Lifelong Health from Creators Syndicate Creators Syndicate is an international syndication company that represents cartoonists and columnists of the highest caliber. en Mon, 25 Jan 2021 20:32:43 -0800 Lifelong Health from Creators Syndicate 3c2fc1b8de90bea0e2af4174f7eb1a6a Medical Advances in the Past 50 Years Are Incredible, but the Future Promises More for 04/09/2015 Thu, 09 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700 <p>In 2016, it will 50 years since I graduated from medical school. We plan a big celebration, and well over 70 percent of our class will be there. As I look back on my long career, I hope that my contributions to the science and teaching of medicine will have made a small difference. My research interests focused on iron metabolism initially and then on the aging process. The advances in the fields of gerontology (the study of aging) and oncology (the study of cancer) over the past 50 years have been beyond anyone's wildest dreams.</p> <p>The difference between aging and cancer is that the former is normal and the latter is a disease. But they both involve a complex interaction between an individual with his or her environment over time.</p> <p>The most important research has been the development of an almost total understanding of the fundamental biology of the cell. We have learned the important role played by genes &#8212; the way they function and how the complex interaction among genes determines how a cell ages and how diseases, such as cancer, develop.<p>Updated: Thu Apr 09, 2015</p> 90567581e440893e2c4839a28332f0cf A Dignified Death Means a Better Life for 04/02/2015 Thu, 02 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Many people ask me what my most important task is. Without question, it is helping people die with dignity, in comfort and surrounded by those they love. I was reminded of this as I paid my last visit to a patient who had touched me greatly. As I watched her navigate her final months and days with peace and fortitude, this brave and dignified woman taught me more about life than I could ever convey.</p> <p>I first met her six months before her death, when she came to see me complaining of progressive weakness in her arms and legs. It did not take us long to make a diagnosis. She had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease, a devastating illness with a very poor prognosis.</p> <p>Upon first meeting her, I quickly realized that this was a truly remarkable woman with whom I would develop a deep connection. She was beloved by many friends and blessed with a loving and devoted family.<p>Updated: Thu Apr 02, 2015</p> 5c5b31cc58048aa3dadf47f2cc50dd09 The Medical Industrial Complex: A Major Contributor to Out-of-Control Health Care Costs for 03/26/2015 Thu, 26 Mar 2015 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Today the biggest threat to our health care system is the medical industrial complex. Thanks to the promise of great profits, breakthroughs in health have been enormous, making America the leader in the most incredible breakthroughs in diagnosis and cure of disease. Because of American know-how, we have machines that can examine every corner of the human body, the human genome has been characterized in detail, and drugs have been developed that can cure cancer, prevent heart disease and save lives of people of all ages.</p> <p>However, there is a downside. Health care is our biggest expense, averaging $3.6 trillion, and rising as the baby boomers get older &#8212; a price that even a nation with our wealth is having difficulty affording. Costs are out of control, and the lack of regulation and significant competition are serious detriments to containing costs.</p> <p>Recently Steven Brill published a book entitled "America's Bitter Pill." In it, he describes the overwhelming and burdensome costs of health care.<p>Updated: Fri Mar 27, 2015</p> 7844d5c1582f03a403199f1ef504582a Many Take Drugs Having the Opposite Effects and Neutralizing Each Other for 03/19/2015 Thu, 19 Mar 2015 00:00:00 -0700 <p>When it comes to managing medications, it is paramount that you understand every drug you use, whether prescribed, over the counter, or "natural." Negative drug interactions are the most common causes of hospital admission. A good example is taking an antidepressant together with alcohol, which neutralizes the benefits of the medication.