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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. Tiny pacemaker wows doctors and patients but isn't yet for everyone


    For years, pacemakers have been about the size of two stacked silver dollars and require a 2-inch incision below the collarbone to implant. Tiny wires called leads connect the battery-powered device to the heart. When it detects an abnormal rhythm, the pacemaker sends a signal to help control and normalize the heartbeat. Millions of Americans have pacemakers; thousands are implanted each year.

    And for some of them, the procedure just got a lot simpler....

    Cardiac electrophysiologist 
Dr. Jose Gallastegui, director of the electrophysiology program at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, performs the pacemaker implant procedure on James Schrader.
  2. How to unplug your kids from technology overload


    If you're tired of only seeing the tops of your children's heads because their eyes are constantly glued to a screen, then it may be time for a change.

    "They are so attached to technology at such an early age. It's changing their brain circuitry," said family therapist Elaine Fogel Schneider, author of 7 Strategies for Raising Calm, Inspired and Successful Children (Crescendo Publishing, 2016). ...

  3. Cellphone use can cause 'text neck,' experts say


    All that bending over cellphones and other electronic devices may not just be bad for your brain and relationships. It's also bad for your spine. Your neck in particular.

    Some experts are calling it "text neck."

    "I see it in patients, friends, colleagues, family members. It's a real problem," said Aimee Klein, a physical therapist and associate professor in the USF School of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences. ...

    Aimee Klein, a physical therapist and associate professor in the USF School of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences
  4. Research, new treatments offer hope for ovarian cancer patients


    In about a month, the streets of downtown St. Petersburg will be bathed in blue — a blue-green shade of teal, actually — as hundreds of walkers, runners and supporters converge at Albert Whitted Park for the Celma Mastry Ovarian Cancer Foundation's One Step Closer to the Cure Run/Walk.

    Teal is the official color of ovarian cancer awareness. Organizers hope to raise $75,000 to help fund a financial assistance program for local patients in need. ...

    “Specialists have improved survival to over five years for advanced ovarian cancer,” Dr. Rob Wenham says.
  5. The Dish: Dunedin chef John Lewis


    Remember when Emeril Lagasse dominated the Food Network in the '90s, when his evening cooking show was must-see TV? Dunedin chef John Lewis does, because that's what inspired him to open a cooking school and turn culinary education for adults into entertainment.

    "The reaction that (Emeril) got from the live audience really impressed me, and I thought it would be neat to have a place where people could come, take classes and have a similar experience," said the 74-year-old who shares his Dunedin home with three golden retrievers. (He has even offered a class on cooking for your pets, but that's another story.)...

    Students participating in Kids Camp in the Kitchen at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center in Dunedin whipped up these Southwestern chicken sliders.
  6. Stair climbing a challenging cardio workout, builds muscle strength


    If you want to get a big bang for your exercise buck, take the stairs. Whether you do it on a stepping machine at the gym, in a stairwell where you work or at a sports arena with sky-high stadium seating, stair climbing provides a great workout that challenges even the most physically fit athletes.

    Make no mistake. Stair climbing is hard work. It has endured over the years for lots of reasons, chief among them: cost — it can be free, depending on where you do it; it builds strength in most major muscle groups while providing a good cardio workout; and it burns a lot of calories in a relatively short time. ...

    Grissom walks 6 to 8 miles every day at work and takes 15 to 20 flights of stairs, according to her Fitbit tracker.
  7. Knowing when it's Alzheimer's, and when it's not


    The trouble started in 2010 when Dennis Krupinski was just 53. A longtime employee in Walt Disney World's maintenance department, he started losing things and forgetting about tasks. He seemed distracted, confused.

    The man who had received so many awards over the years for top-notch performance at work was suddenly getting reprimanded.

    "He was getting in trouble for forgetting, misplacing things, taking too long to do things, acting completely out of character," recalls Terri, his 56-year-old wife....

    Dr. Andrew Stephens is chief medical officer at Piramal Imaging, the maker of one of the FDA-approved tracers used in brain amyloid detection.
  8. The Dish: Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant owner talks Ethiopian cuisine, what she likes to cook


    If you're ever in the mood for a food adventure, try the Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant on Henderson Boulevard in South Tampa. That's where you'll get your fill of Doro Wot (chicken stew), Ye Beg Wot (lamb stew), Ye Kik Alecha (stewed yellow split peas), Gomen (collard greens) and, of course, Injera, a spongy bread used to scoop food.

