Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Problems in Paradise?

news you may not know

...This Is My

Happy Face

Who knew? After decades of furious pursuit of everything-life-has-to-offer, it seems those with the most may actually have the least. Especially if the unit of measure is happiness. In an apparent repudiation of a fundamental tenet of American life, it appears the collection of stuff is overrated...

MTV Networks International (MTVNI) conducted a global survey of 5,400 young people in 14 countries to assess their sense of wellbeing. The six-month survey produced a Wellbeing Index that measured youth's perceptions of their safety, how they fit within society and their attitudes about the future. The results were telling.

Young people in developed countries fared poorly, with fewer than 30% of youths in Britain and America being happy about their lives. In Japan, fewer than 8% of the youths looked up from their high-tech toys to say, "Yes, I'm happy." The other 92% were out shopping and could not be reached for comment.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, youths from developing countries were quite smitten with life. 75% of the young people from Argentina and South Africa were optimistic about their future. Not to be outdone, a full 84% of Chinese youths said they expected the future to be better. Rampant speculation is already swirling about this potentially new benefit of drinking green tea.

Overall, youths from developed countries felt less safe, were more concerned with negative impacts of globalization and were less encouraged about their future prospects.

Alarmed by the survey results, U.S. companies have shifted into high gear to quickly address the problems. A new Xbox offering, Serenity Now, will hit store shelves in time for Christmas, T-Mobile has launched an inspirational series of ringtones and Starbucks has introduced the Double Mocha Mind-Calming Macchiato.

...Where would today's young people be without American innovation? It's hard to say. But, it's possible they may be walking through a city park, unplugged from the modern madness, participating in a previously unheard of activity - smiling.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Shout Hallelujah for Healthy Lungs?

tidbits that tantalize

Did You

Say Shoes?

Reprobates beware.

If you haven't put a shine to those shoes, donned your best go-to-meeting clothes and, well, actually gone to a meeting, there may be more at risk than your eternal soul. You may want to drop to your knees and pray for a fresh set of lungs - it appears yours may be at risk.

A study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found that elder churchgoers had healthier lungs than those who did not attend. The study followed over 1,100 active men and women in their 70's for just over 4.5 years. The researchers assessed the ability of participants to expel air from their lungs using a standard measure. Lung function naturally declines with age and serves as an important barometer of overall health in the elderly.

While possibly not miraculous, the results were certainly striking. Those participants attending a church, synagogue or mosque at least once each week exhibited far stronger lung function. The non-attendees, in fact, showed a decline that was double that of the churchgoers.

...You know what to do. Shine those shoes, don those duds and join the jubilee. Raise those hands and shout "Hallelujah!" It's good for the soul - and the lungs.

To read more, see CNN's article Religious observance may keep older people healthy.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Take Two Chocolate Bars and Call Me in the Morning

news you may not know

This is


Dateline 2017

You've had suspicions since before your wedding day - the whole, "I consider competition cooks to be among the world's finest athletes" fiasco - but now you're sure. Your wife really IS from Venus. What else could explain the goofy smile and offbeat whistle with which she greeted you at the break, make that slap, of dawn? And, what about the way she shouted, "You betcha!" when you asked if she was really going to the doctor today?

Hmm... It's not like this when you go to the doctor. Of course, not having been to the doctor since the 1987 dermatitis debacle, you admittedly have a diminished frame of reference. Still, it makes you wonder just what sort of a miracle worker this Dr. Wonka must be...

Will doctors really prescribe chocolate in the future? Well...

Researchers at John's Hopkins found that consuming chocolate has a direct impact on the platelets, the components within the blood responsible for clotting. The study was originally designed to assess the blood thinning effects of consuming 81 milligrams of aspirin each day. A daily dose of aspirin is a mainstay in the fight against heart disease and heart attacks. How did chocolate enter the picture? Ah, that would be what scientists refer to as the "Cheater" factor.

Study participants were given strict dietary guidelines to assure the results were directly attributable to aspirin. But, of the 1,200 participants, 139 (The Cheaters) simply couldn't resist their daily fix of chocolate. The Champion Cheater, now living under an assumed name in Switzerland, consumed an entire gallon of chocolate ice cream in a single setting - oh, and a couple of chocolate chip cookies for "dessert."

While the study does indicate aspirin is more effective than chocolate at reducing blood clotting, the "Wonka Movement" is afoot. Dr. Wonka has established clinics in several major U.S. cities and plans to establish a major online presence in the coming year. Says Dr. Wonka of his plans, "I have a commitment to bringing the best medical care, and the finest handmade chocolates, to poor pill poppers everywhere."

