Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Binge-watching can be bad for ya

Research at the University of Michigan and the Leuven School for Mass Communication Research in Belgium found that high amounts of binge-watching leads to poorer sleep quality, more fatigue, and more insomnia than regular TV watching.

Binge-watching defined as watching "excessive" amounts of one show in one sitting.

The team surveyed 423 adults between 18 and 25 in 2016. They were asked about sleep, fatigue and insomnia and their frequency of binge-watching.

Most--81%--said they did binge-watch. Of that group, 40% had done it in the last month. Twenty-eight percent said they had done it a couple of times. Seven percent had done it every day during the preceding month!

The subjects slept on average seven hours and 37 minutes. Those who binge-watch reported more fatigue and poor sleep quality.

Too, bingeable shows tend to have plots that keep the viewer tied to the screen. The viewer becomes intensely involved.

This means a longer period is needed to "cool down." Or they may watch "just one more episode." (J of Clinical Sleep Medicine)

I binged on the first season of Breaking Bad--I would say it was disturbing but I don't remember sleep problems.

I guess there is such a thing as an overdose of horrible images.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

We might get rid of the SQUEEZY BP machines

Remember this one?
March of progress!
It's ever so trendy now for the doctor's assistant who "rooms" you to slap on an automatic blood pressure cuff that then, in my experience, squeezes your arm until you scream for mercy and goes down just as slowly. Often, the reading is inconclusive.

Can you tell? I hate these! I often insist on my BP being taken with the manual soft cuff and by a non-sadist.

Now, researchers at the Jerusalem College of Technology and the Shaare Zedek Medical Center have developed a better way to take systolic blood pressure.

Systolic is the top number, diastolic the bottom one. The customary manual or automatic methods can be affected by "white coat syndrome"--the tendency of being the doctor's office creating a higher reading.

Sometimes patients are asked to take their pressure at home to avoid the white coat effect.

Still, the automatic is less accurate than the manual.

An incorrect high reading can lead to the prescribing of meds the patient does not need and which might be harmful.

This team therefore developed a new device using a pressure cuff on the arm and an electro-optic device on the finger. Similar to that finger clamp that measures oxygenation, the finger device sends light through the finger and picks up the pulses of the heart rate.

At the same time, the cuff is inflated. When the cuff pressure increases above systolic blood pressure, the pulses disappear. When the cuff pressure goes below the person's systolic, the pulses reappear.

Anyhow--it works. How soon can we see it in use? Who knows? And will the cuff part be so alarmingly tight?

Maybe it could use some more work...but stay tuned.

Of course, there are many variations on sale now...lower arm cuffs, finger alone, on your phone, etc.

Monday, August 14, 2017

How to avoid a dog bite

I miss my first dog Spencer (poodle/sheepdog) every day of my life. How I loved him...

But I realize not all dogs are exuberant, kissy-face bundles of happiness...My mail man Anthony often says a dog just chased him or nipped.

One day, in her twenties, my daughter came out of her room with a huge ointment-covered bandage on her face--she had leaned over to snuggle a friend's pit bull and the dog, perhaps startled, tried to chew off her upper lip--19 stitches--the ER--and a fight with the insurance company, which wanted to get the money back from the dog owner (we supplied the info--don't know if they ever did).

More than 4.7 million dog bites take place each year--in summer. That is when dogs and children are outside and interact more.

Robert Olympia, MD, pediatric emergency medicine specialist at Penn State's Children's Hospital, says the chance of infection from a dog bite is between 5% and 15%, so antibiotics are a good idea. But before that, clean the bite with soap and water and apply pressure to stop bleeding.

If bleeding won't stop and if the child complains of pain or numbness, go to the ER. They will ask about the dog's rabies vaccine status...If this is not known, rabies shots may be recommended.

Most dogs that bite are known to the children or family, so rabies status is known.

Unprovoked attacks are rare.

Some tips:

--When choosing a dog, find out as much as you can about the dog's background. An anxious dog or one that shies away from humans may not be best. The more social the dog, the less chance of biting.

--Don't approach a dog you don't know. Always ask the dog's caregiver if it's OK to pet.

--Let the dog sniff your closed hand.

--Tell children to be quiet and calm.

--Dogs don't like hugs and kisses as much as we think. Wrapping your arms around a dog is not a good idea.

--If a dog runs at you, stand motionless. They will chase if you run.

--If you are attacked, roll in a ball on the ground.

Gee, this makes dogs sound like monsters...They aren't. But they are living things and have brains and preferences as to how they want to be treated. Don't overload them at first meeting.

That applies to me, too.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Are you giving your kid the wrong idea?

Yes--more on body image. What a fun topic for Friday.

On the website BlackHealthMatters.com, a writer said her daughter had suddenly asked, "Mom, am I getting fat?"

The child was 10 and the author thought, "Who has been putting this in her mind?" The dance teacher? Cheerleading coach? Drama teacher?

Then she realized the messages had been coming from HER.

Do you find yourself saying things like:

--Do you think Mommy looks fat in this dress?

--Mommy is so fat.

--I am so fat.

--I look fat in this.

--I ate so much, no wonder I can't fit into my clothes.

--These jeans make me look fat.

--My butt is too big.

These statements sound innocent and slip out, often in the hearing of young girls.

Believe me, these messages are heard.

I heard much worse things when I was a child--my weight was always a family issue. My dad called me a baby elephant. My three siblings and parents were "normal."

With me, it was my stick-thin mother delicately frowning if I reached for a roll or making a point of saying, "Please put my dressing on the side--it is so fatty, you know."

Some of this can be avoided.

By the way--the woman in the pix put her child--yes, that one--on a diet at age 7.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Protect your health records on the road

Some people travel between homes in winter and summer and others trek around the planet.

When you travel, you may put your identity at special risk.

--Never accept "free" health services or products requiring you health plan ID number.

--Never share insurance numbers on the phone--unless you called them.

--If you take your medical records with you, put them in a locked box or scan them and put them on an encrypted thumb drive or CD.

--Shred old records.

---If you are home or on the road, take labels off prescription bottles before tossing them.

--Make sure your purse or wallet is secure.

--Do not use public wi-fi to log onto health financial sites.

--Monitor your credit reports to see if your medical or financial information has gotten out.

When I traveled, I also purchased temporary travel insurance--I got mine from Amex--that would fly me home if I got sick and cover medical bills abroad.

I also carried a few American hundred-dollar bills--accepted everywhere, I have found. I even had to use one to pay a doctor in Madrid. Nothing like good old cash.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

No, no, no--no watching eclipse without eyewear

On Aug 21st, the moon will block the sun for up to 3 hours--and this will be visible across the US. A once-in-a-lifetime event.

The entire sun will be covered in the southwest corner of Kentucky.

Still, even when the sun is totally blocked--and of course in areas with partial blocking--solar filter glasses MUST be worn, according to Patrick A. Scott, OD, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Louisville Dept of Ophthalmology &Visual Sciences.

Looking directly at the sun causes "solar retinopathy." The blast of UV light creates toxic free radical cells that can damage the photoreceptors and specialized pigment of the eye. There is no treatment for this--except to avoid it.

This damage can result in mild to moderate reduction in vision as well as central blind spots!

Most at risk are younger people, those with an  intraocular lens implanted after cataract surgery, and those on photosensitive drugs such as tetracycline and amiodarone.

