Could an Effective Strategy for Dealing with Acid Reflux Be Worse Than the Disease?


For years, I have been enduring Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), commonly referred to as acid reflux disease. I frequently experience intense heartburn and often wake up during the night due to coughing and gagging caused by the inhalation of stomach acid. Subsequently, my throat tends to be sore the following day, and my voice sounds hoarse. The issue of heartburn is exacerbated whenever I consume spicy food, a habit I indulge in quite frequently due to my love for it. Additionally, I have a tendency to indulge in late-night snacks on many occasions.

On the advice of my gastroenterologist, I was recommended to alter my diet, elevate the head of my bed, refrain from eating 2 hours prior to bedtime, and was prescribed Omeprazole, a Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI). Consequently, I have adhered to these recommendations by avoiding meals before bedtime, elevating the head of my bed, and consistently taking Omeprazole for several years. Despite this, I continue to consume spicy food, but thanks to the medication, I have been able to keep heartburn under control.

For numerous years, the burden of my acid reflux disrupting my life had been absent, until today. I have long been cognizant of the potential for kidney failure as a result of prolonged Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) use, yet I am fortunate that my kidneys remain unaffected. However, a recent article on caught my attention, stating that "new research suggests a potential heightened risk of dementia among individuals using these medications for an extended period." This research specifically pertains to those aged 45 and older, who have been utilizing PPIs for more than 4 years. Considering I have been taking them for a duration far exceeding this threshold, the findings have prompted me to reevaluate my approach.

This news prompts me to contemplate the other medications I am currently prescribed to manage my various conditions: COPD/asthma, atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, BPH, and chronic sinusitis. A couple of years ago, I composed a blog post titled "Living With Chronic Sinusitis, GERD, and Asthma". Now, it seems imperative that I revise the post to incorporate the additional concern of potential dementia risk linked to my GERD medication.

I won't begin to fret over this newfound revelation about my medication, as it's already too late to take any corrective actions. After all, who can predict the eventual consequences of the long-term use of my other prescribed medications? There's no wisdom in truncating my lifespan by fixating on "what ifs." At this juncture, I am reminded of the age-old adage, "damned if you do, damned if you don't."


Do I Really Need a Dental Implant, or, Better Yet, Can I Afford One?

                                                                     Wikimedia Commons - Alexmit art


It's time for me to write again about one of my favorite subjects of complaint: dental care in the United States. A few years ago, I wrote a post titled "Why Is Dental Care So Expensive in the U.S.?" on one of my other blogs, "Steveso Thinks". Now, I am focusing on dental implants, which stand out as one of the most lucrative sources of income for the dental community."

Recently, my husband visited our dentist due to a lesion on the roof of his mouth, which was causing significant pain. Consequently, a molar had to be extracted. While still under the effects of Novocaine, the dentist informed him that he would require an implant in the near future, at an estimated cost of around $5000! My husband was warned that delaying the implant procedure could lead to shifting of his remaining teeth, accelerating their decay. Nothing like scaring the hell out of a patient in pain!

When my husband informed me of this news, I was shocked and upset. It reminded me of my own experience in contemplating dental implants for some of my missing teeth. I had several molars extracted due to a misdiagnosis of sinus problems as infected teeth. My dentist recommended that I seek a consultation with an orthodontist and subsequently discuss a treatment plan.

The orthodontist's office was located within a high-end professional office complex, adorned with majestic oak trees. The parking lot for doctors was filled with Jaguars, BMWs, Mercedes, Porsches, and even a Maserati! I knew that the recommendations from this consultation wouldn't come cheap. My initial impression was confirmed, as I was informed that the dental practice did not accept insurance, requiring payment in cash or by credit card.

At the end of the 15-minute consultation, the doctor apprised me of two potential solutions for my dental issue. Without pause, he explained that one approach would yield minimal effectiveness and carry an estimated cost of around $35,000, while the second, more effective option, would incur a cost of approximately $135,000! In response to this revelation, I retorted, "There's no way in hell I could possibly afford either procedure." With that, I thanked him politely and exited the office.