Now you understand. You were too quick to judge. Your wife is but one of millions who have seen the chocolate light and become steadfast devotees of the good doctor. You can accept that. Now, if you can just talk her into wearing a sweater over her "I Love Oompa Loompas" tee shirt...

To read more about the chocolate, see this CNN report: Chocoholics rejoice!

To read more about the aspirin study, see this from Johns Hopkins.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Doctor's Daily Dose: Dancing

news you may not know

When The

Doctor Says Dance...

Sometimes life is hard. The "Apple-A-Day" approach to medical management has, despite enthusiastic and widespread endorsement, failed to keep your evil doctor away. Of course, the "Gimme a double cheeseburger, large fries and chocolate shake" that, honed by years of dedicated repetition, falls effortlessly off your tongue may come into play, but still... You really bought in to the apple-protection plan and - well, maybe not everyday, but just last week, or maybe it was the week before you had... Oh, right - it was an apple fritter, but still...

Less than optimum lifestyle choices, or simple genetic predisposition, have resulted in heart failure. Simple tasks, such as walking up the stairs, now seem as daunting as running a marathon. Heart failure has many contributing factors, but whatever the primary cause, it leaves patients with a heart that no longer efficiently pumps blood to the body. This inefficiency results in a lack of oxygen being carried to the muscles and the subsequent weakness and fatigue.

What to do? Hit the gym - through yourself blindly into a series of aerobic exercises. When the going gets tough, repeat your encouragement mantra, "The treadmill is my buddy - the treadmill is my buddy - I hate the friggin..." Ah, yes - there's the problem. Studies reveal over 70% of heart patients quit traditional exercise programs, often converting treadmills into bedroom art dedicated to protesting the abusive regimes of totalitarian physicians.

Or - you can dance.

Researchers in Italy found that dancing has the same health benefit as the treadmill and other gymnasium induced forms of healthy, but boring, activities. The study showed no difference in the oxygen uptake or the anaerobic threshold, the point at which muscles fatigue, of the two groups. One group followed a regimen consisting of treadmill workouts three times each week and the second group danced, also three times each week. At the end of the eight weeks, the cardiopulmonary fitness of both groups had improved to a similar degree.

While the Italians did the waltz, it is believed any moderately active dance will suffice. So, when the cheeseburger beckons, throw back your head in disdain, look it straight in its artery clogging eyes and say, "Back off - you don't want to tango with me!"

For more details, see this CNN report: Prescription: Dance for heart's sake.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Is a Square Knot The Best Stroke Therapy?

news you may not know
Are You Sure
This Will Work??

You've suffered a right-hemisphere stroke, meaning the right side of your brain was impacted. The physical results, however, affect the left side of your body, resulting in weakness and partial paralysis. You've spent a harrowing three days on multiple hospital units, endured the poking and prodding of who-knows-how-many doctors and nurses and even, if you're not mistaken, a curious mechanic who happened to be passing through.

Now, it's time to go home. The thought of your own food and your own bed leaves you anxiously studying each excruciatingly slow tick of the clock.

Not so fast.

You watch in horror as the doctor hands your wife a white cotton strap, about three inches wide, and says, "Use this to tie down his right arm first thing each morning. It will help him regain the use of his left arm more quickly." What? The stroke must have affected your ears as well. Surely you heard that wrong...

Not at all. The therapy is known as Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy (CIMT) and it is currently being studied at Emory University and six other medical centers across the country. The theory is relatively straightforward - to improve an impaired extremity it must be utilized to its fullest extent.

The results are promising. Patients treated with CIMT exhibited both quantitative and qualitative improvement that was superior to the standardized treatment group. The CIMT group was able to complete tasks at an 11% higher rate than the control group and they completed their tasks, on average, 50% faster.

OK - You've survived your first day at home. As you consider your circumstances you find a new wave of motivation washing over your weary body. Your wife takes no notice as you study the three-inch strap that secured your good arm to your side for much of the day. You look back and forth from the strap to your wife, then sit back and ponder the day you will once again have full use of both arms. Suddenly, you feel like reading Stephen King.

To learn more about CIMT, see this press release from Emory University.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Facts You Can Count On

resources to rely on

Just The Facts...

Are you the Joe Friday type? You know, the "Cut-to-the-chase," "Give it to me straight," "Come on, spit it out" type of person? Not interested in all the jibber-jabber about research, clinical trials and outcomes? Just want to know "how many?"

