Saturday, April 30, 2011

What to do with unused medical supplies

Updated May 2014

Maybe you’ve tried a medication and found after a dose or two that it didn’t help but you don’t want to throw it away. Could it be helpful to others? You might have a walker or hospital bed that you no longer need. What can you do with it?

While many state independent living centers, condition specific organizations (e.g Parkinson's Disease Foundation), and various community groups have established “loan closets,” where durable medical goods, such as walkers and wheelchairs, can be donated and loaned out to those that need them, medications are a very different matter.

To learn about your state's Prescription Drug Repository try the following:
 • Contact the local chapter of condition specific organizations (e.g. American Cancer Society)
 • Google your state’s name with "Prescription Drug Repository"
 • Ask your medical provider.

Donations for other countries: There are organizations that collect medications and supplies for other countries. Check out the following sites:
• Afya Foundation: Collects and sends no longer needed medical and humanitarian supplies to help people in Haiti and African Nations. 

• AID for AIDS: Operates the largest HIV medicine recycling program in the world. In addition to HIV medications, they also accept medications to treat opportunistic infections such as antifungals (e.g. Floconazole, Spornox) and antibiotics (e.g. Cipro, Amoxicilin) . They do not accept narcotics or any narcotic derivatives. 

While working in AIDS, a number of people used the Internet to solicit medications they were running out of and to find out who might be able to use medications that no longer worked for them. This practice definitely continues. However, medical providers will not sanction this practice as the risk of contamination is real. 

If you have unused medication, talked to your medical provider about potential donations and/or proper disposal. If you know of a program that is seeking unused prescription medications from individuals, please post.

What you can do with other type of durable medical equipment (DME), such as hospital beds, walkers, wheelchairs, canes etc.:

• If you participate in a support group, see if anyone can use what you have.

• Check with your medical provider, condition specific organization, council on aging, senior center and/or home health/hospice organization about other people that might benefit from what you have.

• Many Independent Living Centers have loan programs. Call 713-520-0232- to find a Center near you. 

• Since storage can be a problem, some churches and community based organizations, such as Legion, Rotary, and Lions Club, offer limited service.

• There are a number of places that will accept individual wheelchairs, as well provide them. Check Wheelchair Foundation for their list of places to donate.

DME (Durable Medical Equipment) List: If you have or know of unused DME and are responsible for the equipment, help to list it here. By listing DME and giving it away free, you will make a difference to someone’s quality of life. 

• Lions Clubs will take used eyeglasses and hearing aids. All types of eyeglasses and sunglasses, prescription and non-prescription are acceptable. Check with your local Lions Club to see where donation boxes are in your community.

• Post your items to Freecycle The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 4,940 groups with 8,399,771 members around the world. It's a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Take a Break: Reusing/Recycling Easter Candy

So after you’ve had your fill of Peeps, jellybeans and chocolate, what do you do with the rest of it?

• Substitute the marshmallow in a S’more with a peep. Take a graham cracker and break in half. Place a wedge of chocolate Eater bunny (or Hershey’s squares) on one half, followed by a Peep. Microwave for 30 seconds (depending on microwave may need less), take it out, add the top and enjoy.

• Take a Styrofoam wreath and wrap with Easter grass. Wrap ribbon around the grass to keep it in place and then start adding Peeps. Toothpicks work just fine. If you let it harden for a day, all the better before hanging. I’ve been making some of these and find they look fabulous and very spring like. Given that it’s snowing as I write this, anything that’s yellow, pink, green or blue in the pastel family looks like spring to me.

• Use your Peep as a garnish for special milkshakes.

• Make your favorite sweet potato dish, substituting Peeps for the marshmallows.

• Stage Peep fights in your microwave. Place two Peeps on a plate facing each other. Insert a toothpick into each Peep so their “swords” touch. Think Errol Flynn. Set the timer for less than a minute and watch the Peeps pretend they are Johnny Deep in Pirates of the Caribbean.

• Melt your chocolate bunny and dip Peeps into it. Place on wax paper and let dry. These are pretty tasty.

• If unopened, Peeps will keep for a very long time. Save them for marshmallow roasts this summer.

Chocolate Bunnies
Unfortunately, these are often made with pretty inferior chocolate but hopefully someone came through with the good stuff.
• Cut up and use in your favorite chocolate chip, brownie or cake recipe.

• Melt down (can use the microwave or double boiler method) and use for :
- Sauce on a “hot fudge” sundae, add a little cream to make it a richer sauce.
- If you have candy molds, make smaller candies
- Turn in to a chocolate fondue, suitable for Peep, strawberry and other types of dipping items. Again, add some cream to get it to the consistency that you want.

What about a chocolate facial?

Jellybeans: Last week’s post has lots of ideas l

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Journal Watch/News 4/24/11

Patients with do-not-resuscitate (DRN) orders fare worse: A study of 120 hospitals across the country found that overall, nearly a fourth of the DNR patients died in the month following their surgery -- about three times as many as in the comparison group. That difference remained even after taking into account that DNR patients are usually sicker to begin with. DNR patients also had slightly more complications, such as pneumonia or stroke. But the outcomes depended on the type of surgery. For instance, half the DNR patients having a kind of abdominal surgery called exploratory laparotomy died within a month of the surgery, compared to one in five of the patients without the order. Archives of Surgery, online April 18, 2011.