The doctor's Dept in Louisville sees 10 cases a year with solar retinopathy from laser pointers or high intensity sun exposure.

Be sure to get--and wear--glasses with special purpose solar filters. You can see some approved ones on NASA's website. https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety

I already know two people who are gearing up for this--in ancient times, people thought it meant the world was ending.

Now--despite current events--we think it's a good time.



Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Health orgs applying "design thinking"

Amitha Kalaichandran, New York Times, writes about a hospital that used a nurse-generated idea to clear up confusion over who was in charge during emergency treatment: The trauma team leader wears an orange vest. In another facility--he or she wears a hard hat.

In recent years, more hospitals support ideas from any and all members of the team--using the human-centered approach called "design thinking."

Some aspects of this are empathy for the user (the patient), interdisciplinary buy-in, and immediate prototyping  or pilot programming.

Usually design thinking comes in when a service is fundamentally broken.

At Thomas Jefferson University in Philly, little kids could not respond meaningfully to the 1-10 pain scale, so they created the CareCube--on each face of the colorful cube was a drawing of a face in various stages of pain.

At another hospital, they noticed that the closer the sink was to patients with a contagious intestinal infection, the more likely staff was to wash hands. So they moved these patients to a new part of the hospital with handier sinks.

There is also an organization now called Clinicians for Design.

Over the years, on this blog, I have covered:

--A vending machine for doctor's offices so patients can get their first prescription without going to the pharmacy (since they may be sick or have kids in tow)

--A range of flavorings for liquid medicines for finicky patients

--Introduction of complementary therapies

--Ways to make hospitals quieter, especially at night

--Phone apps and wearables that eliminate doctor visits

--Special clothes for the disabled and wheelchair bound

To name a few.

Keep thinking!


Monday, August 07, 2017

Allergy-proofing school life

At home, parents can make sure allergic kids have inhalers close at hand and that dust and mite poo are vacuumed regularly...but what about when kids get out in the world, namely to school?

Keeping allergies and asthma under control at school is a challenge, says Stephen Tilles, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI.org).

Parents need to work with both the child and the school.

Some tips:

Ask questions--now--at school. How does the school nurse handle allergy emergencies? Is there a school nurse, for that matter? Who calls 911? What if the child can't remember how to operate the epinephrine injector or can't find it? Are teachers trained in allergic reactions? Make a list of questions--meet with the nurse.

Make sure your child really has a food allergy. About 5-8% of kids have true allergies--many are misdiagnosed. You need to work with an allergist. Skin pricks are not effective unless the child has had allergy symptoms. Keep the school fully informed on a diagnosed allergy.

What about allergens hiding at school? For instance, what about the classroom pet? Or pet dander on the clothes or backpack of another child? Pollen and dust settle if classrooms are not cleaned well. Does the teacher keep windows open?

Talk to your expert. Meet with the allergist before school starts. For instance, kids with asthma under the care of an allergist miss 77% fewer days of school.

Think ahead. Be proactive.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Babies study grownups for clues

Ever catch a baby as young as 8 months studying you intently?

Some researchers at Washington University says that even before they can talk, babies are keeping close track of what's happening and look for patterns that will help them guess what will happen next.

For instance, they can judge a grownup's preference for a certain toy or food. (This may explain why kids want a toy another kid is playing with.)

The tykes base their predictions on consistency. In the tests, a grownup would choose the same item over and over while the baby watched--and then when the grownup picked a different one, the baby would exhibit a longer "looking time," presumably while the baby figured out what happened.

In another test, a baby would offer an actor the same toy the actor had seemed to prefer as the baby observed.

There may be a lot going on in those fuzzy little heads. Who knows what a very small infant is picking up--a word to the wise.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Yay--drinking may stall "cognitive decline"

Finally, a study I can get behind! It has long been intimated by some studies that moderate drinking can increase lifespan (on an average basis).

Now a University of California San Diego study seems to show that older adults who consume alcohol moderately on a regular basis are more likely to live to 85 without dementia or other  (J of Alzheimer's Disease).

The studied subjects over 29 years--"moderate to heavy" consumption 5-7 days a week seemed to result in better cognitive health.

What is moderate and what is heavy?

--Moderate is one bev a day for adult women of any age and men 65 and older or up to two a day for men under 65

--Heavy is defined as up to three for women and men 65 or older, and four drinks for men under 65

Above that--not just heavy but excessive. (Few in the study drank to this level, the researchers noted.)

In fact, excessive can cause dementia.

The researchers are not sure why drinking seems to result in few cognitive issues.

Still, they say these findings do not mean people who don't drink should start. Some people have other health problems made worse by alcohol and still others cannot limit intake.

I drink a shot of vodka when I remember to buy it--it helps with my knee pain. Better for me than Tylenol? Looks like maybe. My mother had dementia (non-Alz). I sure don't want it.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Glyphosphate--Roundup to you--finally attacked

Timberrr, A giant bottle of Roundup, the controversial weedkiller is toppled outside the European Commission to highlight the desire for a ban on glyphosphate.

But--the EU members are also discussing licensing the stuff in the European Union.

Meanwhile, citizens are calling for an end to its use, an overall reduction in pesticide use, and more info on safety.

European farmers are showing it's possible to be profitable without weedkillers.

California has said glyphosphate causes cancer and the UN's cancer experts say it "probably" does.

The chemical has been found in the environment and in organisms (meaning you).

You can google the research. You may want to kill weeds--but do you want the process to kill you back?

This goop is everywhere...I see people hosing down their yard with it every weekend.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Treatments for pets benefiting humans

It's no secret around here that I love TV shows about veterinarians...I almost trust vets more than medical doctors.

Jennifer Gardener, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Washingon Seattle, says dermatologists, vets, and scientists can learn a lot from each other.

The UW One Health movement explores the links between humans, animals, and the environment. The idea goes back to when one "doc" dealt with both animals and humans.

Remember, both are living things and exist in the same environment.

Sometimes things from that environment that show up in animals can provide valuable info on treating people.

One example is the effort put into immune-based treatments for canine stopic dermatitis. Topical ointments don't work so well with fur. But the immune-based approach could also translate to humans.

Another area is the invisible mites that live on both humans and animals. In humans, these can cause rosacea and hair loss. The One Health people are finding out which can be passed from human to animal and back.

Thinking you can catch some stuff from your pet may cause you to be less loving and close...But what if the condition is not catchable? This would be another advantage of thinking of health of people and pets along one continuum.

When I was a  kid we had a monkey that gave our new puppy ringworm--and then my brothers got it.

Just wanted to share that. You're welcome.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Do docs spend more time on the computer than on you?

I wrote about the "electronic chart" 35 yrs ago--it was to be the wonder of the future...Well, we are still wondering.

First, your information is hardly universally available. One doc has to call another still to get your chart.

But the most common complaint from patients is that the doctor fools with the computer and uses time he or she could be devoting to the patient.

Some doctors lament this, and do some patients, according to a Reuters story.

One doctor said they either must turn their eyes to the computer and enter patient answers and data or do this later, which results in overtime on each patient.

Some researchers at Brown did a study that ran in the J of Innovation in Health Infomatics.

They asked doctors how the electronic chart (or EHR-Electronic Health Record) affected their patient interactions.

--Most said the EHR undermined their connection with patients. One doctor said it was like someone at a dinner table texting.

Of the 3,761 physicians, 68% responded. More than 87% of those uder EHRs. About 744 expanded on their answers.

