Women entering menopause aren’t sleeping, which is bad for the heart

Ladies, we’re not sleeping.

A study that looked at 2015 data from the National Center for Health Statistics found that 56 percent of women ages 40 to 59 who were perimenopausal slept less than seven hours a day. Of their premenopausal  and postmenopausal counterparts, 32.5 percent and 40.5 percent were sleeping less than seven hours a day.

Are you having trouble sleeping? Hormone changes and sleep apnea from menopause could be the reason. Shutterstock

And once we are postmenopausal, we have trouble falling asleep 27.1 percent and staying asleep 35.9 percent. More than half  of us (55.1 percent) woke up not feeling well-rested.

Those are a lot of years of not sleeping, not falling asleep, not sleeping through the night and not waking up feeling rested.

Why does any of this matter?

Of course, you’re not at your best when you’re exhausted. We know we don’t make good decisions when operating a motor vehicle.

But do you know that not getting enough sleep and not getting good quality of sleep can triple the risk for a heart attack?

Dr. Stanley Wang, Heart Hospital of Austin

Dr. Stanley Wang, a cardiologist and director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Heart Hospital of Austin, likens lack of sleep to smoking a pack and a half of cigarettes a day. “It’s a major cardiac risk factor,” he says.

The changes in hormone level during menopause is a double threat to our hearts. We aren’t sleeping as much or as well, and menopause also increases the amount of plaque build up in the arteries, increases blood pressure and the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Wang says, we think of heart disease as a mostly male disorder. “That’s partially true before menopause, but then in menopause women catch up.”

One thing that happens as we age is the increase occurrence of sleep apnea. The lack of progesterone causes us to not sleep as well, and it causes the muscles around the airway to become more lax.

Wang encourages women who are not waking up feeling rested to do a sleep study. Those no longer have to be done in a hospital setting. Now a machine can be sent to you and it can record your sleep in your own home.

He also recommends practicing good sleep hygiene:

Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every day.

Avoid caffeine and exercise at night.

Avoid smart phones at night because the lighting actually wakes you up.

Avoid large amounts of food or fluid late at night.

Don’t take naps.

Take a hot shower or bath right before bed.

Keep your bedroom temperature cool.

And for those of you that think it’s your bladder that is causing you to wake up at night. It’s not, Wang says. You might actually have been awakened by sleep apnea and not your bladder. He recommends talking to your doctor about the possibility of sleep apnea if you have this or other sleep problems, such as snoring or daytime sleepiness.






Laughing gas through labor? Seton now joins Austin centers that offer it

Seton Medical Center has just added to a handful of its labor and delivery rooms something you might think of as only being used at the dentist’s office: nitrous oxide aka laughing gas.

South County Hospital nurse midwife Cynthia Voytas demonstrates how to use the nitrous oxide mask. (Kristin Espeland Gourlay/RINPR/Kaiser Health News)

Why? Moms in labor in Europe have been using laughing gas for decades, and it’s recently gaining favor in the U.S., especially in California. Natural birthing centers like Austin Area Birthing Center and Natural Beginning Birth Center have been offering nitrous oxide to their patients as well. The hospitals are starting to catch up.

Laughing gas doesn’t have some of the side effects (the loopiness and loss of control) that narcotics like Demerol  or other pain medications have, and it doesn’t affect the baby’s heart rate. The only thing that could happen is nausea or vomiting for the mom, but that’s rare.

It’s also short acting. A mom can put the laughing gas mask to her face just before a contraction starts or during a contraction and then remove the mask after it’s passed. She will only feel the effects of the gas when she’s breathing it in.

She can’t overdose either, because she’s the one holding the mask to her face. If she got too much, she wouldn’t be able to continue to hold the mask to her face because she would be asleep.

If you’ve had laughing gas in the dentist office and didn’t like how you felt, this is a different formula. It’s a 50 percent nitrogen, 50 percent oxygen for moms in labor. For people in the dentist office, it’s a 70 percent nitrogen 30 percent oxygen formula.

Dr. Sally Grogono is an obstetrician at Seton Medical Center.

It actually doesn’t stop the mom from feeling the labor pain. She just doesn’t care about the pain, says Dr. Sally Grogono, an obstetrician at Seton Medical Center.

“I think it’s amazing,” says Grogono, who helped encourage Seton to add the nitrous oxide hookups in the rooms.

“A lot of our natural labor moms  just need something little to take the edge off,” she says.

Sometimes women can stall out in labor because they are tensing because of the pain. This would help them not do that. “Child birth is very anxiety producing for all the patients,” Grogono says. Because they control when and how often they are getting the gas, they have more control over the pain.

