Posted in Health, news, smart devices

Alexa Records and Transmits Private Home Conversation: Are Cell Phones Safe?

Above image from Verge.com

A Portland family’s Amazon Echo recorded a private conversation and sent it to one of their employees without their consent.

Danielle, who’s last name was held private, was discussing with her husband a private conversation that included a discussion on wood flooring.  The Amazon Echo device recorded it, sent it to her husband’s employee who then contacted the couple concerned that their device was “hacked”.

In an interview USA Today, Amazon offered the following explanation:

The Echo woke up when someone in the home said something that sounded to it like “Alexa.” 

Next, the subsequent conversation included something that, to Alexa, sounded like a “send a message” request.

At which point, Alexa said out loud, “To whom?” 

Next, Alexa interpreted the background conversation as a name in the customers’ contact list. 

Alexa then asked, again out loud, “[Contact name], right?” 

Alexa then interpreted background conversation as confirming with, “Right.”

In my opinion the probability of a flooring conversation triggering all these prompts is one in a billion and I suspect these smart home devices are always on and the trigger words prompt a second order task.

Which brings us to the question, do all smart devices record our every sound?

Multiple testimonials have arisen of people finding ads pop up on their social media moments after having a private conversation in their office or home.

An “OK Google” or “Hey Siri” can prompt a listening feature as well, and many sounds, dialects, or word groupings may dupe the technology.  Some have reported a “Lake Erie” or “No noodles!” has triggered their phones to respond back.  If speakers are at a farther distance from the device or overshadowed by other conversations, fumbled word receptions may occur.

CBS News reported the following:

Google and Facebook have both denied using cellphone microphones to collect information for ads. In a statement, Google wrote: “We do not use ambient sound from any device to target ads.” While Facebook didn’t respond to our request for comment, it’s previously said: “We show ads based on people’s interests and other profile information — not what you’re talking out loud about.”

So we want to believe that we’re safe, but the possibility of our private work meetings, dinners, or drives to the in-laws can house evidence of bad mouthing is frightening beyond words.  So this loud mouth is going to start keeping quiet when technology is around…..

 

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician

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Posted in Health, news, Entertainment, sex

Morgan Freeman Accused of Sexual Harassment

It’s not uncommon for older men to lose their “filter” and say or do things that may be sexually inappropriate.

Eight women have accused Morgan Freeman of inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment.  CNN reported that movie set assistants felt compelled to resist his touching their back, lifting one’s skirt, and unwanted comments regarding their bodies and figures.

The Oscar-winning actor allegedly made multiple women uncomfortable with his advances, which had been witnessed by multiple bystandards.

According to the Hollywood Reporter:

…a rep for Freeman provided the following statement from the actor: “Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I am not someone who would intentionally offend or knowingly make anyone feel uneasy. I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected — that was never my intent.”

The Electric Company and Bruce Almighty actor is 80 years old. Which brings up the question, do older men naturally lose control of their sexual urges?

It was a common occurrence during my training and career for an older man to make a sexual advance or grab my behind while I was tending to their medical care.

Common behaviors that were once tolerated in older society may be difficult habits to break in this day and age.  Skirt lifting and commenting on one’s figure were unfortunately common pick up lines and acts that men would do to engage one of the opposite sex.

And if we go back further to caveman days, butt grabbing was an instinctive move to initiate sex (see below).

Hence older men may need to check themselves and be frequently reminded of the new norm that does not tolerate sexual harassment or unwanted touching.

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Butt-grabbing happens to almost every woman. Why?

 

The Butt

Let’s start with the anatomy of the derriere.  It lies inferior to the waist and spine and is composed of the following:  the pelvis, giving it structure; muscles (gluteus mimimus, gluteus medius and gluteus maximus) allowing it to shake and shimmy; fat providing the cushion; and skin to offer a place to don tattoos.

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Purpose of the Butt

So as you see from above, the butt is involved in a variety of actions from hip movement to pelvis stabilization to cushioning of the bones when one falls. However its main purpose involves sexual attraction and activity.

Animal instinct

Humans, by nature, are animals.  True, we eat with a spoon and fork, and know how to navigate Netflix, but according to Mother Nature we are highly specialized animals.  So our bodies were designed at the start to attract each other and mate.