Lifestyle Changes Can Slash Blood Fat Levels: Healthy lifestyle changes can significantly lower elevated levels of triglycerides, a type of blood fat associated with heart disease and other health problems. A healthy diet for people with high triglycerides should include more vegetables; lower-fructose fruits, such as cantaloupe, grapefruit, strawberries, peaches and bananas; whole-grains; and healthier unsaturated fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish. Circulation April 18

Women Taking Calcium Supplements May Risk Heart Health: For this analysis, the authors looked only at the 16,718 women in the Women’s Health Initiative who had not been taking personal calcium supplements before entering the trial. In this case, women who were randomized to take calcium and vitamin D as part of the study protocol had a modest 13 to 22 percent increased risk of cardiovascular problems, particularly heart attacks. Women in the control arm had no change in risk. The case against calcium became stronger when researchers added in data from 13 other, unpublished trials involving almost 30,000 women. Now the increased risk for heart attack was 25 to 30 percent and, for a stroke, 15 to 20 percent. "It is not possible to provide reassurance that calcium supplements given with vitamin D do not cause adverse cardiovascular events or to link them with certainty to increased cardiovascular risk. Clearly further studies are needed and the debate remains ongoing." British Medical Journal April 19, 2011 l

For non-smokers, healthy living cuts death rate in half. Diet and lifestyle questionnaires were filled out in 1992 and 1993 by almost 112,000 non-smoking women and men in the Cancer Prevention Study. The participants were scored based on their adherence to American Cancer Society prevention guidelines regarding body mass index, physical activity, diet and alcohol consumption. After 14 years of follow-up, participants who were highly compliant with the recommendations had a 42 percent lower risk of death vs. those who were the least compliant. Among those with higher compliance scores, the risk of cardiovascular-related death was 58 percent lower for women and 48 percent lower for men, and the risk of cancer death was 24 percent lower in women and 30 percent lower in men. The findings were similar for both never and former smokers. Cancer Biomarkers, Epidemiology, and Prevention

Aspirin cuts heart attacks, not deaths or strokes: Small doses of aspirin can lower the risk of heart attack in people who never had heart disease, a new look at the medical evidence shows. But the blood-thinning drug doesn't appear to cut the chances of dying from the disease, at least not enough that researchers can say for certain. And experts warn people to consult their doctor before taking the medication, which increases the risk of bleeding ulcers. American Journal of Cardiology, online April 11, 2011.

High Deductible Health Plans Bring Equal Savings to All: Poor people and those with chronic health problems are no more likely than others to cut back on health care when they're enrolled in high-deductible health plans, according to a new study. Conducted by the RAND Corporation, the study found that so-called "medically vulnerable" people were more likely to slash their spending while they were on the plans. High-deductible plans are health insurance policies that require the person who's insured to pay for most medical care out-of-pocket before coverage kicks in after a certain dollar amount has been spent each year. About 20 percent of Americans with employer-sponsored health insurance had a high-deductible plan in 2009, according to the researchers. Forum for Health Economics & Policy

How much did you pay for prescriptions: According to Consumer Reports, in 2010 the top ten medications prescribed were as follows:
1. Pfizer’s Lipitor (for high cholesterol): $7.2 billion
2, AstraZeneca’s Nexium (for heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux, and ulcers): $6.3 billion
3. Bristol-Myers’ Plavix (blood thinner for heart attack and stroke prevention): $6.1 billion
4. GlaxoSmithKline's Advair Diskus (for asthma): $4.7 billion
5. Otsuka's Abilify (for bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and severe depression): $4.6 billion
6. AstraZeneca’s Seroquel (for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression): $4.4 billion
7. Merck’s Singulair (for allergies and asthma): $4.1 billion
8. AstraZeneca’s Crestor (for high cholesterol): $3.8 billion
9. Takeda’s Actos (for type 2 diabetes): $3.5 billion
10. Amgen’s Epogen (for people on dialysis with anemia): $3.3 billion. h

No Evidence Coffee Ups Risk of High Blood Pressure Despite earlier concerns, downing lots of coffee doesn't seem to increase the risk of high blood pressure, according to a new report -- but the evidence isn't conclusive. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online March 30, 2011

Hand Sanitizers Carry Unproven Claims they Prevent MRSA Infections

Mindfulness Meditation regulates the brain’s alpha rhythm, which turns down the volume on distracting information. A key value of meditation, which can help improve pain and working memory, may be helping the brain deal with an often-over stimulating world. Brain Research Bulletin

Saturday, April 23, 2011

What do We Mean by “We’re Too Busy?”

In the past several weeks, I’ve heard the expression, “But I’m just soooooo busy,” enough times to stop and think just what are we saying when we say “I’m too busy,” or “I can only be in one place at a time,” “there just aren’t enough hours in the day,” or, “I just have too much on my plate!”

I couldn’t help but laugh at an article I read in the New York Times about “Crazy Busy,” where the author writes, One way to wrestle back control is to take a hard look at our priorities, he said, “to decide what matters.” This does not necessarily mean big career changes or moving from Manhattan to rural Vermont.

I live in rural Vermont and people are even more “crazy busy” then many of my friends in the city. Here the excuse is spring and the need to do all the outside work you didn’t get done because of the snow. In the winter, there are at least five other “too busy” excuses, with the first three having to do with snow and the other two with hauling wood. That’s the one thing about living in Vermont, if all else fails, blame it on snow.