--Most of those were older and more likely to be in primary care.

--There was a divide between docs who say people in the hosp and those who saw people in the office. The hosp doctors sai the EHR disconnected them from patients--but the office docs said the EHR degraded their relationship to patients. (Some hosp doctors said having lab results in the computer improved relations.)

Some doc said the EHR format was not as easy to use and intuitive as other computer systems, resulting in multiple clicks and disorganization.

--Also training on using the EHR is missing from medical school.

Let me think. I just got a new primary. He was standing in the hall looking at the computer and my clipboard...I don't think he used the computer in the room.

But I had some guy--my eye surgeon--who tried to double up on responding about me to the referring doctor and talking to me about my eye. He would TALK INTO the computer, using a program with medical terms to spell for him--and say, "I saw Ms Lawrence today and blah blah" to the other doctor and I was supposed to hear what he said and that was MY fill-in. All without looking at me.

And to make matters worse, the darn thing could not spell terms he used--he could say TRY AGAIN over and over until the machine came up with what he wanted. What a mishmash.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Men doing the grocery shopping

Shocker--according to Men's Health, 84% of men are now the primary grocery shoppers in their household. Other surveys put the number lower, but there is no doubt that men are now pushing the cart more than in the past.

Abah Battarai, writing in the Washington Post, says yes, men are taking on more chores, but also men are putting off marriage longer and must eat in the meantime.

Implications:

--Men are less strategic--they buy what is needed for a day or maybe even that evening. Women buy a 12-pack, men a 6-pack.

--Men take the hunter attitude--kill fast and leave. Score!

--Men are more impressed by brands. And interesting displays--which stores now are eager to provide. Some have lunchbox aisles, dinner aisles.

--Stores try to make shopping more fun on the assumption that men get frustrated more easily.

--Of course, men think they are great shoppers...and well, women...they take a more moderate view of what men drag home.

My ex- was the cook and I was the breadwinner, which led to his tossing in every luxury item he could find and me taking it back out. But I think that may be a different subject.

Yesterday, a woman friend of mine said her husband had just left for Costco. "I try to keep him out of there," she sighed,

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Why not talk to yourself?

You are good company, right?

Yet, there used to be a joke about how talking to oneself did not mean you were crazy--but answering yourself did.

Fulll disclosure: I talk to myself all day. I ask myself questions. I encourage myself to stand and walk when my arthritis is bad. I maybe even utter an oath if something hurts or annoys.

Chatter chatter.

Researchers at Michigan State and the University of Michigan say talking --silently they said--to yourself in the third person ("A woman can do this"...etc.) can exert self-control and is pretty effortless.

In short, it makes you think of yourself as you would another person and the brain picks up on this. You get distance from the emotion.

In one experiment, they show participants disturbing images such as a gun being held to a head, and when the subjects referred to themselves in the third person about the image, the brain activity decreased quickly.

In another experiment, the participants went to a traumatic experience from their past using first and third person..third-person self talk resulted in less brain activity.

So...I guess it can't hurt a person, Star. Babble away.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Will you be "chipped" in the future?

A Wisconsin company called Three Square Market is offering employees rice-sized under-the-skin microchips to scan them into the building and pay for food.

So far--these are voluntary.

They slide them under the skin between thumb and forefinger.

The company says "this is the next thing that's going to happen" and they want to be part of it. They  insert the $300 chips in those who want them at "chip parties."

The company,  which provides technology for break rooms and other small markets, foresees Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to gradually be used for many purposes--copying machines, unlocking phones, business cards, storing health info, and other uses.

Of course, this technology is already used on pets. And some have suggested it for tracking wandering dementia patients.

This company swears no tracking will be involved. But who knows?

One question (among many) I had was what if you go from company to company with this stuff under your skin...What reacts to what?


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Are we ready for plumper mannequins?

Clothes hang on hangers and I always think models are chosen because they show the clothes as if the garments were on a hanger. In other words--the models are crazy skinny. Some of their insect-like legs hardly even look human. (By the way, the male mannequins tend to be freakishly brawny.)

Some designers have defended this, but there is a growing trend (I learned) toward more realistic mannequins--even some depicting disabled people.

Lorynn Divita, PhD, co-author of Fashion Forecasting and associate professor at Baylor's Robbins Colleges of Health and Human Sciences. She answered some questions recently. Paraphrasing...

Why are mannequins so skinny--doesn't this discourage average size or larger women?
Mannequins are expensive--more plastic more cost. The average mannequin costs $500 to $900--and repairs can also run high. Also smaller mannquins are easier to "dress."

Wouldn't it still be worth it to create more realistic ones?
Sixty-five percent of American women are Size 14 or larger. Yet they only buy 17% of the apparel. As the plus-size market grows, the mannequin situation should change.

Who do the mannequins resemble?
Sometimes a celebrity with a popular shape. There are no standards, just as women's sizes also do not conform to a set of standards.

What other ways will mannequins evolve?
With active wear being more popular, mannequins will have to be doing more than standing or sitting--running, doing a yoga pose. Some swimwear has diving mannequins. Some mannequins may be suspended from the ceiling.

Also available--stickers to change facial expressions, fake eyelashes, and stick-on makeup changes.

Have you seen any of these new mannequins? Let me see if I can find a picture.

Monday, July 24, 2017

What makes sensitive teeth sensitive?

Do you fear an ice cream cone on a hot day or a steaming cup of java in winter? You may have sensitive teeth.

Jane Cotter, RDH, MS, assistant professor, Texas A&M College of Dentistry, says over time, enamel may wear away, exposing the dentin layer of the tooth and the dentin tubules--the fluid moving in the tubules triggers a pain response. Yow.

The biggest cause is gum recession. Other causes included toothbrush abrasion (brushing too hard or with too hard a brush), periodontal therapy, tooth decay, fault restorations, or excessive bleaching.

Foods that heighten sensitivity:

--Sodas (diet and regular)
--Energy drinks
--Fruit juice
--Wine
--Coffee

When it's cold out, the temperature actually affects the sinuses and then the teeth underneath respond.

Cotter says having sensitive teeth makes life dull. No ice-cream, cold weather running...

Treatments?

She recommends over-the-counter toothpaste containing potassium nitrate or calcium phosphate. Fluoride gels or rinses can also help.

If this doesn't do the trick, talk to your dentist. This goes especially if you are changing your life over the pain in your teeth.

Ice-cream is just too important.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Hiphop community embracing health as the new wealth

The late Pfife Dawg--dead of
diabetes.
Story in Healthy Living. Malik (Pfife Dawg) Taylor of A Tribe Called Quest died of complications from Diabetes 2.  Not crack, not heroin, not oxy, not "lead poisoning"--diabetes.

--Heavy D, Big Pun, and the Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch, Prodigy of Mobb Deep, and 2 Live Crew's Fresh Kid Ice--all died of things like sickle cell or stroke...What people could call natural causes, but which need not be so natural at young ages.

Quincy Jones III and Shawn Ullman have made a hiphop documentary called: Feel Rich: Health is the New Wealth."

There seems to be a new trend toward healthy living in the hiphop community. Styles O is opening juice bars in the Bronx, Other rappers are opening health clubs and gyms.

The organization Feel Rich, founded in 2011, which is connected to the film, collaborates with the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and various corporations and brands. Among other things, the organization has funded urban gardens. In the film, the weight loss journeys of Fat Joe and Crystal Wall are outlined.

