Pregnancy and Diabetes Links

April 30, 2008 by  
Filed under DIABETES

Pregnant Diabetics

I’ve been doing some research on pregnancy and diabetes. It seems that the American Association of Diabetes no longer discourages women who are diabetic from thinking about becoming pregnant.
Baby and Hands
You should know that there are still higher risks for babies of mothers who have diabetes. But, you can still have a healthy pregnancy and baby if you are fastidious in your care. Close monitoring of your glucose levels, careful diet habits, and excersise, much like mothers without diabetes can give your baby a great chance at healthy development.

I found an interesting online magazine dedicated to women who are diabetic or have the tendency to diabetes and are also pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant. It is called Diabetic Mommy. The site is not ran by a professional nor does it offer medical advice for treatments, as stated on the front page.

Still, from what I have seen, this is a wonderful resource for women who need information on pregnancy and diabetes. It offers a wealth of support for any diabetic mommy (or mommy to be!).

More Links

I am still in the process of searching for great sites, but so far this is the only site I have found that is not an offshoot of a site like the American Diabetes Association site, the Mayo Clinic, Web MD, or MSNBC. This is not to say there are not more, perhaps smaller sites or forums. I promise to root out as many as possible!

For more information, here are a few links to the larger medical sites.

American Diabetes Association

The Mayo Clinic

March of Dimes

Coming Up:

Coming soon I want to talk more about depression, diabetes, and pregnancy. These conditions all go hand in hand, especially with hormones at their peak right now. I plan to share my own experiences with these issues. It is going to be an interesting ride for the next 8 months, hopefully you all have your seat belts on.

The main focus of pregnancy posts will always be on diabetes. When I take the glucose tests in the future, I will be taking my camera along with me. Who knows, maybe I’ll even take a video recorder and you can watch my face as I chug that nasty brew!

Alzheimer’s, God and Me

April 30, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

WarningIf you believe in God then you might find these thoughts contrary to your beliefs.

Another Warning: If you don’t believe in God then you might find these thoughts contrary to your beliefs

There are some events that make us question humanity in general, like Josef Fritzl, who held his own daughter captive for 20 plus years, fathered seven children by her, killed one and then raised three of them as his grandchildren.   We shake our collective heads and wonder why people have taken to shooting at high schools and colleges across our nation.  The latest shooting early Wednesday morning, April 30, 2008, at Florida Atlantic University has the school on lockdown.  These are horrible events, but for most of us, they are distant.

However, there are some events, much smaller in scope, that never make the news, but they are events that shake us to our very core.  They shake us to the point that we end up questioning and challenging beliefs that we have held on to for years.

For me, my mother’s Alzheimer’s disease was that event. Up to that point I considered myself to be a strong, creative, independent woman.  I knew what I believed and although I had faced difficulties in my life, I was crystal clear about issues of faith.  I was so clear that I found it hard to understand why others weren’t as clear as I.  Maybe I was even a little harsh (in my thoughts) towards those who didn’t have their beliefs all together in a neat little package.

But an interesting thing happened.  As I watched my mother decline through the various stages of the disease; I realized that I had absolutely no control. I didn’t have any before that either, but her decline just made it more evident.  More than that, I realized that whoever was in control (it was God for me) could just do whatever He wanted, whenever He wanted and how ever He wanted.  THAT was not a good feeling for me.  It was a very long journey and in this case, I think the journey was as important as the destination.  So, here is what I learned by questioning.

God (or whoever you have your faith in) must be big enough and wise enough to handle your questions.

In the end, for me, pain must have a greater purpose (thus my writing of this blog).

What you believe about pain, suffering and death really impacts how you live.

The only faith that can’t be shaken is faith that has already been shaken

As Alzheimer’s patients decline, perhaps, the inner/spiritual world is all they really have.

So, what do you think?  Do your spirituality, faith and beliefs play any role in your perspective?  Share your thoughts and your journey. Leave a comment here or send me a private note.

Sun Exposure and Arthritis

April 30, 2008 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

We’ve always been told to lessen our exposure to the sun in order to lower our risk of developing skin cancer.

However, according to The Arthritic Association, avoiding the sun totally can lead to arthritis.

That makes sense became sunshine is necessary for the body to produce Vitamin D. Vitamin D is then necessary for the absorption of calcium for general bone health.

Which reminds me to take my calcium supplements and spend sometime in the sun each morning! It’s summer around here and most days are sunshiny.

The national arthritis charity warns that sunshine is crucial for the body to produce vitamin D which is required to ward off degenerative conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis.

Earlier this year, James E Dowd, an American rheumatologist, published details of his use of vitamin D in treating arthritic patients. However, The Arthritic Association states that supplementation alone is not the answer.

“The body needs sunshine in order to synthesise the vitamin D required for optimum health,” explains The Arthritic Association’s John Wedlake-Griffiths. “Although you could take a vitamin D supplement, it’s easy to overdose, and that can be counter-productive. So moderate exposure to sunlight is better – for example, earlier or later in the day, for short periods of time.”

I really think that it won’t be difficult to get enough exposure to the sun, enough against arthritis and not too much as to risk skin cancer. Morning persons won’t have a problem at all as it is best to catch the sun early in the morning.

Of course, we have to remember the supplementation of Vitamin D-Calcium combo will always be not enough. We gotta drag ourselves out of bed early and catch some some good sunlight. Yeah, right. I am definitely speaking for myself. Ha ha!

Source: Nursing in Practice

The Arthritis Association, is by the way UK’s organization promoting natural arthritis treatment and remedies.

The Arthritic Association aims to relieve the suffering and pain of arthritis by natural methods.

