucks.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Even having insurance won't stave off crippling debts

A Kaiser/NYT poll showed that 20% of Americans WITH insurance have trouble paying medical bills.

Of that number, 63% report using up savings and having to take another job to try to make ends meet.

Even though they had insurance, those with dire medical situations delayed vacations or major household purchases (77%), spent less on clothes and other items (75%), or used most of their savings (63%).

Three quarters of those surveys said the new deductibles, copays or coinsurances were more than they could afford.

People also put off other health care--say the dentist.

A quarter also got unexpected claim denials. A third had to seek care outside their network with big bills attached from that.

A third had to defer essential bills such as food, heat, or housing.

These people made extra efforts to shop for cheaper procedures--but reported it was hard to find out what something would cost. Get the procedure or surgery--and THEN you will find out.

Two-thirds of those who did try to negotiate a price were unsuccessful.

So this is ducky, all this.  Pfft.