</p> <p>Another good example is the use of a beta blocker. This lowers the blood pressure, slows and prevents an irregular heart rate, and reduces the risk of a heart attack. Many patients requiring treatment for heart disease often have coexisting lung disease, including chronic obstructive lung disease and asthma. Here, treatment uses drugs having the exact opposite effect of a beta blocker. When used together, they neutralize each other. </p> <p>With age, taking multiple medications is more and more common. Understanding your own medications can be difficult enough, but for the caregiver of a dependent loved one, the whole process can be particularly difficult. <p>Updated: Thu Mar 19, 2015</p> bf7a09ac4267185e155471718558fdf7 Recommendations to Treat Heart Disease Continually Changing for 03/12/2015 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Research on how any disease should be prevented or treated is confusing, and what seems to be the gospel for a long period of time may suddenly change. This particularly applies to preventing and managing risks of heart attack and stroke.</p> <p>Most remarkable is information related to coffee. In a report published in the journal Heart, researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health followed 25,000 healthy subjects living in South Korea. The results showed that drinking five cups of coffee daily was associated with significantly less buildup of calcium in arteries, suggesting a lower risk of developing heart disease. The researchers also suggest that coffee may reduce the chances of developing diabetes. They note that the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee suggested that drinking coffee has minimal effects on the heart. The benefits of coffee were still present in smokers and in those with diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and obesity. The study could not identify the factors in coffee that led to benefits.</p> <p>Though coffee may hold some benefit, it is still prudent to limit caffeine intake because of negative effects on sleep, heart rate and nighttime urination.<p>Updated: Thu Mar 12, 2015</p> 677bce9f2a360c12cf1bd8d5f140bd62 Suicide Has Become a Serious National Epidemic for 03/05/2015 Thu, 05 Mar 2015 00:00:00 -0800 <p>According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, rates of suicide are increasing significantly. In 2012, the suicide rate was 12.6 per 100,000 Americans, a level not seen since 1987. In 2013, a total of 41,149 individuals committed suicide, or one person every 12.8 minutes. The greatest increase occurred in those between the ages of 45 and 64. In 2000, the rate for that group was 13.5 suicides per 100,000 people, increasing to 19.1 in 2013, the latest year for which information is available.</p> <p>Far more men commit suicide than women. In 2013, there were 20.2 suicides per 100,000 men, compared with 5.1 for women. Suicide is more common in white men, who accounted for 70 percent of suicides in 2013. Women make more suicide attempts, but men's attempts are four times as likely to be successful.</p> <p>Firearms are used to commit suicide 52.5 percent of the time. Suffocation, usually by hanging, is the cause 24.5 percent of the time. And 16.1 percent die from poisoning.<p>Updated: Thu Mar 05, 2015</p> c577c83117227bc9769d4398c5594e93 Racism and Discrimination in Health Care for 02/26/2015 Thu, 26 Feb 2015 00:00:00 -0800 <p>The highly influential New England Journal of Medicine published a series of perspectives on racial bias in health care. Dr. Mary Bassett, New York City's health commissioner, suggested that the medical community should not only do more to improve the health of black patients but also play an active role in combating racism.</p> <p>There is no question that the health of blacks is significantly worse than the health of whites. The average life expectancy of blacks is much lower than that of whites, which is 77.9 years. The life expectancy of black males is 69 years, which is lower than life expectancy in Cuba, Iran and Syria.</p> <p>True, black men are six times likelier to be injured or die from violence than any other ethnic group. But heart disease, strokes and cancer are also more common and more serious in blacks.<p>Updated: Thu Feb 26, 2015</p> 28383c755009c4109567575bcc92fe56 When Is an Older Driver a Danger on the Road? for 02/19/2015 Thu, 19 Feb 2015 00:00:00 -0800 <p>Telling an older person he should no longer drive is difficult. This can be a devastating blow to the patient, who may resist the suggestion vigorously. No longer being able to drive takes away one's independence and increases isolation, depression, risk of illness and a likelihood of placement in a nursing home. It is for those reasons that decisions about driving must be taken seriously, must be based on sound medical facts and must not rely on frantic family members (usually children) who are overly concerned about their parent's safety.</p> <p>Recently, an angry patient, whose family had forbidden him to drive, came to see me brandishing a report published by the RAND Corp. that showed that "seniors" are safer drivers than young adults. It reported that drivers older than 65 have fewer accidents than those younger than 25. The older group causes only 7 percent of accidents, compared with 43 percent for the younger group. "Of course I should drive," this 85-year-old man insisted angrily.