Back in the caveman days, sexual positions were not as well choreographed as they are today.  There was no such thing as the reverse cowgirl.  “Doggie-style” or mating from behind was the norm.  Hence a butt needed to be inviting…round, soft and appearing to allow easy entry into the vagina.  Moreover, cavemen didn’t want to bruise their pelvic bones during sex, hence cushioning was greatly appreciated.

As with most animals, sexual activity starts with the touch of the behind.  Hence its instinct when a man grabs a tushee.

We’re attracted to round shapes

The human body is wrought with shapes…circles, triangles, ovals, etc. and these shapes exist for a reason.

Breasts are round and contain round areola allowing infants easy-to-see shapes so they can navigate towards their food source. Female pubic hair is naturally triangularly distributed creating a landscaped arrow for the mate to go.

So a round protruding tushee, lying beneath a curved and narrow waist, calls to the average mate because humans like round bouncy objects.  That’s why rubber balls are toy and sporting good store favorites.

 

It’s less intrusive than touching the face

Touching a woman’s face or breasts yields a much higher rejection risk than touching a body part that is behind her and not easily visualized.  It could easily be brushed off as an accident if a potential mate wants to save face.

 

So how can a woman avoid getting her butt grabbed?

Do what our Mom’s and Grandma’s do….wear a moo moo.  Older women have learned that if they hide the curves, the waist and their buttocks, no one will grab at their behind.  Avoiding short skirts, jeans, tight-fitting pants, and thong bikinis will hide the animal-enticing shapes.   Moo moos ladies….moo moos…..

 

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Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician

Posted in food, Health, news

Standing NEXT to a Grill Can Increase Cancer Risk

Chinese researchers find the smoke released during grilling to expose one to cancer- causing chemicals.

As we head into the summer, grilling burgers, hotdogs, and steaks are a favorite pastime.  But a small study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology suggests PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), produced during grilling, are inhaled and absorbed through the skin, potentially causing genetic mutations that may cause cancer.

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The study, out of Guangzhou, China, found those consuming the grilled meat had the highest exposure to PAH’s.  Next came those exposed through skin, and finally those inhaling the smoke to be at next greatest risk.

Clothing provided some protection, but once smoke saturated, should be removed to lessen exposure.

The average person is considered safe if they grill in moderation, but excessive exposure could put them at higher risk of PAH-induced cancers such as lung, bladder and skin cancers.

For more on the study read here.

The heating of foods to high temperatures can cause chemical reactions among the amino acids, fats and sugars in foods, producing toxic substances.  Acrylamide, as discussed below, can be formed when heating starches such as potatoes, to high levels.

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What is acrylamide?

Acrylamide is a chemical used in many industrial products that produce plastics, adhesives, food packaging and the treatment of drinking water.  It can also be produced when foods are heated, fried, baked, or roasted to above 120 degrees Celsius (248 degrees Fahrenheit).  In 2002 reports came out regarding acrylamide in french fries, and in 2013 the FDA issued guidance to the food industry on how to minimize producing the chemical.

Roasting coffee requires the beans to be heated to close to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  This heat produces a chemical reaction between the amino acid asparagine and sugars resulting in the formation of acrylamide.

The amounts however are miniscule.  Much smaller than other modes of acrylamide exposure such as cigarette smoking and exposure at work when working in industries that use acrylamide such as plastics, food processing, mining, paper, agriculture and construction.

What can acrylamide do?

In rodents, acrylamide was found to increase several types of cancer. But the doses were 1,000-10,000 times greater than what the average human is exposed to.

According to the American Cancer Society, most of the studies done so far have not found an increased risk of cancer in humans. For some types of cancer, such as kidney, ovarian and endometrial cancer, the results have been mixed, but there are currently no cancer types for which there is clearly an increased risk related to acrylamide intake.

How do I decrease exposure?

As noted earlier, acrylamide can be in a variety of products we use throughout the day.  Large quantities, however, can be consumed through cigarette smoke, hence avoiding smoking is key.  Moreover, avoiding frying foods, especially starches, greater than 120 degrees Celsius/248 degrees Fahrenheit if possible.  Frying and or toasting to a light gold, rather than crispy dark brown color, may limit your exposure as well.

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But keep in mind, numerous studies have found coffee drinkers to lower their risk of cancer, especially liver, uterine, prostate and mouth cancer.  However 4-6 cups had to be consumed in order for researchers to notice a benefit.