This past weekend, I spent Sunday lying on the couch watching old movies. I did Qigong, went for a nice walk, thought about doing the wash but didn’t, and in general had a low-key day. If someone called and wanted to know if I was available, would I have used the “I’m too busy” excuse if I didn’t want to be bothered? If it was something I really didn’t want to do, but thought I should be doing, I may have fallen back on this very accepted excuse.

This reminded me of a story the nuns told us in grade school. If a salesman came to the door and your mother told you to say, “My mother’s not here,” even though she was in the kitchen, you would not be telling a lie. Basically, even though your mother was at home, she wasn’t at home for the salesman. So if we ask someone for help, to do something with us, have dinner, and so forth, and the reply is “I’m too busy,” are they really saying “I’m too busy for you?”

While this last sentence looks like something Carrie Bradshaw would write for one of her columns in “Sex and the City,” the “too busy” comes in a variety of forms and can mean different things depending on the person and circumstances. I’ll be right up front by saying I have lots of questions and few answers on this subject.

Socially, if I hear the “too busy excuse” more often than not, I stop calling or e-mailing. People that care about getting together, will take five minutes to respond. There are many convenient ways to do that. Of course your convenient (e-mail, texting, phone call) way may not be theirs, but that’s a conversation for another day.

In work situations, I know that if it’s something I really am dreading doing or aren’t sure how to do it, it becomes part of the “too busy.”

We accept the “too busy” as a valid excuse. It’s a lot more socially acceptable to hear that versus “you aren’t important enough for me to make time for.” Yet, there are times when we’re all on overload.

While working as a lobbyist, the final days of the legislative session kept me at the capital building and sufficiently consumed that I had to buy clothes since I hadn’t the time to do wash. This was a rare occurrence for me, but I know people that do keep themselves this busy 24/7, 365 days of the year. Are they more important for being this busy? How productive can you really be if you never take a vacation? What does all this busyness led to?

Before exploring why we may keep ourselves on over drive, what does it mean for people with chronic conditions when we are “too busy” to get our blood work done, keep doctor’s appointments, take medications etc.? Is the “too busy,” or “I got too busy and forgot,” based on fear of what lab results might reveal? Could it be concerns over having to spend money you don’t have for an appointment or medications? Is denial part of it or “I just can’t think about it right now? or “I just want my old life back?”

“Keep busy” is a recommendation routinely made to people who are grieving, dealing with chronic illness, recently divorced or are experiencing something emotionally challenging, not easily resolved and/or has no resolution. While the brain is wired to try and keep us on a steady path, the hyper activity that some people engage in “coping” can completely de rail it.

As a child, we played a game where you spun around in a circle repeating “I’m busy getting dizzy,” until you fell because you were so dizzy. Is that what we’re doing now in terms of work, friendships, social engagements and even vacations? Are we starting to “fall down,” (including our economy) because we just can’t keep pace with fast food, fast cars, fast results, drive in, drive by, drive through, speed dating, high speed internet, power lifting, power yoga, circuit training, multi tasking and in general “life in the fast lane?”

Why are we doing this? There seems to be an over riding belief that our status is based on how busy we are. Admitting you aren’t busy, implies that you may be depressed, have no work or are just not doing well. There is also the fear that not being busy means you may have to deal with feelings of loneliness, sadness and other such difficult topics.

"To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to the violence of our times…Frenzy destroys our inner capacity for peace." While this could easily have been written today, as we have ever more technology to rob of us of time with our own thoughts, it was written by the Trappist Monk, Thomas Merton in 1960.

Whether you have fallen because you are “dizzy from being busy,” or figure you are about to, maybe you’ll want to consider these three things:

• Think about what you mean when you say “I’m too busy.” When it comes to your health care, the “too busy” excuse could significantly alter your life and not in a good way.

• When you are caught up in your busyness, ask yourself if what you’re doing will make a difference 10 minutes, 10 days, 10 weeks, 10 months or 10 years from now. Much of the “too busy” activities wont make a difference in 10 weeks, let alone 10 years, so how does that adjust your priorities?

• STOP-Stop. Take a breath. Observe and Proceed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Take a Beak: Jelly Bean Projects

Easter is just a few days away, so it’s all about the jellybean! Have fun

Jelly Bean Bracelet: Get the big jelly beans from the Dollar Store-the nasty ones that nobody eats. Find a very sharp and pointy object-T pins work great. Unbending a paper clip doesn’t work all that well because it doesn’t have a pointy end. A sharp needle is also good. You will be working horizontally. Poke holes in enough jelly beans to make a bracelet. It’s best to lie them down on something like a cutting board and hold firmly as you push the needle through. You may have to pass the needle through several times to get a large enough hole. Also, it’s pretty sticky, so have warm water nearby so you can rinse often.

One you have enough jelly beans, use a darning needle with either thread or the stretchy cord and go through all the holes and tie off. If you’re a kid, you probably wont mind the sticky feeling that jellybeans have. To seal them, spray with clear spray paint. To make sure you get in all nooks and crannies, do this before you tie it off.

You can also use the jellybean bracelet as a curtain tie back, or go longer and make a garland. To keep from going crazy, alternate with some Easter charms that you pick up from your local craft store.

Be sure to let people know not to eat the jellybeans if you’ve spray painted them.