Our Home Treatment Programme, developed by Charles de Coti-Marsh, is a natural, drug free way to treat arthritis, based on a 3-stage recovery process.

The Programme offers an easy to follow holistic approach to managing your own health. A lessening of arthritic symptoms can be realistically achieved within 4 months.

Believed to be an effective natural treatment for most forms of arthritis, the Home Treatment is essentially a self-care programme: the patient’s motivation, pro-activity and willingness to investigate every aspect of the treatment are crucial.

Visit The Arthritic Association for more information on natural arthritis treatments.

Exercise and the Cancer Patient

April 30, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER


The Mayo Clinic lists 11 alternative cancer therapies, three of which are exercise, yoga and Tai Chi. Per the Mayo Clinic: “Alternative cancer treatments won’t play any role in curing your cancer, but they may help you cope with signs and symptoms caused by cancer and cancer treatments. Common signs and symptoms such as anxiety, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, pain, difficulty sleeping, and stress may be lessened by alternative treatments. ”

What’s Yoga? Yoga is a mind and body therapy that includes gentle stretches, breathing practices, and progressive deep relaxation. Visit the Yoga Center site for information on the many types of yoga.

What’s Tai Chi? A form of exercise that utilizes slow gentle movements and deep relaxed breathing. A weight bearing exercise it builds strength, muscle tone, improves circulation, balance, flexibility, posture, coordination and range of motion. For more information on Tai Chi and cancer and limited research studies see the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center site. While there are only minimal differences between yoga and Tai Chi; Tai Chi is also a martial art.

Read more

DNR – Do Not Resuscitate

April 29, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)

It sounds so final. 

It sounds cruel.

It sounds like death.

Do not resuscitate (DNR) order is a part of advanced medical directives allowed by federal law passed in 1991, expanding the notion of patient autonomy to situations in which they may not be able to make crucial medical decisions due to incapacitation. It instructs medical personnel not to perform life-saving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or other procedures to restart the heart or breathing once they have ceased. By law, the DNR directive must be offered as an option to patients by health providers in, and in some states, out of a hospital setting. Once signed, the DNR directive must be placed in the in the patient’s chart. (Encyclopedia of Surgery: A guide for Patients and Caregivers)

My true confession; yesterday, I talked about the fact that we fall into the trap of not talking about end of life issues with the hopes that they will just go away.  I understand that quite well.

My mom had a stroke and went directly from the hospital to a long term care facility for rehabilitation.  After it became evident that she would not be returning home, we had to complete paperwork for her to become a permanent resident of the long term care facility.  One of the forms that was to be completed asked what should or should not be done in case of heart failure.  In short, they wanted to know if they were to perform.  The core question was resuscitate or let her….die?

I slipped the form out of pile of papers, hoping that they wouldn’t notice.  I knew what I thought was the right thing to do, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  So, I put my proverbial hands over my ears and went along my merry way.  A couple of days later, I got a call advising me that they needed the form.  Honestly, I avoided them for about another week, but they wouldn’t let it go.  Finally, I completed the form and returned it.  I felt sick.  I felt like had, in essence, signed my mother’s life away…literally. I cried for days….

It’s a personal decision, so I won’t tell you what you should or should not do.  What I will say, is that you have to at least think about it. If your loved one has not already made a decision regarding this important issue, then you, as the caregiver, must at least give it some attention.  And believe me; it’s better to think about it in “good” times.  It’s much more difficult and complicated when you are in an emergency room, hospital room or long term care facility with medical personnel on one side and family members on the other all looking to you for a decision.

So, don’t ignore this difficult issue.  Ignoring it isn’t going to help the situation, nor will it just go away.  So, take time now, friend. Think about, ponder and consider this very difficult decision.

Extracts in Chinese Ants May Fight Against Arthritis and Others

April 29, 2008 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

Chemists in China have identified substances in some of their ant species that may be able to fight against arthritis and other diseases (i.e. hepatitis, etc).

Apparently in China, ants has been used for centuries as a healthy ingredient in food or drink, against various conditions such as arthritis and hepatitis.

In the new study, Zhi-Hong Jiang and colleagues analyzed extracts from a particular species of Chinese medicinal ant (Polyrhacis lamellidens) commonly used in folk medicine.

The researchers identified at least two polyketides, potent natural products also found in plants, fungi and bacteria that have shown promise in studies by others for fighting arthritis, bacterial infections, and a variety of other diseases.

The researchers suspect that the health benefit from ants may be due to the anti-inflammatory or anti-pain properties of the substances found in ants.

However, the exact chemicals or compounds responsible for such health benefits are yet to be known.

Find more details from Science Daily.

Findings of the above study will appear in the April 25 issue of American Chemical Society‘s Journal of Natural Products — in an article entitled “Bicyclic Polyketide Lactones from Chinese Medicinal Ants, Polyrhacis lamellidens”.

In this particular research, the said Chinese medicinal ant specie is Polyrhacis lamellidens. When I searched the web, only Polyrhachis lamellidens from the Japanese Ant Image Database.

Original Reference

Smith, F. (1874) Descriptions of new species of Tenthredinidae, Ichneumonidae, Chrysididae, Formicidae, &c. of Japan. Transactions of the Entomological Society of London (4) 7: 373-409.

Total length of workers around 7-8 mm. Body bicolored; head, legs and gaster black; mesosoma and petiole reddish brown. Dorsal surface of mesosoma flattened, dorsolateral edges carinate. Pronotum with a pair of forwardly-directed spines.

Mesonotum with a pair of backwardly curved spines. Propodeal spines long, their apices curved. Dorsolateral margins of propodeum carinate. Petiole with a pair of long, hooked spines.

