Weekly rounds July 19, 2013

Flight delayed? Learn CPR!

For the next six months, Dallas-Fort Worth airport is hosting a trial program to teach “hands-only” CPR to travelers. An automated kiosk, developed by the American Heart Association in partnership with American Airlines, guides passengers through a simplified CPR technique using video instructions and a manikin torso. If the program is successful, it will be expanded to other airports.

Hands-only CPR does not require rescue breaths and is as effective as regular CPR. It sounds like a useful way to pass some time, and I’d love to try it if I’m ever in one … Continue reading

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

Weighing in on obesity as a disease

obesity as a diagnosisLast week the American Medical Association voted to recognize obesity as a disease, as opposed to just a symptom of an unhealthy lifestyle or sluggish metabolism.

Obesity is a huge (no pun intended) problem in the US; over 60% of adults and 30% of children are considered overweight or obese. Proponents of the decision argue that accepting obesity as a disease will focus more attention on the problem and allow physicians and patients greater access to and reimbursement of weight loss counseling, drugs and surgeries. Sounds good, right?

So why does this decision trouble me? Three reasons come … 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

“Farmacology”

farmacologyHow are farming and medicine alike?

I just finished reading a thoughtful and informative book by Harvard-educated physician, Daphne Miller, MD. In Farmacology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing, she makes an analogy between the “complex and dynamic” systems of soil and modern farming practices, and the human body and modern medicine.

After reading a book about soil ecosystems, Dr. Miller was struck by the similarities of the chemical processes that occurred in soil and those that happened in our own intestines.

Like our own biosystems, it [soil] too depends on bacteria and fungi

Continue reading

Weekly rounds May 24, 2013

ADHD? Start counting your calories

A 40-years-long (so far) study evaluating the effect of having attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in childhood reported that the disorder seems to be connected to adult obesity, at least in men. The study actually brought the 40-something-year-old men back to look at their brain imaging, and just happened to notice that many were too big for the scanners!

The researchers don’t know why. One theory is that the impulsive behavior common in ADHD makes it difficult to control eating patterns, suggesting that more needs to be done to counsel young ADHD patients … 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

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

“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

Lights out for better sleep

Light triggers chemicals in our brains that wake us up. That’s why it’s so much easier to rise and shine in the summer than in the winter.

But I used to dread the long summer days when light would sneak into my bedroom and wake me up before 5 am. I couldn’t find curtains or blinds for my bedroom window that adequately blocked the morning sun. Finally, I invested in some heavy, black-out drapes, the kind used in hotels. They aren’t very decorative, but they help me sleep longer in the morning.

Artificial light also disrupts our sleep. It mostly … Continue reading

Should smoking be considered a pre-existing condition?

That is the opinion of the health exchange boards in Washington, D.C., California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont (so far).

Each state (and D.C.) that creates a health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has an exchange board that is responsible for establishing certain rules and guidelines. Some definitions in the federal reform law have proved to be ill-defined and open to interpretation, such as “pre-existing condition.”

Most insurers that sell individual health plans charge smokers higher premiums because smokers … 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

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

Do you didgeridoo?

didgeridoo playerAs I was skimming through some of my favorite medical blogs the other day, I ran across a post by Dr. Synonymous, a family medicine doctor somewhere in middle America. His post referred to the time and place of his first “Didgeridoo Hullabaloo” session that he was offering for his patients that suffered from snoring and sleep apnea.

What is a didgeridoo? It’s a native Australian wind instrument, which can be up to 10 feet long! It works like a large kazoo, and produces a low, resonant sound something like an elephant.

And how does this help snoring? Snoring and … 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