</p> <p>Sadly, the RAND report was misleading. Lumping everyone older than 65 together fails to tell the whole story. Many older people elect to stop driving, drive shorter distances and do not drive at night. According to a report published by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, the number of crashes per 1,000 licensed drivers averages 68 per year, whereas there are only 37 per 1,000 involving drivers older than 65. However, as there are fewer older drivers, a better way to assess risk is to evaluate the number of accidents in relation to the number of miles driven. If we use this approach, the safest drivers range in age from 55 to 64, averaging 3.2 crashes per 1 million vehicle miles driven, compared with 8.2 crashes for those ages 20 to 24, which happens to be the same rate as the one for drivers older than 85.<p>Updated: Thu Feb 19, 2015</p> e664613f9018d453564a7b84c71ca7a3 Priorities in Lowering the Risk of Heart Disease for 02/12/2015 Thu, 12 Feb 2015 00:00:00 -0800 <p>Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the developed world. Although occurring at a later age, heart disease is just as common in women as in men. Despite this fact, fewer than 1 in 5 women believe that heart disease is a significant health threat even though 1 in 3 deaths in women each year is from heart disease, which is more than from all causes of cancer combined. </p> <p>While every adult is at high risk for heart disease, there are a series of factors that increase the chances of heart disease substantially. The disease is much more common in men than in women until menopause, after which time the risk is essentially the same. And with each advancing year heart disease becomes more common. A strong family history of heart disease, particularly if symptoms occur under the age of 50, cigarette smoking, elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, a sedentary lifestyle and obesity, all substantially increase heart disease risk. Heart attacks and other forms of heart disease are much more common in women with diabetes, but for reasons that are ill understood, diabetes does not have a similar impact in men. And anxiety and high levels of stress do not bode well for preventing heart attacks.</p> <p>For most adults, an assessment of cardiac risk should be done at age 30. Occasionally, markedly elevated cholesterol is identified, necessitating the need for treatment. Blood pressure should be measured at least annually, and if elevated, approaches to bringing the levels to normal is a must. Hypertension may or may not require treatment with medications. Screening for diabetes should be done every five years until age 60 and more frequently thereafter. Whenever a routine physical is done, time should be spent counseling on how to live long, age well and prevent heart disease.<p>Updated: Thu Feb 12, 2015</p> 950020bac7381d619d85fd6a40b834e9 Being Your Parent's Parent Is Difficult But Potentially Rewarding for 02/05/2015 Thu, 05 Feb 2015 00:00:00 -0800 <p>I truly miss my mother, who died 18 months ago, at age 90. She was the quintessential Jewish mother and an expert at guilt. When I phoned her in South Africa, I didn't just say hello; I also said I'm sorry. I had almost always done something wrong. Perhaps I did not call my sister on her birthday or failed to keep a promise. She often said, "Thank God your father isn't alive to see this" or "with a son like you, no wonder my blood pressure is so high!" Fortunately, my mother's guilt trips were never demeaning but always related to making sure family came first. She never failed to tell me how proud she was of me and my siblings. </p> <p>While my mother's ability to induce guilt still makes me smile, many children of my patients complain bitterly about their relationship with their parent, particularly when the tables are turned. Memory loss or physical disabilities lead to dependency that suddenly makes them their parent's parent. This is a particular problem for baby boomers, who have grown up as free spirits, experimenting, rebellious and independent. Many have had tense relationships with their parents. Conflicts with a dependent parent can lead to lifelong guilt about what could have and should have been. </p> <p>A good friend was reduced to tears when she told me how difficult it was for her to meet the needs of her 85-year-old mother. Throughout their lives, they had constantly "butted heads." Now her mother is essentially home bound and relies on her daughter for everything. Nothing is ever good enough; she blames the daughter for everything, is constantly insulting and refuses to listen to reason. She resists being parented by her child, refuses to take advice and makes her daughter feel helpless. Her mother insists on driving the car despite being a menace on the road, forgets to, or alternatively, takes