Hmmm…seems the same as the Chinese specie used in the above study.

Well, the interesting ending remains to be seen. Really interesting. 😉

Clinical Trial Update

April 29, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

bluetesttube.jpgNow that you understand clinical trials, let’s see what new cancer initiatives are in progress right now.

Clinical Study is an excellent site for finding out what is going on with drug company research and provides clinical study results in a “reader friendly standardized format” to make the results for many marketed pharmaceuticals more transparent. ”

Now Recruiting:

  • The A.I.M.M Trial. A Phase 3 clinical study for Allovectin-7. “The purpose of the A.I.M.M. Trial is to find out whether Allovectin-7® works better than standard chemotherapy for people with Stage 3 or Stage 4 melanoma.” Per the NCI site, “Allovectin -7 is a substance that is being studied as a gene therapy in the treatment of cancer. It increases the ability of the immune system to recognize cancer cells and kill them.
  • OVATURE (Ovarian Tumor Response) A research opportunity for women with recurrent ovarian cancer. ” Patients in the trial will receive an experimental treatment regimen consisting of weekly carboplatin. Half of the patients in the trial will also receive the investigational drug phenoxodiol. The other half will receive a placebo so that neither researchers nor patients can tell which arm of the trial the patient is in.” See the Novogen site for more information on phenoxodiol known as multiple signal transduction regulators (MSTRs).
  • The SPRAY Study. A study of Sativex for pain relief in patients with advanced malignancy. The Phase II trial is currently recruiting patients. “The purpose of this study is to determine the effective dose range and to demonstrate a non-effective dose range of Sativex in patients with advanced cancer, who experience inadequate pain relief even though they are on optimized chronic opioid therapy.” For more information see the Center Watch, Clinical Trials Listing Service site.


April 15, 2008 the National Cancer Institute posts the positive results of a five year study of adenoma prevention with Celecoxib. Celecoxib Reduces Risk of Precancerous Colorectal Polyps: Five-Year Results of APC Trial.

ScienceDaily, April 8, 2008. Randomized Clinical Trial Results on Preoperative Chemotherapy in Early Breast Cancer. “Eight cycles of preoperative chemotherapy was no better than six cycles in women with early breast cancer who had responded to two initial cycles, according to data from a randomized controlled trial.”

Battling Books:

Informed Consent: The Consumer’s Guide to the Risks and Benefits of Volunteering for Clinical Trials by Deborah Borfitz (2002)

Surviving Terminal Cancer: Clinical Trials, Drug Cocktails and Other Treatments Your Oncologist Won’t Tell You About by Ben A. Williams. (2002)

Fiber and Why It’s Good

April 29, 2008 by  
Filed under OBESITY

In nutrition circles, one often hears “eat fiber, it’s good for you”. But fiber is a carbohydrate and those are supposed to be bad, or at least severely limited. What gives?

The resolution to this dilemma lies in examining more closely just what fiber is and what it does for you.

What Is Fiber?

Fiber is, it’s true, a type of carbohydrate. That is, fiber compounds are composed of molecules whose chief elements are carbon, hydrogen and oxygen in combination. But there is a key difference between fiber and other types of carbohydrate: it doesn’t break down during digestion.

Both simple sugars (simple carbs) and starches (complex carbs) are broken down by digestive enzymes, releasing energy the body uses for an infinite variety of vital processes. Fiber is not, at least not much. That simple difference leads to a number of beneficial effects.

Why Is Fiber Good?

Insoluble fiber, by definition, does not dissolve in water. As such, it moves through the digestive system where it helps increase the bulk of stools. That helps prevent constipation. It also moves through the intestines relatively fast, which generates signals to the brain that you’re full. In that way, it discourages overeating and the accompanying excess consumption of calories.

Insoluble fiber is contained in whole-wheat flour and wheat bran, many types of nut and several vegetables that contribute ‘roughage’ to the diet.

Soluble fiber, by contrast, does dissolve in water and so forms a type of gel that makes its way through the digestive system. As a result it helps regulate blood glucose levels. On route it helps cleanse the tract of bacteria.

Soluble fiber is part of a wide variety of foods, including oats and barley, carrots and peas, apples and citrus fruit, and beans.

A high fiber diet helps decrease the odds of heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol (the undesirable type).

It slows the absorption of sugar contained in food consumed, which helps smooth out any spikes. That helps improve a number called the Glycemic Index, one key to a healthy diet according to some diet programs such as the South Beach Diet.

Controlling blood glucose levels has another beneficial effect, according to many studies. Insulin levels are related to blood glucose levels. Excess glucose over long periods increases the odds of acquiring Type 2 diabetes. A high fiber diet can help decrease those odds.

Since fiber is not broken down, it adds bulk without calories. That contributes to a feeling of fullness and satiation without the accompanying potential for storing excess calories as fat. Thus, it contributes mightily to any weight loss program.

How Much Daily Fiber Is Good?

There is no official RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for fiber as there is for many other nutritional components. But official sources put the desirable amount at roughly 25 grams per day. The average consumption is often much lower, around 15 grams per day.

One study of over 500 subjects conducted at the University of Massachusetts Medical School over one year showed that those who consumed 22 grams or more were 63% less likely to have high CRP levels. High CRP (C-reactive protein) is linked with higher risk of heart disease and diabetes.


Like any aspect of diet and nutrition, the value of fiber can be (and sometimes is) overstated. But numerous studies agree that a high fiber diet has definite benefits. As with any proposed change in diet, consulting your physician first is wise.

What Do You Know About Counterfeit Drugs?

April 29, 2008 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

… you probably think they don’t affect you, because you only pick up your prescriptions at the local pharmacy, or get samples from your doctor….