They usually only use it at the height of labor, but don’t need it during the pushing stage.

The only women who should not use it are people with multiple sclerosis and people with a severe B-12 deficiency.

Since Seton began offering it two weeks ago, Grogono has heard good reports from the labor and delivery nurses. She’s now educating her patients that it’s an option for them. They would just have to request that they be put in a room that has it.

“It’s not going to work for everybody, but it’s a great tool for our patients,” Grogono says.

Pumpkin patches are back and more family fun this weekend, Sept. 22-24

It’s going to be a beautiful weekend. Time to get out there and enjoy something new in the world of family events.



Barton Hill Farms in Bastrop has a themed corn maze for the season. You ll find a pumpkin patch, farm animals, face painting, a 2,000-square-foot jumping pillow, a train and food.
Photos: Barton Hill Farms

Wildflower Center. Sprouts. Hands-on preschool program. 10 a.m. Fridays. Nature Play Hour. Play in the Family Garden. 11 a.m. Saturdays. Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave. wildflower.org

Thinkery. Little Thinkers Club. Get Into Shapes. 9:45 a.m. for 2-year-olds, 10:45 a.m. for 3-year-olds, Fridays, through Oct. 27. $20 per class, $140 for the series. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

Texas Museum of Science & Technology.  Star Party. Look at the stars. 9 p.m. Fridays. Texas Museum of Science & Technology, 1220 Toro Grande Drive, Cedar Park. txmost.org

Texas Museum of Science & Technology. Museum reopening. The museum reopens and reveals two new exhibitions: “The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Drugs: Costs and Consequences,” and “Leonardo da Vinci’s Machines in Motion” as well as a revamped “Timewalk” dinosaur and fossil exhibition. Friday. Texas Museum of Science & Technology, 1220 Toro Grande Drive, Cedar Park.

“The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” with Chase Brewer as Peter and Leslie Ann Leal as Lucy is a Zach Theatre through Feb. 10. Kirk Tuck


Zach Theatre presents “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.” Head to Narnia in the C.S. Lewis tale.  7 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Saturday. More shows through Feb. 10. $18-$24. Whisenhunt Stage, 1510 Toomey Road. zachtheatre.org


Toybrary Austin. Date night babysitting. For ages 1-5. $25 first child, $10 siblings. 5-8 p.m. Saturdays.  Toybrary Austin, 2001 Justin Lane. toybraryaustin.com

Thinkery. Baby Bloomers. Learn about colors. For infant to 3. 9 a.m. Saturdays. Special guests throughout the month. $5. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

Wildflower Center. Nature Play Hour. Play in the Family Garden. 11 a.m. Saturdays. Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave. wildflower.org

Second Annual Austin Skipathon. Skip around Mueller Lake Park while helping Foster Angels of Central Texas. $25 per person, free for children younger than 5. 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. austinskipathon.com

Youth Football Clinic. For ages 5-10. 9 a.m.-noon Saturday. Free. Gus Garcia Recreation Center, 1201 E. Runberg Lane. austintexas.gov

Museum Day Live! Museums connected to the Smithsonian will be open for free on Saturday. You can get a ticket and see which museums are free at smithsonian.com/museumday

“The Selfish Giant” is at Austin Playhouse.

Austin Playhouse presents “The Selfish Giant.” Austin Playhouse adapts this Oscar Wilde story of a giant that builds a wall to keep children out. Noon and 2 p.m. Saturday. Pick your price. Austin Playhouse at Austin Community College’s Highland Campus, 6001 Airport Blvd., South Entrance. austinplayhouse.com

BookPeople events. Patrick Ness reads “Release.” 6 p.m. Saturday. Paige Britt reads “Why Am I Me?” 2 p.m. Saturday. Story times: Illustrator Spotlight. 11:30 a.m. Saturday. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com

Barnes & Noble Events: Jason Gallaher reads “Whobert Whover, Owl Detective,” 11 a.m. Saturday, Arboretum. 11 a.m. Saturday story time at all locations:  “Big Words for Little Geniuses.”