Jelly Bean Pictures: Similar to using flower petals, sand or mosaics to create art, draw a design and glue the jellybeans down. While the small ones, like Jelly Belly (lots of knock offs on the tiny bean), are great for this, as they come in so many colors, you can take the big nasty ones and slice them. Use a one-sided razor blade or Exacto Knife for cutting. This will expose their sticky side, but that’s perfect for getting the layered effect. In essence, it’s its own glue.

Watch Artist Make Jelly Bean Art

Masterpieces of Jelly Belly Art: See pictures of the American Gothic, Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Great Wave of Kanagawa, the Mona Lisa and other masterpieces made from Jelly Bellys.

Jelly Bean Tree: Go for a walk and find a branch that looks like it could use a good home. Put it in a vase, flowerpot or some other container. Weight it down with stones, sand or even Plaster of Paris. Cover with Easter Grass. Glue jellybeans of various sizes to the branches. A glue gun works well for this project. If you get tired of gluing jellybeans, take tiny pieces of tissue paper, dab glue and attach. They’ll look like little cherry blossoms if you use pink and white tissue paper.

Jelly Bean Tree Topiary

Jell Bean and Candles: Not only can you glue jellybeans to a large candle, you can take your votive holders and fill all the spaces around a pillar (tapered) candle with jellybeans.

Jelly Bean Carrots: Clear plastic icing bags, filled with small orange jellybeans.

Jelly Bean Shooter: Just like a marshmallow shooter, but uses a balloon. Grainy video but interesting.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Journal/News Watch 4/17/11

Partnership for Health: President Obama has just lunched Partnership for Patients: Better Care, Lower Costs, a new public-private partnership that will help improve the quality, safety, and affordability of health care for all Americans. The two goals of this new partnership are to: Keep patients from getting injured or sicker and to. Help patients heal without complication.

Action for Happiness: Begun by Richard Layard, an economics professor at the London School of Economics, and launched this week, Action for Happiness is supported by more than 4,500 members from 68 countries and organizations including the British Psychological Society and the Dali Lama. The movement rejects individualism and the pursuit of material wealth and provides alternative practical tips for a happier life, which it says are based on scientific evidence. Such measures include: helping others, exercise, mindfulness, become social involved and take a break from technology.

Many Smokers Still Deceived by Cigarette Labeling: Many smokers in western nations still incorrectly believe that certain types of cigarettes, such as "mild" and "low tar" brands, are less of a health risk than others, a new study shows. Researchers surveyed more than 8,000 smokers in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, and found that about one-fifth of them wrongly believed that "some cigarettes could be less harmful than others." The study also found that many smokers incorrectly believed that slim cigarettes are less harmful, smooth-tasting cigarettes are less risky than hard-tasting cigarettes, filters reduce risk, and nicotine is responsible for most of the cancers caused by cigarettes. Addiction April 12

Brisk Walk Can Boost Blood Flow to the Brain: Moderate aerobic exercise helps boost blood flow to the brain in older women, new research reveals. The small study included 16 women aged 60 and older who walked briskly for 30 to 50 minutes three or four times a week for three months. By the end of that time, the amount of blood flow to the brain had increased by as much as 15 percent. Experimental Biology annual meeting

An apple a day may help keep heart disease away: Women who ate 75 grams of dried apples every day for a year lowered their total cholesterol by 14 percent and their levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol by 23 percent.. Daily apple consumption also significantly lowered levels of C-reactive protein and lipid hydroperoxide, two substances that may indicate an increased risk of heart disease. The researchers theorized that the nutrients in apples may reduce inflammation in the body. Despite the addition of several hundred calories a day to their diet, the apple-eating women didn't gain weight over the course of the study. In fact, they lost an average of 3.3 pounds. Experimental Biology meeting

Folic Acid Fails in another heart-health study: This latest study looked at whether folic acid might stave off atherosclerosis in older adults who had high homocysteine levels but were apparently free of cardiovascular disease. It didn't. Over 3 years, daily folic acid cut study participants' homocysteine levels by an average of 26 percent, but it showed no effect on the thickness of the inner wall of the carotid artery, or on the "stiffness" of the arteries -- which are both considered markers of atherosclerosis. The findings "suggest that folic acid is not effective in slowing down early stages of cardiovascular disease, as measured by accepted markers of atherosclerosis." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Online March 23, 2011

More evidence on Vitamin D and Macular Degeneration: A team led by researchers at the University at Buffalo, N.Y., examined data on blood levels of vitamin D among 1,313 women 50 to 79 enrolled in the ongoing Women's Health Initiative study. In women younger than 75, vitamin D from foods and supplements—but not from time spent in direct sunlight—was linked with decreased risk of developing early age-related macular degeneration. Those who consumed the most vitamin D had a 59 percent decreased risk of developing it compared with women who consumed the least. The researchers suggest that vitamin D might help regulate the immune system and perhaps help prevent diseases, such as AMD, that are linked to inflammation. The top food sources of vitamin D in the study were milk, fish, fortified margarine and fortified cereal. Archives of Ophthalmology

Study doubts anti-aging claims for DHEA: The hormone supplement DHEA may be promoted as a fountain of youth, but there is no good evidence that it boosts older women's memory, sexual function or general well-being, a new research review concludes. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism

What’s the Single Best Exercise?