More research still needs to be done.  So while we wait for the verdict lets kick back with a cup of …..hot chocolate?

 

 

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio.

She is also a Board Certified Family Physician and Assistant Professor at Touro University Nevada

Posted in Health, news, robots

Will Your Doctor be Replaced by a Robot?

The University College London Hospital (UCLH) in Bloomsbury London is launching a pilot program replacing some A&E (Emergency Room) physicians with robots.

In response to staff shortages and long wait times, the initiative launched by UCLH and Alan Turing will utilize artificial intelligence to triage patients and reduce wait times.

Robotic technology is already being used in the operating room, rehabilitation centers and for pharmaceutical dispensing.  It’s just a matter of time that they become our main caregiver.

But will patients be pleased?

The Robot Is In…

Where’s there’s demand, there’s supply. Patients tired of wait times, crowded waiting rooms, loss of sick leave hours to sit around a medical office or emergency room for half a day will want speed and efficiency.  Kiosks may replace front desk clerks, taking your initial information (chief complaint, name, insurance info.), scanning it and offering you a number, like one given at a bakery.

Robots Don’t Judge

Those embarrassed by having symptoms suggestive of having an STD will have less of an issue conveying this information to a machine than a human being.  Gas, discharge, odors may be easier to discuss with someone or something that won’t wince.

Doctor-and-patient

The Doctor Doesn’t Examine Me Anyway

Many patients cite seeing a medical provider and not being examined or asked to undress before an exam.  Time constraints, or avoidance of being accused of wrong doing, have caused some providers to refer out for heart, gynecological, and rectal examinations.  Primary care providers who enter the room, say a few words and then promptly leave saying they will “bring in the nurse to review instructions” may not be missed by the patient receiving similar service from a robot.

They can always answer my questions

We use Google, Wikipedia and Siri to answer our health questions currently.  No wait time, no office visit, no cost….so a robot answering our questions in layman’s terms will be an easy task.

 

However, and this is the kicker……

 

Robots Lack Instinct

 

There is no way to replicate the sixth sense humans have when it comes to something being wrong with you.  Artificial intelligence cannot provide a “gut feeling”.

Let’s take a urinary tract infection, for example.  I have had patients who were new to my office complaining something “felt funny” when they urinated and cited blood in their urine.  A urinalysis may show inflammatory cells, and a robot may correctly diagnose the patient with a bladder infection.  But I as a clinician may be suspicious that this new patient has something that is leaking blood into the urine, from the gynecological tract maybe? And I’ve diagnosed endometrial and cervical cancer in cases where patients thought they were merely having bladder infections.

One patient presented to me in the emergency room feeling “odd” and suspecting a “UTI.” She was in her 60’s and started to complain of nausea.  Her urine had inflammatory cells so while a culture takes 3 days to complete, I gave her a prescription for antibiotics in case the infection would spread during that time. But her nausea was concerning. The patient requested an injection of nausea medication prior to leaving so I obliged, giving her Compazine.  While observing her for a few minutes, post injection, she began to have shortness of breath.  We decided to look at her heart and came to the conclusion after more testing that she had suffered a heart attack in her sleep the night before and the “odd feeling” she felt the next day wasn’t due to her UTI (which she coincidentally had) but was from a heart attack. She was treated immediately and recovered nicely.

Would a robot have picked up on that?  Multiple web resources include nausea in the list of symptoms associated with a UTI, so could be “blown off” by a robot bundling it with the patient’s urinary complaints. But I learned that nausea could be the first sign of a heart attack, especially in women.

Another case I had as an urgent care physician was the following:

A gentlemen came in saying he “felt fine” but his wife made him come in because he was burping the night before.  Multiple bouts of eructation jogged an ancient memory of mine…..when as a little girl I saw a movie where the pilot was burping multiple times before he passed out and died.  So I came to learn that chronic bouts of burps, or hiccups for that matter, could be a sign of an inferior MI (heart attack). I ran an EKG and blood work, and my instinct was right.  Again I was looking at a patient who unknowingly had a heart attack the night before but thought he had something benign the next day.

So gut instinct, thinking laterally, tapping in on past experience, and acting on hunches is not something a robot can do.  Humans may be satisfied with shorter wait times and receiving antibiotics when they demand them, but the education and intervention a medical provider can provide is priceless.  Too bad cost gets in the way of real medicine.

