HEALTH & SCIENCE
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JUST THE FACTS
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- Brain disease found in 87 out of 91 former NFL players
- Middle age white suicides up
- Skin cancer rates have doubled over the past 30 years, and public health officials warn they will continue to rise if nothing is done.
- Low Vitamin D increases risk of death
- Find out how much your doctor has taken from Big Pharma
- How physicians want to die
- How your county ranks in health
- Health facts by state
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How to Die in Oregon. Under Oregons Death with Dignity law, terminally ill people can get prescriptions for lethal medications so they control the timing and circumstances of their death. This documentary tells the intimate stories of several people who have used this law, including a 54-year-old woman with incurable liver cancer. The film raises the question of why most states do not allow individuals to decide how much pain and indignity they choose to endure. Work Site
Over Diagnosis: Making People Sick in Pursuit of Health - Today, people don't just have diseases, they have pre-diseases: pre-diabetes, pre-hypertension, pre-obesity. In the face of pre-disease, otherwise healthy people seek treatment for potential ailments that show no symptoms, and maybe never will. We are all becoming the worried well, spurred on by doctors, patient advocacy groups, pharmaceutical companies and the media. "Is informing the well about their risks for disease really the road map to a healthy society?" the authors wonder. -New Scientist
NFL players have collectively sustained 1,300+ injuries this season.
Vox - Over the past 25 years, the number of children who die before reaching their fifth birthday has fallen dramatically, from 12.7 million per year in 1990 to 5.9 million in 2015.
A new controlled diet study has found that increasing the levels of saturated fat in the diet does not lead to increased levels of saturated fat in the blood. However, increasing the amount of carbohydrates in the diet was found to raise the levels of a fatty acid associated with diabetes and heart disease.
Investigators measured airborne bacteria levels and found higher amounts of germs around air dryers than around towel dispensers. Jet-air dryers were the worst, the study found. Bacteria levels in the air around jet-air dryers were 4.5 times higher than around warm air dryers and 27 times higher than around paper towel dispensers, said a team led by Mark Wilcox of the University of Leeds.
Exposure to secondhand smoke and roadway traffic may be tied to increased body mass index in children and adolescents, a new study suggests.
Cutting calories slows aging, new study finds
Daily Aspirin Fails to Help Older Hearts in Japanese Study
Study: Moderate drinking has a protective effect among only 15% of the general population
23 percent of U.S. respondents indicated they have been diagnosed with depression in their lifetime and two in five (nearly 40 percent) of those patients reported taking time off of work - an average of 10 days a year - as a result of their diagnosis.
Prostate cancer is the second-most-common cancer in men, with one in seven men diagnosed within their lifetimes.In 2014, an estimated 233,000 men will be diagnosed, and over 29,000 will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society
Portside - A study of hospital administrative costs in eight nations published today in the September issue of Health Affairs finds that hospital bureaucracy consumed 25.3 percent of hospital budgets in the U.S. in 2011, far more than in other nations. Administrative costs were lowest (about 12 percent) in Scotland and Canada, whose single-payer systems fund hospitals through global, lump-sum budgets, much as a fire department is funded in the U.S.
Global child mortality has nearly halved in the past two decades thanks to a mixture of better aid and economic growth in poorer countries, according to a UN report. Research showed fewer than seven million children under the age of five died last year compared with nearly 12 million in 1990.
Web MD - Researchers found the risk of dying has dropped by 60% over the last 75 years. The CDC report on trends on death rates in the U.S. shows the risk of death has decreased for all age groups, but the biggest improvement has been among young people. The death rate among children aged 1-4 declined 94% from 1935 to 2010, compared with a 38% decline among adults aged 85 or more. The biggest reduction was among the young, but declining death rates were also seen among the elderly. For example, death rates dropped by 62% among people aged 65-74, 58% among those 75-84, and 38% for people 85 and older.
CNN - The estimated number of U.S. autistic kids has skyrocketed by 78% since 2000, according to a report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in 88 American kids has autism, according to the new figures. Among boys, it's one in 54.
Percent of children in single-mother Scandinavian families who are living in poverty: 11. . .In single-mother U.S. families: 55
@Harpers - Percentage increase in the rate of alcohol abuse for every percent by which U.S. unemployment increases: 17
Percentage change in the past decade in the suicide rate of U.S. men in their fifties: +49
@Harpers - Chance a middle-aged American woman takes antidepressants: 1 in 4
Nearly 45,000 people die a year because they do not have health insurance -Bernie Sanders
- America's hospitals are the most expensive part of the worlds most expensive medical system. Health care consumes nearly a fifth of economic output; 31% of that goes towards hospital care alone, some $850 billion in 2011. Considered on a cost per patient per day basis, Americans spend more than four times as much on hospital care as many other countries. Yet the costs are highly variable: 10% of hospital patients paid more than $12,000 a day while 25% pay less than $2,000.