When I saw my own dentist shortly thereafter, he had already received the consultation results and inquired about my decision. He didn't appear surprised to hear that I couldn't afford either of the procedures. He jokingly remarked that he would do his utmost to maintain the health of my teeth until the day I won the lottery.

Now, returning to my husband's situation, we reached a consensus that he should proceed with the single-tooth implant, considering he is considerably younger than me, and we opted for a manageable payment plan. The thought of him requiring orthodontic work in the future without the implant sends shivers down my spine; the costs would be astronomical. It bothers me when dentists, who earned up to $212,000 per year in 2022 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, attempt to shame individuals with significantly lower incomes simply because they cannot afford adequate dental care.

Poor and middle-class Americans will persistently endure severe health issues linked to insufficient dental care unless Congress, particularly the Republicans, recognize the correlation between dental health and overall physical well-being. While it's too late for me, I hold out hope that our children and grandchildren will have the privilege of experiencing satisfactory and reasonably priced dental health services.


OMG! Somebody Stole My Car!

 Public Domain Pictures

Like many small towns, the town we live in has a local FaceBook group, where residents can share what's going on in their neighborhood. This can include yard sales, missing pets, home repair advice, and minor crimes, such as break-ins or theft, stealing from cars, or trespassing.

For the most part, this group is very helpful and informative.  But, there are exceptions. The group has several "Karens" amongst its member, who love to complain about kids walking across their yard, or "strange Black men" seen in the neighborhood. These usually turn out to be meter readers for the utilities. But, I guess in today's society, paranoia has overtaken common sense.

What I do find odd, or ridiculous is the number of complaints about people's cars being broken into and even stolen. At this point in my story, I'd like to point out that in our neighborhood, and probably most neighborhoods around us, all of the houses have garages, two-car or 3 or more-car garages. What I don't understand is that in most cases people don't put their cars in the garage. They fill up their garages with all kinds of junk. That's right, they leave their expensive cars outside, while their garages are filled with toys, trash cans, tools, and assorted junk. Mind you, many of these homes have utility sheds, where tools and garden equipment are usually stored. God knows what's in them!

Back to the car break-ins and stolen vehicles. I would think that having cars parked in the driveway, in plain sight, is an invitation to teenagers looking for a thrill or a professional car thief. The majority of times I read about cars being stolen or broken into, I usually see that the cars were not locked and, in some cases, the keys were left in the ignition. Not the sharpest knives in the drawer!  If you must leave your cars outside, I would think you would care enough and be smart enough to lock your car doors and keep the keys in the house!

Oh well. I guess it takes all kinds. If nothing else these people provide a little cheap entertainment, for some, but not for them.

Please check out my new blog, Not the Sharpest Knives in the Drawer

Celebrate Your Rights and Freedoms This Fourth of July, Because for Some of You, They May Soon Be Gone


                                                                                    Public Domain Pictures


I've always enjoyed celebrating the Fourth of July with happiness and pride in my country. I especially remember the great feelings I had as I celebrated the fireworks on the Esplanade in Boston. I was amongst a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people, from all walks of life, all races, all ethnicities, all genders, and all religions. I felt so proud to be an American! Not so much now.

Since the introduction of Donald Trump onto the American political stage, white supremacists, bigots and Christo-Fascists have been given the green light to attack our democracy and those who do not fit their description of an American.

Trump has managed to transform the Republican Party into a radical, white supremacist, Christian cult. On January 6th 2021, Trump and his supporters attempted a coup to keep Trump in office, after his loss to Joe Biden. Even though hundreds of his soldiers have been arrested for their part in the attempted coup, Trump and the other organizers and leaders of the insurrection remain free to continue to spread the lies that lead to the treasonous acts of January 6th.