too many medications, often at the wrong time and refuses help around the house. Most painful is the praise her mother showers on her two sons, who never show up or offer to help. The daughter is particularly guilty that arguments are becoming louder and more rancorous. Conflicts with her mother are affecting her marriage and family life. Her mother feels that her daughter is "too bossy", overbearing and interfering. She vents anger at her daughter and wishes she would mother her less. <p>Updated: Thu Feb 05, 2015</p> e75c1e376340434fa1228d6c44b7b4fb Isolation Is an Avoidable Problem for Older People for 01/29/2015 Thu, 29 Jan 2015 00:00:00 -0800 <p>Today, thousands of older Americans face serious problems of loneliness and isolation. For a variety of reasons, many older people live alone with virtually no contact with the outside world. Loss of a spouse, frailty and an unwillingness to leave the home prevent older citizens from maintaining a social, outgoing lifestyle.</p> <p>Unfortunately, I know of many sad stories of social isolation. Recently, a researcher who studied this problem told me an incredibly vivid and unsettling story about an older man who led a sad, depressed and lonely life. Although he had a very successful career, he had recently lost his wife and was estranged from his only daughter. He felt hopeless, alone, and relegated himself to a life confined within his small, suburban house.</p> <p>Fortunately for him, he met and befriended this wonderful young researcher, and for the remainder of his life she was his closest friend. She served as the only link to the world outside, saving him from total isolation. The companionship they shared changed the course of their lives, making each day fuller and richer.<p>Updated: Thu Jan 29, 2015</p> dc986b57cba23041af5007613fd551a7 Breast Cancer, Much Good News but Controversies Remain for 01/22/2015 Thu, 22 Jan 2015 00:00:00 -0800 <p>Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in women (after lung cancer). In 2014, 232,000 cases of breast cancer were diagnosed. After five years, 89.5 percent will be alive; the majority being cured. As the population at risk for breast cancer increases, results must be expressed per 100,000 women. In 2005 a total of 211,000 women ware diagnosed with breast cancer (141 per 100,000 women) compared to 232,00 (124/100,00) in 2014. Although the numbers of deaths have stayed about the same, corrected for the increased population, there has been a 34 percent reduction in those who die from the disease.</p> <p>The decrease in incidence and better survival of breast cancer between 2005 and today is thought to be related to less use of hormone replacement therapy, increased screening and early detection as well as better therapy.</p> <p>The vast majority of cancers diagnosed is early stage, very small in size and has not spread to the lymph nodes. These cancers are usually treated by removing the breast lump followed by either radiotherapy or relatively nontoxic therapy with medications such as Tamoxifen that the reduce risk of recurrence. <p>Updated: Thu Jan 22, 2015</p> 7f7543787521d5b4797ffdffda9c99b9 Can You Prevent Aging? for 01/15/2015 Thu, 15 Jan 2015 00:00:00 -0800 <p>Aging is not a disease, as it affects everyone. Each day we age, and our risk of developing illnesses increases. By reducing illness, we may enable ourselves to live longer. However, beyond the age of 90, over 70 percent of us are dependent and often in nursing homes. Our goal should not be a longer but rather a better, more independent life.</p> <p>The key question is: Will we ever find the fountain of youth, prevent aging and prolong life? Scientific breakthroughs have made this elusive goal more understandable and feasible. Knowledge of the aging process and mechanisms leading to the common diseases that occur in late life is increasing rapidly. Scientists firmly believe that someday there will be a discovery offering the promise of significantly prolonging the quality and quantity of our lives.</p> <p>Recently a study published in the journal Science showed that resveratrol, an antioxidant in red wine, that prolongs life in worms, flies and mice, stimulates the production of a protein called surtuin. This protein prevents disease by speeding up energy production in cells. The research showed that resveratrol stimulates a unique gene that leads to the increased production of surtuin. Dr. David Sinclair, the senior author of the study, suggests that research like this my lead to the development of compounds that can prolong life and prevent disease.