The idea was to make health fun and aspirational.

But--the founders point out--hiphop has been around a while now--the rappers are getting older and health is more of an issue.

Boy is that true.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

How much healthy choices prolong life

I read a study this morning done by the Lancet that said worldwide Alzheimer's cases could be cut by one-third if people controlled weight, exercise, blood pressure, hearing loss and some other factors.

I think they sort of confused cause with association, but even then, it still left two-thirds of cases unexplained...not to mention sliding over whether all cases were Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia.

A study done by Health Affairs, on the other hand, took a different approach. They said 80% of those who smoked or were fat reach their fifties alive. BUT if you had not smoked or been fat, how long will you live from then on without disability?

The researchers looked at nationwide data from 1998-2012, among Americans 50 to 89.

They found the impact of a health lifestyle was large.

The average American who was not fat or did not smoke lived an additional seven years free of disability. This was better than Japan, even, where people are thought to be healthy longer.

I looked at the bar chart by risk factor...Seems the women lived longer (which we knew) but disabled was the category at the end of life, even though the disabled part may have commenced a little later than for men.

Oh, and "moderate drinker" seemed to confer a few more good yrs for both genders.

Cheers!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Don't forget--your teen may be due for a vaccine

Most parents muddle through all the baby vaccines OK, even in this current environment of questioning vaccines--but the need is lifelong.

It's not just "puppy" shots and you're done. The schools will tell you what is needed by school age--but then what?

The University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital looked at this.

They queried 614 parents with at least one teen--age 13-17.

Little kids are usually scheduled for vaccines, but doctor visits are less regular as kids grow up.

Sometimes a doctor can only bring up vaccines if the youngster is brought in for an accident.

As a result, vaccines are below targets in the adolescent area, especially those that require more than one dose.

--Only one-third of teens have received a second dose of meningitis vaccine by age 17.

--Half of boys 13-17 have completed the HPV series.

--Fewer than half of adolescents get a flu shot.

Parents are unclear on what kids should be getting. They say they only knew because the doctor scheduled a visit or mentioned it.. In 11% the office sent reminders.

I am way far from being a teen, but just got a second type of pneumonia vaccine.

You have to look into this and decide for yourself--and your teenager.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Do you prefer a fit doctor?

According to a story by Lauren C. Howe in the New York Times, some physicians include their gym and marathoning activities in their profiles. One doctor said he preferred to "lead" his patients by example.

But--Howe pointed out--this can be a turnoff to overweight or unfit patients who fear a "healthier than thou" attitude or lectures.

Negative attitudes about weight, according to other studies, are prevalent among doctors.

Howe and her team (J of Personality and Social Psychology) used the short doctor descriptions Kaiser offers Some doctors talked about their own fitness, others did not.

They found that overweight participants preferred doctors who did not emphasize their own fitness.

The participants also brought up stories of doctors lecturing about weight the second they walked in--despite whatever the presenting complaint was.

The results were lessened if the doctors in the study added that they thought healthy lifestyles come in different forms.

Federal guidelines urge doctors to lead by example and some organizations even want them to pledge to do so.

The researchers concluded that the docs could be subtler.

Now--the responses. There were many. I would say about a fourth said they would never take diet advice from a fat doctor. But others said they thought that doctor would know more about what was involved.

There were many stories--including some from yours truly--about doctors jumping right to weight as the cause of everything wrong with the patient--which could lead to other things being missed.

What do you think?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Yes, a tight ponytail can give you a headache

The same for a tight bathing cap or an aggressive braid (think rows or dreads).

There is a real type of headache called "ponytail headache syndrome."

Allodynia is docspeak for an uncomfortable sensation interpreted by the brain as pain.

People who have this can get a tap on the arm and jump in pain. Allodynia, by the way, is associated with fibromyalgia.

In the case of tight hairstyles, the scalp is overly sensitive.

Hair itself has no nerves, but the place it grows out of does.

A ponytail pulls back on those hair follicles--which scream in pain.

Some aspects:

--Not everyone has this. Migraines and tension headaches can make you prone. It can come out more when you are menstruating.

--Stress and lack of sleep can make it worse.

--If you must have a tight style--say for a special event--take some ibuprofen ahead of time.

It your ponytail begins to plague you..--let your hair down. But you would have thought of that, right?

Friday, July 14, 2017

Reasonably healthy diet while camping

Some people like to go camping. Actually millions do. Me, put the tent in The Four Seasons. But I digress.

I recently saw a story on how to eat well while camping. I guess the message is that S'mores are not a steady diet that will get you up and down hills and mountains and swimming across lakes.

And--remember--there is something about being outside all day that revs up the appetite.

Some tips?

--Be sure to include fiber. The usual camping foods--roasted meats or even S'mores contain little fiber. The last thing you want in the wild is constipation. Ouch! So pack a lot of carrot sticks, apples, whole grain bread, and other fibery treats. Watch for farm stands and get fresh produce.

--Make meals ahead of time. The campsite often lacks the pots, pans, and other utensils to make multiple items...you can even pre-cook burgers and just add the "flame" taste onsite. Or make nutrient-dense soup, freeze it to use as a cold pack, and then heat it.

--Stay on top of snacks. Trail mix, nuts, dried fruits--nice and portable--but can be calorie-dense. Check out the count before you load up on these all day. A handful of  nuts can be 200 calories. This is not to say you should be on some big "diet" while camping, but be mindful.

---Stay hydrated. This is important whether you are camping or not. Try to stick with water (and not from a stream, no no no). Sodas and sports drinks make you thirstier.

The key is to have fun, enjoy the fun of eating outdoors--and yes, even to have A s'more or two...Life is for living!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Trip to the beach? What pills do you take?

I took pity and did not post the many
pix with huge yellow blisters. Ugh.
Did you know many medications increase your sensitivity to the sun and can result in intense sunburns with peeling and blistering?

This is called drug-induced photosensitivity.

The seriousness of the reaction depends on the potency of the drug and amount of sun exposure--but it can occur within minutes or pop up 72 hours later.

In the case of antibiotics, the meds deposit in the skin and the sun causes are chemical reaction leading to inflammation.

Pharmacists often warn you about this, but many people forget it and go in the sun anyway.

The most common drugs with this problem are antibiotics, but antidepressants can also cause trouble.

If you experience a dramatic burn, you can stop antibiotics, but if you think it's from anti-depressants, call the doctor for instructions. "You don't want a psychiatric episode," one researcher said.

If you are taking photosensitive meds:

--Avoid direct exposure to the sun, especially during 10 am and 3 pm.

--Wear sunprotective clothing, long sleeves, long pants or skirts, sunglasses.

--Apply sunscreen of at least SPF 15.

--Use topical remedies such as cool, wet cloths and cortisone-like drugs.

--If it gets really bad, go to the ER. Bring the pill bottle.

Always something, isn't it?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

You don't need a hydration clinic

As people grow older (erg), they experience thirst less...and thus can get dehydrated...even those of us who stay indoors out here in the Sonoran Desert. I don't always drink as much as I should and I have a fellow oldie who says the same.

Actually I don't know if "hydration clinics" are aimed at the older set. I suspect they are for the wanta-be-hip contingent.

Clayton Bradshaw recently wrote about these clinics in the Phoenix area.

Basically these facilities hook you up to an intravenous line and shoot in saline mixed with vitamins and various nutrients.