Saturday and Sunday

Thinkery. Back to School Makershop. Make your own pencil bag. For ages 4 and up. 11:15 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $8. For ages 8 and up. 3:15 p.m. Sunday. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

Sweet Berry Farm. Hay rides, corn mazes, pick your own pumpkins and more. 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday, through Nov. 8. Pay per activity. 1801 FM 1980, ​Marble Falls. sweetberryfarm.com

Robinson Family Farm Pumpkin Patch. Go through a corn maze, go on a hay ride, pet the goats and pick a pumpkin. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 29. Free, but pay for each activities and pumpkins. 3780 White Owl Lane, Temple. therobinsonfamilyfarm.com

Barton Hill Farms. Corn maze, farm animals and more than 30 activities, plus pumpkin picking. 10 a.m.-8 pm. Saturdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays, through Nov. 5. $14, extra for pumpkins and face painting. 1115 FM 969, Bastrop. bartonhillfarms.com


Parents, tell your teens synthetic marijuana is no joke

We’ve done a lot of stories about K2, aka synthetic marijuana, and a rash of overdoses and death, especially among the homeless population in Austin.

That seems like something that happens to other people, not our teens, right?

Austin police seized 400 packets of the synthetic drug K2 last year. The drugs come in fun, colorful packets, but you don’t really know what’s in them. Philip Jankowski American-Statesman

John O’Neill knows that’s not true. He’s the clinical director and vice president of Phoenix House drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers, which has centers in Austin and Round Rock. Synthetic marijuana addiction in teens is second only to marijuana addiction.

Why is that? Synthetic marijuana is easier for teens to get than alcohol, opioids or other drugs, and it’s often cheaper than marijuana. It’s sold in smoke shops under crazy names like Tiger’s Breath, Yucatan Skunk, Joker, Black Mamba, Kronic.

“They market it as natural herbs, natural materials, like it’s not something bad for you,” O’Neill says. Yet kids don’t know what’s in it, and they don’t know how it might affect them. Every batch can be different.

“The argument that teenagers will make is ‘it’s not a big deal. I can get it in the store,’” O’Neill says. “It’s absolutely without a doubt destructive and harmful.”

John J. O Neill is the vice president and clinical director for Phoenix House drug and alcohol addiction centers.

And in teens, it’s even more harmful because their brains are not fully developed. That doesn’t happen to around age 25. What synthetic marijuana does do is alter the brain chemistry. Users can have psychotic issues, aggression and hallucinations.

Parents should look for these signs:

  • Withdrawing from family and friends.
  • Change in attitude more so than is developmentally normal.
  • Disconnection to usual interests.
  • Dropping out of activities.
  • Becoming more secretive.
  • Holding onto their backpack like it’s gold.
  • Withdrawing into their room.
  • Agitation.
  • Aggression.
  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns.
  • Euphoria.
  • Paranoia.
  • Excessive emotions.

“When parents are paying attention, they have an instinct that something is going on,” O’Neill says. “Paying attention can be difference between life and death.”

One thing to pay attention to is what are their friends doing and what are the drugs going around their school. If one of their friends gets caught with drugs, start asking questions. Don’t assume it was just what that friend or someone in their friend group was doing.

Austin Police Department officers and paramedics tend to a women who had collapsed in front of the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless in April. Police say she lost consciousness most likely due to K2, the synthetic marijuana drug that has been negatively effecting Austin’s homeless population for the last two years. TAMIR KALIFA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“The most important thing any family can do is not hesitate in having conversations with teenagers about the substances and substance use,” O’Neill says. “Be open and honest and direct. It’s easy as a parent to hope and assume and have good thoughts that they are not messing with that. We have to assume that they all have access to those substances.”

What starts out as a way to have fun on a weekend then becomes something they need to escape whatever is going on in their lives that is difficult.

When O’Neill treats teens, he treats the whole family and whatever is beneath that need to escape. Sometimes there could be mental health issues as well. It might mean outpatient treatment or it could mean residential treatment for a time and then outpatient later, but all of it has a whole-family component.

“It’s easy to say, ‘That’s not my problem. That’s your problem.’ It’s everyone’s problem,”he says. He likens addiction to the tiger in the room. It’s not only the person closest to the tiger that could be hurt by the tiger. “We’ve got to figure out how to manage it or it’s going to eat us all.”

American Academy of Pediatrics reports: Kids are addicted to opioids, too

Last week I made a decision that could have altered the course of my child’s life. As my 13-year-old was waking up in the hospital recovery room from an outpatient procedure, I was offered the choice of giving her Tylenol or oxycodone for the pain. Really? Tylenol or oxycodone?

The choice was obvious to me. Tylenol. I’ll risk the possible liver damage if she overused that one. I won’t risk a lifetime of opioid addiction and a potential death from overdose from the other. It made me think: Why aren’t there better choices, something that’s more than Tylenol but not addictive like an opioid?

The opioid epidemic doesn’t just affect adults. (Dreamstime)

The American Academy of Pediatrics is also asking that question.