- 70% of Americans on prescription drugs
@Harpers - Estimated number of planets in the galaxy hospitable enough to support life as intelligent as humans: 37,963
President Obama has signed 14 laws that amend, rescind or otherwise change parts of his health care law, and hes taken five independent steps to delay the Affordable Care Act on his own, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service.
Percentage change in the past decade in the suicide rate of U.S. men in their fifties: +49
The combined cancer death rate (deaths per 100,000 population) has been continuously declining for 2 decades, from a peak of 215.1 in 1991 to 171.8 in 2010. This 20% decline translates to the avoidance of approximately 1,340,400 cancer deaths (952,700 among men and 387,700 among women) during this time period.
@Harpers - Rank of preventable medical errors among the leading causes of death in the United States: 3
Press Watch UK - The life expectancy of those living in England's most deprived areas is up to twenty years lower than those in affluent Southern parishes. Research by the Church Urban Fund show a significant north/south divide. Women from Toxteth and Everton in Liverpool can expect to live to 74, while their counterparts in Comberton, Cambridgeshire, have an average life expectancy of 94.
Years by which the average life span of a homeless person is shorter than the overall average: 30
To hear that the average U.S. life expectancy was 47 years in 1900 and 78 years as of 2007, you might conclude that there werent a lot of old people in the old days and that modern medicine invented old age. But average life expectancy is heavily skewed by childhood deaths, and infant mortality rates were high back then. In 1900, the U.S. infant mortality rate was approximately 100 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2000, the rate was 6.89 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. - Craig Bowron, Washington Post
- Two studies find women's life expectancy has retreated
- Study: New generation of cellphones not good for brain
The royal birth cost $15,000. The average American birth is billed at $30,000.
Bernie Sanders: Only 7% of the nation's medical school graduates now choose a primary care career.
RxISK.org, the first free independent website for researching and reporting prescription drug side effects, has added a Violence Zone to demonstrate and collect data on the links between prescription drugs and violent thoughts and behavior from mild to suicidal or homicidal. - Activist Post
@Harpers - Portion of the National Institutes of Health's research-chimp population going into retirement in the next year: 1/5
Some Wall Street advisors use astrology
Another reason for eating chocolate
Are germs good for your kids?
Suit charges organ donor network pressured hospitals to declare patients brain dead
Life span of least educated whites is shrinking
The rise of the medical bureaucracy
SIX CHARTS ILLUSTRATING WHY CORRELATION IS NOT NECESSARILY CAUSATION
British Medical Journal - People with HIV have a 15 years longer life expectancy thanks to improved treatments over the past 13 years, according to a new . HIV infection has become a chronic disease with a good prognosis if treatment begins sufficiently early in the course of the disease and the patient sticks to antiretroviral treatment. However life expectancy for people with the disease is lower than that of the general population.
Nearly a third of advanced cancer patients receive more aggressive treatment than they may want
Who said scientists aren't fun
Dedication page of
Introduction to Algebraic Topology
My boyfriend of 7 years and I are both physicists.
Here's how he proposed to me.
(Click for full size)
2010 and earlier
Wall Steet Journal - Ascension Health, the country's largest nonprofit hospital system, says its mission is to serve all, "with special attention to those who are poor and vulnerable." But in this city, where one in four people don't have health insurance, it's become harder for the poor and vulnerable to find Ascension. Last year, Ascension's local subsidiary closed [Detroit's] Riverview Hospital, the third hospital it has shut down in Detroit in the past 10 years and the only hospital that remained on the city's blighted east side. Meanwhile, 30 miles away, in a suburb of multimillion-dollar homes, Ascension is opening a new $224 million hospital. Of the 42 hospitals in the city in 1960, fewer than 10 are left. .
Net income at Ascension, which owns 67 hospitals located mostly in the Midwest, South and Northeast, nearly tripled to $1.2 billion between 2004 and 2007 thanks largely to investment gains.
. . Nonprofit hospital systems have shuttered facilities from Los Angeles to Chicago to Newark, N.J., while spending billions on suburban expansions. This all comes as large nonprofit chains have been enjoying some of their most prosperous times ever.