After the Republicans retook control of the House of Representatives with the election of rabid, unqualified, deranged, MAGA candidates, the coup has continued, with all efforts directed towards protecting Trump from being held accountable and destroying Biden, Democrats and anyone who criticizes Trump.

Now the Conservative Republican, white supremacist Justices of SCOTUS have actively joined the coup, to destroy our democracy. First, women's reproductive rights were taken away after 50 years of  women having control of their own bodies. The states were given the responsibility of controlling women's health. Subsequently Red states immediately rushed in to ban abortions in their states, while Blue states passed law protecting a women's right to determine her own healthcare. Despite the majority of Americans supporting a women's right to an abortion, Republicans are trying to force a complete national ban on abortion.

After attacking women's rights, SCOTUS, lead by corrupt and hateful Justices Thomas and Alito, have begun their attack on eliminating the rights of Blacks and other peoples of color and the LGBTQ community. Affirmative action was destroyed, with the support of Clarence Thomas, who would not be sitting on the Court if he had not benefited from affirmative action, as well as Kavanaugh, who was admitted to Harvard only because his grandfather was an alumnus.

The Court sided with a woman graphic artist who did not want to be forced to design a marriage website for gay couples.  It was discovered after the ruling that this woman never was approached by a gay couple to design a website. It was just a hypothetical situation supported by groups of anti gay Christians in order for SCOTUS to pass judgement of the LGBTQ community. Now it is legal to discriminate against gay people if you own a business. Who's next?

This year's SCOTUS calendar is finished for now, but come October, you can rest assured the Christo-Fascist justices on the Court will continue to destroy the rights and freedoms of all marginal communities in this country. It is clear that SCOTUS and the Republican Party want to re-establish, Christian, straight, white, males as the only ones with rights and freedoms in this country.

This could be the last Fourth of July when many of us will be able to celebrate our rights and freedoms! Enjoy the Fourth while you can.


Are Drug Companies and Congress Trying to Kill Off Old People?

Bernard Gotfryd - Library of Congress

 As people age, they are more likely than not to suffer from chronic diseases such as COPD, Atrial Fibrillation, Arthritis,  Asthma, and Cancer. Left untreated these diseases can kill an individual, or in the case of arthritis, cause debilitating pain.  The disorders are bad enough, but other factors contribute to the suffering of the seniors who are unlucky enough to be afflicted by them.

Seniors are more likely to be retired and depend upon Medicare for their healthcare. Unfortunately, thanks to our Republican friends in Congress, Medicare is not allowed to negotiate for lower drug prices, as private insurers are allowed to do. The consequences are that drug prices are the highest in the world. Retired seniors are also on a fixed income, so they cannot pay high out-of-pocket expenses for much-needed drugs. If a retiree is not considered wealthy or has just enough money not to qualify for Medicare, he/she has no other recourse, but to suffer and eventually die.

For those retirees suffering from Atrial Fibrillation or COPD, the average cost of medication is over $600 per month! The average Social Security check is $1500 per month. If you have both diseases, your Social Security income is almost wiped out. For many retirees, Social Security is the only source of income. The lucky ones also have pension plans and retirement savings in addition to Social Security. But these can be decimated by a catastrophic illness in no time at all.

If this isn’t depressing enough, think of all of us who suffer from one of these ailments watching our favorite TV programs when an ad comes on touting the latest prescription drug that promises to ease our symptoms and make life more enjoyable. We get excited and search the internet for the cost of the drug. Then we discover the cost to be $400, $500, $600, or more a month! We also see that little note saying we may be eligible to pay $0 for our prescription. We read it and once again see that this does not apply to those receiving Medicare!

I have friends living in other countries who have some of the same afflictions as I do, but pay little or nothing for their medications. Why? Because our members of Congress, who themselves have excellent prescription drug plans, are owned by pharmaceutical companies. They make a fortune from the drug companies by voting to keep drug prices high for the people who need the drugs the most.

It’s bad enough that we seniors have to live with the ailments of old age. We don’t need the added stress of having to worry about how we can afford the medications that may keep us alive and at the same time be able to eat and enjoy what time we have left on earth.