<p>Updated: Thu Jan 15, 2015</p> ddf30f9a8ca851f9cb66d2c7c1616aec Too Much Sugar Is a Major Cause of Obesity for 01/08/2015 Thu, 08 Jan 2015 00:00:00 -0800 <p>When I was a child, my mother thought my brother was not going to live because he was so painfully thin. He did not eat much, and she pushed as many calories into him as possible. Gradually, over the years, his weight became acceptable, and by the time he was in his 30s he was pleasantly plump, gradually increasing in weight with each passing year. There is no question that something happens to our metabolism when we become young adults. This alteration, not well understood, I might add, leads to the beginning of weight gain that averages about a pound per year of life until about age 65 and then levels off. Weight gain becomes less common over age 75.</p> <p>During the past 50 years, something bad has been happening. Weight gain is the norm rather than the exception, and children are becoming ever more obese. We have blamed this changed on keeping a sedentary lifestyle, choosing unhealthy foods, large portion sizes and consuming far too many calories. In the mid- and late-20th century, fat and cholesterol took the blame. A low-fat diet became everyone's goal. Fat intake was restricted, but starch and sugar were not, and sadly we became even more rotund.</p> <p>Recently a great deal of evidence is accumulating that refined sugars such as table sugar or sucrose and high fructose corn syrup were a major cause of weight gain. Many decried sugar's negative effects on health, including an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and, of course, dental cavities. Even though this was well-accepted by some, the research evidence left much to be desired and many experts in the field felt that the cause was not how much sugar you consumed but how many calories.<p>Updated: Thu Jan 08, 2015</p> 268a3fc07e0ac4527bbc61a5f51c72c5 Resolve This Year to Live a Heart-Healthy Life for 01/01/2015 Thu, 01 Jan 2015 00:00:00 -0800 <p>The evidence is compelling. Living a heart-healthy lifestyle is the best way to reduce not only your risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure but it also leads to lower risks of the common cancers afflicting us (lung, breast, colon, prostate) and delays the age at which Alzheimer's disease becomes symptomatic.</p> <p>You would think that this well-known information would mean that most of us do everything we can to meet these critically important health goals. In January of this year, in the hopes of reducing the population's risk of heart disease by 20 percent, the American Heart Association published "Life's Simple 7," an article detailing the steps needed to reduce your risk of heart disease. </p> <p>These are: <p>Updated: Thu Jan 01, 2015</p> bcd3b9ca986faaffb07dc3bbb1b78da6 Tips to Live Long and Age Well for 12/25/2014 Thu, 25 Dec 2014 00:00:00 -0800 <p>As the final days of 2014 fly by, everyone I know complains that their clothes are too tight, they have eaten too much, have been too sedentary, and the most common New Year's resolution is the promise to "get into shape." This emblemizes Americans' obsession with the way we look. While we may aspire to become toned and shapely, success is rare. Our goal should be to live long and age well. Here are some ways to accomplish that:</p> <p>It is better to be fatter and fit than thinner and sedentary. Over 30 percent of Americans are obese, and a further 35 percent are "pleasantly plump." There is no question that the life expectancy of obese Americans is reduced, but most studies indicate that overweight individuals may live longer than those considered to be at their ideal body weight. Weight loss through dieting rarely works, so a first priority should be to move more. Walking 150 minutes per week reduces mortality rates by over 50 percent. Those who accomplish this are better off than less overweight individuals who are sedentary. </p> <p>If there is one longevity pill that improves the quality of life, gives energy and enthusiasm and prevents illnesses, it's exercise. Stretching, balance exercises, resistance training with weights and aerobic exercise to increase the heart rate are essential components of living a healthy life. <p>Updated: Thu Dec 25, 2014</p> ec7e7ac1a45ac49cda4f2d2420e5c787 Much of What we Believe About Obesity May Be Incorrect for 12/18/2014 Thu, 18 Dec 2014 00:00:00 -0800 <p>In the New England Journal of Medicine, scientists from nutritional centers in the United States and abroad have published a paper titled "Myths, Presumptions, and Facts about Obesity." They suggest that many of the beliefs regarding obesity are not supported by scientific evidence (presumptions), or information suggests the beliefs are incorrect (myths). This paper raises serious questions about our approach or understanding of obesity.