Showing posts from April, 2013

Don't Be Fat If You Want a Nice Doctor

Face it.  You've got more than a few pounds to lose and when you sit in the chair in the doctor's office, you bulge out the sides.

You've seen people like these.  Well, guess what?  A new study has found that doctors are nicer to thin people, treating them with more warmth and kindness.

According to Tara Parker-Pope, Johns Hopkins got permission to record conversations between patients and doctors 39 times and a distinct difference was seen between people whose B.M.I. was between 25 and 30, and those 31 and higher.

“It’s not like the physicians were being overtly negative or harsh,” Parker-Pope quotes lead author, Dr. Kimberly A. Gudzune, an assistant professor of general internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “They were just not engaging patients in that rapport-building or making that emotional connection with the patient.”

What does this mean for the epidemic of obesity washing over the country?  Probably that many who are obese start avoiding the …

Diagnosis? Breathe.

Wouldn't it be great if, instead of having to go for a colonoscopy (and all that icky prep), you could just, well, breathe. A new device using people's breath is now diagnosing diseases from asthma to kidney and liver disease.

According to a story at, "The highly sensitive, low-power, low-cost infrared emitter developed by Cambridge CMOS Sensors (CCMOSS) is capable of identifying more than 35 biomarkers present in exhaled breath in concentrations as low as one part per million, and is being developed for use as a non-invasive medical testing device and other applications."

In English this means you just breathe into a tube and software does all the rest.  Asthmatics (like me) emit higher than normal levels of nitric oxide (news to me!), while glucose can be a sign of kidney failure.

Experts are coming up with new ways to do just about anything non-invasively.  A new test can tell whether you have or will develop Parkinson's simply by talking on the pho…

Sleep: The Killer

It's true.  We all know sleep deprivation robs us of health and energy.  But did you know it can also kill?

It's called sleep apnea and it sneaks up on you in the middle of the night, especially if you are overweight, male, black or Latino.  Sleep apnea is a disorder that is characterized by abnormal pauses in breathing throughout the sleep cycle, experts say.  Sometimes you even stop breathing.  That's where the death part comes in.  According to experts, those with this disorder can stop breathing anywhere from 10 seconds to whole minutes and can occur from five to 30 times -- a night?  An hour.

Experts estimate about 12 million in the U.S. have it, including one in 10 kids

Most people who have it don't even know it, though their partners do. It often results in heavy snoring or something worse, sleep paralysis, where people become so afraid of falling asleep that they can't, leading to fatigue, lack of alertness, depression, even liver failure, according to exp…

Live a Long Happy Life? Forgive.

This article originally appeared in HealthyLife Connecticut magazine (and won first place in feature writing in the 2012 Society of Professional Journalists competition).Laina and Jennifer had been friends since childhood. They'd approved each other's spouses, had children at the same time and taken family vacations together. They also shared their darkest secrets, including something for which Laina was very ashamed -- as a preteen she had shoplifted barrettes from a local store. When Laina gave Jennifer as a reference for a job she really wanted, Jennifer told the recruiter about the shoplifting incident. Laina didn't get the job and felt she could never forgive Jennifer. Their lifetime friendship ended. If Jennifer had apologized to Laina, acknowledging she had done something wrong, this friendship might have had hope. But that didn't happen and the women parted on very bitter terms. Forgiveness is something we all consider at some point in our lives. People hurt us…

Living in Denial: Russian Mother

I just don't get it.  How can she stare into the camera and say so unequivocally that he didn't do it?  When they have pictures of his face on TV, and blogs and tweets about his going radical?

"I know my son," she cried.

But I'm a mother, too, and I tried to think what I would do, how I would feel, if my son (nearing 12) ever did something like this.  As much as I hate this woman, yes, hate, I sort of understand.  She bore, birthed and raised this man, and much as what he did was despicable, he's still her son.

But what does it tell our children if we shield them for their mistakes?  Or deny they made them?  Fortunately I've got a pretty good kid (most of the time) but I know there will come a day when he's going to do something big, wrong.  Will I be tempted to explain it away, or rationalize it ("he was framed"), to act like he didn't do it, or it's no big deal, when really, it's huge?