High Bacteria Levels in Meat at US Stores: Researchers have found high levels of bacteria in meat commonly found on U.S. grocery store shelves, with more than half of the bacteria resistant to multiple types of antibiotics, according to a study released on Friday. Clinical Infectious Diseases

Diet Soda Doesn’t Raise Diabetes Risk: In a large group of men followed for 20 years, drinking regular soda and other sugary drinks often meant a person was more likely to get diabetes, but that was not true of artificially-sweetened soft drinks, or coffee or tea. Replacing sugary drinks with diet versions seems to be a safe and healthy alternative, the authors report. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition March 23, 2011

Green Tea and Tai Chi Enhance Bone Health and Reduce Inlammation in Postmenopausal Women Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Survey Finds Support for Major Health-Care Changes: A large majority of Americans support major changes to the nation’s health-care system, including many of those included in the Affordable Health Care act passed last year, according to a recent survey by the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund. Many respondents also reported serious problems in affording and getting medical care. A Call for Change: The 2011 Commonwealth Fund Survey of Public Views of the U.S. Health System

Half of US Adults take Vitamins: According to a new survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about half of US adults take vitamins and other dietary supplements. Most people who take vitamins and other supplements are educated, have good incomes, eat pretty well and already get the nutrients they need from their diets, the surveys suggests. "It's almost like the people who are taking them aren't the people who need them," said Regan Bailey, a nutritional epidemiologist with the National Institutes of Health. Federal surveys have only recently started asking people why they take supplements, Bailey said. The government supports some supplements as an option for certain people — such as iron for women who are pregnant, folic acid for women thinking of getting pregnant and calcium for older women. But health officials say people should talk to their doctors first, and consider enriched foods that can accomplish the same goal. CDC Report

Using Hypnosis to Take Control of your Symptoms

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Healthcare Decisions and Disposing of Meds

There are two very practical things to mention this week:

National Healthcare Decision Day is today. Basically what this means is that you document what you like to have happen medically if you are unable to speak for yourself. You have the choice of having your life prolonged as long as possible or ask for no interventions. It’s your life, your choice, but if it’s not in your chart or documentation, or not known by family and medical provider, someone will make the choice for you.

Go to the NHDD website and download your state’s advanced medical directives. Some states have an on-line directory where you can file these, others require you to download a form and make copies for provider, hospital where you are being treated, power or health attorney etc.

Got Drugs? Turn in your unused or expired medication for safe disposal on Saturday April 30, as part of the National Take Back Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Find a site near you. For more information on the best way to get rid of medications you are no longer using.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Take a Break: Be Amazed

It’s rare that I would recommend spending time watching things on your computer, let alone on a Take a Break day. However, I’ve received e-mails encouraging me to “take a break” from my day and watch something that is sure to amaze. No laughing babies or howling dogs. Below are links that have amazed me, and in some cases, have inspired me to take risks that I might not have down. Enjoy!

TED Speaker Eric Whitacre: A virtual choir 2,000 voices strong: Eric Whitacre began his music career singing in his college choir, with no previous musical experience. By 21, he had completed his first concert work, Go, Lovely Rose, and soon advanced to Juilliard where he studied under Oscar-winning composer John Corigliano. Today, his 44 published concert pieces have sold over a million copies, he has conducted choral music in some of the most esteemed halls in the world and his music has been featured on dozens of commercial recordings. His album Cloudburst and Other Choral Works earned him a Grammy nomination in 2007.

Virtual 2 Choir by Eric Whitacre performs Sleep

Japanese Cellphone Ad: This beautiful ad was done by Drill Inc, a Japanese advertising agency, and it features a wooden ball rolling down the homemade marimba in the midst of Kyushu Forest, Japan's woodlands.

• Ocean Sand Fantasy

• Sand Art

Miwa Matreyek’s Glorious Visions Using animation, projections and her own moving shadow, Miwa Matreyek performs a gorgeous, meditative piece about inner and outer discovery. Take a quiet 10 minutes and dive in. With music from Anna Oxygen, Mirah, Caroline Lufkin and Mileece.

Hand Jobs The Arts: Different animals made entirely out of painting on hands

• Pilobolus

• Extreme Sheep Herding

• Flashmob in Antwerp Train Station, do re mi

• Statue Act-Journey of Man (Cirque du Soleil)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Journal/News Watch 4/10/11

Vegetarian Diet Linked to Lower Cataract Risk
. In a large dietary survey that followed people for as long as 15 years, researchers found that about three in 50 meat eaters had cataracts, compared to about two in 50 vegans and vegetarians. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online March 23, 2011

More Evidence Painkillers Lower Colon Cancer Risk: A new study adds to growing evidence that regular use of painkillers like aspirin or ibuprofen may reduce a person's risk of developing colon or rectal cancers - sometimes by as much as 50 percent. This latest report also shows that people with a family history of colon cancer - who are therefore at higher risk for the disease - also benefit from the pain relievers. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, online March 15, 2011

Monthly Aspirin Use Linked to Lower Pancreatic Cancer Risk: Taking aspirin even once per month, whether low-dose or full strength, appears to be associated with a marked drop in the risk of developing pancreatic cancer, new research reveals. Specifically, taking full-strength aspirin once monthly was linked to a 26 percent reduction in the risk of pancreatic cancer. Taking low-dose aspirin, to reduce the risk of heart disease, was associated with an even greater drop (35 percent lower) in pancreatic cancer risk.

