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Irene Maher, Times Staff Writer

Irene Maher

Irene Maher has reported on health for more than 25 years, mostly for WFLA-Ch. 8 in Tampa. She now writes about personal health and wellness for the Tampa Bay Times. She and her husband live in Tampa.

Phone: (813) 226-3416


  1. Author addresses a common question: When and how do we purge people from our lives?


    It's easy to clear out the clutter in your contact list or electronically block messages from people you no longer want to hear from. You can "unfriend" people on Facebook and block them on other social media.

    But what do you do about human clutter in your life — the people you'd rather not spend time with anymore? They drink too much, cause too much drama, never really grew up, no longer share your values, are too negative, too potty-mouthed, or who only talk about themselves and never ask about you. ...

    Henry Cloud’s book The Power of the Other: The Startling Effect Other People Have on You, From the Boardroom to the Bedroom and Beyond comes out in May.
  2. Going the distance: Miles for Moffitt helps cancer research move forward


    Suzanne Oles wasn't well enough to join the crowd at last year's Miles for Moffitt fundraiser. She was in the middle of chemotherapy treatment for lung cancer.

    But, working from the sidelines, she still managed to raise $8,000 for research. This year, she's feeling much better and hopes to raise even more.

    "I'm aiming for $15,000. Right now I'm already at $8,000 so I think we will get there," said Oles, a 65-year-old sales rep who lives in Tampa with her husband. ...

    Dr. Anna Giuliano, a cancer epidemiologist at Moffitt Cancer Center, has had two studies funded by Miles for Moffitt.
  3. The Dish: Il Ritorno chef David Benstock talks modern Italian food and more


    In 2004, David Benstock was enrolled in Florida State University studying business when he realized he missed the kitchen. He'd been working in them since he was an adolescent growing up in Seminole. So he abandoned the idea of continuing in the family uniform manufacturing business and enrolled in cooking school in Denver.

    After graduating and working in Colorado, New York, Italy, Miami and Tampa, he opened his own place, Il Ritorno on Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg, in 2013. ...

    Chef David Benstock of Il Ritorno in St. Petersburg prepares octopus for an octopus puttanesca appetizer recently.
  4. Mom and author says look outdoors for a splendid do-it-yourself gym


    Where you see a city park or playground, Haley Bechet sees a do-it-yourself outdoor gym. • The 30-year-old exercise instructor took a while after the birth of her second son to feel normal again. With her hormones going haywire, she felt tired all the time, suffered from severe sleep deprivation, started having terrible migrainelike headaches and, with a new baby in the house, became increasingly withdrawn socially. • She was used to teaching several group exercise classes each week and spending time with others. As soon as her doctor cleared her to return to work, she noticed how much better she felt after teaching. On days she didn't teach, the fatigue and grogginess returned. So on those days off, she started taking the baby out in his stroller for short walks in her Palm Harbor neighborhood. • "Just 10-, 15-minute walks, several times a day," she said. At the end, in the driveway, she'd do a few exercises, grabbing onto whatever was stable and nearby. She was convinced that doing the exercise outside was key and made her feel much better. ...

    Haley Bechet uses a slide to do a triceps dip.
  5. Prediabetes can be the wake-up call that prevents Type 2 diabetes, but patients need to act


    Dianne Muncey's doctor first talked with her about prediabetes in 2013.

    With a family history of Type 2 diabetes and blood glucose levels that had been creeping up for years, the doctor explained that Muncey was at high risk for diabetes herself. She was told to lose some weight, exercise and change her diet, but was given no specific instructions on exactly how to do that.

    She was on her own. ...

    David Marrero, a researcher and professor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine and immediate past president of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association.
  6. Advice from a colon cancer survivor: 'Get your scope done'


    Laura Webb was just 32 years old and training for an Ironman competition when she learned she had colon cancer.

    Pain in her lower abdomen had taken her to several doctors, who ordered a variety of tests. She eventually went to a gastroenterologist who ordered a colonoscopy, not really expecting to find anything wrong.

    "I was athletic, don't smoke, have an occasional cocktail and cheeseburger, but it was the last thing I expected to hear," said Webb, who is 41 now and living in Tampa. ...

    In September 2015, Laura Webb completed a half Ironman competition in Georgia in 8 ? hours. Eight years prior, she was diagnosed with colon cancer.
  7. The Dish: Talking food with Ferrell Alvarez, owner and chef of Seminole Heights' Rooster and the Till

    Food & Dining

    In the restaurant world, an amuse-bouche is a treat sent to your table by the chef. Usually one bite, rarely two, it's something of the chef's creation that sets the tone for the meal, a glimpse at who is behind the food. Think of this new feature as just that. A collection of questions we will ask chefs, cooks, caterers, cookbook authors, journalists, purveyors of food and drinks and anyone else who is passionate about food, to give you some insight into how they feel about what's on the table....