Of course I've denied things in my li…

Grow Up in the South? A Stroke May Be In Your Future

The stroke belt.  That's what many call southeastern states like Mississippi (the fattest state in the nation) and Alabama, even Georgia.  And it's because more people who grew up or live in that area are prone to strokes.

Experts say the risk exists even if you move away, according to a story by Mary MacVean of the LA Times.  A new study curiously places the highest risk on people who lived in the south from ages 13 to 18 -- 17% higher. 

"Researchers speculated that adolescence is a time when many people set in place certain important habits – smoking, dietary choices – that affect stroke risk," MacVean reports.

But others say factors like air pollution, environmental tobacco smoke, metals, and pesticides may also increase the risk of stroke.

Here's another scary fact.  Love your Coke?  Plan on diabetes.  That's what a new study is reporting.  As little as one sugary soda a day can increase your chances of getting this disease by almost 25%.  Not to mention…

Boston Redux

So here we are.  The Boston Marathon bombers are dead or captured.  We know no one else (allegedly) was involved.  We also know there's a chance New York was next.

So why don't I feel resolved?  Clearly, these two were amateurs (which I guessed from the start, because I suspect the bombs were both supposed to go off at the same time).  But they were able to wreak havoc for four days, even shutting down a major city.  I was alternately fascinated, repelled, and horrified at the brother in the boat, bleeding to death and probably sorry, so sorry, he had done this.  (I don't know how he managed to climb out of the boat unaided, as the next photo we had was of him lying close to death on the ground with oxygen masks and medics all around).

And what of the mom and dad in Russia who could not believe their sons did this?  "I know my son," the mother said of the older brother.  How often have I said this about my own child?  And yet, there are deep and dark places in a…

Cupcake Boom Busted

Oh no, it can't be!  Sources are now saying that profits for cupcakes, and outfits like Crumbs Bake Shop (there's one in my town) are, well, crumbling.

According to, quoting a story at The Wall Street Journal, "Crumbs was at its $13 peak in 2011, and now has fallen to only $1.27 a share."  (Who ever even heard of cupcake stores a few years ago?)

Now, I don't know about you but the sight of those massive creations with inch-high icing just never did it for me. But apparently, I'm, or was, in the minority.  Cupcake Wars, D.C. Cupcakes, even Bobby Flay, seemed everyone was baking cupcakes. 

And I have to admit, my mouth did water when I saw those red velvet beauties, crowned with cream crease that shivered when you moved them.  (Truth be told, I'm an icing girl.)

But apparently the thrill is over.  Which is just as well, because I never mastered it.  I remember trying to make "clown" cupcakes, cupcake batter poured into ice cream c…

Live longer? Go to church (or Shul or Mosque Or . . .)

According to an op-ed in The New York Times' Sunday Review today, people who go regularly to church live longer.

It's not just good for your soul.  It's good for your health.

Maybe it's because I go to church every week (and teach Sunday school to rowdy eight-year-olds), but it was exciting to hear that you can add as much as three years to your life, T.M. Luhrmann writes in his op-ed, by attending a religious service often.

No one's quite sure why, Luhrmann reports, and it's quite possible it's the social network, the community, it inspires, and activates.  I'm pretty much a loner but when I had cancer surgery six years ago, it helped me to know that I was being prayed for, by a lot of people, some I didn't even know, and I'm convinced that's one of the things that helped me heal faster.

But it's not just that.  Back when I was newly living with my boyfriend (now my husband), I made a good friend with an adorable toddler nicknamed "…

A Day Later

So they caught him.
I, too, was glued to the TV Friday night and cheered out loud and even clapped when CNN said they got him, then ran down the hall to tell my husband, who was annoyed Bill O’Reilly wasn’t on.
But then my joy turned to sadness and even sorrow, when photos showed the suspected bomber climbing out of the boat, all bloodied and diminished, defeated, despairing.  It’s all over, for him.
I read everything I could get my hands on, how he idolized his older brother and “followed him like a puppy,” as one paper reported it; was happy-go-lucky and a partier, as high school friends described him. 
But what I really wanted to know was why someone, anyone, would do something like this.
I guess it’s as useless – and pointless – as wondering why Adam Lanza shot up an elementary school.  As an old reporter friend at this very paper told me years ago, “You’re not a murderer, so you don’t think like one.”
What was more disturbing, though, was that a terrorist threat to strike “soft…

Hey! You're More Beautiful Than You Think

Lord knows, I've done it enough.  Look in the mirror and see the wrinkles under my eyes, like scratches in sand; the chin no longer quite as firm as before; the parentheses on either side of my nose.

