Showing posts from January, 2013

Troubling Stat: Only Tiny Amount of Angry Kids Get Pyschotherapy

No matter where you stand on gun control, not many would disagree that children who are showing signs of violent temper and anger shouldn't be in some kind of psychotherapy. But the sad -- and frightening -- news is that only 20% of  kids needing therapy get it, according to Ed Stannard of the New Haven Register.

So even if Adam Lanza or his mother wanted to seek help for him, they'd have had a hard time finding it.

Stannard says it's not just Connecticut, but nationwide there's a shortage of psychologists and psychiatrists to treat kids.

And of those who do, few take insurance, so you're looking at $200 or $300 for one hour of counseling, and who can afford that on a regular basis?

It's good that President Obama is stepping up to the plate on mental health and gun violence.  But more needs to be done before we have Newtown Redux, and sadly, we will.

1400 Gun Deaths Since Newtown

According to Slate, more than 1400 people have been killed by guns since the horrific massacre in Newtown.  And the Web site is actually compiling the numbers from every state to get an exact count. It's hard, because since Congress killed the research by the CDC, there's no one place to get the stats from.

The only way, Slate notes, to get the correct data is to crowd-source.  Pretty sad, huh?

What horrified -- then enraged -- me this week was gun rights activists booing down one of the fathers of the victims when he spoke at the Connecticut capitol. . . the Washington Post sanctimoniously ran the definition of "heckled" and said it didn't count.

I keep seeing Wayne LaPierre's face and wanting to spit.

Beware: What Doctors DON'T Know

I've always known it was more art than science but to have it put in such bold, harsh terms in an essay by Abigail Zuger, MD, in The New York Times today was pretty scary. Zuger compared doctors' judging the likelihood of your beating certain diseases more like playing the lottery than having your real chances measured out in good numbers and strict statistics.

It's all guesswork, she says. That may not sound so bad but when you're a cancer patient, and you're told the chances of having a recurrence are less than 1% (and then you do), who wouldn't want statistics to be right?

Of course they're educated guesses, but if you choose a doctor based on his successful outcomes, there are ways he can fudge it. Some just don't take on the sickest patients.  I have friends who chose fertility clinics based on the number of babies produced, not realizing the stats were so good because the doctors only accepted younger patients.

So, what to do?  Your homework, an…

Are You A Cyberchondriac?

I'm guilty, I admit it. When I get a cold and my chest hurts from coughing, I rush to the computer and know, just know, that I'm having a heart attack.  When I was a kid, I thought every stomachache was the onset of appendicitis.  And I won't tell you how I thought I was having a baby in 5th grade.

But now there's a new "illness," and it's called cyberchondria.  It's a heightened awareness of symptoms and illness, thanks to the availability (and gullibility) of the Internet and us.  I definitely think I have it.

Rate Your Doctor, Affect Her Pay?

How often do you send back a meal in a restaurant?  I did recently, when the salmon I ordered came with a gooey pink interior.  I admit I don't do it often but when a restaurant's not up to par, they should know about it.

So what do you think about measuring doctors' care the same way?  Today an editorial in The New York Times discussed the new pay-for-performance standards at 3 large NY hospitals, where doctors on salary will now be paid not a lump sum as in the past but on how many of their patients return to the hospital, how much money they can save the hospitals, and whether patients are satisfied.

Some may think it's been a long time coming. But living with a medical professional as I do, I know there are lots of ways doctors and dentists can be misjudged, especially over things over which they have no control (as the article mentions, for example, ER docs not being able to process patients quickly enough because beds may not be available on hospital floors, or a…

Guns in School? I Don't Think So

So what do you think about guns in school?  I'm not talking about criminals, of course, but armed guards.  My town in Connecticut is considering police in the schools and I'm against it, according to our local newspaper, The Advocate.  I'm all for gun control.  I don't believe that having a gun helps anyone.  You're far more likely to be shot (and killed) by the intruder if you have one in your house.

Now all you hunters out there, don't gang up on me.  I have nothing against guns for sport, but I don't believe you need an assault rifle to hunt a deer (which I also don't believe in, but anyway).  We've heard all the arguments -- start with the assault rifles and all guns will be next, the Second Amendment guarantees our right (they were talking about muskets, not AR-15s), , yah, yah, yah.