One Pill Makes You Larger, And One Pill Makes You Small!


                                                                            Wikimedia Commons

I think all of us older people can remember those words from Jefferson Airplane's, "White Rabbit" from 1966. The song was about the use of illegal drugs, even though many people didn't realize that fact. But as I have reached those wonderful "senior years", that song takes on new meaning to me.

As a small child, I suffered from severe asthma, but unfortunately, very few medications were available.  I only took one pill when I had an asthma attack, but I did have to have several weekly injections, and later on, monthly injections, to desensitize me from the numerous allergens causing me to suffer. When I reached my mid-teen years I no longer had to take pills or injections, as my asthma was cured, or so I thought.
In my thirties, I started taking a multivitamin and saw palmetto, a supplement intended to prevent problems with my prostate gland. It wasn’t until my fifties that things began to change, but not for the better. First I developed elevated blood pressure and naturally was given a pill to help lower it. Then I began to pee a lot, especially in the middle of the night. Yup, my prostate was enlarging and I had BPH, benign prostatic hyperplasia. The saw palmetto I had been taking for years to prevent BPH didn’t work at all! So at first, I was given one kind of pill to take each day, and then this turned into two pills a day.
I then noticed my asthma, which had not bothered me for years, seemed to come back.  I used an inhaler for those times I had difficulty breathing, but it didn’t appear to help much. A few years later I was diagnosed with a combination of asthma and COPD. Great, one more ailment to contend with and one more medication to take.
Then along came my golden years, when one day I experienced an episode of Atrial Fibrillation, which sent me to the emergency room, scared as hell! After meeting with my cardiologist, guess what he did? He prescribed more pills! One pill to control my heart rhythm and two pills to further lower my blood pressure.  And I had another surprise, no more alcohol! What a life changer or maybe a lifesaver! Who knows?
Life would be so easy if we could simply take a pill for each ailment. But, unfortunately, that’s not how it works. For every benefit a medication gives us, there is a drawback. Shortly after my experience with atrial fibrillation, my heart rate was fine, but I was dizzy as hell most of the time. There were times walking the aisles of the grocery store I had to stop and regain my balance. I didn’t dare bend over to pick something off the floor, for fear of falling flat on my face. The only time I felt good was when I was lying down. When I contacted my cardiologist he told me I would “get used to it”.
Along with the constant dizziness, I began to suffer from leg pains and daily sinus pressure, which felt as though my head would explode. I don’t think there were two days in a row when I could say I felt good. After suffering for several months and not getting any help from my primary care physician and cardiologist, I switched doctors. After the first visit, my new cardiologist told me I was overmedicated. I went from three pills a day to one pill a day!
After a while, my dizziness became less of a problem, although I still get dizzy bending over or getting up too quickly (postural hypotension). After extensive research into all of my medications, I learned that one of my BPH drugs caused dizziness and destroys the libido, you know, sex life. This drug was prescribed by my primary care physician, not my urologist. At my yearly urologist visit, I asked to be taken off this medication and was prescribed another drug with less drastic side effects. What a difference! Well, at least in the amount of leg pain and dizziness.
Much of the back pain and joint pain that I experience on an almost daily basis is attributed to arthritis, one of the gifts of old age. So, what can I take for arthritis? OTC painkillers, like ibuprofen, aspirin, and acetaminophen are the most recommended.  That’s good.  They’re cheap and convenient. But there’s a big problem. With the blood pressure and heart rhythm medication, I can’t take aspirin or ibuprofen. I can take acetaminophen, but that does nothing for my pain.
One of the pills I take for BPH is to help me pee less, but one of the pills I take for blood pressure makes me pee more. To help with my breathing problems I can take supplements, but they either raise blood pressure or lower blood pressure. I can’t take cold or sinus medication for my sinus problems, because they will negatively affect both my blood pressure and BPH. I dread getting a cold because there is nothing I can do to alleviate the symptoms.
I’ve learned that the weather, in particular, the barometric pressure causes my joint pain and my sinus pressure to worsen. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do and nothing I can take. I’ll have to learn to live with it. I also have to learn to live with my breathing problems getting worse in the future. That’ll probably be my demise. As far as the BPH is concerned there are no miracle drugs on the horizon, but advances in surgical techniques look promising. With exercise and a healthy diet, hopefully, my blood pressure and Atrial Fibrillation will be okay.
Modern prescription medications are a godsend to many of us suffering from diseases and ailments of old age. But they can also make some conditions worse, or even kill us. We have to be aware of what medications we are taking and if they interact with each other. Too many of us never question our doctors when we are prescribed medications, and that could be dangerous. Drugs affect each of us differently and we know our bodies better than our doctors. We should always ask our prescribers what the possible side effects or contraindications could be with the drugs we are prescribed.