 

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio.

She is also a Board Certified Family Physician and Assistant Professor at Touro University Nevada

 

Posted in Health, news, volcano

Health Risks of Volcanic Ash Now Include “Laze”

Hawaii’s Kilauea has been spewing lava, prompting thousands of nearby residents to evacuate.

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Now a new risk threatens nearby residents:  Laze.

Laze, “lava + haze”, occurs when the lava reaches the ocean. When lava meets seawater, plumes of hydrochloric acid and volcanic ash enter the air.  This can cause significant eye, lung and skin irritation.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) warns this can be deadly. They also report sulfur dioxide emissions from the eruptions have tripled.

Residents are urged to avoid areas where lava has met the ocean.

Volcanic ash can prompt a multitude of health risks…not only from a particulate standpoint but also from the sulfur dioxide levels.  Sulfur dioxide is a colorless, though stinky gas that can cause irritation to skin, eyes, and respiratory system linings.

Let’s break these health risks down:

 

Respiratory Illness

Volcanic ash can irritate the respiratory passages causing the following symptoms:

  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Mucous production
  • Shortness of breath
  • Painful breathing

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Those with asthma, COPD, chronic bronchitis or other respiratory ailments may find themselves having exacerbations of their symptoms. Oxygen requirements will increase. Those requiring oxygen or inhalers will need to have extra supply during this time (medical offices may be closed during ash clean up so don’t wait until the last minute.)

Eye Issues

Volcanic ash has large and small particles that can irritate the eyes increasing their sensitivity to light and making vision difficult.  Moreover ash can irritate the cornea and conjunctiva causing redness, discharge and itching.

 

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Skin Reactions

Skin may become irritated during these times and those with skin allergies or eczema may find themselves having flare-ups.

Road Visibility

During a volcanic eruption, smoke plumes not only change the air quality but also visibility.  During times of day when there is less light, road visibility obscures pedestrians and nearby cars.  Drivers are urged to avoid the road during these smoky times.

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Water

Water quality can become affected by the ash or pH changes if supply becomes  contaminated. Moreover, water use increases for cleanup so shortages may ensue.

Short blood supply

Those who donate blood in nearby areas may be less likely to donate during this difficult time leading to local blood shortages.  Those who can donate blood are urged to contact the American Red Cross, United Blood Services, or Blood Bank of Hawaii.

 

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio.

She is also a Board Certified Family Physician and Assistant Professor at Touro University Nevada

 

Posted in Health, news, travel

Memorial Day Weekend Safety Tips

 

Memorial Day is this weekend and the country honors those who have sacrificed for our freedom.  Many of us will travel and enjoy the outdoors.  However, according to a study by the National Coalition for Safer Roads, Memorial Day Weekend is the most dangerous holiday for road and highway accidents.  Additionally, water injuries, including drownings may rise this weekend.  Grill injuries can occur, and throughout the US we are seeing record high temperatures.  We need to stay safe out in the sun, by the grill, in the water and on the roads.

 

Sun Safety

 

Record heat and extended time outdoors can increase the risk of heat illness.  Hydrate, stay in the shade and protect your skin from damaging UV rays.

Sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater should be applied 15-30 minutes prior to going outside and reapplied every two hours or more often if swimming.

Avoid excessive alcohol as it could accelerate dehydration and put one at greater risk of injuries and heat exhaustion.

For more on heat exhaustion and heat stroke read here.

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Grill Safety

 

In 2012, a man caught on fire after spraying sunscreen prior to heading over to the grill. He sustained multiple second degree burns.

Sunscreen may be flammable, so make sure it is dry prior to grilling or use a lotion instead of spray on.

Keep the grill outdoors but away from low roofing, branches, and trees. Watch the little kids and keep them and the pets away from the barbecue.

Assign someone to watch the grill if you need to step a way during grilling.

 

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Do not add lighter fluid to already ignited coals.

If someone does catch on fire, remember to have them stop, drop and roll on the ground until the flames expire.  Call 9-1-1 and remove any jewelry or tight clothes around the area..

If a minor burn injury does occur, run it under cool (not cold) water for 10-20 minutes. Avoid applying ice to the burn as it can damage the skin.  Also remove nearby jewelry.

Bandage and see a medical provider if concerned with your injury.

 

Water Safety

 

Avoid drinking alcohol when swimming or engaging in water sports.

