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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

Email: imaher@tampabay.com

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  1. Groups work to ease the path to recovery for those with eating disorders

    Health

    Robin Murray was in her 40s when the eating disorder she battled as a teenager and young adult came roaring back.

    Suddenly, she returned to the destructive behaviors of her youth — restricting, bingeing on and purging food, plus overexercising to compensate for any calories she managed to keep down.

    During her earlier battle, which lasted 15 years, Murray went through several different treatment facilities and once came close to death because she had become so thin....

    Robin Murray, at Sips Specialty Coffee House in Citrus Park, says “I now know that in times of transition and trauma, you need extra support.”
  2. Raising awareness of congenital heart defects

    Health

    February is heart month, set aside not just to remind adults to watch their blood pressure and get some exercise but also to draw attention to an often-forgotten group of heart patients: children.

    From newborns to college students, children can be diagnosed with heart abnormalities that happened before birth. These defects, known as congenital heart defects or CHDs, can be life-threatening, medically complex and require lifelong treatment. And later in life, they can put a patient's own children at risk for the same conditions....

    Adam Verigan, who works at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, was born with a hole between the lower chambers of his heart.
  3. The Dish: Edward Steinhoff on being executive chef at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts

    Cooking

    What do you put on a menu that ties in to a Broadway play called Something Rotten!? That's the kind of challenge Straz Center for the Performing Arts executive chef Edward Steinhoff faces every day when he comes to work. Steinhoff, who took over the post in August, loves the change from creating food for typical dining venues to creating recipes and menus that reflect whatever is on stage at the Straz. ...

    Executive chef Edward Steinhoff poses for a picture at the Straz Center for Performing Arts in Tampa.
  4. The Dish: Sea Salt owner and chef Fabrizio Aielli on Italian food in America, fresh ingredients and more

    Cooking

    Fabrizio Aielli wants people to know that Italian cooking is more than long pasta swimming in red sauce.

    "In the past people thought spaghetti and meatballs or linguini Alfredo defined Italian food. Heavy sauces covered in garlic and cheese," he said. "But this is not Italian food."

    On Nov. 6, at his restaurant Sea Salt in St. Petersburg, Aielli is hosting one of seven Immersion Dinners being held around Tampa Bay in conjunction with the Dalí Museum's current food-focused exhibit "Ferran Adria: The Invention of Food." The sold-out dinner will have a carnival theme that aims to celebrate Aielli's home city of Venice, Italy, and to show diners what, exactly, Italian food can be: Nitrogen popcorn and kumamoto oysters will reflect a foggy day in Venice; a mini cone of peanut butter foie gras and a glass of rose brut champagne will transport guests through St. Mark's Square; seafood and black ink risotto will nod to the city's famous waterways. ...

    Fabrizio Aielli and his wife, Ingrid, pose with a catch of the day at Sea Salt restaurant at Sundial in St. Petersburg.
  5. If you have high cholesterol, the culprit may be sugar

    Health

    It's a sad fact. The cholesterol count of the average middle-aged American makes most cardiologists cringe.

    Cholesterol seems to start creeping up in our 30s or 40s as careers, kids and other obligations leave us more stressed, less physically active and heavier than ever. That's a problem because high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.

    Lowering it without medication can be difficult, depending on your age and other health problems. For those with genetically high cholesterol, it can be nearly impossible without taking a statin, a prescription cholesterol-lowering medication....

    iStockphoto
  6. Best line of defense against breast cancer: know your risk, be alert to body changes

    Health

    Cancer detection is often about noticing a change, something that's not quite right, and doing something about it.

    Just ask Darby Steadman. She was used to checking herself for changes. At age 34, she already had a long history of what many women call "lumpy" breasts. She'd had many biopsies, too, which all came back negative.

    But during the summer of 2004, she noticed something different about a lump in her left breast that the doctor had been monitoring since 1999 and thought to be benign. It felt larger, and there was discharge from the nipple. ...

    Clarence Banken was 65 in the spring of 2015 when he noticed a change in his right breast. Now 66, the Sun City Center resident is pictured at Anna Maria Island in March.
  7. Your doctor can clear up confusion on when to get breast screening

    Health

    Trying to decide when to start and how often to have a routine mammogram can make your head spin. It used to be easy: starting at 40 have an annual mammogram. End of discussion.

    Now, the major medical groups we have long relied on to tell women what to do about breast cancer screening aren't in complete agreement when it comes to women of average risk — that's the majority of us who have never had breast cancer and who don't have a mother, sister or child who had the disease. High-risk women have their own set of guidelines, which includes annual mammograms and breast MRI beginning as early as age 25 for some. ...

    Dr. Laura Arline is in primary care with the BayCare Medical Group
  8. Tiny pacemaker wows doctors and patients but isn't yet for everyone

    Health

    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....

    A similar lead-less product, Nanostim, is made by St. Jude Medical and is expected to receive FDA approval any day. It is already in use in Europe. St. Jude Medical
  9. How to unplug your kids from technology overload

    Health

    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). ...

    “You are your child’s first teacher,” says Elaine Fogel Schneider of parents.
  10. Cellphone use can cause 'text neck,' experts say

    Health

    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
  11. Research, new treatments offer hope for ovarian cancer patients

    Health

    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.
  12. The Dish: Dunedin chef John Lewis

    Cooking

    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.)...

    A recipe starts with honey during a Kids Camp in the Kitchen class at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center in Dunedin.
  13. Stair climbing a challenging cardio workout, builds muscle strength

    Health

    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. ...

    Patty Grissom, 58, typically bypasses elevators and escalators working as a concierge at the seven-story Morton Plant Hospital.
  14. Knowing when it's Alzheimer's, and when it's not

    Health

    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. Amanda Smith is medical director of the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute.
  15. The Dish: Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant owner talks Ethiopian cuisine, what she likes to cook

    Cooking

    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....

    Seble Gizaw, 52, is all smiles as she cooks Doro Wot (chicken stew) at Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant in South Tampa. What does she fix at home? “Spaghetti. Lots of spaghetti. And salads.” (She has 10- and 11-year-old daughters.)