I'm Not Sure If I Am Amused or Ashamed, But I'm Definitely Not Surprised!


Wikimedia Commons
Every day I read some of the news from my hometown, basically to see who among my friends and classmates has passed away. Luckily, for the past few days of checking no one I knew had passed away.  But the news feed was full of the featured story, a fast-food chicken franchise was recently opened. I'm not going to reveal the name of the franchise or the name of my hometown. I doubt that anyone I know from my hometown will ever read this, but I'm still a bit embarrassed.
For three days photos and articles were showing long lines at the fast food restaurant with the ensuing traffic jams.  There was even a picture of the Trump sycophant congresswoman at the grand opening, hoping to grab some headlines for her far-right campaign. It appeared that this was the most significant event the city had seen since the end of WW II.
What was really sad, was reading the comments of some of the residents of my hometown.  You would think this was the second coming of Christ.  Numerous people commented on how the opening of this restaurant would save the town. From what, I don't know. They were thankful "the Lord's chicken" finally came to their little Red town. Amusing, but I'm not surprised.
Now for a little history of my hometown. It is a very Conservative city that has been struggling with high unemployment and poverty ever since I can remember. They have almost always voted Republican and the hardcore Republicans always seem to vote against their best interests. There is little industry there. The largest employer is the US military. The population has been slowly declining since I left. There is a community college, but most people leave the area after graduation, due to the lack of opportunities. It is and has always been a very conservative area, with numerous churches, especially evangelical churches. It is 85% white and predominantly Christian, with very people of Jewish, Muslim, or Eastern Religions. When I live there everyone seemed to get along quite well.

I must admit it was tough, being gay, growing up there. I understand it is much better now, except for your usual religious fanatics.  I can remember when I was in high school our own version of "the Church Lady" fought to ban a certain book at our public library over the nudity in the book. It was a book of Michelangelo's artwork! It seemed back then there was always something the religious nuts wanted to ban, whether they be books, movies, bars, or the gay flag. 

Now back to the "lord's chicken". It seemed odd to me that people bitching about the high price of gas would sit for hours with their car idling, wasting gas, just for a piece of frigging chicken. And the media, instead of covering news or topics that would be of some use to the poor people of the area, cover the opening of a fast-food chain restaurant. I have to admit that I have never been to one of these restaurants because of their financial support for movements to abolish gay marriage and LGBTQ rights. I do not wish to support a business that is trying to destroy my marriage and my life. When I see people in my hometown, lined up to pay for a piece of chicken at a business that supports destroying who and what I am, all in the name of religion, I feel anger and disgust, and even pity.

My hometown is not unique. There are towns like this scattered all over our country. Some are better, and some are worse. I have some good memories of growing up in my hometown and there are a lot of good people there, including many old classmates, but I couldn't go back there to live.  What's the old saying? You can never go home again?







Could an Effective Strategy for Dealing with Acid Reflux Be Worse Than the Disease?

  For years, I have been enduring Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), commonly referred to as acid reflux disease. I frequently experi...