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

Melatonin: Not a sleeping pill for children

The “sleep supplement”

I am a chronically poor sleeper, and I have tried melatonin, the sleep supplement,  in the past. I have friends that swear by it,  but it never worked for me.

Plus, I could never get a straight answer from any source about the therapeutic dosage – 1 mg, 3 mg, 5 mg, 10 mg? Should I only take it as needed, or is melatonin safe to take every night, forever?

As a supplement (it’s actually a hormone), melatonin falls under the extremely loose guidelines of the Dietary Supplement Health And Education Act  (DSHEA) of 1994. It … Continue reading

First aid for poisoning

Poisoning deaths are on the rise

Why? Drugs. And I don’t mean heroine or cocaine. Legal prescription opioids, pain pills such as hydrocodone, are involved in more drug poisoning deaths than illegal drugs.

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) reports that 9 out of 10 poisoning deaths are caused by drugs. And since 2009 more people have died as a result of all types of drug poisoning, whether accidental or intentional, than car accidents.

We usually associate poisoning with children, but the largest increase in poisonings has been in the 20-59 year old age range, again related to … Continue reading

Weekly rounds June 21, 2013

June 17-21, 2013The HPV vaccine works

Positive news was reported in the Journal of Infectious Diseases: Since vaccination for the human papillomavirus (HPV) was introduced in 2006, the rate of HPV infection has dropped by 56%.

The study looked at infection rates in girls age 14 to 19. HPV can lead to cervical cancer or throat cancer later in life, but only about 30% of teen girls and boys are being vaccinated.

This report will hopefully result in a much-needed boost in the numbers of kids receiving the vaccine. Visit the CDC website for more information about the vaccine.

No one

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The FDA wants you

patient networkThe FDA gets consumer friendly

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently launched the FDA Patient Network, its new patient-centric website.  The website’s slogan, according to FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD, is “Get Informed. Get Involved. Help FDA Help Patients Have a Bigger Voice.”

The website is a result of last year’s  FDA Safety and Innovation Act mandate to increase patient participation in the medical product approval process. The twin goals for this website are to educate and engage the public, and after spending some time on the site I am impressed with what it offers.… Continue reading

Weekly rounds June 7, 2013

Don’t want hepatitis A? Get vaccinated!

At last report there were 61 cases of hepatitis A resulting from contaminated frozen berries sold at Costco in several states. Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver, and the virus is usually passed along from an infected person through contaminated food.

The CDC recommends the hepatitis A vaccine for all children, and for adults who might be at higher risk, such as those who travel frequently. But the vaccine is available (requires 2 doses) to anyone who wants to be protected. Bonus: the vaccine is covered under Obamacare’s preventive care services mandate.… Continue reading

Just the facts, ma’am

Being a responsible consumer

There is a growing trend in health care for patients – consumers – to take more control of their own health care.

This trend is not really new. Ever since drug companies have been allowed to advertise their products on TV (1997), they have urged consumers to “talk to your doctor about [whatever the latest and greatest drug is].” They have been able to continue this practice because the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) actually believes them when they say their only goal is to empower “consumers to interact with physicians more effectively.”

Of course the Food … 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

Weekly rounds May 10, 2013

I’ve finally realized there are just too many health-related news stories every week for me to comment on in a timely manner. And some news tidbits are interesting or funny, but really not worth a whole post.

But I would still like to share with you the stories that caught my eye over the week, so on Fridays I will start posting a weekly summing up, or “rounds” to use health care lingo, of what I have found of interest.

Don’t grocery shop when you’re hungry. Really?

In the did-we-really-need-a-study-to-tell-us-this? file, a research letter published in Journal of the American Continue reading

Grapefruit vs. drugs

Florida. The Sunshine State. I am here on vacation enjoying some much-needed warmth and sun. I’m also enjoying the abundance of fresh oranges and grapefruit.

Luckily for me, I don’t take any prescription medications. I remember all the dire warnings in the media last fall that grapefruit juice is more deadly than ever—beware!

Of course, grapefruit has not suddenly turned evil. The problem is that there are so many medications on the market, more every year, that interact badly—yes, even lethally—with that ruby red fruit.

Grapefruit, as well as limes, pomelos and Seville oranges, contain chemical compounds called furanocoumarins, … Continue reading

What’s in your medicine cabinet?

You might have missed it, but last Saturday, April 27th, was National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. (No, I don’t think Hallmark makes a card for that.)

Since 2007, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has partnered with state and local law enforcement agencies to sponsor prescription drug drop-off sites where unused drugs can be collected and disposed of safely and properly.

The effort is an attempt to get addictive prescription medications off the streets. I don’t know how many of the returned drugs are narcotics; maybe the officials don’t even sort them before disposal. I would guess the unwanted … Continue reading

New prescription? Ask for it in writing

I try to be as vigilant as possible when it comes to medical expenses, but I can still be caught napping on occasion.

Last summer while working in my garden I was stung on the ankle by a wasp. Within 24 hours, my leg from the knee down was swollen to twice its normal size.

Although technically not an allergic reaction, it was a severe local reaction. I wondered what would happen if I were stung on the face or neck. So, last month when I saw my doctor for my annual exam, I asked her if it might be … Continue reading

“Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”

dvd fat sick nearly deadSometimes drastic change is required

Last night I watched a truly inspiring documentary, a testament to the power of a healthy diet.

Fat Sick & Nearly Dead chronicles Australian filmmaker Joe Cross’s journey to health. Fat, fortyish, and suffering from an autoimmune disease, Joe spends 60 days traversing America. But no fast food stops for Joe—his mission is to drink only fresh fruit and vegetable juice (he travels with his own juicer) for the entire 60 days. Joe believes fasting on juice will allow his body to heal from the inside out.

We all know the typical American diet (and … 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