At its national conference happening right now, the American Academy of Pediatrics has been talking about opioid addiction and kids. Researchers presented the study  “Adverse Effects from Opioid Use in Hospitalized Children in the United States: a 9-year trend from 2003 to 2012,” on Friday, and on Monday, “Opioid abuse in children: An emerging public health crisis,” is being presented.

There are two things going on here: Kids who are hospitalized become addicted to opioid painkillers because of their hospitalization and kids who come into the emergency room already have an addiction.

The first study looked at hospital stay records for kids ages 1 month to 17 years as reported in the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Kids’ Inpatient Database.

“We found opioid-related problems were relatively common in hospitalized children,” said abstract author Dr. Jessica Barreto in a press release. For every 10,000 discharges during those years, 16.6 children left with opioid-related problems. And it’s on the rise, in 2003, it was 13.3 children by 2012, that grew to 20.8.

Opioid withdrawal problems affected 3.1 percent of the hospitalized children. They also had opioid-related constipation, altered mental status, urinary retention, cardiac arrest and anaphylaxis.

“For the past two decades, doctors have been increasingly recognizing and treating pain in children. Unfortunately, the efforts to improve pain management in children have led to a significant rise in the use of opioids both within hospitals as well as in the outpatient setting,” Barreto said, she’s a pediatric resident at at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami.

She’s recommending further study of pain and children as well as more options for less toxic pain medication for children.

The second study looked at 2008-2013 data from the Nationwide Emergency Department.

That study found that the number of patients 21 and younger that tested positive for opioids rose from 32,235 in 2008 to 49,626 in 2013. “It was very concerning to see that by the last year we studied, an average of 135 children each day were testing positive for opioid addiction or dependency in emergency departments,” said Dr. Veerajalandhar Allareddy, one of the abstract’s authors and medical director of the pediatric intensive care unit at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, in a press release.  “In our opinion, this is a pediatric public health crisis,” he said.

One-third of those who tested positive were then admitted into the hospital, but this varied base on income level, with higher income level kids being more likely to be hospitalized for their addiction than their lower-income peers.

Skip the tattoos and piercings, kids

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers this advice to its pediatricians: Warn teens about the dangers of tattoos, piercings and scarification (that’s creating scars in a design).

A report out Monday does acknowledge that most of the time these things can be done safely and the stigma that used to come with them is fading. Still the academy wants its doctors to make sure that teens are thinking through the long-term outcomes when it comes to these permanent modifications. In Texas, you have to be 18 or have a parent’s consent to get a tattoo or piercing.

Dr. Cora C. Breuner, who authored the report and is the chair of the AAP Committee on Adolescence, offers these talking points to pediatricians: 

First-grader Alysha Phillips enjoys getting tattooed by Dave Trout Lemley of Bikers Against Child Abuse. Temporary tattoos might be the way to go, kids.FRAN HUNTER FOR BASTROP ADVERTISER 2016

Tattoos and henna:

  • Remind teens and their families that tattoos are permanent and removal is difficult, expensive and only partially effective.
  • Those with a history of keloid formation should avoid body modifications that puncture the skin.
  • Assess the sanitary and hygiene practices of the tattoo parlors and tattoo artists.
  • Seek medical care if there are signs and symptoms of infection. Lesions that appear to grow or change within a tattoo require evaluation for neoplasms.
  • There is a risk of hemolysis with red henna temporary tattoos for those with a positive glucose-6-dehydrogenase deficiency. Black henna temporary tattoos should be avoided because of the significant rate of sensitization.
  • Patients should be counseled about the potential effects on employment and education if tattoos are visible.
Joey Armstrong of Thunderhand Tattoo in Richland, Wash., works on a shoulder piece at the Star of Texas Tattoo Art Revival expo. Pediatricians want kids to know the risk before they get a tattoo. Daulton Venglar/AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2017

Piercings and stretching:

  • Rinsing with nonprescription oral cleansers or topical application of cleansers can help prevent infection after oral piercing.
  • Antibiotic agents with good coverage against Pseudomonas and Staphylococcus species (e.g., fluoroquinolones) are advised when treating piercing-associated infections of the auricular (ear) cartilage.
  • At piercing establishments, the piercer should be observed putting on new disposable gloves and removing new equipment from a sterile container.
  • Teens contemplating tongue piercing should know of the high incidence of tooth chipping that can occur.
  • Remind patients who have piercings to remove all jewelry during contact sports to avoid endangering the wearer and other players. Jewelry that interferes with mouthguards or protective equipment also should be removed before play. Nipple jewelry should be removed before breastfeeding.
  • Counsel teens about potential implications on employment and education if piercings are visible.