Alcohol Linked Cancer Study: German researchers analyzed data from France, Italy, Spain, Britain, The Netherlands, Greece, Germany and Denmark and found 50,400 out of a total of 79,100 cases of certain types of cancers -- in including bowel and throat tumors -- in 2008 were caused by people drinking more than recommended limits. "Many cancer cases could have been avoided if alcohol consumption was limited to two alcoholic drinks per day in men and one alcoholic drink per day in women, ... the recommendations of many health organizations," said Madlen Schutze of the German Institute of Human Nutrition, who led the study. Estimates from the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund published in February said a third of all common cancers in the United States, China and Britain could be prevented each year if people had healthier diets, drank less alcohol and exercised more. British Medical Journal

Very high caffeine intake linked to leaky bladder Researchers found that of more than 65,000 U.S. women, those with the highest caffeine intake -- roughly equivalent to four or more cups of coffee per day or 10 cans of soda -- were more likely than the less-caffeinated to develop urinary incontinence over 4 years. The study found no increased risk among women consuming 299 milligrams of caffeine - the equivalent of about three cups of coffee - or less per day. Journal of Urology, online March 18, 201

Short Bursts of Exercise Good for the Heart: A small study of teens out of Scotland that found that high-intensity exercise may be better than endurance training for preventing cardiovascular disease because it can be done in less time. April 5 in the American Journal of Human Biology

Reducing Stress Benefits Cancer Patients

Study Links Smoking Breast Cancer in Older Women

Too many hours at work might harm the heart. A British study found that employees who regularly worked 11-hour days or longer were 67 percent more likely to develop heart disease than those who worked seven- or eight-hour days. April 5, 2011, Annals of Internal Medicine

Errors Common in US Hospitals
About one in three people in the United States will encounter some kind of mistake during a hospital stay, U.S. researchers said Thursday. The finding, which is based on a new tool for measuring hospital errors, is about 10 times higher than estimates using older methods, suggesting much work remains in efforts to improve health quality. Medical errors can range from bedsores to objects left in the body after surgery to life-threatening staph infections. Health Affairs April Issue.

Heath and Human Services Announce Plan to Reduce Health Disparities

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sexuality and Chronic Disease-II

This past week was jammed packed with all sorts of issues pertaining to chronic disease-a doc who chose not to deal with root issues, but rather focused on lab results; anger; the need for well organized advocacy programs; and the lucky opportunity to see Dr. John Kabat-zinn, the founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, speak. So given all of these experiences, any one of which would make for a terrific post, why write about sex instead?

In truth, I am reluctant to use the “s” word (sex) on this blog, because when I do, I receive all sorts of junk comments. However, this is such a critical part of who we are, probably just as important as the other confrontational “s” word spirituality, that I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss it from time to time. In short, I could easily have justified writing about something else this weekend, but there is such hesitancy on so many peoples part about discussing sex that it’s important not to shy away from it.

In December 2009, I did an overview on sexuality and chronic disease, which includes some good resources and information. Just recently, I googled Dr. Betty Dodson, whose book “Sex for One,” was very empowering for many of the women I worked with who were affected by HIV/AIDS. She was very helpful in making materials affordable for these women and I’ve always appreciated her openness about the need to view sex as empowering.

Now in her early 80’s, Dodson continues to promote sex positive practice. She has joined forces with Carlin Ross, a much younger woman who left her law practice and created the website “Cherry Bomb.” The Betty Dodson with Carlin Ross: Sex Information Online website, which combined the Cherry Bomb site with Dodson’s, offers a very open forum to ask sex related questions and get very practical advise.

Scrolling through some of the responses to question people wrote, I was struck by an article from a women that was being treated for anal cancer. This really is a site where people can ask questions and get good advise. There are sections on Disability as well as Menopause and Sex after 50.

Because of the ages of the authors, as well as guest bloggers, viewpoints can be different, but the advice is very affirming.

If you are uncomfortable at seeing sexual images, you may find this site uncomfortable, as the right hand side bar features Betty’s art, dating back to the 1960s and very graphic.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Take a Break: Enjoy Water

Maybe because it’s been snowing yet again this week, and I so long for more signs of spring, but I have found myself taking every chance I can to watch the water flow freely again in the river near my home. Water is an integral part of our planet and our bodies are more than 75% water. No wonder we find ourselves relaxing by fountains, staring out to sea, and fall asleep to the sounds of waves crashing or a brook bubbling. As a friend of mine, who grew up in Europe near that Atlantic Ocean, “when I wasn’t feeling well, my mother would tell me to go walk on the beach. It always made me feel better.”

Today’s “take a break” is to enjoy water in one form or other. Try some of the following:
• Take a walk to a park or area where you can see water. Sit and enjoy it. Breathe deeply and inhale the smell. Notice the birds and other wild life.

• Create an indoor water feature. Take a large waterproof bowl, vase or whatever you have handy. Stick a water pump into it. You can purchase these any place they sell fish tanks. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Cover the pump with rocks, add water and enjoy. You can also purchase a water feature at a number of stores, including places like Wal Mart.

• Soak in a bath or hot tub. Go for a swim.