Since the Review is better known for its political scoops rather than its scientific ones, excuse us for bragging that the latest issue of the highly regarded Nature Magazine has a cover article about the important but hidden Altenberg meeting on post-Darwinian research and new thoughts about evolution. We ran a piece of Suzan Mazur's ground breaking work on this topic back in March and followed up with another in July. Nature even borrows from Mazur's term "evolutionary Woodstock" to describe the critical meeting. Mazur's work is also found regularly in the great New Zealand journal, Scoop. The scientific establishment has been somewhat scared of dealing rationally and openly with new evolutionary ideas because of its fear of the powerful creationist movement. So for the topic to make the cover of Nature is a notable development.
Tree Hugger - Martin Mittelstaedt of the Globe and Mail writes about how "Researchers tracking childhood behavioural disorders, sperm counts, testicular cancer and even the shrinking size of male gonads are convinced that something is amiss. The University of Pittsburgh's Devra Davis, in a study issued last year, found that the U.S. and Japan combined had a staggering tally of 262,000 "missing boys" from 1970 to about 2000 because of a decline in the sex ratio at birth. Although it could be a statistical anomaly, she says the figure is "very worrisome." Some think it might be due to endocrine disruptors in the environment. He lists "science's top five worries over the fate of the human male."
1. Lost boys: Studies on births from the U.S., Japan, and Canada have found a drop in the percentage of boys born compared with girls. The reason isn't known.
2. Declining harvest: Men in farm country can be half as prolific when it comes to making sperm as their city counterparts, raising the possibility that pesticides undermine male fertility.
3. Downsizing: It's disputed by chemical companies, but some researchers say they have found an everyday plastic compound - phthalates - that feminizes baby boys, causing penises and other reproductive organs to be smaller.
4. Hormones not so raging: If you're a middle-aged man, you're likely to be less virile than your father because you make less testosterone. In recent decades, the decline has averaged about 1 per cent a year. If it continues over another generation or two, the consequences could be dire.
5. Equipment failure: Rates of testicular cancer, hypospadias and other genital abnormalities have soared over recent decades, rising by more than 50 per cent each.
Mittelstaedt then lists the four chemicals that are causing the biggest concern: Bisphenol A, Phthalates, Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDE). Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB)
Bruce E, Levine, Alternet - In The Sane Society, [Erich] Fromm wrote, "Many psychiatrists and psychologists refuse to entertain the idea that society as a whole may be lacking in sanity. They hold that the problem of mental health in a society is only that of the number of 'unadjusted' individuals, and not of a possible unadjustment of the culture itself."
Is American society a healthy one, and are those having difficulties adjusting to it mentally ill? Or is American society an unhealthy one, and are many Americans with emotional difficulties simply alienated rather than ill? For Fromm, "An unhealthy society is one which creates mutual hostility (and) distrust, which transforms man into an instrument of use and exploitation for others, which deprives him of a sense of self, except inasmuch as he submits to others or becomes an automaton." Fromm viewed American society as an increasingly unhealthy one, in which people routinely experience painful alienation that fuels emotional and behavioral difficulties. . .
The essential confrontation for Fromm is not about psychiatric drugs per se (though he would be sad that so many Americans nowadays, especially children, are prescribed psychotropic drugs in order to fit into inhospitable environments). His essential confrontation was directed at all mental health professionals -- including non-prescribers such as psychologists, social workers and counselors -- who merely assist their patients to adjust but neglect to validate their patients' alienation from society.
Those comfortably atop societal hierarchies have difficulty recognizing that many American institutions promote helplessness, passivity, boredom, fear, isolation, alienation and dehumanization for those not at the top. One-size-fits-all schools, the corporate workplace, government bureaucracies and other giant, impersonal institutions routinely promote manipulative relationships rather than respectful ones, machine efficiency rather than human pride, authoritarian hierarchies rather than participatory democracy, disconnectedness rather than community, and helplessness rather than empowerment.
In The Sane Society, Fromm warned, "Today the function of psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis threatens to become the tool in the manipulation of man. The specialists in this field tell you what the 'normal' person is, and, correspondingly, what is wrong with you; they devise the methods to help you adjust, be happy, be normal.". . .
It is my experience that psychiatry, Scientology and fundamentalist religions are turnoffs for genuinely critical thinkers. Critical thinkers are not so desperate to adjust and be happy that they ignore adverse affects -- be they physical, psychological, spiritual or societal. Critical thinkers listen to what others have to say while considering their motives, especially financial ones; and they discern how one's motivation may distort one's assumptions.
A critical thinker would certainly not merely accept without analysis Fromm's and my conclusion that American society is insane in terms of healthy human development. . .
A critical thinker would most certainly point out that there have been societies far less sane than the United States -- and Erich Fromm made himself absolutely clear on this point. In the barbaric German society that Fromm fled, disruptive children who couldn't fit into one-size-fits-all schools were not forced to take Adderall and other amphetamines, but instead their parents handed them over to psychiatrists to be euthanized. Fromm, however, knew that just because one could point to societies less sane than the United States, this did not make the United States a sane, humanistic society.