But you would be wrong. Counterfeit drugs may be found in your own medicine cabinet — and you have no way of knowing they are counterfeit.

Surprised? I was too — and because I too often have to be so cynical in my work — I never should have been so surprised. Why? Because so much of healthcare is about money. And counterfeiting is all about money — making it for the perpetrators, and saving it for those who have to pay, whether that’s a pharmacy or a health insurer. And who’s money and lives is it costing? Ours, because we are the patients.

I had heard of counterfeit drugs — but like so many, I pretty much dismissed any negative effect on my life. But it turns out that hundreds of thousands of us have taken them without knowing it, and across the globe, thousands of people have died. Yes. Died.

Drugs become counterfeit in a number of ways. They may be manufactured intentionally to be fake, often in other countries, then imported into the legal American or Canadian drug supplies. We know this happened recently with Heparin — and patients died.

And, too, you may be one of the thousands of patients who have purchased counterfeit Lipitor or been given Procrit after chemo…

Or, they may be adulterated after they were manufactured. Katherine Eban, author of Dangerous Doses, describes this phenomenon in detail, and it’s frightening. In particular, any liquid medicine that will be infused (think chemo) or swallowed can be watered down, or even replaced, then sold back into the drug supply. Unsuspecting patients, plus their doctors and pharmacists, may not know the drug has been watered down. Yes, patients die.

Sometimes they are simply stolen from distributor’s warehouses. Then the problem becomes one of storage. Drugs that are meant to be kept in dark places get stored in sunny locations, or drugs that are meant to be kept cold get stored in hot buildings… and then, of course, they are sold back into the legal drug supply. It’s like keeping raw chicken on a warm kitchen counter for days or weeks or even months. Ugh.

And don’t even get me started on what the FDA is ignoring about all this… or what the legal pharm manufacturers and distributors are doing to make sure their backsides are covered, while patients continue to be harmed and die….

A new website has been put online to help us track the latest in counterfeit drug news, so you may want to take a look and check back on occasion, There is general information about counterfeiting of all kinds of products. Pharmaceutical counterfeiting is only a corner of that dark world… but perhaps the most deadly.

This kind of topic always makes me wonder what horror anyone can think of next. I’m just not diabolical enough, I guess.

Liver Cancer Facts

April 28, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

liver.jpgThe liver is the largest internal human organ. If the liver completely shut down, we would die within 24 hours. This is because the liver has so many vital functions in human life.

Functions of the liver:

  • Convert, store and release glucose as needed
  • Breakdown fat and produce cholesterol
  • Remove ammonia from your body
  • Produce blood proteins, including clotting factors
  • Detoxify drugs and alcohol
  • Produce bile (the role of bile is to break down fat)
  • Cleanse the body of cell debris and damaged red blood cells

The National Cancer Institute defines liver cancer as: “Primary liver cancer is cancer that forms in the tissues of the liver. Secondary liver cancer is cancer that spreads to the liver from another part of the body. ” The NCI estimates there will be 21,370 cases and 18,410 deaths from liver cancer and intrahepatic bile duct cancer in the U.S. this year.

Types of Primary Tumors of the Liver:

Hepatocellular : The most common type of liver cancer in adults. Three out of four diagnoses of liver cancer will be hepatocellular. This cancer may present as spots on the liver, a single tumor or various patterns.

Cholangiocarcinoma: This type of liver cancer starts in the bile duct and often has the same treatment plan as hepatocellular liver cancer.

Fibrolamellar carcinoma:A subtype of hepatocellular cancer, this is a rare form with a better prognosis than other types of liver cancer.

Hepatoblastoma:A very rare liver cancer found in children younger than 4, with a good prognosis if diagnosed early.

Angiosarcoma and Hemangiosarcoma: These rare forms of liver cancer begin in the blood vessels, grow quickly and have a very poor prognosis.

Symptoms of liver cancer may include:

  • Lack of appetite and weight loss
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • General weakness and fatigue
  • An enlarged and tender liver
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Jaundice of the skin and eyes

Some of the Risk Factors Associated with Liver Cancer:

  • Liver infections such as hepatitis
  • Diabetes
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Sex-Males are twice as likely to develop the disease
  • Age-In the U.S and Europe the average age is 60
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Obesity
  • Bile duct disease
  • Consumption of foods contaminated with aflatoxins (a mold). This is a problem in Asia and Africa.

Diagnosis and Treatment:

  • Diagnosis may include a physical exam, blood tests for liver function, CT, ultrasound, angiogram, MRI and biopsy.
  • Note that people at risk may be checked routinely for early tumor development using an AFP (alpha-fetoprotein) blood test which detects a protein present in many liver cancers.
  • Staging-see the Mayo Clinic site for information on staging types.
  • Treatment depends on staging and the individual diagnosis and may include surgery, chemotherapy and or radiation. Ablation is a treatment used to treat tumors that cannot be removed by surgery locally. Embolization is a treatment used to cut off blood supply to the tumor. See the American Cancer Society site for detailed information on treatment options including complementary and alternative treatment.

Resources and News:

American Liver Foundation

M.D. Anderson, Adult Liver Cancer Support, includes networks, support groups and message boards.

DG Dispatch, March 12, 2008. Guidelines Support Ablation Techniques for Unresectable Liver Cancer: Presented at NCCN “Tumour ablation techniques should play a major role in treating tumours of the liver that are not suitable for resection, according to updated treatment guidelines for hepatocellular carcinoma …”

Battling Books:

100 Q&A About Liver Cancer by Ghassan K. Abou-Alfa (2005)

The Liver Book: A Comprehensive Guide to Diagnosis, Treatment and Recovery by Sanjiv Chopra ( 2001)

Advanced Directives and Living Wills

April 28, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

When we were kids, we used to put our hands over our ears and hum loudly or say, “I can’t hear you.”  It was our way of telling the other child who was speaking that we were not interested in, and would not listen to whatever they had to say. 

