Pixel Tracker

Monday, March 18 , 2019, 11:06 pm | Fair 53º

Your Health

Scott LaFee: Elderly Drivers, and the Car Giving and Taking Away

At some point, almost everybody becomes too old to drive — safely. But deciding when is often left to caregivers, as most drivers don’t see the end of the road until, well, something bad happens.

It’s a fraught time. No one wants to lose the independence that driving provides. According to surveys, adult children say the “car key conversation” is harder than discussing funeral plans or selling the family home. Physicians wrestle with whether they should step in and what their legal liability might be.

Statistics show that, per mile driven, drivers over the age of 75 are almost as dangerous as teens. Driver errors tend to increase with age and diminishing physical abilities, perhaps compounded by greater use of medications that impair senses or attention.

Here are eight ways to stop an elderly person from driving. Caveat: None is guaranteed, and none is necessarily easy to do.

» Anonymously report them to the DMV.

» Use Alzheimer’s disease or dementia forgetfulness as an opportunity to remove the car and any reminders of driving. Distract them until they forget about driving altogether.

» Have a relative or close friend “borrow” the car.

» Hide or “lose” the keys.

» Take the car in for repairs.

» Disable the car.

» Sell the car.

» Hide your own car and car keys.

Readers’ Digest

It varies by individual, and men tend to do it faster than women. But generally speaking, it takes six to eight hours for food to pass through your stomach and small intestine before entering the large intestine (colon) for some additional digestion, water absorption and preparation as waste.

Not surprisingly, different foods digest at different rates. Carbohydrates break down most quickly, especially refined or processed carbs such as those in white bread or table sugar. Carbs with higher levels of fiber, such as those found in whole fruits and grains, digest slower. Proteins are more complex molecules, and dismantling them takes more time. Fats are slower to digest as well.

Here’s a rough timetable for some edibles: Water moves into the intestine almost immediately upon being consumed. Fruit juice: 15 to 20 minutes. Raw vegetables: 30 to 40 minutes. Fish: 45 to 60 minutes. Salad with oil: 1 hour. Starchy vegetables or chicken: 1½ to 2 hours. Whole grains and dairy: 2 hours. Nuts or beef: 3 hours. Lamb: 4 hours. Pork: 5 hours.

Get Me That, Stat!

According to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, only 1 in 3 children in the United States are physically active every day. So it follows that, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, that almost 20 percent of American youth, ages 12 to 19, are obese.


15-18: Number of people, in millions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates have come down with the flu so far this season

184-221: Number of people, in thousands, who have been hospitalized for their illnesses


Mania of the Week

Logomania: A compulsive tendency to be wordy, talkative or loquacious. Not to be confused with Legomania, an obsession with small plastic building bricks manufactured in Denmark.

Never Say ‘Diet’

The Major League speed-eating record for vinegar pickles is 2.7 pounds in 6 minutes, held by Brian Seiken of Brooklyn, who happily suffered no dill effects.


“The bottom line is I’m blessed with good health. On top of that, I don’t go around thinking, ‘Oh, I’m 90, I better do this or I better do that.’ I’m just Betty. I’m the same Betty that I’ve always been. Take it or leave it.” — Actress Betty White, now age 97

Ig Nobel Apprised

The Ig Nobel Prizes celebrate achievements that make people laugh, then think — looks at real science that are hard to take seriously and even harder to ignore.

In 2004, the Ig Nobel Prize in psychology went to Daniel Simons of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Christopher Chabris of Harvard University for demonstrating that when people pay close attention to something, it’s all too easy to overlook everything else — even a woman in a gorilla suit.

Publish or Perish the Thought

Many, if not most, published research papers have titles that defy comprehension. They use specialized jargon, complex words and opaque phrases like “nonlinear dynamics.” Sometimes they don’t, and they’re still hard to figure out. Here’s an actual title of actual published research:

“On human odour, malaria mosquitoes and Limburger cheese” by Bart G.J. Knols. The Lancet. Nov. 9, 1996.


Q: Where is your “anatomical snuffbox”?

A: Hold out your hand, fingers extended. You should see a triangular deepening on the top of the hand below the base of the thumb (inside part of wrist). “Anatomical snuffbox” originates from the use of this surface for placing and then sniffing powdered tobacco or snuff, a habit popular in the 16th through 18th centuries among certain European social classes.

Fit to Be Tried

There are thousands of exercises, and you’ve only got one body, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try them all:

The hip raise: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Brace your core, squeeze your glutes (butt muscles) and raise your hips so your body forms a straight diagonal line from your shoulders to your knees. Pause for 5 seconds, squeezing your glutes tightly the entire time, and then lower back to the start. Repeat.

The hip raise targets the muscles of your rear end, which can help flatten your belly. When the glutes are weak, the top of the pelvis tilts forward, causing the stomach to stick out and stressing the lower back.

Curtain Calls

According to Valerius Maximus, a first-century Roman historian, the ancient Greek tragedian Aeschylus was killed by a tortoise dropped by an eagle that mistook his bald head for a rock upon which to shatter the shell of the reptile. Pliny, another Roman historian, observed that Aeschylus had been staying outdoors to avert a prophecy that said he would be killed by a falling object.

Scott LaFee is a staff writer at UC San Diego Health and the former chief science writer at The San Diego Union-Tribune, where he covered science, medicine and technology. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Support Noozhawk Today!

Our professional journalists work tirelessly to report on local news so you can be more informed and engaged in your community. This quality, local reporting is free for you to read and share, but it's not free to produce.

You count on us to deliver timely, relevant local news, 24/7. Can we count on you to invest in our newsroom and help secure its future?

We provide special member benefits to show how much we appreciate your support.

I would like give...
Great! You're joining as a Red-Tailed Hawk!
  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.


Special Reports

Heroin Rising
<p>Lizette Correa shares a moment with her 9-month-old daughter, Layla, outside their Goleta home. Correa is about to graduate from Project Recovery, a program of the Santa Barbara Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse, and is determined to overcome her heroin addiction — for herself and for her daughter. “I look at her and I think ‘I need to be here for her and I need to show her an example, I don’t want her to see me and learn about drugs’,” she says.</p>

In Struggle to Get Clean, and Stay That Way, Young Mother Battles Heroin Addiction

Santa Barbara County sounds alarm as opiate drug use escalates, spreads into mainstream population
Safety Net Series
<p>Charles Condelos, a retired banker, regularly goes to the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics for his primary care and to renew his prescription for back pain medication. He says Dr. Charles Fenzi, who was treating him that day at the Westside Clinic, and Dr. Susan Lawton are some of the best people he’s ever met.</p>

Safety Net: Patchwork of Clinics Struggles to Keep Santa Barbara County Healthy

Clinics that take all comers a lifeline for low-income patients, with new health-care law about to feed even more into overburdened system. First in a series
Prescription for Abuse
<p>American Medical Response emergency medical technicians arrive at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with little time to spare for victims of prescription drug overdoses.</p>

Quiet Epidemic of Prescription Drug Abuse Taking a Toll on Santa Barbara County

Evidence of addiction shows an alarming escalation, Noozhawk finds in Prescription for Abuse special report
Mental Health
<p>Rich Detty and his late wife knew something was wrong with their son, Cliff, but were repeatedly stymied in their attempts to get him help from the mental health system. Cliff Detty, 46, died in April while in restraints at Santa Barbara County’s Psychiatric Health Facility.</p>

While Son Struggled with Mental Illness, Father Fought His Own Battle

Cliff Detty's death reveals scope, limitations of seemingly impenetrable mental health system. First in a series