But a new Dove commercial says a friend would describe me very differently.  According to Tanzina Vega at The New York Times, women describe their faces much more unattractively than their friends would.

This was figured out when an artist asked women to describe themselves while he sketched a face that matched what they said. Then he would ask a friend to do the same about that particular women.  Every time the friend's description was much more attractive than the woman's herself.

What does this say about us?  Vega ruminated about it, to, but when we're constantly exposed to women who eat one meal a month (as Charlie Sheen once said about a girlfriend before he was blown off "Two and a Half Men"), have plastic surgery for rounder butts, or flatter stomachs, and…

Can I Get That Tonsillectomy Cheaper?

Want to know what a Heme-8 Lab costs? Or a Heme-8 with Automated Differentiated Lab?  They're each $9.37 at Johns Hopkins and it may not matter to you what they are (blood tests for diseases like lupus and others), or how much they cost.

But it's starting to, for doctors, and it's helping to bring down healthcare costs, according to Sarah Kliff at The Washington Post.  She reports that, "for six months, doctors ordering certain lab tests" were able to "call up both the type of the test," and what Medicare would pay for it.

It's actually caused doctors to order almost 10% fewer tests, Kliff notes.  Once the hospital started studying the costs, and relaying them to doctors, it saved $3.79 per test per day per patient.  That may not sound like much, but times thousands of patients, it's paying off.

Kliff writes that doctors were not penalized for writing orders for more expensive tests, the price just got billed to the insurance company (and we won…

Social Media Replacing Human Contact? Nah

I used to think my son only talked to his "girlfriend" (did I mention he'll be 12 in June?) in school.  Then I happened to walk by his computer and saw her on his screen.  They Skype.  About three hours a day.  Then I got it.  It's real.  Kids mostly communicate electronically these days.

But Joe McKendrick at believes there are reasons social media won't completely replace face-to-face interactions.  For one, there's less distraction.  If you're sitting at your computer, you're scanning for emails or googling or watching the news, in addition to talking to someone.  When you're actually with someone, it's harder to do this -- though, Joe, are you living on Mars? Have you never seen a teen texting at the table, while talking to you, or God forbid, driving?

Most of McKendrick's points have to do with the office, and meeting in person to do business rather than connecting online.  I have to admit here, it makes sense.  He cla…

Sucessful AND Famous? You May Die Young

Here's something that may shock you.  According to a story at The Atlantic, stars and athletes you see all the time commanding seven-figure salaries may not live as long as you.

Lindsay Abrams reports that "people who are famous and successful have shorter lives."  A 2001 study found that Academy Award winners live longer than less famous actors, but a 2009 study discovered that people who were both successful and famous died younger than the rest of us.

How did they obtain this information?  By studying who gets an obit in The New York Times, according to Abrams. True, famous people didn't die all that young, at a little over 77 years, but famous people in business lived to 83, higher than the national average of a bit past 78 years.

"Philanthropists, academics, and doctors were more likely than others to die of 'old age,' a diagnosis that occurred least often for performers, athletes, and creatives," Abrams notes.

Why?  Those who are famous often succ…

Worst Week Ever

I don't know which was worse.  The Boston Marathon.  The defeated gun bill.  The explosion in Texas.  It was a terrible week.

When I first wrote this, no suspect had been shot and killed, before killing another innocent person, the MIT guard.  But now I have this to add, and am waiting for the final installment.  I pray no one else except the killer is killed.

CNN reports that the dead "suspect" (are we even calling them that anymore?) was probably outfitted with explosives because he was badly burned when brought to the hospital, but the doctor they talked to at Beth Israel, where he was brought, was pretty closed-mouthed about his injuries and whether he arrived with spent explosives on his body.