    Chef Ferrell Alvarez, 37, is co-owner of Rooster and the Till in Seminole Heights.
  8. Recognizing the signs of an eating disorder


    It's been going on for weeks or months and you wonder if it's normal: Too many missed meals. Leaving the table as soon as possible after eating. Exercising excessively. Withdrawing from social situations, especially when food is involved. Large amounts of food disappearing from the house.

    Lots of adolescents and teens have big appetites, or are on diets and want to lose weight. But could this be an eating disorder? You wonder if you're overreacting. ...

    Dr. Pauline Powers has been treating eating disorders for 45 years.
  9. Whether it's cycling or boxing, vigorous exercise can ease Parkinson's symptoms


    Exercise helps with everything from weight loss and depression to warding off heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, even cancer.

    For years, doctors have been telling their patients that exercise helps with the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, too, but now they're getting some help from organized exercise programs designed specifically for Parkinson's patients.

    The classes are usually led by specially trained and certified instructors who have learned about the disease and how to work with those who have it. ...

    Sharon Eliason, center, stretches with instructor Yvette Wilmath, left, after a Pedaling for Parkinson’s class at the South Tampa YMCA.
  10. Lessons learned: Survivors urge others to get educated on heart matters


    February is designated Heart Month to draw special attention to heart disease, the No. 1 killer of Americans, particularly women. To mark the month, the American Heart Association chose four women as the "Go Red for Women, Real Women of Tampa Bay." Their mission: to help change our thinking about cardiovascular disease and show that even young, seemingly healthy women are at risk, too.

    Each survived a life-changing cardiovascular event. They hope sharing their stories will save others from the same fate. ...

    Photo by James Ostrand for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association Tampa Bay 
February is the American Heart Association’s American Heart Month. From left are the “Go Red for Women, Real Women of Tampa Bay”: Kristen Powers, who had a stroke at age 33; Meagan Broucek, who was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome; Ruby Hope, who had a heart attack and underwent a quadruple bypass; and Lynette Bear, who suffered cardiac arrest.
  11. Doctors seeing more people in their 30s and 40s with colon cancer, study says


    Colon cancer may no longer be a disease of just the over-50 crowd.

    A new study from the American Cancer Society supports what many doctors nationwide have been seeing in their practices in recent years: an increase in colon cancer patients who are younger than 50.

    It's the third most common cancer in American men and women. More than 95,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year, according to the cancer society. Ninety percent will be patients age 50 and older. The median age for diagnosis is 69 in men and 73 in women. ...

    Photo illustration. []
  12. A recipe for prevention


    You have the power to prevent cancer.

    A lot of it depends on lifestyle choices — the food you eat, whether you smoke, if you like suntanned skin. Personal decisions like these and other factors that can be changed account for 70 to 90 percent of the mutations that cause cancer, according to new research in the journal Nature.

    That means by making certain, specific changes you may be able to significantly reduce your risk of certain cancers, including breast, prostate, colorectal, lung, skin and cervical. ...

    Nagi Kumar is director of cancer chemoprevention at Moffitt Cancer Center.
  13. Here's what you need to know about the Zika virus if you live in Florida


    The Zika virus, a mosquito-borne infection linked to birth defects in Brazil, has made its way to Florida and three other states, with one confirmed case in Hillsborough County.

    But with only seven cases total in the United States, how much should we worry?

    It's worth paying attention to, say health officials, who note the infection can be brought into the country by travelers. Though Zika is not spread person-to-person, the concern is that mosquitoes here can feed on those travelers and potentially bite and transmit the virus to others....

    Aedes mosquitoes have spread Zika widely in Brazil.
  14. Tips and recipes for eating healthy in the new year


    Losing weight has to be one of the most common New Year's resolutions. For most people that usually means resolving to eat differently, better. No more cheese fries! No more croissant breakfast sandwiches! Vegetables, fruit and grains instead of steak, beer and chips. But swearing off foods you love and trying to incorporate the ones you should like can backfire. No wonder it's your New Year's resolution every year — it doesn't always work. ...

    Bran muffins can be frozen as soon as they cool and stored in zip-top bags in the freezer for a month, making great go-to snacks.
  15. Try starting the new year with a healthy question: What do I need to change?


    Here's a novel idea for the new year. Why not make your health a priority in 2016? Actually get all those health screenings you know you need but never get around to scheduling. Really change how and what you eat and drink. Take steps to get better sleep. Break up with some long-standing bad habits.

    Make this the year you improve your overall mental and physical health. Call it the "New Year, New You" plan. ...