Then there’s my youngest son.  He covers his face with his favorite blanket.  That’s his way of “hiding.”  He figures, if he can’t see me, then I can’t see him.

What’s the point?  I’m glad you asked.

The point is that, we adults do the very same thing. We act as if not talking about end of life issues will keep us from having to deal with them.  We put our proverbial hands over our ears or blankets over our heads as if to declare, “I can’t hear it and I can’t see it, so it must not be. “

This is a sensitive subject for me, as neither of my parents made their wishes clear.  Neither had living wills or Advanced Directives.  So, I was forced to make some very difficult decisions in both cases.

When it hits you that you have very little time with someone you love very much, the last thing you need to layer onto that very difficult time is more questions.  Especially questions that can, at least to some degree, be handled in advance.

Making a decision now will help to keep peace.  Grief impacts everyone differently.  Some people would rather have their loved ones alive no matter what.  Others can’t bear to see them suffer. Take that burden off of them. Make your wishes known, in writing.

What is an Advanced Directive?

An advanced directive is simply giving directions (in advance) regarding end of life issues.  Thinking about the end of life BEFORE it comes.  Advanced directives can be verbal.  Certainly not the best, but it does make the decision making process a little easier if someone can remember what a person said.  A Living Will is the best.  Click here for a sample of a living will.  It’s a written, legal document that explains your wishes regarding tube feeding, dialysis, invasive procedures, living for an extended period of time on a respirator, etc.  I’ll discuss Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders in a seperate post.

So, whether or not you have Alzheimer’s disease, whether you are sick or healthy, do yourself and the loved ones in your life a favor.  Take your hands off your ears and the blanket from over your head.  Please, do a living will and encourage your loved ones to do it too.

Safety Questions, and Good Advice for Those of Us in the Henhouse

April 26, 2008 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

If you are among the people who read my blogs on a regular basis, then you already know how dangerous healthcare can be. Sad, because healthcare is intended to IMPROVE lives, certainly not hurt them.

In fact, healthcare can be dangerous, sometimes randomly through mistakes and missteps. It can be dangerous for what is ignored or through mere laziness. Other times it’s dangerous because of access questions — if you don’t have the right insurance, or if you are lacking insurance, you don’t have the same options as others.

I do not believe any provider or payer ever sets out to make it intentionally dangerous, but then, the road to heaven, etc etc….

Knowing how dangerous healthcare can be, a whole new “industry” has begun to build — an industry of professionals who provide tools and advice to patients to help them stay as safe as they can. That’s my world now — an advisor to those who may be unsuspecting, not even questioning whether their healthcare will help them, not understanding that in fact, it might be quite dangerous.

Among the aspects to my work is the fact that I read and research constantly. The bulk of my day is spent learning what’s going on in the world of healthcare. What’s out there that is dangerous? What new dangers have evolved? What is being done to keep patients safe? What can I recommend to patients to help them keep themselves safe?

One phenomenon I’ve witnessed in the past four years is a transition within providers themselves: from either ignoring or denying safety problems exist, to not only understanding them, but now jumping on the bandwagon to provide tools to patients to help them stay safe.

I have mixed feelings — very mixed. While I very much appreciate the fact that providers aren’t in so much denial as they used to be, and are willing to observe problems and suggest ways to alleviate them, I also feel it’s a little like asking the fox to explain to the chickens how they can keep themselves from being eaten…

And yet…. I appreciate the fact that they ARE trying to keep us patients from being ‘eaten.” I do understand that it’s not realistic to ask them to change their “diet” to begin with.

OK — so with that admission — this article arrived in my Inbox this week. From RNCentral — a website created for nurses and thos who would choose nursing as a career. The article is called 25 Tips to Protect Yourself from Medical Errors.

It’s good. There’s plenty of good advice in it. I’m very happy the link was sent to me so I can share it with you.

But I ask you — does my fox and chickens metaphor strike anyone else as appropriate too? For example, why are the professionals who are supposed to be the ones to KNOW to wash their hands to prevent infection, telling us it’s our responsibility to make sure they do?

Read it. You’ll learn from it. And yes, much of the advice is geared to patients to handle themselves when no provider is around to help, or for interface with professionals. These are patient responsibilities and have nothing to do with foxes, henhouses, or chickens….

::sigh:: I hate it when cynicism plays a role in well-intentioned advice. Welcome to my world….

Manuka Honey For Arthritic Pain Relief

April 26, 2008 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

What do you rub on your joints for arthritic pain relief? I have always relied on Efficascent Oil (Methyl Salicylate Camphor + Menthol) — which could be available under different brand names in other countries.

When my knees become stiff, this home remedy efficascent oil is really a lot of help.

Have you heard of Manuka Honey? Don’t worry, I haven’t either.

Manuka Honey – a special type of honey -has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, making it a viable treatment solution for people with arthritis.

In treating arthritis and other forms of inflammation, eliminating the underlying cause and inflammation is necessary. Doctors and other medical professionals are now discovering that a particular type of honey called “Manuka Honey” has natural anti-inflammatory properties that are extremely effective in treating these conditions. In addition, Manuka Honey has the ability to diffuse into the depths of skin tissue so as to get to affected areas.

“Manuka Honey is an organic, all-natural substance that is more effective in relieving pain than most analgesic products that are available over-the-counter,” says Frank Buonanotte, CEO of Honeymark International which is a manufacturer of Manuka Honey products. “Due to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, Manuka Honey is now being considered a viable treatment option for arthritis and other muscle and joint pain.”