And now the world is waiting for the second "suspect" to be caught.  For a newshound like me, the coverage is exhilarating, if it weren't so sad.

I have to admit I feel depressed, though.  I know life will go on.  But it reminds me how close we all are, these da…

Gun Control: Governed by whores

I can't believe it.  I just can't believe it.  In the end, the gun lobby won.  I don't know what kind of America I'm living in anymore.  I thought for sure that now, we had them.  That finally this country was coming around to realizing we're no longer the Wild West and need assault rifles to shoot deer and "protect our homes."

Oh, gun control opponents were very self-righteous with their "criminals do not submit to background checks," or "expanded background checks," as GOP Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa said piously, The New York Times reported this morning.  Why not just admit it, Charlie?  You submit to the piles of money the NRA throws your way. 

I feel like we live in a land governed by whores.  Who will do anything, anything, for money.  When one of the Newtown fathers said, "Our hearts are broken," and Obama reached out and grabbed his shoulder, my rage turned to tears.  How could this unspeakable tragedy not move peo…

Background Checks No Big Deal? Maybe Not So Much

I used to think that background checks -- while important -- were a weak deterrent to gun sales and a sad culmination of all the anguished lobbying in Washington after Newtown.

But reading in The New York Times today, I was shocked to see how much gun violence they could possibly prevent.  I realize "possibly" is the operative word here.

But The Times gave as an example a felon (who would not legally be able to purchase a gun through legitimate means) who advertised for one on, and each day, his request grew more and more desperate.  Looking like a crime in need of a weapon.

This felon was convicted of  burglary and domestic violence. And now, to hear that Republicans, once again, are caving in to the gun lobby, or at least, saying they will probably not vote for this most miniscule (in the end) legislation, I feel despair and rage.

While you can't really connect the Boston Marathon bombings and disasters like Newtown, you can see the connection between the …

Smaller Portions? Ha! You Just Eat More

I've always heard it said that good things come in small packages (maybe because I'm barely 5'2), but now advertisers and packagers are learning the same thing.

According to a story at the Wall Street Journal today, companies, who know people snack all day, are making it easier to do just that by introducing "new packaging that encourages consumers to eat their food anytime they have an urge to nibble, what some executives have dubbed 'hand-to-mouth' eating," Sarah Nassauer writes.

Small amounts of food could drive you to eat more, according to the story. And now companies are making it easier to eat, well, just anywhere.  Nassauer reports that Hershey, maker of Kisses and Reese's Pieces, found that "individual wrappers on bite-size candy were getting in the way of people eating candy in certain settings, like in the car."  So they did something that's proven deadly to me -- removed the wrappers, chopped the candy into bite-size pieces, …

So Now What?

So now what?  Fuming last night, my husband said, "Everyone's so worried about gun control.  Then you have this.  What's the point of worrying about guns when a lunatic can do this."

I've been thinking about it.  And, to me, it all comes back to the availability of materials that can kill. It's true, we're never going to be able to legislate mental illness, or those who want to kill.  And they will always be around. I suppose guns rights activists, dare I say it, are right.  If someone wants to massacre, they'll find a way to do it.

But do we have to make it so easy for them?  This morning it was reported that even the slim background check legislation is in danger of failing, as more Republicans are now saying they will oppose it.  So really, how far have we come?

I was naive thinking Newtown would change minds.  It's scary to me how very little the brutal killing of 20 innocent children has changed minds.  I truly believed, again naively, that t…

Armed Guards in Schools? I Think Not

Sadly, more and more schools are buying into Wayne LaPierre's insanity -- oops, I meant, logic -- that schools need armed guards to be safe.

As Justin Green writes in The Daily Beast, some schools in very rural areas are too far away for the police to respond quickly.  So in Missouri, for one, they've turned to installing armed guards in these schools. And the townspeople love it.

Excuse me, but I don't see how having any kind of weapon in a school is a good thing.  I believe the Columbine killers used their armed guard's gun against him, did they not? 

Closer to home, and Newtown, some schools have indeed voted for people to patrol their halls with guns.  Enfield, Conn., is one, which is pretty funny because this is a town with less than 45,000 residents, where the population has only gone up .1% since 2000 and which is located in the suburbs,  rolling hills, to be exact.