An IV! Seriously?

These treatments reportedly make people feel refreshed and are recommended by the owners of the clinics for chronic fatigue and migraines. And--don't count this out--as a cure for hangovers.

This approach has been around since the 1950s--when a doctor named John Myers offered "Myers Cocktails" to improve digestion.

Opponents of this approach say most health people can digest perfectly well and the less healthy--say those with congestive heart failure or metabolic diseases--could be harmed.

One thing for sure--these treatments are SPENDY, runnng up to $200 a session.

Drink some water--and if you must, that vitamin water stuff...

Remember, whatever is in that IV is going directly into your bloodstream...Are you sure you know what's in it?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Free drug testing at music events

By free testing, I don't mean your buddy throwing down a pill and promising to tell you what it did to him.

Johns Hopkins actually studied the experience of volunteers who test pills at raves and other music events.

Yes, such services exist.

Among the findings, which were published in the J of Psychopharmacology, was that the stimulant known as MDMA--or Molly--had as many harmful additives as Ecstasy. The most common adulterant--bath salts.

The best thing is to not take street drugs, the researchers said. Second best--no fault testing on-site.

One such testing group is called DanceSafe. The volunteers come with test kits and scrape a teeny amount off a pill for testing. Chemicals are added that change colors when various elements are present. The drug colors are matched against a chart of colors.

This can show adulterants, but not which ones.

The researcher emphasize that almost drugs are e mixture--no matter what the purveyors say.

According to the study, almost half took the drug anyway if it contained Molly or MDMA.

So, I would say, the result of the testing was to confirm a more predictable drug, but not to turn partygoers away from all party drugs.

Still, it's a start.

Bath salts and a dangerous form of amphetamine called PMA were found in some samples.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Every 21 seconds--medication error

A friend and I were emailing about "pills" and how we didn't want to take them, much less "ask our doctors if they would be right for us."

Then I read that every 21 seconds, someone in the US calls Poison Control because the effects of some medication--not street drugs--medications.

The study, done by the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center, and published in Clinical Toxicology, says med errors have doubled since 2012. The only age group that went down was children younger than 6.

Most associated with serious outcomes:

--Cardiovascular drugs (21%)

--Painkillers (12%),

--Hormones and hormone antagonists (11%). (Involving insulin)

The most common errors were:

--Taking or giving the wrong medicine

--Incorrect dosage

--Taking twice by accident

One-third of these mistakes resulted in hospitalization.

Some tips for avoiding these issues:

--Write everything down. Parents and caregivers or even the patient should not what was given and when.

--Ask questions. Ask the doctor, Ask the pharmacist. Does four times a day mean every six hours, even at night--or four times in waking hours?

--Child resistant packaging. Most pills come in child-proof bottles (supposedly childproof), but often adults transfer a days pills to another receptacle--use a child resistant one of those and keep it out of sight.

Pills, pills, pills...I just think we have too many...Ask your doctor if some of yours can be eliminated.

In the 1960, there were 600 meds. Now there are thousands.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Opioids--Savior and scourge

We have someone in the family with painkiller issues. I know another person who is taking a "big" painkiller for arthritis on a long-term basis.

The fruit of the poppy--or synthesized variants--have been with us for millennia.

Opioids can be effective for moderate to severe short-term pain, but even then are  risky.

Addiction, overdose, children left orphaned, communities left hopeless and destitute.

Are there alternatives?

If you find yourself staying on pain killers long after surgery or asking for them for chronic pain and even considering getting them on the internet, ask yourself:

---Why did you get them prescribed in the first place? Yes, they are strong--for strong pain. But sometimes other things work almost as well. (I had a huge incision for my hernia a few months ago, and while people's pain tolerance varies, I realized the cuts were sore but not like being ripped into anew--so I sneaked by on Tylenol.  I also did not want to use the self-administer gizmo full or Fentanyl--which is many times stronger than vicodin.)

Yet, I have bad arthritis--and do want some relief--so I know a little how chronic pain people feel. Maybe Tylenol is not their answer.

--Ask your doctor how long you will be on opioids. If this seems open-ended, ask about alternatives.

---Are opioids affecting the quality of my life? The side effects range from horrible constipation, fogginess, nausea, to depression--and sometimes to overdose and death.

--Why would you NOT stop? Do you fear being judged? Are you afraid to stop because you don't know what the pain would be like without them?

What alternatives might be available:

--Injections or nerve blocks.

--Electrical stimulation and spinal cord stimulation.

--Physical therapy--including whirlpools, ultrasound and massage.

--Acupuncture.

--Biofeedback, meditation, deep breathing.

--Surgery--Correcting the pain-causing abnormalities.

You can always ask!

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Pink eye? Probably getting the wrong stuff

My daughter and I both had this kind of disgusting eye infection once--curtains of green slopping down our faces.

Pink eye--or conjunctivitis--is treated with antibiotic drops in 60% of cases--and about 20% of those patients get a drop with steroids that can prolong or worsen this condition.

The study, done at the University of Michigan and published in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, is the first to study a diverse section of the US.

Besides 20% of those given drops being given the wrong drops, the study showed that whether the patient filled the prescription depended on socioeconomic status, rather than the risk of a more serious infection--say in those with contacts or those with HIV/AIDS.

Pink eye--which hits 6 million people in the US each year--can be caused by a virus, a bacteria or an allergy.

Most are caused by viruses and allergies--antibiotics are useless.

Most pink eye clears up in 1-2 weeks without treatment.

Other interesting facts:

--Primary care doctors diagnose 83% of cases.

--Those diagnosed by a primary care doctor or urgent care center were more likely to get the drops than patients diagnosed by an eye doctor.

--Those who filled prescriptions were more likely to be white, younger, better educated, and richer than patients who did not fill the prescriptions.

Some doctors prescribe antibiotics "just in case." This, of course, gets more antibiotics out there building up resistance.

Still, I remember the disgusting green stuff--I did want it gone.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Sure--buy a fun toy to cripple your kids

Trampolines always look like fun on ice! Soaring, twisting, laughing, defying gravity.

But did you ever see a video of a bear on one--and the bear goes flying off the side onto a rock or concrete?

It's always fun and games until someone breaks a wrist.

Sure you can over-protect children--I think we do as a society. But trampolines account for thousands of emergency dept visits each year, according to Monica, Kogan, MD, a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Rush.

Most fractures and dislocations involve kids under age 16.

Ninety-five percent of these occurred on tramps at home.

Forearms, wrists, elbows, legs, ankles--snap snap snap.

Even with netting, trampolines are not safe, Kogan scolds. She won't her kids play on them

If kids are going to bounce, it needs to be supervised and in a controlled, well designed area.

Oh--and this applies to "jumpy houses," too. And to grownups--often the parents participate, too, and can fall  on the child.

That would be a bad break.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Kind of gross--the Corn Test

Anything for science.
Kate Murphy, reporting in the New York Times, says if you get an upset tummy it might not be from something you just ate--it could be from something you ate up to 48 hrs before.

How can you tell?

Eat some corn, which passes right through, and see how long it takes to "appear." That is your personal clearance rate, supposedly.

According to Murphy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people get a "gastrointestinal event" a couple of times a month (NYT readers thought that was too often, at least for them).

--The stomach takes 4-6 hours to empty a full meal, then the small intestine takes another 6-8 hours to squeeze out the nutrients and then pass the rest on to the colon, where "the rest" can liner for 1-3 days, fermenting, before leaving.

