August 31, 2011

Good Advice on Multivitamins in Particular and Supplements in General

I subscribe to several health newsletters, but the one that probably gives me the most immediately useful info is Nutrition Action, published by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest. (More on this newsletter at the end of this posting.)

The current (September) issue is a good example. The cover story is entitled "What you need to know about multivitamins." Written by David Schardt, it's full of good advice.

While study after study finds little or no long-lasting benefit from taking a daily multivitamin, Schardt says, "a little insurance against something that may be missing from your diet couldn't hurt." But he advises not to waste your money on a multivitamin that has more than you need or should get.

August 30, 2011

The Polls Are Open: Which Survived Last Week the Best?

Last week was "The Week That Was" (for those of us old enough to remember that TV show). Monday I had a car crash. Tuesday was the earth quake that shook the hospital I was in. Saturday was Hurricane Irene which knocked out my power line.

Which of the following looks the best after that week?

My Car?

My Front Yard?

My Back Yard?

Or Me?

August 29, 2011

Creating Brain Cells from Skin Cells: A Major Step Forward in Parkinson's Research?

My roller-coaster keeps going up, down, and around. After the trip through California and the Pacific Northwest, the car accident, and the earthquake, came the hurricane. Irene brought the Washington area lots of rain and wind, but damage was light here, though we lost power for a while. I already had this Parkinson's research summary in the queue, ready to post.

Reading details of a promising new study about cells and Parkinson’s, I thought first about Michael J. Fox, Nancy Reagan, and other high-profile proponents of the use of stem-cells in the long march toward helping sufferers of diseases like PD and Alzheimer’s. Then I thought how people living now – and those yet unborn – will have their lives immeasurably improved, and lengthened, too, when science leads us to a solution, as it has with so many other conditions.

This newest study, led by a group from the University of Edinburgh in collaboration with University College-London, and announced last week by the BBC, reports that researchers have created brain nerve cells from skin samples of a person with a rapidly progressing type of Parkinson’s Disease.

Developing a new supply of those cells, called neurons, will help scientists learn why they deteriorate in the brains of Parkinson’s patients. And that new cell source, the study’s authors hope, will enable researchers to develop drugs that retard the progress of – and even prevent – the disease.

August 25, 2011

Meet Dixie -- The Bedbug Detecting Dog

What with the car crash on Monday and the subsequent hospitalization (see post below), I'd forgotten that I'd scheduled Western Terminators to come to the house Wednesday morning to check to be sure that the prior fumigation efforts had in fact eliminated all signs of bedbugs anywhere in the house. Fortunately they arrived just as I returned from the hospital. 

Bedbugs had been detected in only one bedroom and that was the only room treated. But we wanted to be sure the invaders weren't hiding out elsewhere in the house.  If they were, we'd have to go through the expense and, worst, the disruption of having the whole house treated.

For this critical job, Western uses specially trained dogs -- trained at a cost of about $30,000! After the training, they are tested by putting one or two live bedbugs and a couple of dead ones in a house. The dogs join the team when they can identify the live ones and ignore the dead ones.

So here's Dixie and her trainer arriving:

August 24, 2011

Life's Roller Coaster: From the Trip of a Lifetime to Car Wreck and Hospitalization

We returned from the "Trip of a Lifetime" on Saturday night  -- nearly three weeks traveling through the incredibly scenic Pacific Northwest. (See my recent posts below. More to come.)

Monday noon I was driving to my weekly bridge game at the Iona Senior Center. A block away, I approached an intersection with a small truck ahead of me at the STOP sign. I applied the brake and the car accelerated . Shocked, I hit the brake harder, and the car accelerated more.

My car hit the truck. The airbag deployed and the seat belt worked. (Thank God for both.) People quickly arrived anxious to help. Both front doors were jammed. I finally reached back and was able to open one of the rear doors. Several people urged  me not to move until helped arrived.

Someone had called 911 and the DC Fire Department rescue squad showed up seemingly within minutes. I was extricated on a board and then transferred to a stretcher in the ambulance.