A Florida mother has handed out a $12,000 check for armed guards in her daughter's school.  …

Now Hear This, Mayor Bloomberg

So maybe, just maybe, it's not a plan, after all.  A new study has found what many of us have already figured out.  If you do away with large soda sizes, people will just buy more small sizes.

According to Lara Salahi in The Boston Globe, "People may end up drinking as much or more soda when they are offered smaller beverage sizes, according to a study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego."

She adds that the study suggests that this may totally wipe out any gains from NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ban on mega-sized drinks.

The mayor, bless his heart, was hoping to get people to adopt more healthy habits overall to cut down on obesity and the diseases like diabetes and heart problems that it can induce.  But many people would rather give up on losing weight than lose their freedom to drink big.

And now it looks like it doesn't matter, anyway.

Along the same lines, remember when you were in elementary school and all the brownies and ice cream…

Who's Laughing Now? Gun Control

So they're coming together.  The Democrats and Republicans have finally found an issue on which they can both agree when it comes to gun control.  Mental health.


While there's no doubt that mentally ill people are the ones behind these horrendous mass killings, that still doesn't do anything about the fact that they can get their hands on weapons in the first place.  For all the celebrating (me, included) on just getting a gun control bill to the floor for debate, really, how far have we come to our goal?

Saturday Night Live last night did a very funny (and, to me, heartbreaking) opener on just what's been agreed to so far, and for all the laughs and elbow nudging, the comics playing the two senators who triumped over recalcitrant GOP members to allow the bill to be debated, there was a sad, sad truth.

As the comedians played to laughs that Domino's would no longer be able to give away free rifles with pizzas, or allow people to shoot more than two guns at…

Climbing Up The Hill: Gun Control Status

So from everything I've been reading and seeing, the background check has been somewhat gutted.  Gun rights advocates won in the ban against so-called "friends and neighbors" gun sales, where people can still sell to relatives without requiring the buyer to go through a background check.  And I'm not clear on this, but I believe the idea of registering gun owners -- to me, an absolute necessity -- is also dying.

David Weigl at notes that the NRA feels it's "winning" because, even though they're losing, in their minds, some of their "rights," they're gaining members opposed to any expansion of gun control.  But Weigl also reports that they can't really consider themselves winning because it's become open season on members, something this country has not seen since the 1990s.

Anyway. . .so at least gun control advocates have topped the first hill, "defeating (in the Senate) an effort by conservatives to derail a pa…

Good Memory? Walking Wins

Now I know why I run.  Turns out a new study has found that endurance training helps keep your memory stronger than weight-training or just toning.

"Regular exercise can substantially improve memory, although different types of exercise seem to affect the brain quite differently," Gretchen Reynolds writes at The New York Times.

Now, the people being tested were in their 70s and 80s and all had a mild cognitive impairment (sometimes the precursor to Alzheimer's).  But once women completed a short walking course, their verbal and spatial memory were markedly different from those who just did toning and weight-lifting.  The walking women's memories were much better, post-test

I've fought weight-training and toning with every ounce of my body and now I see that, despite the toll running sometimes takes on my breathing (this past winter, my asthma made it almost impossible), running (or fast walking) is the best exercise for memory.

Whether I'll ever have six-pack…

Smiles: More Than Just a Facial Expression

What do kids do about 300-400 times a day, women 62, and men just eight?  No, it's not burp or something else disgusting.  It's smile.

And according to author Marianne LaFrance, how someone smiles can be a key predictor of what kind of person they are.

Amanda Cuda of The Advocate (Stamford, CT) interviewed LaFrance, author of "Why Smile," who said that smiles can be fake or genuine, and here's how you can tell.  "A genuine smile doesn't just use the mouth. It uses the mouth and the muscles around eye. But a whole host of other cues are involved as well," LaFrance told Cuda. "Fake smiles tend to snap on the face and go off the face as quickly as they got there. When someone smiles quickly, you have an intuitive sense that something is not right there."

LaFrance added that when people" have all teeth all the time,' that suggests it's not a genuine smile.

So why should we care?  LaFrance told Cuda that smiles are important in …