But mileage may vary--so try the corn thing to see what your total time of passage is.

--If you throw up but nothing is amiss down below, it could be the offending item was consumed 4-6 hours ago.

--If you wake up with diarrhea and cramps, think 18-48 hours before.

Of course, the trouble could also come from pathogens on your hands, or from FODMAPS (google it), fermentable so-called healthy foods such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, asparagus, beans, whole grains and other foods.

Yes--healthy.

And don't forget stress and allergies...yipes.

I say--Imodium is your friend...Never leave home without it.

Now--how about some corn?

Friday, June 30, 2017

Flop-flops should not be your only summer shoe

Flip-flops are so easy to slide on. They are time-tested, dating back to 1500 BC--the Egyptians.

At one end, you have the drugstore mode for five bucks. At the other, the fashinista version for more than $200.

But flip-flops are not good for every summer activity, according to Cristina S. Long, DPM, a podiatrist and foot and ankle specialist at Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Flip-flops offer no arch or heel support. You have to grip with your toes to keep them on.

Ever get that sore place between your big toe and second toe where the strap is? That is not the only issue. Chafing, blisters, calluses--you name it--even heel pain called plantar's fasciitis (inflammation of sole tissue), hammer toes, and even stress fractures.

Still, the doc says flip-flops are OK for short-term use if they are padded. Throw them on for a trip to the store or pool.

Traditional sandals--strapped to your foot--are probably a better option. For hiking or long wear or uneven terrain--traditional shoes.

If you are going to wear flip-flops:

--Toss pairs showing wear.

--Look for high quality, soft leather--not plastic.

--Gently bend it to see if it bends at the ball of the foot.

--Make sure your foot does not hang off the sides or ends.

I love my rope sandals...put "Gurkha rope sandals" in Google. I get so many compliments...Got one yesterday.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Drones to the rescue

Here it comes--CLEAR!!!
The American Heart Association estimates that in 2016, more than 350,000 people in the US went into cardiac arrest away from a hospital. Only 12% survived long enough to be treated in a hospital and released.

Clearly, the sources of a heart-restarting electric shock need to be brought closer to those whose heart has stopped.

If the shock can come within one minute, the chance of survival is 90%. But if it takes 10 minutes, the chance of survival is only 5%.

These days, malls, airports, schools, and other venues have an external defibrillator available.

If the patient is unlucky, the machine must come to him or her--usually via ambulance.

But what if a drone could zip it over?

Sound wacky--well, they are testing this at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

The drone weighs 12.5 lbs and flies at 47 miles per hour.  It is painted with fluorescent paint and has LED lights on it so people can find it fast.

In the tests, the drone beats the ambulance 93% of the time. (They tested this in the field, stationing the drone at a fire state outside Stockholm and sending it off for cardiac arrests between 2006 and 2014.)

The drone saved around 16 minutes, which could be clinically significant.

Anyhow, the results were promising enough that the work continues.

Still sounds a little shaky to me, but if your heart stops, you would want to try anything.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Tips on summertime dog health

Sitting the prow of a boat whizzing across a cool lake or thrashing in the brush on a hike in shaded mountains is one thing...but this is Arizona, notorious for its killer high temperatures.

If a dog can make it in Arizona, it can thrive almost anyplace. For instance, Ahwatukee...This is actually a prosperous suburb of Phoenix, but the Ahwatukee Foothill News recently had tips for keeping dogs healthy in summer in a story by guest writer Malinda Malone:

HEATSTROKE. Yes, dogs get this. Never leave your dog in a car in the heat or even push it up a barren mountain on a prolonged hike. A cracked window does NOT cool a car.

SUNBURN.  White, light colored, or dogs with sparse short fur are especially vulnerable. Use a sunscreen for dogs or even one for babies. Be sure to cover the dog's nose and ear tips, the skin around its mouth, and its back.

PAW PADS. Sidewalks and patios heat up fast. If you wouldn't go barefoot, or only for a second, your dog should not either. Get the animal onto grass.

DEHYDRATION. Provide cool water. Even put in ice cubes. Some people offer frozen broth to get dogs to drink more.

CAMPFIRES AND BBQs. Dogs can try to pull burning sticks out of fires. They may also try to lick food off grills that may be hot. Keep an eye on them. Also keep lighter fluid out of reach.

FIREWORKS. Dogs may think an unexploded firework is a stick and bite it or try to run away with it. Also, some dogs get very upset over loud noises. Keep dogs on a short leash at fireworks displays.

PARASITES. Ask the vet about flea and tick protection.

CHEMICALS. Don't let dogs drink a lot of pool water. Rinse the dog with fresh water after swimming in a pool. Even mud puddles can contain gas or oil.

This boils down to common sense. But, still, every year, we get some story about a person who drags some poor mutt on a big hike and the dog collapses. Think!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Hey--clear coffee!

The coffee stains on your favorite blouse--the rings on your desk--the big oopsies!

Enter two Slovakian brothers, David and Adam Nagy, living in London, who have invented clear java.

It's called CLR CFF (apparently those two dislike vowels as well as stains).

They won't say how they do it, but only high quality Arabica beans are used. No chems or additives. Also no preservatives, artificial flavors, stabilizers, sugar or other sweeteners.

It taste like strong iced coffee...one 200 ml bottle should last all day. You can even put it in cocktails.

You can find out more at http://clrcff.com, I it will shortly reach the UK through Amazon.

The United States? Stay tuned. We like our coffee--no matter what color or even no color.

Dunno on this, though. I expect a coffee taste when I see brown...Could you put cream in this or would it look like skim milk?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Help with big health decisions

As you know if you are a regular reader, I deal in health everyday. But I still am uncertain about making decisions about my own health...I feel like I am thwarted or wrong every time. I talk to doctors, do research on Dr Google, ask my friends...and then act and feel uneasy the whole time.

Do I know just enough to be dangerous?  I did OK making decisions for my mother, who had dementia for the 18 yrs I cared for her, and she lived until age 95.

But me? I remember 3 months ago when my hernia was discovered (after brewing for 30-some yrs, they thought later) and I thought, no surgery...I will die of surgery....Then, of course, while waiting interminably for specialists to clear me as healthy enough for surgery, the hernia went bad, and I had emergency surgery within half an hour. And woke up. And feel it may be helped my IBS, if I even had that.

So I am interested in a seven-year-old company called HealthDecision.com.

This company has decision-making tools for patients--and physicians--involving cardiovascular risk, atrial fibrillation (which I have and the therapies have all failed me, to which a cardiologist recently agreed), lung cancer screening, and breast cancer screening. Those four.

A doctor blogging on the site said, "The tools display the recommendations from national clinical guidelines and then take the discussion another step, showing the impact of one therapeutic choice compared to another...In (some) situations, the clinician and patients can engage in true shared decision-making where the science and patient's values can meet. In these situations, agreeing to disagree can be a very comfortable process.

I am meeting my new primary doctor this week. Wonder if he ever agrees to disagree. I know I will never go on another "diet." I have seen that movie over and over since I was 10 yrs old.


Friday, June 23, 2017

Reminder: Staying healthy on vacay

Ah, yes, infectious diseases--they are ever with us.

Brent W. Laarta, MD, author of How to Avoid Contagious Diseases (www.drlaartz.com) says 40% of travelers who bring back a major illness from their foreign travels.

