Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fighting dementia

They call the article “5 ways to keep Alzheimer’s away”, but it really talks about 6. After mentioning the recent Journal of the AMA article which found ginkgo biloba of no help in warding off dementia, it mentions others with some support.

Certainly, physical exercise and mental exercise are helpful and probably have the least conflicted evidence behind them, so they are easy to recommend. Physical exercise has been shown to keep folks sharp and to at least some extent improve established dementia. I also agree with the article that the mental exercise needs to be varied (“cross training” they call it, with the analogy of only doing pushups developing only the arms). Social interaction should also be included this category. It stimulates the mind and the body and is clearly good for the psyche, a trifecta of anti-dementia goodness.

Their other recommendations have a bit more checkered evidence backing them up. They recommend antioxidants (e.g. vitamins A, C, and E) which have some support, but overdoing them (particularly vitamins A and E) may not be good and may cause some harm. But do remember “all things in moderation”. Also recommended are phosphatidylserine supplementation, fish-oil supplements, and adding curry to your diet. I think the support is slim for these, but for the most part they are not likely to cause harm. I think the curry (e.g. in Indian food, one of my favorites) is a particularly fun and tasty way to work against dementia, so go for it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Use-lose law; not OK to not enforce

There was an article in the Chicago Tribune a couple of days ago about the “use-lose” law under which underage kids caught (and convicted of) drinking or being drunk have their driver’s license suspended for a short period of time (3 months with a first offense), even if driving was not involved in or around the drinking incident.

I think the law is an important step forward in limiting underage drinking and the deaths that result from underage drinking. Keep in mind that many of those deaths do not involve driving, nor do most incidents of date rape (alcohol is the number one date rape drug), but affecting their ability to drive will get their attention and is an effective punishment.

I think it borders on criminal that the enforcement of the law is inconsistent (the focus of the article) and think it is great that Lake County leads the state in enforcing the law. Let’s keep it up.

One comment irritated me:
"It is still going after the child, who is a victim of the alcohol industry," said Janet Williams, co-chairwoman of the Illinois Coalition to Stop Underage Drinking.

It is nonsense to think of these kids as victims. While I agree that some ads and some alcohol containing beverages are aimed at kids, it is wrong to write the kids off as (apparently) brainwashed victims. We can give kids the tools to resist this brainwashing if it is taking place at all (making something attractive doesn’t demand use). [The “brainwashing” if it is there at all is more following observed patterned behaviors of others.] We need to put information in their hands and in their heads about the effects of alcohol on their brains and the effects of alcohol on their lives (and deaths). It must be given to them truthfully, repeatedly and in various forms. Their parents and their schools and society must all do their part.

We must be consistent in communicating that underage drinking is not OK.

I will continue to do my part; you must get the information and do yours as well.

Make good choices, don’t take chances.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Crying for what's wrong with you

We all have experienced that crying makes us feel better, but now there are studies that show that crying has health benefits as well.

It makes nine out of 10 people feel better, reduces stress, and may help to keep the body healthy. It's also free, available to almost everyone, and has no known side effects, other than wet tissues, red eyes and runny makeup. Crying may not be a blockbuster drug, but the latest research suggests it's highly effective at healing, and that it improves the mood of 88.8 per cent of weepers...

We cry out stress hormones. Crying stimulates the release of endogenous opiates for pain relief. Crying may help rebalance the body's electrolytes.

So treat yourself to a sad movie and have a good cry from time to time. It can help restore psychological and physiological balance in your life.

Being sad ain’t all bad.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Fun "health" facts

I was reading the Chicago Tribune last Sunday and they had a fun fact list in a sidebar that they had gotten from “The Germ Freak’s Guide to Outwitting Colds and Flu’ and “Germ Proof Your Kids” I thought I’d share some of them:

3 feet: the distance droplets can travel after a cough of sneeze
20 feet: the distance fecal bacteria can travel from the toilet after it’s flushed

49: the number of germs, per square inch, on a toilet seat
25,000: the number of germs, per square inch, on an office telephone

Don’t you just love cool, mostly worthless “health” facts?

So don’t lick a phone at work.
However, knowing that you have “100 billion bacteria in your mouth”, maybe you wouldn’t notice.