Be prepared – Learn basic first aid

One of the advantages of being a nurse/mom is that I can tend to a wide variety of illnesses and injuries without seeking medical help. I have probably saved my family a lot of money over the years!

Anyone can learn the basics of providing first aid. I taught American Red Cross First Aid and CPR classes for years, and I highly recommend taking a class, whether you are a parent or not. Even kids as young as 13 or 14 can take the classes.

Spring is a good time to sign up for a class. Once schools are out … Continue reading

Pass the salt

Two reports last week reminded Americans—again—that we are eating too much salt (sodium), and the media gleefully passed on the news—again—that what we eat is killing us.

Possibly. But it’s not helpful to focus the blame on salt, when it alone is not the problem.

The American Heart Association (AHA) reported that, on average, adults consume 4,000 mg of sodium every day, or about twice what’s recommended. The United States Dietary Association (USDA) recommends no more than 2,300 mg/day (about 1 teaspoon); the AHA advises less than 1,500 mg/day.

In a coordinated analysis, researchers from Harvard Medical School concludedContinue reading

Surviving the health care jungle

Three years ago, my husband nearly died because of a series of medical mistakes. Although no one was guilty of clear medical malpractice (grossly negligent care resulting in harm), the hospital’s attempts to cut costs, a physician’s careless instructions, and a firewall of inflexible receptionists who refused to let me speak with a doctor led to a 911 call, a trip to the ER, and a 3-day stay in the ICU.

Luckily, he survived. But the resulting medical bills, as you can imagine, were enormous. And completely preventable.

Would it shock you to know that in 1999 the Institute of Continue reading

It’s about quality, not quantity

I am a child of the 70’s, and I remember the thrill of being able to stay up past my bedtime, on occasion, to watch The Mary Tyler Moore Show. So it was with sadness that I read the recent news that Valerie Harper, aka Mary’s best friend Rhoda, had been diagnosed with a rare and incurable form of brain cancer.

I watched her interviewed on television and was moved by her spirit, her humor, and her eloquence. “While you’re living, LIVE!” she entreats the audience.

In another post about end-of-life stuff, I quoted a doctor saying that … Continue reading

Got a craving?

In another bit of good news this week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that Americans are actually eating less fast food. Since 2006, an American adult’s total daily calories from fast food has dropped from 12.8% to 11.3%.

This number, although small, surprised me. It is no secret that America is in an obesity epidemic; more than one-third of adults meet the definition of obesity with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or higher. In children, the obesity rate is about 15%.

Obesity is tied to all sorts of chronic health problems such as heart disease, … Continue reading

Disneyland – The happiest last place on earth

palliative and hospice careDisneyland, here I come!

I have a plan. If I get cancer (or when, because according to news reports just about everything causes cancer eventually) and my doctors have nothing left to offer but last-ditch, statistically-improbable treatments that cost a fortune, I’m saving my money and booking a suite at the Disneyland Hotel.

Last summer I read a blog post titled “How Doctors Die.” The author, a physician, made the simple statement that “Doctors don’t die like the rest of us.” Why? Because “they know enough about modern medicine to know its limits.”

He shares his and other health professionals’ … Continue reading

Avoidable risk?

Last fall saw a frightening outbreak of fungal meningitis that resulted in the severe illness of almost 700 people and, tragically, the deaths of 45 others. Contaminated steroid injections were found to be the cause.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices now reports that 13% of pharmacists found contamination in their supposedly sterile, compounded (made in the pharmacy) drugs last year, and almost 75% fear that such a horrific outbreak could happen again.

Several agencies are swaming the compounding pharmacies in a belated attempt to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But will their efforts be enough?

Maybe, but there … Continue reading

At risk: Unbiased medical research

On March 1, if Congress and the president do not reach some kind of fiscal accord, mandatory cuts to federal programs—sequestration—will take effect.

One of the many victims of such massive spending cuts will be the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the medical research arm of the Department of Health and Human Services. According to its director, Francis Collins, MD, the NIH, in a “profound and devastating blow,” will lose 6.4% of its budget.

Their loss, however, could be the drug industry’s gain.

Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine

In his book Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine, John Abramson, MD, … Continue reading

The CPAP machine – An American success story?

Have you ever heard of a company called ResMed? If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea and have been prescribed a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, you probably have.

Or, if you follow the stock market, you might recognize ResMed as one of its rising stars. Rising because, according to its website, ResMed ‘s revenues and profits have grown every quarter since it was formed in 1989. In 2012, ResMed reported revenues of approximately $1.4 billion.

What is the secret to ResMed’s amazing success? Our country’s poor health.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the common condition in which … Continue reading

The Seven Year Rule

With prescription drugs, newer is not necessarily better

If you think the prescription drugs advertised on television are the best treatments medical science has to offer, think again.

They are the newest, certainly, and the most expensive. But are they the most effective and the most safe? Possibly not.

Remember Vioxx (rofecoxib)? A wildly popular—and extensively and expensively advertised—pain reliever, it made billions of dollars for Merck Pharmaceuticals.

It also, by conservative estimate, contributed to 60,000 deaths during the 5 years it was on the market. And it wasn’t even much better at relieving pain!

Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine

Overdosed America: The Broken

Continue reading

How to use a neti pot

Wash your nose?

I wrote in a previous post that frequent hand washing is your best defense against a cold virus; but what about washing your nose? The inside of your nose, to be exact.

You just need a neti pot.

The neti pot is an inexpensive device for saline nasal irrigation, which is a fancy term for nose washing.

It’s easy!

How do I use a neti pot? It’s very simple. I fill the pot—which resembles a small tea pot or Aladdin’s lamp—with warm saline (salt) solution. Leaning over a sink, I place the spout in one nostril and … Continue reading

First sleep, second sleep

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a report that 1 in 24 drivers admits to falling asleep while driving, and up to 33% of fatal traffic accidents may involve a drowsy driver.

Although frightening, this statistic is hardly news to those of us, myself included, who suffer from chronic sleeplessness. We can just add “death by fiery car crash” to the ever-expanding list of risks related to sleep deprivation, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, dementia and cancer.

Such stories invariably conclude with the advice “health officials recommend getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.”Continue reading

The healing power of mahjongg?

For more than five years, one of my best friends has been battling ovarian cancer. A fierce fighter (and fabulous friend!), she has endured surgeries and several rounds of chemotherapy to keep this grim disease at bay. Her oncologist monitors her condition with the blood test CA-125.

Early last summer, her CA-125 began creeping up into the “let’s watch it but not get too excited—yet” territory. She knew from past experience that she might be facing another round of chemo.

Then we began playing mahjongg. Or, more accurately, American mahjongg, which is a variant of the arcane Chinese game … Continue reading

Cold or flu?

Feeling sick? Sore throat? Runny nose? Fever?

How do you know if you or your kids have a normal cold or a more serious case of influenza, the ‘flu’?

In general, flu presents with more everything—a sorer throat, a higher fever, achier joints, a more severe headache. I have had the flu once in my life and I still remember how awful I felt. I’ve had dozens of ordinary colds and don’t remember them at all.

Treatment for both colds and flu is typically the same: rest, fluids and pain relievers for the aches and pains.

However, it is a … Continue reading