• Google your favorite beach resort and watch a video.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Journal/News Watch 4/3/11

Gaps in US Healthcare Limit Options for Older Adults: There are 50 million family members providing care to older adults in the United States, according to the MetLife Foundation and national caregiving associations. When older adults are hospitalized and discharged, their families face numerous choices about where they will go and how they will receive care. A University of Missouri nursing expert says the complexity of this process will intensify with increasing demands for health care and workforce shortages. Science Daily

Walnuts are Top Nut for Heart Healthy Antioxidants: A new scientific study positions walnuts in the number one slot among a family of foods that lay claim to being among Mother Nature's most nearly perfect packaged foods: Tree and ground nuts. In a report given in Anaheim, California at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society on March 27, scientists presented an analysis showing that walnuts have a combination of more healthful antioxidants and higher quality antioxidants than any other nut… Years of research by scientists around the world link regular consumption of small amounts of nuts or peanut butter with decreased risk of heart disease, certain kinds of cancer, gallstones, Type 2 diabetes, and other health problems. Science Daily

Airport Full-Body Screening-What is the risk? In the past year, the Transportation Security Administration has deployed full-body scanners in airports across the United States in response to heightened security needs. Several groups have opposed the scans, citing privacy concerns and fear of the radiation emitted by the backscatter x-ray scanners, 1 of the 2 types of machines in use. The radiation doses emitted by the scans are extremely small; the scans deliver an amount of radiation equivalent to 3 to 9 minutes of the radiation received through normal daily living. Furthermore, since flying itself increases exposure to ionizing radiation, the scan will contribute less than 1% of the dose a flyer will receive from exposure to cosmic rays at elevated altitudes. The estimation of cancer risks associated with these scans is difficult, but using the only available models, the risk would be extremely small, even among frequent flyers. We conclude that there is no significant threat of radiation from the scans. Arch Intern Med. Published online March 28, 2011.

FDA Warns of Risks with Soladek Vitamin Solution: Federal health officials warned consumers Monday to avoid Soladek vitamin solution because it may contain dangerously high levels of vitamins. The Food and Drug Administration said it has received seven reports of serious health problems among people who used the product, including vomiting, diarrhea and kidney malfunction. The agency also said it has received information showing that samples of Soladek contain unsafe levels of vitamins A and D.

Special Report: When the drugs don’t work

Diet high in fish linked to stronger bones: Older adults who eat greater amounts of fish end up preserving their bone density better than people who don't eat as much fish, a new study finds.The study doesn't prove that such habits strengthen bones, but researchers believe that the combination of different oils in the fish protects bones from losing mass over time. "We think omega 3 fatty acids from fish help to prevent" bone loss. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 3/2/11

Many skip prescriptions because of cost: A significant portion of people – perhaps as many as one in five - don't take drugs a doctor has prescribed because they can't pay for them, according to a new survey of people visiting an emergency room. Academic Emergency Medicine

Praying for others helps anger fade: A series of studies found that after people were intentionally provoked into anger, asking them to pray for a person who needs extra help or support (a cancer patient, for example), helped calm them down. The researchers also suggested that the method seemed to be effective even in people who weren't particularly religious or regular churchgoers. Nor did religious affiliation make a difference in the ability of prayer to calm people, although nearly all participants identified themselves as Christian, according to the report published online March 18 in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Will my house sale be taxed to pay for health-care reform? Contrary to a chain e-mail that has been circulating for a year, unless you make a big profit on the sale of your house, not to worry. Beginning in 2013, individuals with an adjusted gross income above $200,000 a year and married couples filing jointly with one over $250,000 must pay a 3.8 percent Medicare tax on unearned income, such as dividends, interest payments, royalties, and the capital gain on the sale of a home. But the tax code excludes from capital gains taxes the first $250,000 in profit from a home sale for single filers and $500,000 for married couples filing together, so your home would have to have appreciated substantially for this tax to affect you. (That exclusion does not apply to second homes.) Consumer Reports

Yellow and green veggies cut risk of heart disease, cancer. According to a study published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine, people with higher blood levels of alpha-carotene had a significantly lower risk of death from all causes. Yellow-orange and dark-green vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, broccoli, green beans, green peas, spinach, turnip greens, collards, and leaf lettuce have higher levels of alpha-carotene than other types.

Simple Strategies can reduce BPA Levels: Families that switch to a diet high in fresh, organic foods and make other simple changes in the kitchen can reduce their levels of the potentially harmful chemical bisphenol A (BPA), suggests a small study out this week in Environmental Health Perspectives, published by the National Institutes of Health.

Most Americans Seem to Have Healthy Levels of Vitamin D: Nearly two-thirds of U.S. residents have sufficient levels of vitamin D levels, but about a fourth of the population is at risk for vitamin D inadequacy and 8 percent are at risk for vitamin D deficiency, a new federal government study indicates. An additional 1 percent of Americans have vitamin D levels high enough that could be harmful, according to the report, released Wednesday by researchers at the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Digital Divide in Patient use of Online Medical Records When it comes to taking advantage of Internet-based medical information in the form of physician-provided online "personal health records," some American patients are more plugged in than others, new research reveals. Differences in race, income and age all affect the likelihood that patients will log on to check out their own health history, the study shows, with patients who are white, older, and/or wealthier more likely to request access to their online medical history. Archives Internal Medicine 3/28/11

Too Much Choice Can be a Bad Thing: Thinking about choices makes people less sympathetic to others and less likely to support policies that help people, according to a study published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Yoga halves irregular-heartbeat episodes: Yoga, already proven to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, can cut in half the risk of a common and potentially dangerous irregular heartbeat, according to a U.S. study released on Saturday. The small study was the first to examine the benefits of yoga on atrial fibrillation -- a problem that is a leading cause of stroke and is most common in the elderly. In addition to halving the episodes of atrial fibrillation, the study found that yoga also reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression related to the condition. American College of Cardiology Meeting

Exercise Preserves, Builds Heart Muscle: Consistent lifelong exercise preserves heart muscle in the elderly to levels that match or even exceed that of healthy young sedentary people, a surprising finding that underscores the value of regular exercise training, according to a new study. American College of Cardiology Meeting

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Is there a pill for everything? Do we need them? What do we know about them?

