Weekly rounds July 12, 2013

How much does good health cost? Apparently less than we are spending…

Once again, a study has shown that although Americans far outspend other countries on health care, our health is poor in comparison.

The healthiest citizens, no surprise, are in the wealthier cities and states, and vice versa. And it’s not because they can afford better health insurance. Other studies have linked education and income level to better lifestyle choices – diet and exercise – rather than access to health care.

In my opinion, we should be spending tax-payer dollars on all levels of education (Congress, what about … Continue reading

It’s all in the family (health history)

The high cost of genetic testing

Angelina Jolie and her preventive mastectomies are still making news, as is the business of genetic testing.

On May 14, the day Ms. Jolie revealed her story, Myriad Genetics, the company that holds the patents on both the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene sequences, saw its share price rise by 4% to the highest point in its history.

How happy the company’s board must have been when Ms. Jolie wrote in her New York Times op-ed piece that “every woman” should have access to such information. She did acknowledge, however, that the $3,000+ price tag … Continue reading

Weekly rounds May 17, 2013

Stock up on DEET?

Any report that contains the word “deadly” gets the attention of the media, and this report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was no exception. Last year 5,674 cases of the mosquito-borne virus were reported, and 286 people died. In comparison, only 43 deaths were recorded in 2011.

Weather conditions that favored the mosquito – warm and humid – were probably factors in last year’s increase in cases.

This news reminds me that I want to spend some time researching insect repellents and then write a post about them. Does anything work as well as … Continue reading

The cost of cancer

Cancer and bankruptcy

A large study looking at the cost of cancer was released yesterday by the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research in Seattle. It offers a somber but perhaps not surprising conclusion that cancer patients are “2.5 times as likely as others [non cancer patients] to file for bankruptcy.”

The highest rates are seen among young women, largely because young people are often uninsured, have little savings, and have part-time or entry-level jobs. But as the study points out, even those with insurance can face “financial distress” because of the high cost of deductibles, co-pays and other non-covered … Continue reading

Diet for cancer prevention

My belief as a frugal nurse is that each of us has the power to improve our health and lower our health care costs. Prevention is key, and in my posts I advocate such preventive actions as vaccinations, hand washing, adequate sleep, drug safety, exercise and a healthy diet.

Diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and, I think, is crucial to cancer prevention.

Therefore, I read with keen interest a recent post by David Katz, MD, on the HuffPost Healthy Living Blog.

Dr. Katz interviewed a one-time student, Nicole Larizza, a nutritionist currently … Continue reading

The UV index: Health and fitness apps

health and fitness appsHealth and Fitness Apps

I recently upgraded to a smartphone, and I’ve been having fun trying out a bunch of different apps (the free ones, of course!).

Coming somewhat late to the whole app thing, I’m amazed at how many there are, and especially how many health and fitness apps are available for free.

I’ve seen different numbers, but there are somewhere between 15,000 and 35,000 and the number is growing all the time.

Apps can be patient-centric, used for keeping track of diet, exercise, symptoms, health records, or doctor-centric, used for aiding in diagnosis, research, scheduling, and so on.… Continue reading

Vitamin D – Yes, no or maybe?

The sunshine supplement

Last week I learned that my vitamin D level is slightly below normal. My physician recommended that I take a daily vitamin D supplement of 1000 to 2000 IU.

I didn’t want the test, but what’s done is done. Now I need to decide what the test result means to me, and if I should follow my doctor’s recommendation.

A few years ago, vitamin D was the new wonder supplement. Various studies associated a low vitamin D level with an increased incidence of all kinds of diseases, including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, prostate cancer, breast cancer, … Continue reading

To drink or not to drink

Few things make me crazier about health care in the media than reading back-to-back, conflicting stories.

For example, last week I read the article A drink a day linked to healthy aging. A few days later I read Even a drink a day boosts cancer death risk, alcohol study finds.

Like many Americans, I enjoy a glass of wine with dinner and the occasional beer or cocktail when I’m out with friends. What’s a girl to do?

First, take a closer look at the studies.

These studies are “observational”. That is, participants fill out questionnaires over an extended … 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