Make sure you are in arm’s reach of your kids in the water.

Use life vests while boating and make sure the kids are wearing appropriate sized vests.

Never swim alone. Always have a buddy.

 

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Road Safety

 

Know your route to avoid you checking your GPS app while you drive.

Allow extra travel time and don’t rush.  Expect travel delays coming home as well.

Consider leaving a day or two early or a day or two late to avoid congested traffic.

Drive the speed limit and avoid tailgating, leaving at least 2 seconds between you and the car ahead of you.

Make sure you have plenty of water, supplies and a first aid kit in the car in case you get stuck on the highway.

 

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Have a happy and safe Memorial Day Weekend!

 

                                                                                                      

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio.

She is also a Board Certified Family Physician and Assistant Professor at Touro University Nevada

Posted in Health, news, weather

Heat Illness and Heat Stroke Explained

 

The National Weather Service will soon issue an “excessive heat warning” for many parts of the Southwest United States.  Phoenix received their first warning two weeks ago when their temperatures rose to 108 degrees.

What is an “excessive heat warning?”

This occurs “within 12 hours of the onset of extremely dangerous heat conditions”. This means that the heat index (air temperature and humidity) will be greater than 105 degrees for more than three hours a day for at least two days in a row and the night-time temperatures will not drop below 75 degrees. Although many of us may live in areas where this occurs each year, the onset can be one of the most dangerous times.  Symptoms such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke must be identified.

What are Heat Cramps?

At first when one feels symptoms, it may come in the form of heat cramps. Heat cramps are painful spasms that occur in the muscles of the arms and legs and even abdomen. We believe that when one loses fluids and salts from excessive sweating, cramps ensue. Its important in these cases to get the person out of the heat, hydrate them with sips of fluid and electrolytes and massage the body parts affected.

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What is Heat Exhaustion?

If one does not leave the heat and come indoors, the next risky event that can occur is heat exhaustion. This worsens as the victim sweats profusely becoming more and more dehydrated. They could also have cramps but nausea may ensue, they may look pale and clammy and their heart rate will increase to try to compensate for the lost fluid. These individuals may become dizzy, weak and even faint. Immediately bring the person indoors, lie them down, elevate the feet, give sips of fluid, cool down the body applying cool and wet cloths to the underarms and body, and contact medical authorities if symptoms continue or worsen.

 

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IMAGE FROM MEDSTAR

What is Heat Stroke?

Heat stroke will occur if a vulnerable person does not get out of the heat in time. It is a medical emergency and can be fatal. If an individual has heat stroke 9-1-1 must be called immediately. Bring the victim indoors away from sunlight, lie them down, remove unnecessary clothing, cool their body with cold compresses and watch for signs of rapidly progressive heat stroke in which they have difficulty breathing, seize or lose consciousness. If they are unconscious you cannot give them fluids. Only if they are alert, awake and able to swallow will you be able to give fluids. Do not give medications to reduce the fever such as aspirin or acetaminophen since their body may not be able to metabolize them properly and this could make matters worse.

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Who is vulnerable to heat related illness?

Young children and elderly individuals may have issues adjusting to the outside environment and may be more prone to dehydration. Those with medical conditions such as heart, lung, thyroid disease can be at risk as well. If you’ve ever suffered from heat stroke you can be vulnerable again. And many medications could make you susceptible such as diuretics, vasodilators and beta-blockers for blood pressure and antidepressants.

The biggest risk comes when we are unprepared. Having an unusual cool week prior to a heat warning could preclude many from taking proper precautions. Staying indoors, checking air conditioning and fan devices to make sure they work properly, wearing cooler clothing is just the beginning. Stocking up and planning to hydrate frequently is paramount because when death occurs to excessive heat, dehydration is the main culprit.

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Bring your pets indoors, and watch your kids, friends and family members frequently. If they are beginning to succumb to the heat, they may be quiet and not be able to voice it.

 

 

Avoid drinking alcohol in the heat. It can dehydrate you more and worsen the situation.

Avoid excessive exercise when outdoors and make sure to make use of shady areas.

The summer and early fall offer exciting and fun ways to enjoy nature. Don’t let the heat get to you. Remember….if you can’t take the heat, get out of the…..well heat…….

 

 

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio.

She is also a Board Certified Family Physician and Assistant Professor at Touro University Nevada