Is This Bad Economy a Good Thing?

July 30, 2009

Crazy right, how could there be a silver lining in the economy cloud?  Well if you are a little older in age and this economy has forced you to rethink retiring, it may be saving your brain.

There is a promising study out of Britain that studied  medical records of 382 men whose Alzheimer’s symptoms emerged around age 75. They found that, all other factors being equal, the symptoms were delayed about seven weeks for each extra year the men worked.

It is very perplexing as to why certain people stay mentally sharp and others aren’t.  There is some thought that people posses a trait called cognitive reserve.  The reserve refers to the brains ability to cope with damage.  The more damage, the greater the chance of Alzheimer’s.   The theory is the more you expose yourself to mentally challenging activities, things like; education, work, and volunteering, the more reserve you build.  The more reserve you have the better the chance you have off fending off memory loss and dementia.

Unfortunately there is not easy answer as to how much is the right amount.

If you are looking to keep active here are some great choices:

  • Volunteer.  There are so many organizations that need your time.  This is a win win.  You help out a worthy organization and keep your brain charged up.  Get more information here…http://www.volunteermatch.org/
  • Get a pet.  Especially if you are alone.  There are a lot of studies out that show having someone to care for at home will help with fighting dementia.
  • Work part time.  There are companies out there that would love to have a reliable, nice person working for them

What does not appear to have any benefit are the brain exercise products, often sold as computer based games.  A Rhode Island company, reviewed all of the existing trials on such products and concluded in a study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia this spring that loss of memory was not helped with these products.

Shameless plug.  There is some talk that better blood flow to the brain equates to a lower chance of getting a certain type of Alzheimer’s.  Chiropractors improve the bio mechanics in the neck area, thus improving blood flow to that region.  Is this a cure, most definitely not.  Is there a chance it could help….we’ll see.

The one thing that everyone can agree on…get and stay active.  Use it or lose it does not apply only to muscles, it appears to also do the brain a lot of good.

What are you or a loved one doing to stay active?  Please comment below.


E Cigarettes, Are They Safe?

July 23, 2009

Have you ever heard of an E Cigarette?  I mean I know I am hardly cutting edge of cool but these are news to me.

I was walking through the Burlington Mall the other day when I noticed a kiosk that was selling E Cigarettes.  Having never seen these before I went home and looked them up.  It turns out they are an electronic smoking device or an electronic cigarette which is also known as E-Cigarette.  This E Cigarette is non flammable and through technology claims it can provide the smoker a real smoking experience without the fire, flame, tobacco, tar, carbon monoxide, or ash that you would see in real cigarettes.

So at first I thought, wow, a real looking cigarette without all the bad stuff.  Then I kept reading.

The smoker will still get nicotine.  They are very upfront about that.  Apparently the device turns nicotine into a vapor so you can inhale it.  One must remember, however, that nicotine is highly addictive.

What I don’t like about this product is they make the nicotine packet come in different flavors including bubblegum, chocolate, apple and cherry.  While they claim that they are not marketing this to children, this rubs me the wrong way.  Can you just see an adult ordering bubble gum flavored nicotine?

The CEO of one of these companies claims that they are instructing vendors to follow all state laws when they sell them, yet when I went online and attempted to purchase these devices, I was never asked for my age.

Just recently, the FDA weighed in and as you may have surmised they are not too warm on this idea either.  The FDA analyzed the ingredients in a small sample of cartridges from two brands of electronic cigarettes marketed by U.S. companies: NJOY, of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Florida-based Smoking Everywhere.

In one sample, analyses detected diethylene glycol, an antifreeze component. In several other samples, analysts found carcinogens.  What bothered the FDA was the lack of quality control in these packets and they feel that there could be a safety issue due to this lack of control.

Bottom line if one of your children comes home with this E Cigarette, please do not be fooled into thinking that are not getting nicotine with them, they most assuredly are.


Should a 22 Year Old Alcoholic Get a Liver Transplant?

July 20, 2009

UPDATE: The 22 year old patient that I speak of below passed away.  Very, very sad.

There is an interesting debate in London right now as to whether or not a 22 year old alcoholic deserves a liver transplant.

First a little background.  The patient in question started drinking alcohol with friends when he was 13.  Now nine years later he has the worst case of cirrhosis doctors have ever seen in someone this age.

As you can imagine livers are in short supply, with 400 people dying on the waiting list last year in Britain alone.

Doctors at University College Hospital in London have given Reinbach the most advanced therapies, including a one-off treatment with an artificial liver from San Diego, Calif. But all have failed and they believe only a transplant will save him.

