PlaneTalk masthead, cleaned, 12-10
March-April 2015
No-Doze Electronics
     If you - or your preteen or teenager - has a hard time getting enough sleep, changing how electronic devices are managed in your household could help. Smart phones, tablets, and computers can cause inadequate rest in at least three ways.
     First, exposure to the blue light emitted by these screens can cause wakefulness to persist for several hours after the device has been turned off.Finger on an electronic device's screen Even after sleep begins, sleep quality is impaired. This article describes research on the effects of blue light from electronic gear.
    Ending your use of these devices earlier in the evening would be one solution. Another is a free app, f.lux, that automatically changes the color of light emitted by electronic gear over the course of 24 hours. (Your device's night-time appearance may seem peculiar initially, but you will soon become used to it.)
     F.lux is free for machines using Windows and Linux, and for all Apple products. The app is still in development for Android phones; here are some alternative apps.
     A second problem is being tempted by a nearby phone or tablet to stay connected "just a little while longer." This delays bedtimes. Third, if the device is left on nearby, audible alerts for incoming messages and social media updates cause sleep to be disrupted, even when sleepers are not fully aroused by the sounds. 
     These last two problems could, of course, be solved simply by keeping electronic gear out of bedrooms at night. If you need to have your phone nearby, here are strategies for lessening its impact on your rest. Parents wondering how to deal with their kids' devices may want to implement this family's solution, the approach recommended by pediatricians and sleep experts.
Independent Living As You Age
Icon of a house
     Learn how to make staying in your own home easier as you grow older during a one-day conference in Palo Alto on Saturday, March 21. Financial arrangements, high-tech devices, home modifications, and much more will be addressed by experts.
     Bring a sack lunch to this event, hosted by the nonprofit Avenidas. Registration has closed but you are still welcome to attend. The very reasonable admission fee may be paid by cash, check, or credit card at the door.
News You Can Use

Identity Theft
       The first time you visit a new doctor or use a health care facility, you may be asked to supply your social security number. Why do they want it? Can you leave that line blank? Can insurance companies Sample Social Security card require it?
     Here are answers, plus a handy trick for people worried about carrying around their Medicare card, which displays one's SSN.

Over-use of Alcohol
       We highly recommend the Atlantic's new, in-depth article for its information on the most effective medical approaches to helping people curtail their alcohol consumption.
Wine, whiskey, and beer in glasses     If you or a loved one drinks more than may be wise, the resources in "Overdoing It?", a previous article in PlaneTalk, can help you evaluate the situation and explore ways to reduce or cease alcohol consumption. (Here is the updated link for The Drinker's Check-up.)
     For detailed information on locating effective rehab programs, you may want to consult Inside Rehab, available at the PlaneTree Health Information Center and other public library locations.

Preventing Peanut Allergies
Peanuts      Recent research on the best time to introduce peanuts into the diets of young children got a good bit of media coverage. Unfortunately, not all news reports were sufficiently nuanced. This article does a good job of explaining what parents need to know.

PSA Tests & Prostate Cancer Treatments
     If you are confused about who should have routine PSA screening tests, it is not surprising. Conflicting messages in the media reflect Blood sample vial in gloved handdifferences of opinion among professionals.
     Consumer Reports weighs in against widespread use of the PSA for screening purposes. Their article describes the issues and also addresses the effectiveness and safety of supplements and of the heavily promoted new treatment approaches (e.g., robotic-assisted surgery and the Gamma Knife, CyberKnife, X-Knife devices).
     Use the links on this page to find more detailed information on prostate cancer screening and treatment.

Muscle Relaxants
A man's bare back      Consumer Reports recently evaluated the safety and effectiveness of muscle relaxants, which are often prescribed to relieve muscle spasms that cause back pain, neck pain, and other conditions. Their multi-page report recommends alternative treatments over relaxants, and also describes the pros and cons of seven medications.

     Does your child have at least one or two best friends? Two fingers with characters drawn onFull schedules of structured activities, parental anxiety about letting kids roam free, and the addictive pleasures of electronic devices can leave kids with few opportunities to develop close, stable friendships. Read why this is important for your child's well-being, and what you can do to help.

Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin
Pills shaken from bottle to hand      These medications (and others) are known as benzodiazepines. Because they can create serious problems for patients over the age of 65, experts strongly urge that their use be limited to treating a very few conditions in seniors. Nevertheless, many doctors have continued to prescribe these drugs to older adults with other conditions.
     If you or a loved one takes a benzodiazepine and is over the age of 65, you will want to learn about this issue.
In This Issue
Independent Living As You Age
News You Can Use
Close up of tulips
    All events are open to the public; pre-registration may be required.
* Fee for participation
^ Scroll down the linked page

Living well with a chronic health condition 
For locations, select "Better Choices, Better Health" and "English" on the map. Various start dates for 6-session workshop

Mental health services available in the community
San Jose - Tues., Mar. 24, Apr. 14 & 28



Sunnyvale - Tues., Mar. 24


Psychogenic seizures^
Palo Alto - Thurs., Mar. 26

Post-stroke rehabilitation of hand & arm^
Menlo Park - Mar. 26

Diabetes self-care
For specific San Jose location, select "Diabetes Self-Management" and "English" on the map. 6-session workshop begins Mon., Mar. 30

Pedestrian & bike safety for kids
Multiple dates & locations in San Jose

Osteoporosis exercise & education*
Los Gatos - 4-session class begins Wed., Apr. 1


Exercise for teens & adults with developmental & intellectual disabilities*
Santa Clara - 8-week class begins Wed., Apr. 1

Autism diagnosis & early intervention
Palo Alto - Wed., Apr. 1

Respite care for kids with special needs
Los Gatos - Sat., Apr. 4

Fitness for adults with a physical disability*
San Jose - begins Mon., Apr. 6
8-week program
10-week program 


Healthy diet^

(see 25th anniversary listing)
Stanford - Thurs., Apr. 9

Healing from wartime trauma
Stanford - Sat., Apr. 11

"Look Good, Feel Better" for cancer patients
Sunnyvale - Mon, Apr. 13

Sunnyvale - Mon., Apr. 13

Parenting young kids
Santa Clara - Mon., Apr. 13


Dementia caregiving
Sunnyvale - 6-week course begins Mon., Apr. 13

Parenting a child or teen with ADHD*
San Jose - Tues., Apr. 14

Balance & exercise for seniors*
Los Gatos - 8-session class begins Tues., Apr. 14

Genetic cancer risks
Mountain View - Tues., Apr. 14


Urinary incontinence
Mountain View - Wed., Apr. 15

Emergency preparedness
Mountain View - Wed., Apr. 15

Mental illness & families
San Jose - Wed., Apr. 15

Parenting a preteen girl
Mountain View - Thurs., Apr. 16

End-of-life & advance directives
San Jose - Thurs., Apr. 16


Dental health after cancer treatment^
Palo Alto - Thurs., Apr. 16

Stanford - Sat., Apr. 18

Cancer, the immune system, & immunotherapy (scroll to p. 9)
Mountain View - Sat., Apr. 18

Palo Alto - Thurs., Apr. 23

Dining Out for Life (annual fundraiser for The Health Trust's AIDS Services)
Many locations - Thurs., Apr. 30


Stroke treatment^
Palo Alto - Thurs., Apr. 30

Back exercises & self-care
Palo Alto - Mon., May 4

Fitness for seniors
Sunnyvale - Tues., May 5

Anxiety in kids
Palo Alto - Wed., May 6

Essential tremor & vocal tremor^
Palo Alto - Thurs., May 7 

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