Manuka Honey products are manufactured by Honeymark International.

You can purchase Honeymark’s Pain Relief Cream with Manuka Honey by calling 1-866-427-7329 or visiting

[Story and Photo Source]

Arthritis Drug Orencia, Ruled Too Expensive by NICE

April 26, 2008 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

The arthritis drug Orencia has been approved as the treatment when all other treatments fail.

In the UK, after being ruled not cost effective The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), is bad news to all the people there (who has been under treatment with Orencia) with aggressive rheumatoid arthritis.

Such a ruling went down despite appeals by The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) and Bristol-Myers Squibb — maker of Orencia (abatacept).

Around 400,000 people in Britain have rheumatoid arthritis. About 10 per cent have a severe form.

They can be offered a class of drugs called anti-TNFs but around 30 per cent of patients derive no benefit.

The drug’s manufacturer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, submitted evidence to Nice showing that around 3,585 patients in Britain would be eligible for treatment with abatacept.

Ailsa Bosworth, the chief executive of NRAS, said: “We are bitterly disappointed that Nice has ignored our appeals to approve the use of abatacept for people with severe rheumatoid arthritis, a therapy that could really make a difference to their lives.

“They have condemned people with severe rheumatoid arthritis, who have already failed on other therapies, to a lifetime of misery.”
Patients traditionally receive 13 doses of the drug per year.

What now for these patients who was ‘living” on Orencia? According to reports, these patients will be condemned to a life of misery!

Is that really the case…there must be other alternative…like other drugs with the same effect as Orencia? Or patients can even get the said drug from other countries, if such a thing is possible in the UK. I’m saying…there’s gotta be a loop hole in order to get around this dilemma.

Figures from Bristol-Myers Squibb show that an average dose would cost the NHS £718 or £9,334 a year. The company has said this is similar to the cost of anti-TNF drugs.

Andrew Dillon, the chief executive of Nice, said an independent appraisal committee had found that abatacept “does not represent a good use of NHS resources”.

He added that the committee recommended that patients receiving the drug should have the option to continue therapy until they and their clinicians consider it appropriate to stop.

Orencia has been approved for moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis.

ORENCIA works in a fundamentally different way than any other rheumatoid arthritis treatment. ORENCIA works early in the RA inflammatory process at the T-cell level and can reduce the activation of T cells, which reduces the activation of other cells in the RA inflammatory process.

Find out more about Orencia.

Caregivers Corner-Keep a Journal

April 25, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

From the time I was about 9 or 10 years old, my mother encouraged me to keep a journal (well, she called it a diary).  Although I always enjoyed writing, I never understood why she bugged me so much to write my thoughts.  I figured maybe she wanted to read it when I wasn’t around.  Or maybe, she recognized my desire and ability to write before I did.  She surely never realized that the practice would help me to cope with caring for her as we, together, battled Alzheimer’s disease.

As a caregiver, you have a lot going on in your heart and head and journaling is a great way to relieve stress.

Journaling also provides you with a reminder of what’s going on from day to day.  You don’t necessarily want it to become a calendar, but my to do list often starts as a brain dump in my journal and then makes it to my calendar or at least a sheet of paper as a list for the day.

Your journal won’t judge you.  Your feelings are so complicated.  Your journal isn’t going to look at you funny when you secretely wonder how much longer you can keep up caregiving.  Your journal isn’t going to tell you you are a bad son or daughter when you start to consider a long term care facility and your journal isn’t going to say your lazy when you  express that you are tired of cleaning up the bathroom or changing adult diapers or being accused of stealing money.

Finally, caregivers are often isolated and have few opportunities to share thier thoughts and feelings.  Journaling is a great way to express your feelings.  It may even help you to problem solve.  As you write, some solutions may become apparent.

I have listed just a few benefits of keeping a journal. Click on this link to see 100 reasons you should keep a journal.

Towards the end of each year, I spend time in the bookstore selecting a journal for the upcoming year.  Now, it’s really not that big of a deal.  I just happen to enjoy writing my thoughts and ideas in a nicely covered and bound book, with lined pages.  Usually, it runs me in the neighborood of $15-$20. However, any paper will do.  The key is to select something that works for YOU. 

Lines or no lines?  Some people like lines, some don’t. I used to loathe lines, they stiffeled my creativity when I was in that mode.  However, when I got to seriously putting down of my thoughts, I found that I desperately needed lines.

You may also consider using the computer. I do that, even now, when I have a lot going on in my head becasue I can type much faster than I can write.

Does Size Matter?  To me it does.  I like a journal that is smaller than 8 x 11, but larger than 5 x 7.  Not sure why, it just works for me.  But I know people who use legal pads and I know peopole who use very small notebooks, it’s a matter of personal preference.

Binding.  This is important.  Spiral type binding works well becasue pages are easily accessible, but the pages tear from the spiral part after some use.  For me, it’s just important that the book lays flat when opened. Other than that, it doesn’t really matter.

In the final analysis, it matters not if you pay for a nice “official” journal or use recycled paper from the office. What matters, is that you write, write, write.

Start now!  What do you think? Do you keep a journal?  Do you think it would be beneficial to you?  Leave a comment, let us know.

Friday Cancer News, April 25, 2008

April 25, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER


Author Appearance!

Author Liz Holzemer will be speaking at three branches of the Colorado, Douglas County Libraries, May, 5-8-10, as part of the Author Series.

The topic is Healing with Humor.