The problem is they don’t want to give him one.  In Britian you must be able to prove that you can be abstinent if you want a transplant due to excessive drinking.  Wait, WHAT?  How on earth can you prove that you will be abstinent?  Supposedly they send you home for a period of time and if you don’t drink you are getting your liver.  Fantastic, but what about the day after the patient gets home, is abstinence still a requirement?

Look, maybe this person can prove that they will stay abstinent, although I have no idea how.  This raises a fascinating question.  Should we be able to decide who gets organs that they need or should everyone go into the candidate pool?

Aren’t we heading down a really slippery slope here?  If a smoker needs a new lung do they have to swear they won’t smoke again?  Easy answer says yes, however, what if they start back up again?  Can we take the lung back?

Let’s look at something more murky.  What if a person needs a new heart, must they swear off hamburgers for the rest of their life?  What if they are poor and can only afford junk food?

Can you see the problem here?  What if I live under a power line and get liver cancer as a result, must I move?  What if I can’t?

Is it possible there may be some class warfare here?

In the case of this young man, he began drinking at 13, well before he could possibly understand the consequences of his actions long term.  I am all for personal responsibility here, however, 13 is way too young to grasp the consequences of hardcore drinking.  Of course the question that you could ask is where were his parents???  His mom reports that she was working full time and had no idea that he was drinking this heavily.

All of this makes me nervous as we go forward with our healthcare debate in this country.  How are going to reasonably make the decisions on who gets what when it comes to health care.  Should we spend less on the 86 year old grandmother when trying to save her life as opposed to the 34 year old?  If we think a person is likely to keep smoking should we really try to save their life if they have a heart attack?

I wish I had the answer…I do have an idea though.

I will write about how I think health insurance should be address in the next couple of days.  It is too big for this post.  Sorry for the tease!!!

I am very interested in how you think Britian should proceed, please comment below.


DHA or Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Alzheimer’s

July 13, 2009

The most complete study to date done on Omega 3 Fatty Acids (DHA) and the hope that it would slow Alzheimer’s has shown there is little help to be gained by taking the popular supplement.

In this study a group of people were given a placebo, with another group getting  a two gram dose of fatty acid every day. After 18 months the results showed no difference in the two groups.

If you are getting older in age and are worried about getting Alzheimer’s there is some evidence that a drink or two a day might help you fend off this terrible disease.  Experts at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina examined and interviewed 3,069 people aged 75 or older.  What they found was the light drinkers were 40% less likely to get Alzheimer’s when compared to the people who did not imbibe at all.

The study did point out that drinking more than that wiped out all benefits, so please don’t order that keg of Chablis just yet.

There is also a promising study out that states DHA may help people who are just starting to get a little forgetful, let’s call it pre-Alzheimer’s.  If you are starting to get forgetful, taking these supplements may improve your memory.  One of the researchers noted it would be like having the memory of someone 3 years younger.

The key distinction here is if the person already has Alzheimer’s.


Seatbelts Save Lives

July 5, 2009

Woke up this morning to this headline in the Boston Herald….Eight killed in wrecks before dawn

For anyone who knows me, inexplicably, I am a huge NASCAR fan. I watch the race, the minor league races, the talk shows, I even read websites about it. I have often joked that I would pick going to the Daytona 500 over most any other sporting event.

To make this more of a conundrum, I barely know which side of the screwdriver to hold, never mind having any knowledge of cars. It is the science of the sport that absolutely fascinates me and today’s post is about the safety side.

When I went to bed last night, at the conclusion of the NASCAR race from Daytona, Kyle Busch, one of the sports biggest stars, had just got turned into the wall at 180+ MPH. His car then spun, was struck from behind, spun again and was hit even harder on the drivers side door. Again all of this at 180+ MPH. His car was totally destroyed. A few weeks prior to that Carl Edwards, another huge star, got hit, spun, hit again, his car went into the air, flipped, hit a fence before finally landing on the track. Again his car was totally destroyed.

What a car looks like after getting hit at 180 MPH

What a car looks like after getting hit at 180 MPH

The common theme in these two 180+ MPH wrecks is that both drivers walked away. Carl Edwards even made a big show of jogging across the finish line, not 15 seconds after his car stopped.

How is it possible that these two guys walk away from their wrecks, yet 8 people were killed last night, July 4th, in wrecks where people weren’t going near half their speed?

After I read the headline of the article, I found this later in the piece…”A common thread in the tragic, predawn carnage was that none of the drivers or passengers in the deadliest accidents in Walpole and Attleboro were wearing safety belts while driving at high speeds.