But it's a slippery slope. Who's to say a deran…

Kid Asthma Alert: Big Macs Risk

So your kid likes Whopper Jrs.  What's it hurt to have them once a month, or even once a week?  A new study has found, plenty.  According to an article by Alex Kecskes, kids who eat fast food three or more times a week are at a 30% higher risk of asthma, eczema and hay fever than kids who don't.

As someone who developed asthma later in life, it's terrifying when you can't breathe.  I only remember one time when I was wheezing so badly, even my emergency inhaler didn't work.  If I hadn't thought to use my son's nebulizer, who knows what would have happened.  "That's how people die," my allergist told me.

If we can spare our kids that (and mine has asthma, too), wouldn't that be better?

New Hope For Those Who Would Kill: Counseling

There's hope for those who would be violent.  Thomas Insel, the U.S. mental health chief, said yesterday that the risk of violent behavior "drops 15-fold for people who receive treatment for psychosis," compared to those who do not, according to a story at Healthwatch, THE HILL'S healthcare blog.

How do we get them into treatment before they commit a crime, though?  Those with mental illness are notoriously resistant to treatment and even Adam Lanza, who massacred 20 beautiful children in Newtown last month, was reportedly angry that his mother was about to commit him, and that's why he went on his murderous rampage.

No one will ever know for sure, and Insel is not saying treatment would have helped Lanza, or prevented the tragedy, but, according to the story, the risk of potential violence multiplies the longer psychosis goes untreated.

The scary truth is that one in five people in this country suffer from mental illness.  Not all of it is psychosis, of course…

There Is No Now

Did you know that the taller you are, the further from now you live?  Sound crazy?  Well some very smart guy named Michael on YouTube posits that "We can't live in the 'now,' the very newest moment in time," because the information about what's happening right now takes time to get to our brains. And the taller we are, the longer it takes.  Thank goodness I'm only 5'2!  I need every brain cell I can have.

What our brain is telling us is happening now is really 80 milliseconds in the past.  I don't quite understand all the scientific reasons for this, they're quite involved, but the gist of it is that what we think is now, isn't.  "We can never be fully aware of what we call 'now' because it takes time for our brain to process 'now,'" says Michael in the video.

The simple truth is that,as much as we think we don't, we live in the past.

Whiteboards: But Can They Stop a Speeding Bullet?

According to a story at, a newly developed handheld whiteboard has been shown to stop a bullet if held in front of the body like a shield. Originally developed by the Department of Defense, this version was developed in response to the Newtown massacre. 

Ninety of these boards (at a cost of $300 each) have been donated to the school the deverloper's children attend.  They also come in clipboard size.  How soon they are coming to a school near you is up to local ed boards.

Smokers Gambling With Their Lives -- Long Lives, That Is

A new study has just found that, on average, smoking clips 10 years off your life, according to a story today in The New York Times.  My mother smoked when I was a child and I remember seeing a film when I was in 5th grade showing a smoker's lungs, all black and scarred from smoking. I raced home to ask her to please, please stop smoking, and she assured me she was "checked" every year and was fine.  She continued to smoke for over 20 more years -- even going so far as to pretend she had quit, then begging to take the garbage out at a party I threw at my apartment, only to come back the dumpster smelling of smoke.

My mom died a little more than a year ago of congestive heart failue at 84 so I guess she was one of the lucky ones.  Maybe because of her, I never ever picked up a cigarette.  The study also goes on to say that if you can quit by 40, you have almost a full life expectancy. 

I have friends who smoked to lose weight, or keep it off, and others who found it hel…

Boston Blows It, Still Fat (Not Cat) City

According to a WSJ story, residents of Boston opted to try to lose one million pounds last year.  Big surprise. They didn't.  As the story points out, an exercise class started in June gave way to an all-you-can-eat ice cream bonanza. Guess which one won?

I'm as stumped as the next one about losing weight.  I've made my goal THREE times at Weight Watchers and am now going for a fourth.  The trick isn't losing it; it's keeping it off. A very sad fact notes that 95 percent of people who lose weight gain it all (and more) back.