This site is perfect for you.

If you love facts and figures, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) may become your new home. Have a question about health related statistics? They have the answer. For example: The number of nursing home residents in the U.S. with Alzheimer's is 231,900. The average length of a hospital stay for a stroke patient is 5.2 days. The percent of U.S. adults with high cholesterol is 17. The percent of... well, just about anything.

The NCHS is a deep well of health related information gathered form both public and privates sources. A "FastStats" section allows you to quickly identify keys statistics without wading through cumbersome tables, charts and graphs. But, if you enjoy the occasional informational foray through hard data, there are subsections, including links to complete PDF survey reports, that will keep you satisfied for days on end.

What's that? A "Just The Facts" recap? Sure.

National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)

Alzheimer's: 231,900

Stroke Stay: 5.2 days

Cholesterol: 17%

Joe would be proud...

For more health related facts, visit the National Center for Health Statistics.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Doubtful Doctors - As Common as the Cold?

tidbits that tantalize


I'm The Doctor?

You're experiencing significant pain and it seems to have something to do with your stomach - or, your lower back area or, possibly, it's just the ache in your old knees traveling up and down your spine on a weekend joyride. No problem. You head on down to the teaching hospital, confident they are up on the latest aches and pains, tests and treatments for ailments both well defined and nebulous.

A bright, but weary, medical student pelts you with insightful questions, then slumps heavily in a chair and lets out a long sigh. Fearing for your life, you're stunned when she finally states, "I'm not really sure I want to be a doctor anymore."

It's true. Apparently the brutal hours, intense educational demands and overwhelming responsibilities leave many medical students questioning both their capabilities and their resolve. Worn down from two years of intense classroom education, medical students are thrown into the day-to-day fray of hands-on medicine. The days of comfortable theorizing crashing about their ears, they are suddenly faced with real patients with real diseases. Information is no longer gleaned from meticulous lecture notes, but quickly scribbled on the back of a three-by-five note card as they attempt to stay awake during rounds. They have completed three months of their clinical component - they have twenty-one months to go.

Should this season of doubt be a concern to patients? Probably not. Indications are the medical students uncross their red-streaked eyes as they approach residency and selection of a specialty. In the end, the experience they gain functioning under duress may actually contribute to their success as a doctor.

What should you to do if faced with a medical student who's ready to pawn their stethoscope? Try this. Place a hand gently on their shoulder, look them straight in the eye, and say, "It'll be OK. I felt the same way in kindergarten about dodge ball - by third grade I was a terror on the playground."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

KFC Original Recipe Change for the Better?

news you may not know

Now With...


Trans fat enthusiasts were put on notice by Kentucky Fried Chicken that their carefree days are numbered. No more long, lingering luncheons filled with ooey, gooey, oh-so-good Crispy Strips. No more wanton Wings or scintillating Snacker Sandwiches. No more... well, it's too painful to include the comprehensive list of foods that will be forever trans fat free.

Bowing to pressure from health advocates, and facing a lawsuit in Louisville, KFC has joined the ranks of major fast food providers who will no longer cook with oils that contain trans fatty acids. Momentum is certainly on the side of the health advocates, as evidenced by the current debate in New York over a potential citywide ban on the tasty trans fats. If New York follows through with the ban, expect to see the rest of the country follow suit in the near future.

Trans fat, while tasty, is one of the prime culprits in raising the bad type of cholesterol, LDL. It is commonly found in vegetable shortenings and margarines and, as a result, routinely finds its way into cookies, crackers, snacks and fried foods. KFC is switching to soybean oil, which contains no trans fat, for all their foods except biscuits, for which they are still searching for a good alternative. Ahhh, biscuits...

There's still a window of opportunity for diehard trans fat lovers - the transition to soybean oil won't be completed until April of 2007. So, if your taste buds run the health operation at your hacienda, eat fast and eat often. After April you'll be greeted with new signs upon entering your favorite KFC: "Original Recipe Chicken - Now With Soy!"

To learn more about Trans Fat, see this information at the Food and Drug Administration.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Purple Tomatoes - Close Your Eyes and Eat

tidbits that tantalize

...Take A

Wild Guess.

Jellybeans have them. So do M&M's, Life Savers, Twizzlers and even grandma's homemade cupcakes. In light of the cavalcade of color, researchers at Oregon State University finally asked the obvious question, "Why not tomatoes?"