Within minutes I was in the George Washington Hospital's emergency room and quickly transferred to the trauma unit. After a series of tests, it was determined that I had (quoting the hospital's report) "a head laceration, sternal fracture and some spinal widening -- all stable injuries. "

August 22, 2011

Move Aside Mt. Rainier -- Rogue River Wins My "Best of the Trip" Award

I was sure that Mt. Rainier would end up No. 1 in my rating of stops in my "trip of a lifetime" through the Pacific Northwest, which ended this past Saturday. But then last Wednesday we checked into a motel in Gold Beach, OR, and our waitress at the restaurant where we went for supper raved about the Rogue River -- which empties into the Pacific at Gold Beach -- and the jet boat trip up the river.

Her enthusiasm was so contagious that we changed our plans and got up early the next morning to sign up for the half-day tour that started at 8:30 and ended at 2pm. As has happened to me often in my travels, this unplanned event, decided on the spur of the moment, turned out to be the high point of the trip  for me.

The jet boat, which can operate in water as shallow as six inches, also can make a fast full-circle spin when our skipper/guide wanted to give us an extra thrill. He is a licensed fishing guide and avid fisherman, so he knew the river, its inhabitants and history well.

Here are few photos from the trip:

August 18, 2011

Mountains, Meadows and Musings on this Great Nation

Here I am at what will probably be the high point -- both geographically and aesthetically -- of my "trip of a lifetime":

August 17, 2011

New Study Reports Benefits of Seeing a Neurologist for People with Parkinson's

The August 10, 2011 online issue of Neurology reports that people with Parkinson’s Disease are likely to live longer, and avoid nursing homes and hip fractures if they see a neurologist than are their counterparts who see a primary care physician. That publication is the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN).

Based on the Medicare records of 138,000 people diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2002, the study reported that the 68% of that group who saw a neurologist between 2002 and 2005 were 20% less likely to die within six years, 20% less likely to be moved into nursing homes, and 14% less likely to suffer hip fractures than those PD patients in their group attended by a primary care physician.

August 16, 2011

One MORE Reason to Exercise: Protect Your Memory!

On August 10, 2011, The Journal of Neuroscience carried a story with this headline: “Little Exercise, Big Effects: Reversing Aging and Infection-Induced Memory Deficits, and Underlying Processes.”

A University Of Colorado-Boulder study reported that even a small amount of voluntary exercise (running just over half a kilometer) “profoundly” protected late middle-aged rats against long-lasting memory loss after a serious bacterial infection.

August 15, 2011

A Nostalgic Walk Along the Old Glen Echo Trolley Route through the Palisades

See Tuesday's post for a history of the Glen Echo Amusement Park trolley that ran through my DC neighborhood, the Palisades, until January 1961. I was fortunate in being able to use that line to commute to work for a couple of years before it shut down.

Before we get to the Palisades part of the trolley route, here's a photo I took on O Street in Georgetown where for a few blocks the old trolley tracks and cobblestone street have been preserved:

August 14, 2011

Mr. Frommer, You've Done it Again! Big Time!

It is 6am in Seattle. I am sitting at the computer on the desk in my room on the 14th floor of the Deca Hotel, where for the past hour as dawn broke I've watched Lake Anne, the Space Needle, and downtown Seattle come into view on what promises to be one of Seattle's rare sunny days.

We arrived here yesterday after staying at a cabin of our own at the Wellspring retreat in the woods just outside the entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park.

August 12, 2011

Dealing with a Tough Diagnosis in a Positive Way: One Shining Example

On March 25, this blog carried an inspirational message from my good friend Loene, who has been dealing with ongoing cancer diagnoses in an upbeat, positive way. Last week, Loene wrote again: there is new evidence that the cancer has spread, and she now faces three more months of chemo. Here is some of what she had to say:

August 10, 2011

A New Test for Diagnosing Alzheimer's Before Symptoms Appear?