So Boston, we understand.  Maybe next year. . .

Flu Foods: What Works

Are there really things you can eat to ward off the flu? Some docs think so.  Believe it or not, zinc-rich foods like seafood, chicken and red meat.  Though who wants to think about a nice juicy burger when your throat's so sore even water hurts.  Probably the worst thing about the flu?  Forget those hot toddies.  Absolutely no alcohol.

Count Calories? Some Restaurants Say Maybe

Curious about the calories in your (butter-covered) steak at Outback?  (I was shocked to learn that that's indeed why those steaks taste so good.) You won't be finding out anytime soon, thanks to the power of the massive food and restaurant lobby, who don't really want you to know.

Want a Baby? Neanderthal Fetus Available

So you want a baby.  Or, if not that, at least the pregnancy experience.  Want to serve as a surrogate for a Neanderthal?  No joke.

Charlie Osborne at writes, "Geneticist George Church from Harvard Medical School says that far from this being a work of fiction, it is possible to clone a Neanderthal and bring the extinct species back into the world after more than 30,000 years."

All they need is a womb, and some luck.

Now, it took my husband and me a while to have a baby, but this experience is definitely not for us.

New Slant on Gun Violence: Teaching

OK, so we've heard all the back-and-forth between presidential and legislative forces and the NRA.  Make all gun buyers and owners register.  No weapons sold to those with mental health conditions, as recommended by healthcare professionals.  And my favorite: armed guards at schools.  Puhleeze.

But Kaiser News reports that children, teens and young adults, and their mental health -- along with the teachers, counselors and therapists who could spot problems before they happen -- are a big part of President Obama's gun plan.

Spoiler alert:  I live about 20 miles from Newtown and this crime has struck me far more than any other "mass shooting." (I remember my shock when Colin Ferguson entered the Long Island train and began shooting and I thought then, what is the world coming to.)  And when mass shootings referred to war, and  wasn't a common phrase in our language.

They Gave You WHAT for a Cure?

Think about the most disgusting thing you can.  That's right. Doctors are using fecal transplants from healthy people into the guts of those suffering from certain gastrointestinal illnesses like C. difficile, frequently found in hospitals and nursing homes, which causes severe diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.  Doctors have found that it works 90% of the time on this difficult-to-cure illness. Before you start turning up your nose (though an article in the NYT did note that doctors say it looks like "chocolate milk"), pharmaceutical companies are working around the clock to find synthetic drugs and chemicals that mimic it.

Sorry about the chocolate milk.  But you wanted to lose weight in the new year, anyway, right?

Why Do We Die Sooner?

Than other nations, that is.  Believe it or not, American men come in dead last at #17 on a list of countries whose men live longest, according to the Web site.  Call it stress, call it unfortunate accidents, but whatever you call it, our men, with all their advantages, are dying sooner.

A dog walks into a bar . . .

Oh, to be a puppy!  A lucky little dog got a vodka cure -- 7-8 shots every couple of hours -- to heal him from kidney failure.  One little thing -- you must lick auto coolant first.

Flu Alert: Beware of Doctors

Here's a horrifying fact.  You're far more likely to get the flu from your doctor and his staff than you are the public.  That's because, according to Judith Graham, posting at, only 60 percent of healthcare workers get the vaccine. This includes my husband, a dentist, who's cavalier about getting sick (though a recent cold made him whimper like a baby and he wound up giving strep to our son).  All I know is, he better not bring it home to me!

Test Your Health. Breathe.

A while back I wrote about a new device that could diagnose Parkinson's over the phone just  by the spaces you left between your words while you talked,  Now your cellphone may be able to tell the health of your lungs.  If you're an asthmatic, or suffer from bronchitis or COPD, this could be a lifesaver.  And even if you're not, why not just check and see?  Doesn't cost anything, doesn't hurt, and maybe this is the face of health for the future.

Women at Risk: Everywhere

Did you know that 30 to 60 percent of women in most countries experience sexual and domestic violence?  I was shocked to read that today in a New York Times Op-Ed.  Nicholas Kristoff argues that Delhi isn't so different from Steubenville, Ohio, where football players recently repeatedly raped a young unconscious woman, and I'm so sad to believe that he is right.