Working out in the gym in the mornings, I’m hostage to what ever the person who got there before me chooses to watch on TV. A part from a bit of news now and again, it looks like a stream of commercials for various types of insurance and medications, both prescription and over the counter (OTC).

Since I spend a fair amount of time on-line, I’ve noticed a wide array of drug advertising appearing in all sorts of places, with some being more intrusive than others.

This week’s New England Journal of Medicine contains an editorial by Jerry Avorn, M.D. “Teaching Clinicians about Drugs-50 Years Later, Whose Job Is It?” This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Kefauver hearings, the pivotal 1961 Senate debate that transformed prescription drug approval and use. When Senator Estes Kefauver (D-TN) introduced legislation to regulate the drug industry, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still did not have legal authority to require pharmaceutical companies to demonstrate that their products actually worked. What physicians knew about prescription drugs was shaped predominantly by the claims their manufacturers made about them, and the evidence base underlying such claims was often rudimentary, or worse.

An unsigned article in the NEJM 1961 noted with concern that ““manufacturers spend about four times as much on the promotion of drugs as the total cost of running all the medical schools.” As a result, the editorial continued, “the majority of physicians get their first and often their only information about newly available drugs from these sources, which at best may be strongly prejudiced and at their worst are unreliable and misleading.” Avorn goes on to question just what has changed since 1961 and whether physicians are in any better position today as far as their knowledge of medications and prescribing. Half a century later, the editorial’s question, “Who shall educate the physician?,” is still hotly contested. Opposition to a role for government did not carry the day then but has dominated debate ever since; the letter of Kefauver’s legislation about drug information has been followed in one narrow sense, though its spirit has not fared as well. The evidence base available to clinicians to guide their therapeutic choices is still heavily shaped by industry-sponsored studies that often compare new products with placebo, measure their worth in terms of surrogate markers such as laboratory test results, or both.

While Avorn focuses heavily on the pharmaceuticals role in conducting clinical trials and advertising to physicians, there is no mention of the consumer’s role in prescribing. Continually bombarded by commercials, in all media forms,-this is known as “direct to consumer advertising” (DTCA)- patients go to their doctor and ask for prescriptions for a condition they have self-diagnosed. Further, there are number of websites set up where users can purchase what they may believe is their drug of choice without a doctor’s prescription. If you live close to Mexico, many prescription drugs are over the counter there.

Even though there are controls on prescribing, the system encourages doctors to shoot the bugs first and ask questions later. Consequently, people are taking medications for all sorts of reason. It is no surprise that drug resistant bacteria has become such a major issue that the World Health Organization is devoting this year's World Health Day on April 7 to antimicrobial resistance in a bid to safeguard these drugs for future generations. MRSA alone is estimated to kill around 19,000 people every year in the US-far more than HIV and AIDS-and a similar number in Europe. Drug resistant tuberculosis is a lot more commonplace now and there is a new super bug called NDM 1, which is starting to appear in many countries. When the drugs don’t work

We are influenced by what we see advertised and promoted. Often these ads are based on biased sources of information. Some advertisements are literally making up a diagnosis in order to sell a drug.

Medical providers only have so much time in a day, so they too can be victims of marketers. A study in the Journal of Family Practice 59(11) 2010: 649-650 found that physicians often accommodate requests for DTCA medications. In some cases, they wouldn’t have considered such prescriptions for other similar patients.

To safeguard ourselves from being influenced to take medications for a real or possible condition, consider the following:
• Talk to your medical provider before trying an OTC medication, or substituting a prescription drug with an OTC one. Given the cost of prescriptions, and the state of the economy, many people are trying to find OTC alternatives to costly meds. Keep in mind that there are programs to help pay for medications. Ask your provider about them. You can also check out the post “No Job, No Insurance, No Health Care-What are my options?

• Explore “non-pill” measurers, such as making changes in diet and exercise.

• If a prescription is needed, ask about an older “classic” drug. These often work just as well and are cheaper.

• If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of claims for cures etc.

• Have a “brown bag” session with your doctor. This means taking your prescriptions with you to your medical appointment and review them .

• Keep a record of what medications you are taking, have taken, side effects, when you’ve stopped taking them and why. Be sure to note dosage and how you take them (e.g. twice a day with lunch and dinner).

• Discard medications that are out of date or are no longer being used. Do not flush them down the toilet. Follow proper disposal techniques.

• Change the channel. flip the page, or click the close button. Watch out for information over load.

Finally, the DTCA requires disclosure of side effects. When I see these commercials, I’m drawn to the voice-overs that accompany the happy person or scenic beauty. The list of possible side effects can be daunting. If this is a medication you are prescribed, talk to your provider if you find this confusing or concerning.