After six years in development, the scientists expect to see the purple - yes, Purple - tomatoes on store shelves within two years. Derived from a South African species, there is more to these eye-catching vegetables (fruit?) than meets the eye. The purple skin of the tomato, a deep hue similar to an eggplant, contains the same beneficial phytochemical found in the naturally colorful blueberry. The phytochemical is thought to help reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

Now, if they could just develop a purple double-fudge brownie à la mode...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

NASA Seeks Couch Potatoes

news you may not know

Sounds Like A

Lot Of Work...

You knew your day would come. Years of intense slacking in front of the television, all of life's necessities within arm's length, has prepared you for just this moment in time. When NASA calls, you'll be ready to say to your wife, "Put it on the speaker phone. I've got beer and chips to manage here."

It appears to be a slackers dream indeed. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, is seeking volunteers for a study on the effects of weightlessness. The task at hand? Lay in bed, nonstop, for three weeks - eat, sleep, watch television, play games. OK, it's not all fun and games. Participants are not only restricted to bed for the television and snacks - they must also use bedpans and bathe while in bed. So much for the glamour of working for NASA.

The study is being conducted as part of NASA's ongoing research into the effects of weightlessness experienced during space travel. One group of the participants will remain in bed without any exercise for the entire period. The other group will be treated (subjected?) to a daily spin on a centrifuge bed that completes one rotation every two seconds. The rotation simulates gravity and allows researchers to assess the benefit of periodic exercise in comparison to the impact of total weightlessness.

SO far, surprisingly, NASA has found it to be difficult to recruit volunteers. Even with a payment of $6,100 for the study, a total period of forty-one days, they have yet to fill their quota. This should, however, come as no surprise to NASA scientists familiar with the work of Isaac Newton. As he detailed in his first law of motion, "A body at rest remains at rest..." Surely this is no less true of today's couch potato than it was of Newton's subjects of study some three hundred years ago. Men are, after all, men.

To read more about NASA's study of weightlessness, see NASA Exploration Systems.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Research Says Turn Down iPods to Protect Ears

news you may not know

Could You
Speak Up
A Little?

Does listening to Apple's iPod cause hearing loss? Audiologists, presenting at a national conference in Cincinnati, say it may. Their research affirmed the 1957 findings of Ethel Belzer, the Detroit mother who is first attributed with shouting, "Turn it down - you're going to go deaf!" Mrs. Belzer's son Ralph, asked how he felt about the scientific validation of his mother's early warnings, responded with a shrug of his shoulders and said, "Could you speak up a little?" Ah... if only children would listen to mom.

Audiologists from Harvard and the University of Colorado studied the impact of daily doses of iPod listening. Their results indicated that mom indeed was right - the key to avoiding hearing loss is the volume. The amount of time spent listening each day has far less impact on the ears. But, even a short blast of high volume music may do permanent damage.

Two types of hearing loss are common in humans. The first is caused by a sudden blast of noise, such as an explosion of fireworks or a siren. The second occurs more slowly and, partly because it happens over time, may be more difficult to recognize until after the damage has taken place.

The scientists recommend that iPod users reduce the potential of loss by taking a couple of simple steps. First, users should listen to music at no more than 70 percent of full volume. At this level, music enthusiasts may enjoy several hours each day without doing harm. The louder the volume, the less listening time. Also, using an in-the-ear earphone helps block out background noise and lets the listener enjoy their tunes at a safer volume level.

Conference attendees received the news positively, with a Georgia woman saying, "It's always satisfying when science comes down on the side of mom." Ralph Belzer, attending in honor of his mother, when asked if he was proud of his mom's influence, said, "Excuse me?"

For more study details, see Researchers Recommend Safe Listening Levels for Apple iPod.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Tell That Cold to Take a Hike

news you may not know

...Doctor's Orders

Are you one-in-a-billion? If so, good for you – most Americans fall in the two to four in-a-billion range. Colds per year, that is. Americans suffer an estimated one billion colds each year and each person, on average, catches the common cold between two and four times annually. However, a simple walk around the block may be all it takes to move the odds in your favor.

Researchers studied the impact of moderate exercise on a group of older women. The study followed the women for a period of one year, during which they exercised moderately five days per week. The most popular exercise was brisk walking, whether at the gym or at home. Walking has been shown to raise levels of leukocytes, white blood cells, which are the primary component of the immune system.

The results of the exercise group (the Walkers) were compared to the results of a control group of women (the Stretchers), whose only exercise consisted of a single 45-minute stretching session each week. The competition was fierce and, for the first several months, was nip and tuck. In the end, however, the Walkers outpaced the Stretchers for the gold.