According to Kristoff, "women worldwide ages 15 through 44 are more likely to die or be maimed because of male violence than because of cancer, malaria, war and traffic accidents combined."  And where are we?  In a country where Congress refused to renew the Violence Against Women Act.

We like to think the horrific rape and ultimate death of the innocent young woman in India several weeks ago could never happen here.  But do we really think about women that much differently than many in that country, or the world, do?…

Feeling High? Must Be That Banana From Breakfast

A recent study done in the UK has found that eating fruit and vegetables can make us euphoric.  Seven portions a day, that is.

Stand Up, Sit Down, Fight, Fight, Fight ...Better Stand Up

Years ago I had a tall, skinny boss who refused to sit at a desk. Instead, he had a desk he could stand at and he conducted all his work -- including meetings -- standing up.  Now I know why.  Apparently too much sitting (for more than four hours at a time, watching TV, working at a computer or just about for any reason) will shave a year off your life.  No joke.

Bored to Death at Work? It's A Good Thing

Are you bored at work?  Let's face it, who hasn't, at some point or other in his career?  Well, boredom's a good thing, according to It might actually even make us more creative.  Huh?  Read on.

Like the Smell? Stay Longer

We've all heard the advice to bake an apple pie or cookies before showing your house.  The idea being that the scent makes the house feel homier.  Now retail has adopted that, too.  Want someone to buy flowers?  Play romantic music. No surprise but Abercrombie & Fitch plays its music four decibels "louder than the C train in Manhattan."  Keep out, anyone over 40 (maybe even 30?).  The whole point is to keep you in the store longer. So keep baking those pies and cookies!

A New Guest at the Table: A Talking Fork

Just what I needed.  A fork that tells me how much I eat. Isn't that what mothers-in-law are for?

Want to Live Long and Have Great Sex? Go to Greece

Want to still be having hot sex in your 90s?  People on a Greek island live longer than we do and have relations far more often than the average senior.  A connection?  Maybe. It's the wine, and the radiation -- radiation -- from the hot springs, they say.  As a cancer survivor, can't say much positive about radiation, though!

Self-Employed? You'll Pay, This Year

If you're a small business owner, like me, you probably already know this. But your insurance premiums may increase exponentially this year, according to CNN. That's because, in many states, insurers are still allowed to charge what they want, and we're taking the hit.  Somehow, my own premium went down this year (but it went up 22% a couple of years ago).

A Slow Burn is Best

Nowthey tell me.  After running four miles and swimming 32 laps (half a mile) in a day, then taking up zumba, too, all to get the "burn," they're saying a walk is just as good.  Dr. Oz, that is.  He claims walking burns more calories when you eat, can prevent diabetes, even help you live longer.  And here's the clincher: most people burn out before they get the burn and walking is something you can do every day.

Going Back to the Future: Who Succeeds, Looking Ahead

Guess what? We're really good at looking back on ourselves (and feeling humiliated at our antics in college), but we really stink at looking ahead and predicting who -- and what -- we will be 10 years from now. It's called "the end of history illusion," a fancy term for not knowing what the heck our lives will be like, in the future.

Hate the Dentist? How about a Dental Therapist?

No, it's not to talk about how much you fear the dentist. These people are now filling teeth, performing crowns and bridges -- and just about taking the last scraps of business for dentists, according to my dentist husband.  It's all, of course, to save money.

Making Money From Sh_t

Yes, you read it right.  Kansas City is making millions off its sewage sludge.  How?  Using it as fertilizer.

I Knew It!

Doctors are now saying that a little bit of extra weight may help you live longer.  That's the good news.  The bad news?  Only after age 65.  And your B.M.I. may not need to be under 25, though it should stay in the '20s (sadly, I still don't qualify!!!).

One-Two Punch: Cancer and Diabetes Link

Very scary.  Scientists are now finding that those with Type 2 diabetes are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than those without.  One study found that one in five diabetes patients developed a cancer. It may be because those who are overweight are prone to diabetes and weight has also been proven a factor in cancer. But it may be deeper than that.  Some think it may have something to do with insulin levels.