He was one--on a horseback riding trip to Costa Rica (in his younger, more naive days).

Some tips he learned the hard way:

--Avoid local water in all forms. When you shower, no water in your mouth or eyes. Ask for a drink without ice. Bring iodine tablets and a water boiler to sanitize water for yourself,. Drink bottled. Be sure even bottled water is sealed.

--Protect your feet. Wear flipflops in the shower. Parasites can enter you through your feet. Never walk barefoot in any area of a foreign country--including in your hotel room.

--Beware of fruits, veggies, condiments. If you can't get an apple or banana that can be peeled, avoind fruit. Any fruit served fresh can be washed in local water or wiped by a kitchen rag (you don't want to know). You could even bring your own peeler. Forget coleslaw or anything with mayo.

--Bypass road stands and street food. It might smell great but not have been heated hot enough to kill things you want killed. In a restaurant the to-go Styrofoam box may be cleaner than the plate.

I had the parasite giardia once. You don't want this. Unfortunately I got it from a local takeout joint, not a nice trip to South America.

Even in America, see that sparkling stream tumbling along? Not fit to drink!

None of this is foolproof. Bring Imodium--in fact, carry it everywhere, even in the US. My advice.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Write your way healthier

Writing on the website metro.co.uk, Lucy Whitehouse says grab your pen or computer and write your way to better health.

The Journal of Research and Personality, had a study that seemed to show that writing on positive subjects might boost your immune system.

Writing also helps you sleep better, according to Applied Psychology. Spend 15 minutes before bed writing about things you are grateful for.

Writing or journaling has been shown to reduce symptoms of asthma and arthritis.

Writing perks you up and helps keep feelings of anger and hostility in check.

Writing makes you grateful. Good vibes.

When vibes are good, you may want to get out and exercise.

AND--writing helps keep your brain cells working and connecting...Thinking and expressing yourself on hard subjects may even keep dementia at bay.

I used to know a guy who would copy a paragraph from The New York Times just to get some words in his mind and then he took off from there for a day of writing.

As you readers know, I write about everything. It doesn't make me feel better all the time, but it can't hurt.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Removing breast implants--tricky

I know I sound like a dope for saying this, but the plastic surgery show on E! Channel, BOTCHED, is back--and I missed it. It is such an entertaining mix of trans-this, trans-that, weird bodily obsession, physician showboating, etc, I love it. I cannot lie.

In the episode I saw a female impersonator had a burst breast implant--basically, a wad of goo, that had to be cleaned out.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 400,000 women in the US had breast implant surgery in 2016 (cosmetic augmentation and reconstruction from cancer surgery).

At year seven, half of all implants need to be removed. They do not last a lifetime, says Constance M. Chen, MD, a plastic surgeon in NYC.

They can cause trouble:

--They are foreign bodies or substances, so the body forms a capsule around them. This shell can become painful. It can also account for that stuck-on half-tennis ball look.

--They can get infected.

--They can push through the skin.

--Under investigation by the FDA--whether there is a link to a rare immune system cancer called anaplastic large-cell lymphoma.

What is involved in removing:

--A complete capsulectomy--time-consuming procedure involving removing not only the implant but the shell around it. This can involve peeling tissue off the lungs, in some cases.

--After removal, the patient may face a breast lift, fat transfer, implant replacement, or even natural tissue free flaps.

If you have large breasts and small implants, you may get a pleasing result with removal alone. The opposite goes for small breast with large implants--can end up looking like collapsed pillowcases.

You might want to hang onto your "naturals." Think?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Have you ever been Mommy-shamed?

I have been Mommy-shamed...Once in a grocery store, my kid, then about 8, was lobbying for some stupid sugar item and I was resisting and she got louder and louder--and an older lady decided to inform me that all my daughter wanted was a little thing and why was I so mean?

I also know I stay-at-home guy who was approached in a store and a woman said, "I hope you won't let your daughter get fat like you." So it's not limited to women.

In fact, if you have a child, you will soon learn that EVERYONE knows better how to raise that child. The most adamant? Those with no kids.

Even big movie stars don't skate. Reese Witherspoon was recently criticized for giving her toddler a cinnamon bun for breakfast. Coco Rocho (Iced T's wife) was slammed for using formula.

In a recent survey done at the University of Michigan, six out ot 10 mothers of kids under 5 had been shamed.

Reese Witherspoon aside, most shaming comes from within the family. And the worst of those--the mother's parents--37%.

Next up, the spouse's parents or the other parent--36%.

Others who shame: Child care providers, doctors.

Yoiks!

What do they focus on, all these supposedly well-intentioned butt-inners? Diet, nutrition, sleep, breast v bottle, and child care. Not to mention--begging in the store! (Thought I would mention it again.)

Another shame area is safety--"what we used to do" may not longer be applicable.

Mothers in the survey thought they got the blame, but not the credit.

YEAH! Take that!

And what do the shamed do? Avoid those who are too critical.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The importance of mouthfeel

The other day my daughter was making scrambled eggs and asked me did I want mine hard or soft. I reacted immediately, "No egg slime."

Sure, food is sweet, salty, bitter, or salty and the fifth--umami--but mouthfeel is often overlooked.

Ole Mouritsen is a food scientist and author of Mouthfeel: How Texture Makes Taste. He was interviewed by Russ Parsons.

What is mouthfeel? We also call it texture, Mouritsen said. Technically it is on the tongue, but taste is also in the nose, ears or eyes. (Think of something that should be crisp, but is soggy. You will notice.)

The Japanese have 400 ways to describe food texture--we have 80.

Say fish--not much taste by itself--so mouthfeel is important. (I have heard certain fish--swordfish is one-- described as meaty as a steak.) The Japanese "pickle" vegetables--they may seem rubbery, but when you bite down, they have a crunching feeling all over your skull.

Seaweed is another one. The Japanese eat a lot of it. Chewy, slimy, crunchy, soft, or hard--depending.

Food scientists do a test where they puree foods--only about half of the participants can identify cabbage or tomatoes by taste alone--when it's a puree.

If you have to chew, say a piece of tomato in ketchup, it may "taste" different.

Mayonnaise--another example--has small gobbets of fat so it tastes creamy--large globules will "taste" oily.

All this is called neurogastronomy...And you thought you were just getting a snack--your whole body is involved.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Preemies not at educational disadvantage once thought

My niece was born at 26 weeks, a little over 2 lbs. She is now a college grad in her 40s with a talented and gifted son of her own.

Yet, parents of premature babies often fret that their kids will be held back or do poorly in school.

They did a large-scale study at Northwestern that should reassure these parents.

--Two-thirds of babies born at 23 or 24 weeks were ready for kindergarten on time.

--While these extremely premature babies scored low on standardized tests, those born after 25 weeks were almost on par with full-term infants.

--After 28 weeks, the difference was negligible.

This study was unique in that it focused on educational prospects, not medical or physical development prospects.

Few studies focus on middle school performance of such a large group--1.3 million.

What about that standardized test performance gap? The study investigator said the glass was still more than half-full.

Did the children perform well in school on their own--or did they get extra help all along because of their prematurity? This was not determined--but by middle school, the kids were up to par on the tests.

Doctors can tell parents of premature babies, said the researchers, that they usually do "brilliantly."

