Sleepio and SHUTi: Online sleep therapy

sleepioWe’re not sleeping enough

Sleeplessness is epidemic in this country.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) consider insomnia a public health issue and report that at least 35% of adults don’t get a good night’s sleep.

Judging from my circle of friends, I think the percentage is much higher than that!

Insomnia and daytime fatigue make life miserable and contribute to chronic illness. Drowsy drivers cause accidents. Drowsy employees cause on-the-job injuries.

Sleeping pills (hypnotics) are the go-to treatment in the US. Drugs like zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta) and suvorexant (Belsomra).

Related post: Belsomra—Use with caution

But they have side … Continue reading

Be informed – Poison control number

poison control numberThe Centers for Disease Control (CDC) just released a warning about keeping hand sanitizers out of the reach of small children. Because more people use hand sanitizers during cold and flu season, there are more reports of children being poisoned by the main ingredient, either isopropyl alcohol or ethanol. About 90% of these poisonings were in children younger than five.

Anyway, here is a re-post about preventing childhood poisonings in general, and links to Poison Control and other resources. 

Stay safe! FN

A rising number of childhood poisonings

I don’t know much about e-cigarettes and vaping, but a recent study Continue reading

SmartQuit – An app to help you quit smoking

smartquit appA smart way to quit smoking

Is quitting smoking on your New Year’s resolution list? Or that of a friend or family member?

If so, consider the SmartQuit app.

But first I’ll tell you what I do and don’t like about it.

I like that it seems to be pretty effective. The SmartQuit program and app were developed by researchers at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington (my alma mater!), with funding from the National Cancer Institute.

It uses a particular type of behavior modification—acceptance and commitment therapy—that has proven more effective than other smoking Continue reading

Know CPR? Get the Pulse Point app

Pulse Point saves a life!

A recent news story here in Seattle caught my eye: Off-duty doctor gets Pulse Point app alert, saves man’s life

pulse pointDouglas Stine was driving with co-workers along Aurora Ave. on Monday when he started gasping for air and lost consciousness, the result of a heart condition.

The other workers called 911, but help arrived minutes before the paramedics.

Dr. Matt Gittinger, a UW medicine physician at Harborview, happened to be at his dining room table catching up on work when he saw an alert on his phone.

“I was out of my front door within

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What is the UV Index?

uv indexClouds don’t protect you from the sun

On a cloudy summer day it’s easy to forget that the sun’s skin-damaging ultraviolet or UV rays aren’t blocked by the clouds. We still have to use sunscreen, wear hats and sunglasses, or stay out of the sun to protect ourselves.

Related post: Be informed – What is SPF?

UV rays not only cause sunburn, but also skin cancer and cataracts. And there aren’t enough beauty creams in the world to undo the premature aging effects of the sun, either.

Watch this video to see the sun’s “invisible” damage to the … Continue reading

How accurate is your Fitbit?

fitbitIt’s OK for steps, but not much else

I was feeling really good about myself the other day when I came home after finishing a 6,000 step walk that burned—according to the Fitbit Zip in my pocket—720 calories.


I boasted about this to my husband, who immediately burst my pride bubble by saying, “There is no way you burned that many calories in a 40-minute walk. Think about it.”

He was right. I knew in the back of my mind that 720 calories was just too high. Have you ever run on a treadmill for 15 minutes and felt … Continue reading

Healthy food choices – Dining Decisions

healthy food choicesEven toddlers seem to be playing with smartphone and tablet apps, so why not make it educational as well as fun?

Obesity among children is still a major public health problem. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) hopes their new app, Dining Decisions, will help teach young children how to make healthy food choices.

The app was just released last month, and it’s only available for iPhones and iPads, so I haven’t been able to try it out yet. Hopefully it will be available in an Android version soon! I want to play.  🙂

Related post: Healthy kids Continue reading

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

First aid for choking

I read a post by a pediatrician last week that gave her opinion that while our government is throwing a lot of money at new nutritional guidelines in an attempt to “fight” childhood obesity, it’s ignoring another food-related danger: choking.

Childhood aspiration (or choking) on food is a major public health issue. Anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 kids visit emergency rooms each year in the U.S. alone, after having suffered a food-choking accident. Hundreds die each year, either in the hospital or before they make it in the door. Most of these kids are under the age of 5, and

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Pain management apps

Anyone who suffers from chronic pain knows that physicians recommend keeping a journal or diary of pain symptoms: How bad is it over a day or week? What triggers it or makes it worse? Is it affected by weather, exercise, foods, stress? What makes it better? What medications have you tried, when and for how long?

That can add up to a lot of information to keep track of.

But LiveScience recently published a list of what they consider the best pain management apps.

There is a huge potential market for these apps: Some 100 million American adults are

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What is the Isabel symptom checker?

Making the correct diagnosis in a timely manner is crucial. It not only avoids lots of unnecessary (and expensive) tests, but gets the appropriate treatment started more quickly.

But making a diagnosis can be difficult. And one of the leading causes of medical malpractice suits is “failure to diagnose”; that’s why so many cases of indigestion are worked up as potential heart attacks, or headaches for aneurysms or tumors.

Many patients (and physicians) turn to apps or online tools to help make a diagnosis. Unfortunately, Harvard just published a study that shows these tools are only right about half the … Continue reading

Calcium and vitamin D tracking app

calcium and vitamin d appI’ve written several posts on calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is an important nutrient, but most evidence suggests we need to get more calcium in what we eat, rather than supplements.

It’s the same with vitamin D. We need to eat a variety of foods that are rich in vitamin D and also spend more time in the sunshine. There is no data at this time to support vitamin D supplements.

Related post: Healthy adults don’t need multivitamins

But it’s difficult to follow the recommended intake levels of both nutrients. Every day I try to eat foods … Continue reading

Breathing exercises to improve sleep

I just ran across this video of Andrew Weil, MD, explaining how to do yoga breathing exercises, specifically the 4-7-8 breathing technique. It’s based on the yoga practice of pranayama.

I’ve always had trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep, and I want to give these breathing exercises a try as they are an inexpensive and drug-free approach to hopefully improving my quantity and quality of sleep.


The steps of the 4-7-8 technique are simple:

  • Exhale completely through your mouth while making a ‘whoosh’ sound.
  • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your
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The FDA drug shortages app

fda drug shortages appWhen the cost of both brand name and generic levothyroxin skyrocketed two years ago, the first thing I did (after complaining loudly to the pharmacist, although it wasn’t his fault) was look at the Food and Drug Administrations’s (FDA) website.

Following the Economics 101 rule of supply and demand, the sudden price increase of a drug is usually due to a shortage. Sometimes ingredients are difficult to find, or a quality control issue has limited the supply.

The FDA has a page that lists all known drug shortages, including the reason for the shortage and how long it is … Continue reading

Health care apps – Skin cancer detection

skin cancer detectionThe Doctor Mole skin cancer detection app

I was browsing through some smartphone apps last week and I ran across one called Doctor Mole. At first I thought it had something to do with the garden pest—I have an infestation of moles plowing through my vegetable garden every evening, so they are much on my mind.

I thought, “Yes! An app to tell me how to get rid of moles!”

Nope. Wrong kind of mole.

But I was still interested. I had heard of these skin cancer tracking apps, so I decided to take a look and see what … Continue reading