Don’t use the Instant Blood Pressure app

Aura Life, the makers of the popular smartphone blood pressure app Instant Blood Pressure, probably made a mistake when they initially used the well-known medical research complex Johns Hopkins in their marketing campaign.

Aura Life boasted their app “uses a patent-pending process developed by a team from the Johns Hopkins University—a world leader in health innovation.”

Baffled, Johns Hopkins sent Aura Life a cease-and-desist letter, but they also decided to do some research into how well the blood pressure app performed.

Not well.

The researchers recently released their findings that showed the Instant Blood Pressure app, which uses an… Continue reading

Home remedies for lice

home remedies for lice I just learned that my state, Washington, is one of several that is experiencing an outbreak of “super-lice”, or lice that are resistant to the traditional pyrethrum-based treatments (Rid contains pyrethrin; Nix contains permethrin).

Super-lice aside, the common louse has been increasingly resistant to the standard over-the-counter products for many years. Which begs the question: Why are Nix and Rid still the recommended first line of treatment by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)??

Probably because there are few other tested and FDA-approved methods.

So what should parents do? Let’s look at the options.

There are basically three ways … Continue reading

The HPV vaccine is working

This week the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published a report that shows since the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine was introduced in 2006, HPV infections

have dropped by 64% among females aged 14 to 19 years and by 34% among those aged 20 to 24 years.

That’s great news. HPV is responsible for most forms of cervical cancer, as well as an increasing number of rectal and oral cancers.

Related post: HPV and cancer

But we can do better.

The American Cancer Society reports that only about 40% of girls and 21% of boys have received the recommended 3 doses … Continue reading

Smoking pot hurts your brain

A couple years ago my state, Washington, legalized pot.

It’s been a boon for tax revenue, for sure (almost $83 million in the first year). And the state reports that it has saved millions of dollars by freeing up law enforcement resources.

Judging from the lines in front of the pot stores (green crosses are everywhere!), pot is really popular here, across a wide range of ages.

But apart from its commercial success, and the fact that it’s given us more stoned drivers, the law concerns me because it seems to promote the idea that smoking pot … Continue reading

Be informed – PSA screening tests

PSA stands for Prostate-Specific Antigen. It’s a blood test used to screen for prostate cancer.

Doctors used to recommend an annual PSA test for men over 40. But now we know that the PSA is not a good screening tool. It results in a high number of false positives, and not all forms of prostate cancer need to be treated.

Too many men have received unpleasant, expensive treatment they didn’t need.

In an excellent YouTube video, Dr. Mike Evans explains more:

In 2012 the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended against Continue reading

Are artificial sweeteners bad for you?

A friend and I were discussing the documentary That Sugar Film the other day and she asked me about the claim in the movie that artificial sweeteners were bad for you, too, because they actually made you eat more.

I couldn’t recall exactly what was said in the film, but decided to do a little research on my own to answer her question.

The FDA-approved artificial sweeteners are saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low), aspartame (Equal, Nutrasweet), neotame, sucralose (Splenda), acesulfame K (Sweet One) and stevia (Truvia).

Because they are “low-energy” sweeteners and don’t contain any calories, it seems a no brainer … Continue reading

New adult vaccination guidelines

The Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have just released an updated vaccination schedule for adults.

I’ve included the schedule and accompanying information from the CDC’s website at the end of this post.

You can also print it out to take to your primary care provider.

Related post: Adults need vaccinations, too!

It’s color coded to make it easier to follow the recommendations, and I think it’s an improvement over last year’s chart.

A yellow row/column means the vaccine is recommended for everybody in that age group; purple indicates the vaccine is for … Continue reading

What is Brintellix?

I was doing a little research into the new depression screening guidelines issued by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) when I ran across an article about a newer, more expensive antidepressant called Brintellix (vortioxetine).

It costs about $300 for 30 tablets, and is apparently no better at treating depression than the plethora of other cheaper drugs already out there, so it hasn’t been a best seller for its manufacturer, Lundbeck, Inc.

But Lundbeck and its partner Takeda Pharmaceutical hope to change that by convincing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week that Brintellix is better than … Continue reading

A naturopath denounces naturopathy

I’ve never been supportive of alternative health care providers, such as chiropractors and naturopaths, and would never recommend one to friends or family members.

I believe their limited “medical” training is not grounded by evidence-based principles. Also, inconsistent accreditation standards and self-regulation allow for them to provide care well beyond the scope of their training.

That’s my opinion, anyway.

Even so I was rather stunned (but delighted) by a post I read in KevinMD in which a naturopath strikes out at her profession: The shocking confessions of a naturopathic doctor

I quit practicing naturopathic medicine after discovering my former boss,

Continue reading

HPV and cancer

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month.

Following the recommended guidelines for Pap smears is a good way to find and treat cervical cancer early, when it’s basically curable.

A Pap smear is one of the few screening tests for which there is good evidence that it’s effective, plus it’s relatively cheap and painless.

The American Cancer Society, The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all recommend the following:

  • No screening before age 21.
  • Screening every 3 years between ages 21-29 with Pap smear only, no HPV testing. (The rate of
Continue reading

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

In favor of childhood vaccines

zuckerbergIt was a nice surprise to see a celebrity use the power of social media to speak in favor of getting children vaccinated.

Well, not so much speak as show. And as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook fame, recently posted this cute photo of himself and his baby daughter at the pediatrician’s office. He simply wrote “time for vaccines”, but surely he realized that he was encouraging his millions of “friends” with kids to vaccinate, as well.

As you can imagine, he received both likes and dislikes for his post.

The Washington Continue reading

Kids and codeine cough syrup

Last month, a medical advisory group to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted “overwhelmingly” to limit the sale of codeine products without a prescription and advised drugs containing codeine should not be used to treat children or the majority of teens suffering from pain or a cough.” [my emphasis]

I knew you could buy codeine painkillers and cough syrups in Canada, but apparently you can in 28 states, as well. The FDA hasn’t acted on the advisory committee’s recommendation yet, so these products are still available over the counter.

Parents—be especially cautious when buying cough or cold medications … Continue reading

Evidence based – “Is that a fact?”

is that a factIf, like me, you’re interested in science and putting a little more “evidence-based” into your health, check out Is That a Fact?: Frauds, Quacks, and the Real Science of Everyday Life by Dr. Joe Schwarcz.

Dr. Schwarcz, a chemist as well as a radio host and a best-selling author, brings some much-needed attention to the overabundance of health information found on the internet and in the media.

As he says in the book’s introduction:

We suffer from information overload. Just Google a subject and within a second, you can be flooded with a million references.

The University of Google is

Continue reading

Antibiotics still overprescribed

antibioticsThe overuse of antibiotics continues to be a big problem in this country, and do you know who doctors blame? The patients.

That’s right. Doctors know that antibiotics don’t work against the common viruses that cause colds, flu, coughs and sore throats, but many admit they prescribe them anyway when patients ask for them.

In a five or ten minute office visit, doctors don’t feel they have time to explain the difference between a virus and a bacteria, and how overuse of antibiotics causes the very real problem of antibiotic resistance. So they do what’s easiest, fastest, and results in … Continue reading