Holzemer’s book Curveball:When Life Throws You a Brain Tumor (2007) is a Denver non-fiction bestseller about her battle with not only a brain tumor (meningioma), but also a breast tumor. She is the founder of Meningioma Mommas, an online support group that raises funds for meningioma research and advocates meningioma awareness.

Read more

What’s an Antioxidant?

April 24, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

fork.jpgWhat exactly is an antioxidant and what does it have to do with cancer?

Per the American Dietetic Association: “Antioxidants are dietary substances including some nutrients such as beta carotene, vitamins C and E and selenium, that can prevent damage to your body cells or repair damage that has been done.”

Basically an antioxidant is capable of counteracting the normal damaging effects of oxidation by neutralizing free radicals in the body. The balance of antioxidants to oxidants is disturbed by poor diet, smoking, disease, normal aging, x-rays and many other things. When an antioxidant neutralizes a free radical, the antioxidant becomes oxidized and the body needs to be resupplied with antioxidants.

From the U.S. Department of Agriculture: “Antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E, help protect healthy cells from damage by free radicals. Normal body functions such as breathing or physical activity, and other lifestyle habits, such as smoking, produce substances called free radicals that weaken healthy cells. Weakened cells are more susceptible to cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.”

It’s important to remember that the consumption of exceptionally large amounts of antioxidants can be harmful to the body. Current studies in antioxidants are constantly reevaluating levels of antioxidants needed for optimal health and for healing. Antioxidants are found in foods we eat; however if you are interested in oral supplements consult your physician. As a report of the American Cancer Society points out, the effect of supplements on cancer tumors and interactions with medication leaves many still unanswered questions. Talk to your physician. The National Cancer Institute provides information on antioxidants under investigation in clinical trials.

Traditional antioxidants:

Vitamin C: Red pepper, yellow pepper, strawberries, oranges lemons, cantaloupes, cauliflower. Information on the connection to vitamin C and cancer is provided at the Linus Pauling Institute.

Vitamin E: Prevents the oxidation of fat and Vitamin A. It is thought to prevent prostrate and breast cancer. Sources of vitamin E include nuts, avocados, mangoes and sweet potatoes. See the National Cancer Institute site for information on the SELECT trial, (Selenium and Vitamin E trial) which studied the effect of these supplements on prostate cancer.

Beta carotene:Found naturally in foods such as cantaloupe, mangoes, papaya, pumpkin, peppers, spinach, kale, squash, sweet potatoes, and apricots. Note that the results of a clinical trial showed that beta carotene supplements should be avoided by smokers. See the National Cancer Institute for more information.

Selenium: Naturally found in seafood, beef, pork, chicken, Brazil nuts, brown rice, and whole wheat bread. Selenium studies show its importance in fighting prostate cancer, per a study by the University of Arizona Cancer Center.

Antioxidants Being Studied:

Flavonoids: Found in brewed tea. Flavonoids are also found in dark chocolate. An interesting clinical trial on dark chocolate is found on WebMD. Studies are now showing the impact on flavonoids in various types of cancer, such as prostrate and ovarian cancer as noted at ScienceDaily.

Lycopene: Found in tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit. For more information on lycopene and cancer see the Mayo Clinic site or Lycopene and Health.

Phytochemicals: Found in blueberries, strawberries and cranberries, phytochemicals are now linked to a positive impact on certain cancers such as colon cancer and liver cancer. The Daily Mail, shares a recent study at Rutgers University on blueberries. NutraUSA shares a similar study with promise for liver cancer.

Recommended daily amounts of vitamins, and minerals are available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture library. They include a series of reports “on the dietary reference values for the intake of nutrients by Americans and Canadians.”

Battling Books:

The Super Antioxidant Diet and Nutrition Guide: a Health Plan for the Body, Mind and Spirit by Robin Jeep, Richard B. Couey, and Sherie Ellington Pitman (February 2008)

Antioxidants Against Cancer by Ralph W. Moss (2000)

Additional information is available in our archives:

The Relationship Between Cancer and Antioxidants

Diabetic Friendly Granola Recipe

April 24, 2008 by  
Filed under DIABETES

Yummy Goodness, Without The Extra Sugar

I love granola. Toasted, crunchy, and sweet it is versatile and perfect for anytime snacking. Most home-made recipes are full of sugar, though. While I know that regular sugar is fine for most healthy diabetics in small quantities, the amount called for in most recipes would make the most lenient doctor or nutritionist go into fits.

Can’t say that I blame them. Brown sugar, white sugar, honey, and a big dose of molasses makes home-made granola a big no-no. In the following recipe, I have replaced most of those with (mostly)natural alternatives. Feel free to experiment until you find the perfect fit for you and your taste.

Diabetic Friendly Granola

*10 cups rolled oats
*1 cup wheat germ
*1 cup sunflower seeds, hulled.
*1 cup flax seeds
*1 cup each chopped almonds, peanuts, walnuts
*1 ½ cup Brown Sugar Splenda
*1 cup water
*1 cup vegetable oil
*½ cup agave nectar
*½ cup Blackstrap molasses
*1 teaspoon salt (sea salt is great)
*2 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
*3 teaspoons vanilla

Pre-heat your oven to 325 F. Mix oats, wheat germ, flax and sunflower seeds in a large bowl until evenly distributed. In a medium to large saucepan, mix the rest of the ingredients and warm over low heat until the Splenda is melted without boiling. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix until all of the dry ingredients are well coated.

Spread the mix into 13×9 baking pans. You will need 4 to 5, or make the granola in batches. Bake for approximately 30 minutes. Check the granola during baking and stir with a wooden spoon every 5 minutes or so. For a chewier granola, remove at around 20 minutes. For extra crunchy, give the mix 5 to 10 minutes longer in the oven, watching closely for a golden brown color on the oats.