    While the foreign names may make the food sound exotic, these dishes are common in many Ethiopian homes and reflect the everyday cooking of owner Seble Gizaw's mother and family....

    Roses add an accent to the table setting at the Queen of Sheba Ethiopian restaurant on Thursday evening, July 30, 2016 in Tampa. The nine year old family business is led by Seble Gizaw, 52, the head of the kitchen who travels between the Tampa and Sarasota locations.  ZACK WITTMAN  |  Times
  9. New drug shows promise as migraine headache preventive


    Reporters and editors get dozens of emails and story pitches every day. But one recent news release from the American Academy of Neurology caught my attention immediately.

    It was about a clinical trial involving a new drug for preventing migraine headaches. Even better, it's part of a new class of drugs specifically developed to prevent migraines. All the preventive medications currently available were first used to treat other health conditions. ...

    “Preventives increase the number of days that you can work, socialize, participate in life,” says headache neurologist Dr. Teshamae Monteith.
  10. What to do when your hearing starts to go


    You're in the kitchen and your spouse is in a distant bedroom looking for shoes/car keys/cellphone/whatever. The dishwasher's on, the TV is blaring, the dog is barking and maybe a few kids are playing computer games. Yet the two of you are yelling across the house and over the noise, getting more frustrated because the searching spouse can't understand.

    "It's in the laundry room."


    Eric Reams is a licensed hearing aid specialist with hiHealthInnovations.
  11. New study finds drug Keytruda prolongs survival for advanced melanoma patients


    Advanced melanoma patients, and the doctors who care for them, got the best possible news last week.

    Early results from a new study confirmed what many already knew. The drug pembrolizumab, also known by its brand name, Keytruda, helped some patients with the deadliest form of skin cancer survive at least three years rather than just a few months.

    "We have been expecting these longer-term results and waiting for the studies to be completed. Now we know. We can prolong survival in more than a third of patients with advanced disease — a disease that was, just a few years ago, almost always fatal," said Dr. Nikhil Khushalani, a medical oncologist and associate member in the Department of Cutaneous Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center. ...

    Dr. Nikhil Khushalani, a medical oncologist, says Keytruda and drugs like it are a game changer.
  12. A new implanted device, the Watchman, is lowering the risk of stroke


    Bob Icenogle spent the last five years living with a serious heart problem that could trigger a stroke at any time.

    Atrial fibrillation, also known as A-fib, can cause blood clots to form in a tiny pouch in the heart. If a clot migrates out into the bloodstream, it could become lodged in a vessel and cut off blood flow to the brain.

    To lower the risk, doctors usually put A-fib patients on blood-thinning medication for life so clots are less likely to form. But Icenogle, who lives in Ruskin, can't take blood thinners long term. He found that out after starting on the medication, and over time developed such severe internal bleeding that he needed transfusions. He tried other nondrug procedures, but none controlled the A-fib. ...

    Dr. Bengt Herweg was part of the TGH surgery team.
  13. The Dish: Kanika Tomalin, deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, talks about new healthy initiative and what she cooks


    Kanika Tomalin, the deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, is a big supporter of her city's burgeoning restaurant scene. She's also committed to health and fitness. As anyone who eats out regularly knows, those two things can be tricky to reconcile, as restaurant meals can often be less healthy than home-cooked ones.

    To help consumers make healthier choices and still support the local food industry, Tomalin has launched the Virtual Progressive Dinners campaign, a tour of area eateries with "lighter leaning" offerings in which you walk to a different restaurant for each course — drink cocktails at one establishment; get an appetizer a few doors down; walk a few blocks for the main course; share a dessert around the corner; and grab a nightcap somewhere else. It's an effort to get some exercise, put more emphasis on nutrition and ease up on calories. Four different progressive dinners focusing on downtown St. Pete are already posted on, with maps and recommended menu items. (Tour No. 1 takes you through downtown St. Petersburg, from the Station House for a cocktail, to the Mill for an appetizer, to Stillwaters Tavern for salad and a main, to Sea Salt for dessert and a nightcap at Cassis.) More tours are coming that will explore other parts of the city. We talked to Tomalin about the campaign and how she balances her six-day-a-week job with being a mom, wife and fitness enthusiast....

    Kanika Tomalin has launched the Virtual Progressive Dinners campaign.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.