Scientists may be one step closer to providing a simple, reliable, test for Alzheimer’s Disease years before symptoms – like memory loss – appear.
Doctors have commonly used a variety of procedures in their attempts to diagnose AD, including behavior evaluations, psychiatric tests, and brain imaging. None of those procedures have proved accurate, and many have been costly.

Now, according to Dr. Robert Nagele, a professor of medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey School of Osteopathic Medicine (and founder of the company developing this test), all doctors will need to accurately diagnose Alzheimer’s is a single drop of blood.

August 9, 2011

Riding the Glen Echo Trolley: From DC, Through the Palisades, to the Park!

My wife, infant son and I moved into the Palisades section of DC in 1959. We were lucky to find a small two-bedroom townhouse (5030 Sherier Place) that was affordable (barely) to us at $19,500. Before you gasp at that price, consider this: my friend Vola -- who partied with me in 1956 at a house in Georgetown where five of us rented apartments -- reminded me that I was the first of our group to break the $4,000 barrier for annual salary!

I was delighted to discover that the trolley car (which carried travellers to the Glen Echo amusement park in Maryland, just beyond the DC line) stopped right behind our house. What a great way to commute to work! I could hop on board and jump off at Pennsylvania Avenue and 24th Street, less than two blocks from my office.

You can get an idea of how special that ride was from this video:

August 8, 2011

Here's a Recommendation for Dealing with Travel Tensions that Works! Plus Photos of My Current Trip

Based on a lifetime of experience traveling with family and friends, I don't think there's any setting more guaranteed to generate angry flareups than long-distance car travel. This trip was no different until we found a great antidote. Here's what you do:

  1. Get the CD for the Broadway hit show, The Book of Mormon.
  2. Play the CD a couple of times while driving.
  3. When you sense tension storms gathering, say: Turn it off. Turn it off.
  4. If that doesn't work, bring on the sure-fire big gun. Sing out: Hasa Diga Eebowai.
We discovered this miraculous tension breaker just before arriving at Crater Lake after a long day trip from Lake Tahoe and have been using it effectively ever since. Here are a few of the many photos we took as we went from Crater Lake to Diamond Lake to Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge, where we are now.

August 5, 2011

Vacation Greetings: Yosemite to Tahoe

Thoughts after leaving Washington, DC, and touring Yosemite: we left Washington on Monday after a totally depressing weekend watching Congress -- yet again -- play politics rather than address the serious problems we face. We spent Tuesday touring Yosemite and Lake Tahoe, thinking that this glorious country deserves much better than the dysfunctional political system we've recently seen "in action."

Anyway, on to the beautiful West!

August 4, 2011

Treating Dementia with Anti-Psychotic Drugs: Is the Tide Turning?

About ten years ago, a friend ("Samuel") called me to discuss his frustration over his mother's care in a nursing home. His beloved mother was dealing with dementia, and the nursing home was dealing with mom by sedating her. Samuel somehow knew this treatment wasn't really the right thing for her, and he was convinced his mother was being zapped into a psychotropic fog to make her "easier to deal with." In trying to convince the facility's staff -- and his family -- to consider other approaches, Samuel encountered only resistance, hostility, and finally the threat of legal action against him -- by his own sister! He now says, several years after his mother's death, that struggling alone against the drug /sedation issue -- knowing in his bones that it wasn't the best thing for his mother -- was as difficult and gut-wrenching as the experience of seeing her slowly, gradually, slipping away.

Samuel appears to have been ON to something.

August 3, 2011

Betty White's Message to All: Humor, Passion

This past January, the Screen Actors Guild gave Betty White, 88, its Lifetime Achievement Award. Her acceptance speech was the highlight of the evening.

Beneath the classic Betty White humor, there's a message about the importance of having a sustaining passion.

August 2, 2011

Preparing for Death: Records for Family and Executor "If I Get Hit by a Bus"

Brad Woodward's guest post last week reminded me to wrap up the task of providing my executor and kids with the personal, financial and medical records they'll need. While I'm good at gathering information and getting organized, too often I drop the ball when it comes to following through. I hope you'll do better.