Allow to cool, place in large zipper top bags and store in a cool, dry place for up to 3 months. You can also freeze the granola for longer keeping. Amount made: Approximately 20 cups.

Eat with milk for breakfast or snack on this anytime you’d like something sweet, but healthy.

* It is possible to not use Splenda. If you are familiar with Stevia, use it instead. Since Stevia is so much sweeter than sugar, you will need to adjust. You will also need to reduce the wet ingredients slightly.

A Recipe For Life

April 24, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Good health and nutrition gets trickier as people age. Throw in a measure of Alzheimer’s disease and you may have a larger challenge to face.

The recipes in this section, A Recipe for Life, are designed to nourish both those living with Alzheimer’s disease as well as their caregivers.  As food prices continue to rise on a weekly, if not daily, basis and as the need for more care demands more of your available time; my goal today, is to provide you with recipes that are healthy, quick and inexpensive.

Today’s Recipe for Life

Spinach, Basil and Tomato Pasta–Why it’s good for you

This simple, delicious and inexpensive meal is very nutritious.   The whole grain pasta has almost double the fiber and protein and nearly triple the folate of its white counterpart.  According to American Family Physician, “Garlic has long been used medicinally, most recently for its cardiovascular, anti-neoplastic, and antimicrobial properties.” Tomatoes are known be high in antioxidants and vitamins C and A.  Just ask Popeye about Spinach, it has lots of iron, folate and antioxidants. Olive Oil may well be the “miracle food” of this list.   Long touted for its nutritional properties, it’s a monounsaturated fat (good fat), its great for the heart and the colon.

Spinach, Basil and Tomato Pasta Recipe


1 pound whole wheat pasta (fettuccini, linguini and penne work nicely) 

2-3 cloves garlic (chopped fine)

1 medium red onion, cut in half and sliced

1 large fresh tomato, sliced

2 pounds fresh spinach, washed and roughly chapped

4-5 sprigs fresh basil, washed and roughly chopped

1-2 sprigs fresh basil, washed and finely chopped

Approx. 3-4 Tbs. Extra virgin olive oil

Sea Salt to taste


  1. Cook pasta according to directions on package.
  2. Lightly sauté garlic and onion in olive oil about 3-5 minutes, add spinach and 4-5 roughly chopped basil sprigs, till just warmed and wilted, toss in cooked pasta. 
  3. Serve topped with tomato slices and 1-2 sprigs fresh chopped basil

Now, here’s a Recipe for the rest of your life

A Recipe for Life

Start with a life

One that has a hungry heart

Add some hope

It’s a great place to start

Stir in faith

As tiny as a mustard seed

All you must do now, is just believe.

Stir in some love

It flavors all you do

A little patience

Is a good thing to add too 

But back to love

It makes the world go ‘round

Add a hearty appetite

And now you’ve found….

A Recipe for Life!

Why Not Just Stop Eating?

April 23, 2008 by  
Filed under OBESITY

One sure way to lose weight, it might seem, is simply to stop eating for a while. Simple as it sounds, that idea is fraught with potential problems.

The basic weight loss equation certainly remains valid in this case: using more calories than are consumed results in weight loss. If you don’t take in calories by eating, it’s fairly easy to satisfy that equation. Your body burns 70 calories per hour even just sitting idle on the couch.

But while you may be idle, your body’s systems are not

First of all, the body – deprived of food – will slow down the metabolism and burn calories more slowly. Weight loss can be sudden at first, but the rate slows very soon thereafter.

At first, it goes after glycogen stored in the liver and converts it to glucose to burn for energy. That energy is used to power all the body’s activities.

When that is used up (to a degree), the body then begins going after the energy stored in the bonds of certain molecules in fat cells. The process is called ketosis and accounts for why your breath sometimes smells like fingernail polish (made with ketones) after hard exercise.

So far, that all sounds good. You burn calories, reduce body fat and lose weight. Exactly what you wanted. But, unfortunately, this isn’t all the body is doing under these circumstances.

Because of the relatively rapid weight loss/calorie burning from this method of ‘dieting’ the body will experience a ‘rebound’ effect. In other words, it will cause you to crave food like crazy. The food you do eat will cause you to put on more pounds than you lost. The body is compensating for a radical deficit.

At the same time, there are serious health risks to simply starving or a long term fast. Going without food for a few hours or even a day isn’t dangerous, though it can be uncomfortable since you’ll get very hungry. But this method causes a number of carefully balanced nutrients to get out of whack.

It upsets the delicate balance of insulin, sugar and a variety of other essential compounds. Apart from regulating energy levels, they influence hormones that regulate the brain and nervous system.

Concentrations of potassium and sodium get out of balance unless you compensate with sports-style drinks, which can be more difficult to adjust in the absence of food. Those minerals are key to regulating the heartbeat, not to mention being found in every cell of the body and the fluid in between where they participate in an enormous variety of vital tasks.

Fatigue, dizziness and difficulty concentrating are only three of the milder symptoms that will result. Dehydration is likely, since much of the fluid we gain is from food, not just liquid. That can easily lead to heat stroke if the weather is at all warm and you are even a little active.

The kidneys will have a more difficult time filtering properly. They clean waste material from the blood, play a role in regulating blood pressure and stimulate the bone marrow to make red blood cells.

The odds of heart attack are increased, brain function suffers,… the list is endless. Even if the fast is ended long before death (at about 4 weeks), serious physical effects would occur.

Instead of fasting, eat a balanced, healthy diet of limited calories – combined with an age and circumstance-appropriate exercise program. That is the surest way to lose pounds safely. Your short term and long term health will be in harmony.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.