  • Inform teens with a personal or family history of keloids of the risk associated with scarification (the practice of intentionally irritating the skin to cause a permanent pattern of scar tissue) and other body modification processes.
  • Infections resulting from scarification may be treated like other skin or soft tissue infections.

Your kid’s grades might predict drug use, other risky behaviors

Good grades really do matter. This month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at data from the 2015  Youth Risk Behavior Survey to figure out if there was a link between a student’s grades and risky behavior. The study found that in 30 health behaviors, the students with poor grades were more likely to report higher levels of risky behavior and the opposite was true as well.

Sixth grade teacher Sarita Lakey, left, greets student Brayan Lopez, as he arrives at Austin Achieve public school for the start of a new school year. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Here are some  key observations:


The CDC recommends that schools districts and states fund programs that support the social emotional learning, not just academic learning.


“As our nation’s children embark on another school year, it’s important to remember that health and academic performance are not mutually exclusive,” said CDC Director  Dr.B renda Fitzgerald in a press release. “When it comes to youth, health and education professionals should work in concert with communities and parents to help them create the best possible environment for the health, well-being and future success of the next generation.”

The thing that strikes me: Kids who eat breakfast, kids who are physically active, kids who attend school, kids who make good grades: those are usually kids who have someone paying attention to what they are doing. They are being set up for success.

Dell Children’s adds Dell Medical School experts to its childhood obesity program

YMCA of Austin’s MEND program includes an hour of exercise while kids’ parents talk about how to support healthier choices.

Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas has had a program that focused on nutrition and exercise for kids who are at risk for obesity or already obese. Now it is teaming up with experts at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas to use its experts as well as expand the obesity program to not just focus on nutrition and exercise but also diseases that often are seen in people who are obese.

Children participating in the program will have access to experts in heart, diabetes and hormones, kidneys, liver and mental health.  Doctors will be watching for Type 2 diabetes, which more teens are getting; heart and kidney disease,  asthma, sleep apnea and bone and joint problems.

Dr. Steve Abrams is the chair of pediatrics at Dell Medical School at UT Austin.

One of the experts that will be involved in the program is Dell Medical School’s Dr. Steven Abrams, a nationally recognized expert in childhood nutrition who helped write new guidelines about fruit juice and children. He will be leading the redesign of the program along with the Department of Population Health at the school.

“This comprehensive program is designed to address multiple, complex medical issues that often go hand-in-hand with obesity,” Abrams said in a press release. “We look forward to addressing these issues and helping children and their families live healthier lives.”




Plan for the future of your child with special needs at Marbridge expo Saturday

Marbridge resident Barbara Jones eats dinner with Ronnie Farrell in the dining room at Marbridge. 

Marbridge, a nonprofit residential community for people with intellectual disabilitie, is hosting an conference Saturday to help parents of children with disabilities plan for their future. Topics include how to legally protect your assets and preserve benefits for your child; how to understand Social Security benefits, Medicaid, Medicare and more; employment opportunities; local nonprofit organizations that can help; and life planning.

The World of Opportunities Expo is free and runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  at Marbridge, 2310 Bliss Spillar Road, Manchaca. You should RSVP at 512-282-1144; cjohnston@Marbridge.org


What will the hot toys be this Christmas? We have some predictions

It’s always a gamble: Do you buy the toy as soon as you see it for fear that it will be a Hatchimal situation of 2016 or a Tickle Me Elmo of 1996 or a Furby of 1998 or do you wait until you see a deal — like a 50 percent off deal?


The Star Wars Porg is at Target already.

DealNews.com, a site that tracks deals, has these predictions for the hot toys of the year (aka, the ones you want to grab now and not wait for a better price):

Hatchimal: Yes, they’re still hot. Your kid will still want one.


“Star Wars: Last Jedi” Porg: We’re hoping for the film’s sake that Porg isn’t another Jar Jar Binks. It really looks like a hamster, so maybe it’s more Ewok cute than Jar Jar annoying.


My Little Pony: The new movie is out next month. Everyone will want Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle ponies, right?

Legos: They are always classic and you can never get enough. Watch your parents struggle to follow the picture instructions for  hours. Watch how you build it in minutes. It’s great family fun.

“Coco” toys: This new Disney movie about a boy who wants to become a musician and travels to the Land of the Dead to do so, reminds us of “The Book of Life.” We know kids will want Miguel’s companion dog, Dante. They’ll probably also want the actual dog — the Xolo breed.