Do “brain games” prevent dementia?

I like playing the brain games of Lumosity online and on my phone.

I like puzzles and words games in general, and Lumosity offers a fun and convenient way to play and keep track of my improvement in a variety of challenges.

I’ve never paid the costly $15 a month subscription, because I’ve never bought into the idea that playing these “brain games”—Lumosity calls it “brain training”—by themselves is enough to prevent dementia as I age.

But many people, apparently, were influenced by Lumosity’s advertising.

Two weeks ago, the creators of Lumosity settled a $50 million lawsuit with the Federal Continue reading

My New Year’s resolutions

I don’t know about you, but 2015 has zipped by for me. My big loss, of course, was the death of my father in July. But otherwise it’s been a very healthy year for me (never had to see my doctor!) and while researching for my blog I learned lots of new ways to stay healthy and use our health care system more effectively (or warily).

Here’s a round up of some of my favorite posts and what health tips I’ll take with me into 2016 as I resolve to:


One of the most compelling posts, I think, was … Continue reading

Save money on eye drops

Do you suffer from dry, red, or itchy eyes?

Dry eyes are really common, especially in the late fall and winter when we spend more time in the dry indoor air.

But did you know the eye drops you use might actually be making your eyes look and feel worse?

Like so many over-the-counter (OTC) products, there are dozens of eye drops from which to choose. How do you know which is best? You can save money and get a more helpful product by understanding what you really need from an eye drop.

As always, ignore the marketing claims on … Continue reading

Why sitting is bad for your health

I sit too much. I always have.

By nature, I guess, I am a sedentary person. I’m not fidgety. I can sit for long periods of time reading a book or working at the computer.

I exercise every day, going for a long walk or working in my garden or doing yoga, and I thought that was enough.

But I just watched an episode of the excellent HealthCare Triage series ominously entitled: “Sitting vs. Standing. Is Your Sedentary Life Killing You?”


Wow, I need to move a whole lot more!

We all understand that … Continue reading

A less expensive option for Diclegis

January 2017: Important update on Diclegis! A medical journal recently published a paper questioning the safety of Diclegis, or at least raising concerns about the quality of the research behind its FDA approval.

Although the components of Diclegis can be easily purchased over the counter, as my post shows, it’s very important that ANY drugs taken during pregnancy be OK’ed by your obstetrician first. FN

I don’t usually pay much attention to media’s almost 24/7 coverage of all things Kardashian, but it’s been hard to miss the news tidbits about Kim Kardashian’s second pregnancy.

And to those that follow her … Continue reading

Is it wise to remove wisdom teeth?

I participate in a world-wide group of health care providers that exchanges information about the high costs of health care and overtreatment in our respective countries. (It’s not just an American problem!)

One provider recently shared for our consideration a paper that stated too many third molars (aka wisdom teeth) were being unnecessarily removed in the US.

Ten million third molars (wisdom teeth) are extracted from approximately 5 million people in the United States each year at an annual cost of over $3 billion.

In addition, more than 11 million patient days of “standard discomfort or disability”—pain, swelling, bruising, and

Continue reading

Save your money – Fish oil supplements

I confess.

I once bought an enormous jar of fish oil supplements from Costco—and then let it sit in a cabinet mostly untouched until well past its expiration date. (I hate taking pills.)

That was doubly wasteful on my part. Not only for ignoring the capsules once I’d bought them, but for buying them in the first place.

recent article in the business pages of the Washington Post marveled that the fish oil supplement industry is booming despite any solid evidence that fish oil supplements work as claimed.

People in the United States spend about $1.2 billion annually for

Continue reading

Be informed – What is SPF?

spfSPF = Sun Protection Factor

An SPF rating is an estimate of how effectively a sunscreen product reduces the time it takes your skin to burn. For example, if it normally takes about 10 minutes in the sun for you to burn, a product with an SPF of 15 extends that time to burn to 150 minutes. SPF 30? Approximately 300 minutes.

Related post: First aid for sunburns

Keep in mind two things about SPF:

1) It is not a super accurate measurement of protection. Different people with different skin types burn at different rates.

2) SPF measures protection from … Continue reading

What is Guroo?

Earlier this year, a new online health care cost checking tool became available:

It joins a couple other online tools that are meant to increase price transparency and help patients figure out how much a test or procedure will cost before getting the bill.

But do Guroo or the others really help?

If you’re uninsured or have a really high deductible, it’s nice to have at least a ballpark idea of what you will be spending if you need some kind of medical care. But, as Kaiser Health News puts it:

Buying health

Continue reading

Treat headaches with diet and exercise

Earlier this year, I posted about the study out of Harvard that showed headaches are being overtreated in America.

Over a 10-year period, the number of patients being referred to specialists, or sent for special diagnostic tests, has doubled.

With more CT scans and MRIs, and more prescriptions medications, headaches are costly. Also, all the extra tests and drugs don’t necessarily help, and they might just cause more problems with side effects.

Related post: Home remedies for headaches

Luckily, some headache specialists are leaning away from the trend to overtreat, and are prescribing exercise and dietary changes instead of drugs. … Continue reading

Beware health charity scams

Stories like this make me so angry: Cancer Charities Called $187 Million “Sham”

A group of family members whose charities claimed to be raising millions of dollars for cancer victims bilked donors to the tune of $187 million over five years, spending some of that money on fancy cars and trips for themselves and their friends, according to a civil suit.

The alleged fraud, which would be one of the largest-ever involving a charity, was detailed in a complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission, all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It describes four connected groups, all with

Continue reading

The overuse of statins

abilify oversprescribedI love John Abramson’s work. He’s a physician and kind of the original whistle-blower on Big Pharma. He wrote a brilliant book, Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine, in which he outlined how the aggressive marketing techniques and biased medical research of the giant pharmaceutical companies have led to the overuse of many prescription drugs.

The pervasive use of statins is one of his (and my) pet peeves.

And recently the American Heart Association (AHA) came out with cholesterol guidelines that will lead to a huge increase in prescribing statins to people with a low risk of … Continue reading

Healthism, medicalization and overdiagnosis

Healthism is a term coined in the early 1990s that describes the government’s use of propaganda and coercion to establish norms of health” and its attempts “to impose norms of a ‘healthy lifestyle.'”

Think about the cities that have chosen to ban smoking or trans-fats or super-sized sodas.

Or the new federal school lunch program’s rather rigid nutrition standards.

Or the Affordable Care Act. It mandates coverage of multiple “essential benefits” such as annual “wellness visits” and screening exams of debatable value. It also requires health care providers to document that they’ve talked to every patient about weight … Continue reading

Homeopathy doesn’t work

I’ve always been skeptical of the over-hyped claims of alternative medicine, including homeopathy.

(Heck, if you’d read my blog for long you know I’m skeptical of a lot of mainstream medicine, as well!)

So I read with much amusement an article on The Daily Beast: Sorry, Hippies, Homeopathy is Totally Useless

Homeopathy is a worthless means of sustaining your health. In terms of preventing or treating disease, it’s up there with bloodletting or erecting a shrine to Asclepius in your pantry. It is literally good for nothing from a medical perspective.

The author, a physician, wrote in response to… Continue reading