The Walkers experienced a moderate decrease in colds over the course of the study and the Stretchers moderately more. But, during the last three months of the study the gap widened considerably. Walkers were three times less likely to catch a cold during this period than the Stretchers. Researchers believe the beneficial effects of exercise are cumulative and, as in so many areas of life, persistence will pay off.

So, the next time you feel the sniffles coming on, grab your shoes and head out the door. A brisk walk around the park will do both your health and your spirit good.

To read more, see this Reuter’s report: Want to prevent colds? Start exercising.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Eyelash Transplants the Latest Must Have Cosmetic Surgery

tidbits that tantalize

I Feel Pretty...

Have you had a tummy tuck? A chemical peel? What about liposuction, dermabrasion, collagen injections or a laser facial resurfacing? If you've already run your body through the shop, carefully setting aside time at each specialty sub-station, you may have only one option left. What better to enhance the body perfect than a new set of extra thick, ultra luscious and extra long eyelashes? At a mere $3,000 per eye, what could possibly stop you?

Eyelash replacement surgery, like many other now common elective surgeries, was pioneered to address medical need. The eyelash plays an important role in protecting the eye from damage and its loss is a serious concern. Sometimes eyelashes just fall out - a medical condition known as madarosis. Other times eyelashes are lost following a traumatic incident, such as being burned in a fire. Either way, surgery at times is the only option.

The replacement surgery is the same whether it is undertaken for medical or cosmetic reasons. 30 to 40 hairs are removed from the back of the patient's scalp and then sewn, one by one, onto the eyelids. A successful surgery results in a set of full eyelashes that are yours to keep forever - no need to ever mess with those store bought extensions again.

Ah, yes - a final word. Though beautiful, indeed, the lashes grow at about the same rate as the rest of the hair on the head and, as such, must be regularly trimmed. Do you have a naturally curly set of locks? You may want to weigh your options carefully, as naturally curly hair may result in eyelashes with too much kink.

To explore the land of the lash, see this discussion at Wikipedia.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Is Hemorrhoid Stapling the Bottom Line?

tidbits that tantalize

I've Decided

to Keep Them...

Millions of men are wincing as two words that should never be used in the same sentence, hemorrhoids and stapling, are finding a new acceptance in medical circles. Touted as being less painful than standard surgery, the stapling procedure was first introduced in the late 1990s and is inching its way to the top or, uhm, bottom in popularity among those facing surgery. Not only is the procedure less painful, but recovery time is reduced as well.

But (or is that butt?) there is a hitch in the proverbial get-a-long. Subsequent studies have indicated the procedure, though certainly beneficial in the short term, may be less effective over the long haul. As reported in the most recent issue of the Cochrane Library, the publishing arm of an international research group, the stapling procedure is four times more likely to result in a recurrence of hemorrhoids than the standard surgical treatment.

For more details about the stapling procedure, watch this video of an actual surgery... On second thought, if you're faced with having to choose either of these procedures, you need a break. Jump in the car and head down to the hardware store - you'll find a bunch of like-minded guys already demonstrating, holding up signs that read, "Stop the Stapler!" Go ahead, join in - it will take your mind off of, well, you know...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Epilepsy Treatment May be Sweet Indeed

news you may not know



How do you take your coffee? If you have epilepsy, you may one day find yourself ordering a "Decaf Mocha Frappuccino with a double shot of 2DG." That's right, a double shot - you're looking for some extra seizure protection this morning, so you'll be especially sharp in that 10am meeting...

2DG? In your coffee?

Researchers have found that 2DG (2-deoxy-glucose) blocks the body's use of glucose, a naturally occurring sugar. That blockage of the use of sugar may be a key in inhibiting seizures. Scientists have long believed sugar excites the brain and sugar-free diets are commonly recommended as one means of seizure control. However, particularly in our sugar-drenched society, strict adherence to a sugar-free diet can be difficult. 2DG may hold the key.

By interfering with the body's ability to utilize its own glucose, 2DG, which is itself naturally sweet, establishes a medical middle ground. Patients are able to consume sugar but their bodies are unable to process it. The result may be a brain that is calm and a life that is seizure free.

Current testing is in early stages and doctors anticipate it will be at least five years before 2DG may be available at the local coffee shop. In the meantime, if you have epilepsy, consider the effects sugar may be having on your life - and, of course, your teeth.

To read more about the research, see the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.