</p> <p>Here are the myths. </p> <p>1. Reducing calorie intake or increasing exercise over prolonged periods of time leads to significant weight loss. Experts suggest slightly reducing food intake and moderating exercise can lead to an annual weight loss of 10 pounds. However, research shows that it is more like 2 pounds annually. <p>Updated: Thu Dec 18, 2014</p> 2e9f704419d45c71646bd92195cbfcee Smoking Reduces a Woman's Life Expectancy by 10 Years for 12/11/2014 Thu, 11 Dec 2014 00:00:00 -0800 <p>As a general rule when it comes to health, women are far better off than men. Prior to menopause, their risk of heart disease and stroke is substantially less than men, and the numbers of cancers occurring in both sexes is significantly lower. But when it comes to addiction, women do not do as well. Overcoming drug addiction, alcohol abuse and cigarette smoking is much more difficult. </p> <p>Until recently, the negative effects of smoking had only been studied in detail in men. For the first time, a study in the journal The lancet has shown that smoking reduces the life expectancy of women by an average of 10 years. The findings were obtained from " The Million Women Study" conducted in Britain. The study includes 1.2 million women between the ages of 50 and 69 who at the time of this report have been followed for a total of 12 years. At the onset of the study and 3 years later, they were asked questions about lifestyle and habits. During the 12-year period a total of 60,000 women had died. At the start of the study, 20 percent of the women were smokers, 28 percent were previous smokers and 52 percent never smoked. </p> <p>The risk of death in those continuing to smoke at the 3-year mark was three times higher than those who had never smoked. And the more cigarettes smoked, the greater the risk. In those who smoked 1-9 cigarettes daily, the risk of death was twice as high as nonsmokers. The authors of this paper conclude that smoking-related illnesses including lung disease, lung cancer, heart disease and stroke accounted for 66 percent of all deaths amongst women between the ages of 60 and 80. Because women only began smoking in earnest after 1940, this is the first study that clearly demonstrates that the long-term negative effects of smoking in women are no different than in men.<p>Updated: Thu Dec 11, 2014</p> 87b7239d364600aacd693486d0818ef8 There Is a Strong Link Between Faith and Health for 12/04/2014 Thu, 04 Dec 2014 00:00:00 -0800 <p>For the past 50 years, significant research has focused on the strong link between faith and health. Studies have shown that those who believe in a higher power and that "God is on their side" tend to be healthier, have a lower risk of disease and most importantly, should they become ill, tend to recover more quickly, spend less time in the hospital and have a lower complication rate.</p> <p>Studies have also shown that a concerted effort to meet the spiritual needs of patients undergoing treatment for a serious illness leads to shorter hospital stays and better outcomes. This research, done with the Veterans Affaires Health System, indicated that not only was health improved but cost savings were substantial. </p> <p>Most health care providers believe that it is inappropriate for them to discuss issues of faith with their patients. There is concern that this may imply a wish to impose their beliefs on those of their patient. This view is changing. Studies have shown that in the appropriate setting, virtually all patients welcome a discussion of faith with their physician. This particularly applies to the annual physical and care during a serious or life-threatening illness.<p>Updated: Thu Dec 04, 2014</p> 07b69e247bc894970c4704ff34ce5829 Seasonal Affective Disorder -- a Common Cause of Depression for 11/27/2014 Thu, 27 Nov 2014 00:00:00 -0800 <p>It is deep into November, the days are cooler and shorter, and Thanksgiving and Christmas are upon us. For many of us, this time of year is filled with special occasions, each one celebrating friends, family and community. </p> <p>But with these holidays comes an aggressive assault on our health. We eat too much, exercise too little, and simmering family conflicts often lead to stress, high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Unfortunately, this time of the year is accompanied by a dramatic increase of depression. </p> <p>For some, the dreary, cloudy winter days lead to a high incidence of a condition called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, which manifests with insomnia and significant declines in mood. It can also be accompanied by a sense of increased hunger, a craving for carbohydrates and weight gain. Most experts believe SAD is caused by lack of sunlight, which interferes with our sleep-wake cycle or circadian rhythm. This causes many adults to lose the ability to distinguish night from day and sleep poorly. A decline in serotonin, a chemical released from the brain, affects mood and leads to depression. The diagnosis of SAD is suspected if a person has symptoms of depression at least twice during winter, particularly if symptoms are present in more than one family member. <p>Updated: Thu Nov 27, 2014</p>