Of course, this is statistically speaking. Individual experience is well...individual.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

OOGA OOGA--Alarm bells over health care bill

Obamacare was passed without a single Republican vote, and time to vote was even extended to get in all the stragglers. Some reluctant types got sweeteners.

But that legislation was the subject of many hearings and much publicity (yes, some of it dishonest--"You can keep your plan, keep your doctor").

But now, as I type this, the Senate Republicans are working in SECRET to to pass a massive change in the next three weeks.

Meanwhile, the baseball shootings and the endless wrangling over the president's Russian dealings (I guess alleged) are overshadowing how tens of millions are about to lose their health insurance--all "justified" by saying Obamacare is dying (when the admin is actually starving it).

Even the unpredictable president reportedly finally tuned into this bill and said it was "too mean." Will he intervene or just make remarks? Who knows.

Nice, huh?

The key thing here is to repeal the taxes, or some, in Obamacare so they can show the money to cut taxes for rich Americans in the proposed tax bill. No insurance? Well, tough. Sounds too dastardly to be true, huh? But it is.

What can you do?

Call your senators' offices--

https://www.senate.gov/reference/common/faq/How_to_correspond_senators.htm

Say you want the CBO report to be considered. You want hearings. You want a chance to say how this will affect you.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Chill baby chill

BYOS--Bring Your Own Shade
See, here's the deal. The sun is actually a big nuclear reactor in the sky. Its rays (radiation) beam down. Yes, those rays can cause your body to make Vitamin D--but really the rays are more dangerous than healing.

One blistering sunburn as a kid doubles your chance of a deadly melanoma.

Now imagine your thin-skinned infant or toddler basking in the nuclear rays.

Sheila Fallon Friedlander, MD, professor of pediatrics and dermatology at University of CA San Diego, has some suggestions for keeping the little ones safe:

--Keep the babies in the shade, at least for the first six months of life. No shade? Make some--an umbrella, hood of the stroller, something.

--Dress the baby in protective clothes, such as a lightweight long-sleeve shirt and pants.

--Always put a wide-brimmed hat on the baby. And sunglasses with UV protection.

--Don't slather sunscreen on children younger than 6 mos. If there is no shade, apply an SPF 30 very sparingly.

--Sunscreens  with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are less likely to irritate a baby's skin. Reapply every two hours if swimming or sweating--there is no such thing as "waterproof" screen.

--Be careful on hot days. Give the baby plenty to drink. If the baby cries or looks red, take him or her inside immediately.

You can also check out the American Academy of Dermatology's video "Infant Sun Protection" at the AAD.org site or on YouTube.

Big powerful sun...small sensitive child. Even the odds.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Don't scream--this is about snakes

What's that WHIRRING sound?
Yes, it's summer--you are outside--snakes are out of their dens. In fact, you are in their habitat. Do the math.

My own daughter announced the other day that she and a friend had been in the hills of AZ the evening before and saw a rattlesnake. EEEK.

She hastened to say it was a "small one." Well, I  know from watching interminable hospital and vet shows, that small does not mean lacking in venom.

Snake venom can spread through the tissues quickly and blacken and kill them. If this gets extreme, it can kill you.

If you reach down into grass--or a boot in your tent--or someplace with bad visibility--and you feel a sharp pain...It could be a snakebite.

Do this:

--Grab your cellphone, your most important first aid tool. Call 9-1-1.

--Do not try to grab or capture the snake--it could bite again.

--Do not take the snake to the ER. Take a picture with your phone if you can do it safely.

--Stay calm. Fewer than 10 people die of snakebites in the US each year.

At the ER, you may want antivenin--but not get it right away. For one thing, it's crazy expensive. The docs will monitor you for a while.

The snake might have given a dry bite--no venom. Or it might not even be a venomous snake.

If you start to have trouble breathing or rapid heartbeat, the doctors may intervene.

The best way to deal with snakes? Don't deal with them. Be alert, watch where you step,

But be aware--snakes can make a home in the brush in your backyard.

That happened when I was a kid--we had a big brush pile and the landscape guy and his sons would routinely clear out the copperheads.

Enough--just be OK.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Cat yoga...for you, not the cat

According to a story in The New York Times, some cat shelters are offering yoga classes, with sinuous, calming cats wandering about or sitting on the participants.

One is the Good Mews shelter in Marietta, Georgia. They clear the cat "trees" out of the way and 15 people take yoga amidst the kitties. The cats head for the mats immediately.

The humans find it relaxing and a good chance to commune with animals. One woman even said she sometimes goes to the dog park to just to watch animals.

For me, veterinarian shows in TV really lift me from my usual thoughts.

Each class is different, a woman from Meow Parlor on the Lower East Side said. Cats will scratch in the little box or meow so loudly the instructor can't be heard.

They also are good stretchers--and sometimes will mimic the yogis--even doing a downward dog. Heh.

Mostly, they bring their energy. If you ask me, this can be positive or negative. My personal cat tends to wander about squalling like a fire alarm.

Friday, June 09, 2017

How to deal with motion sickness

Our family--except for Dad--was prone to car sickness. Mom always brought along a "spit bowl" (she could not stand to say the word vomit).

For his part, Dad's rather warped sense of humor led him to describe giant barbecue dinners while his family laid flopped on the seat, green as peas.

Summer--with car trips, boat trips, and amusement park rides--is motion sickness central.

Basically,, your body combines info from your eyes with info from the part of you on the ground and tries to mix that with input from the fluid-filled cavities in your inner ear's vestibular system.

When all this info does not agree--the body may say, hmmmm, might as well throw up.

Researchers at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center are trying to figure out why some people have this problem and others don't.

--Genetics may play a role.

--Age definitely does. The whirling ride that was fun when you were a teen may be sickening as an adult.

--The vestibular system degenerates as you age.

--Some people can suppress the feeling--others no.

Some tips:

--Roll down the windows in a car--fresh air.

--Focus on a point on the horizon, not things going by the window.

--Get a windo seat on flights.

--Never sit backwards on a train.

--Close your eyes.

--Stay well-hydrated.

--Get plenty of sleep before a motion sickness type activity.

--Breathe deeply.

--Relax each part of your body in turn.

And I would add--don't even think about reading or looking at a map! That is where I lose it.

There are also over the country drugs you can take--but they may make you drowsy. This would be bad in a driver--but usually drivers don't get sick. That was my dad's secret.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Friendship holds more power than family as people age

According to William Chopik, assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State, a pair of studies, involving 280,000 people, show that not only do friendships become increasingly important over time, but in older adults, they can be a strong predictor of health and happiness--sometimes stronger than family ties.

In the first study, Chopik surveyed info about relationships reported by 271,053 participants in nearly 100 countries.  The second study looked at data from another survey about relationship support/strain and chronic illness--in 7,481 older adult in the US alone.

In the first, both family and friends were linked to better health and happiness overall, but only friendships predicted health and happiness ad advanced ages.

Why?

--Chopik thinks it may be because we can choose our friends and keep the ones we like and lose the rest over time. Friends also support those without spouses or supportive family members.

--Families can be enjoyable, but also can develop serious, negative and monotonous overtones.

Speaking personally, I have always valued my friendships, some of which are more than 50 years in duration. But I have also "lost" friends, who changed over time (or I did) or seemed to not be the people I thought they were. Recently I friend of 25 years stabbed me in the back. Didn't see that coming.

I have half a dozen people I want in my life and am in contact with every week or more.

Family members? Fewer.