When a NASCAR driver gets behind the wheel, he does so knowing that this race could be his last. The possibility of death stares him right in the face.  In order to give these drivers a much better chance to survive these crashes a complex safety system is used.  The drivers are basically strapped into their seats.  Trust me when I tell you this, there is not much wiggle room.  There is a 5 point seat-belt and even their helmets are attached to the seat.  A window netting is also included to prevent arms from coming outside of the car.

When a young driver gets behind the wheel, I suspect they are more pre occupied with how they look in the car versus how safe they are.  No wonder parents can’t sleep when their kids are out late.

The safety devices available to a driver pale in comparison to what you would find in a typical NASCAR car, however, since the speeds are hopefully only 1/3 of what they will drive, they are more than sufficient if used properly.

There are 4 key points to safety within the car:

  1. Seat-belt
  2. Airbag
  3. Seat
  4. ABS

Seat-belt.  To not wear your seat-belt is shear idiocy.  There is absolutely no excuse.  Plainly stated the seat-belt will keep you in the car.  It will also keep you in your seat and off the steering wheel or windshield.  You must use the lap and shoulder belts.  This point is not open for debate.

Airbag.  If you strike something hard enough the airbag will deploy.  While this will make a sound and you will smell something odd, these are very effective at keeping your head off the windshield and steering wheel.  Word of caution, short people need to sit as far from the steering wheel as possible, maybe even consider getting pedal extenders.  Same for pregnant women, you don’t want the airbag striking you with too much force, it is best to sit as far back as you can.

Seats.  The seat is designed to absorb the energy if you crash.  In order for it to work properly, you must have the seat as upright as possible and have your head no more than 1 inch from the headrest.  The headrest should also be high up enough so your entire head touches it, don’t just leave it on the seat.  Riding like the gangsta with the seat all the way back and you leaning forward has to end.

ABS.  These are standard on most cars today.  These brakes will allow you to continue steering in the case where you need to stop quickly.  One note of caution, these brakes only work if you keep the pedal depressed.  DO NOT pump these types of brakes.  When you have these brakes all the way pressed down, sometimes they will vibrate or pulse, that means they are doing their job, don’t let up.  If the car that you are looking at buying does not come with ABS, please consider another model.  If you must choose between the moon roof and the ABS, please choose the ABS.

If you know you are going to get in an accident there are a couple of things you can do to try and lessen the imapct of the crash.  Begin by forcing your head against the head rest, while looking straight.  The second thing you can do is tense for the crash, this goes against the old advice of staying loose.  Lastly, if you are in a postion to try and avoid the accident, focus on where you want to go.  If you want to stay on the road and avoid the trees, focus on the road and do your best to ignore the trees.  You will be shocked at how effective this is.

Hey wait, that sounds like life advice also, focus on where you want to go…………

Your state of mind may be the most important tool in your arsenal of safety.  Driving while drinking, under the influence of drugs, tired, angry, or now dialing/talking on the cell and texting is severly limiting your chances of staying out of an accident.  Changing the radio station and eating are also distractions that you must be very careful with.

If you do get in an accident please check in with your doctor right away.  If the accident is bad enough a trip to the ER is a good idea for a set of x-rays.  In most cases you will not need a neck brace, those have been shown to increase scar tissue formation and actually slow down healing.

Lastly, please slow down.  Driving 50 on a road designed for 30 is going to get you in trouble.

If you have any questions you can always ask here through the comments or give me a call at the number above.


Percocet and Vicadin could get banned

July 2, 2009

Yesterday I wrote about more stringent warnings about acetaminophen (ACM). You can read that here.

Now a govt. agency is recommending that Percocet and Vicadin be banned due to the problems associated with ACM. The way that Percocet and Vicadin work is they combine a narcotic with ACM to fight pain.

ACM is combined with different narcotics in at least seven other prescription drugs have a combination with ACM and these will all be banned if the FDA listens to the advice of the experts. Vicodin itself is prescribed more than 100 million times a year in the US.

When the panel members were asked what the consumer could do to help themselves, most agreed that the there needs to be better education about the risks of these popular meds.

Dr. Jan Engle, a panel member and head of the Department of Pharmacy Practice at the University of Illinois in Chicago, encourages people to keep track of what they are taking. ““If you keep track of what you’re taking, none of this is an issue for you.”

While I think that Dr. Engle is correct, you must take it one step further. You must examine what is causing you the pain you are feeling. If it is something obvious, say golf, you must stop. Taking a Percocet or Vicadin in order to play golf is only covering up the pain signals. Continuously covering these signals of pain is only going to lead to further problems down the road.

In the past I used to think that patients would only hurt themselves worse by taking a bunch of meds to keep doing what they want to do. Now I am afraid that taking these meds may actually really hurt someone, and to me that is unacceptable.