Bruce E. Levine, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and author of Surviving America's Depression Epidemic: How to Find Morale, Energy, and Community in a World Gone Crazy (Chelsea Green, 2007
Scientific Blogging - Andrew Scholey, Ph.D., professor of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia has led a research study on the effects of chewing gum on stress relief and focus and concentration. The study found that chewing gum helped relieve anxiety, improve alertness and reduce stress among individuals in a laboratory setting. . .
The study noted:
- When chewing gum, participants reported lower levels of anxiety.
- Gum chewers showed a reduction in anxiety as compared to non-gum chewers by nearly 17 percent during mild stress and nearly 10 percent in moderate stress.
- Increased Alertness: Participants experienced greater levels of alertness when they chewed gum.
- Gum chewers showed improvement in alertness over non-gum chewers by nearly 19 percent during mild stress and 8 percent in moderate stress.
- Reduced Stress: Stress levels were lower in participants who chewed gum.
- Levels of salivary cortisol (a physiological stress marker) in gum chewers were lower than those of non-gum chewers by 16 percent during mild stress and nearly 12 percent in moderate stress.
- Improved Performance: Chewing gum resulted in a significant improvement in overall performance on multi-tasking activities.
Both gum-chewers and non-chewers showed improvement from their baseline scores; however, chewing gum improved mean performance scores over non-gum chewers by 67 percent during moderate stress and 109 percent in mild stress.
WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL The country's hospital systems reported robust revenue and profit growth in the survey, a news release said. Hospital system revenue from patient care grew 8.4 percent in 2007 compared to 2006 and revenue from all sources, including patient care, climbed 8.9 percent. Hospital system profits jumped 23.8 percent, according to the survey results.
SCIENCE DAILY Religious leaders have contended for millennia that burning incense is good for the soul. Now, biologists have learned that it is good for our brains too. An international team of scientists, including researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, describe how burning frankincense (resin from the Boswellia plant) activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain to alleviate anxiety or depression. This suggests that an entirely new class of depression and anxiety drugs might be right under our noses.
"In spite of information stemming from ancient texts, constituents of Bosweilla had not been investigated for psychoactivity," said Raphael Mechoulam, one of the research study's co-authors. "We found that incensole acetate, a Boswellia resin constituent, when tested in mice lowers anxiety and causes antidepressive-like behavior. Apparently, most present day worshipers assume that incense burning has only a symbolic meaning.". . .
"Perhaps Marx wasn't too wrong when he called religion the opium of the people: morphine comes from poppies, cannabinoids from marijuana, and LSD from mushrooms; each of these has been used in one or another religious ceremony." said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "Studies of how those psychoactive drugs work have helped us understand modern neurobiology. The discovery of how incensole acetate, purified from frankincense, works on specific targets in the brain should also help us understand diseases of the nervous system. This study also provides a biological explanation for millennia-old spiritual practices that have persisted across time, distance, culture, language, and religion--burning incense really does make you feel warm and tingly all over!"
MOTHER JONES Daniel Burd - [a] 16-year-old from Waterloo, Ontario, as part of a science fair project, figured out a way to break down the polymers in plastic bags-compounds that can last for over 1,000 years-in about three months. Essentially, Burd hypothesized that since the bags eventually do degrade, it must be possible to isolate and augment the degrading agents. . .
Burd combined ground polyethylene plastic bags, sodium chloride, dirt from a landfill (which theoretically contains the microorganisms that ultimately degrade the plastic) and a yeast mixture in shakers for four weeks at a consistent temperature of about 86 degrees. At the end of the month, he took a sample of that mixture and combined it with a new one, with the goal of increasing the overall concentration of microbes. After one more repetition, he put fresh plastic bags in his solution for six weeks. In the end, the plastic degraded nearly 20%. A little more filtering to figure out exactly which microbes were the most effective, and he upped the degradation rate to 32%. He concludes, "The process of polyethylene degradation developed in this project can be used on an industrial scale for biodegradation of plastic bags. As a result, this would save the lives of millions of wildlife species and save space in landfills.". . . Judges at the Canada-Wide Science Fair apparently agree that it's worth pursuing. They sent Burd home with $30,000 in awards and scholarships. You can read his final report here
NATURAL NEWS In an article included in the latest edition of Cancer Monthly's free newsletter CancerWire, researchers analyzed statistics obtained through the National Cancer Institute in order to gain a clearer perspective on what type of cancer research is being undertaken in the country. . .
The authors found that of the 7,080 clinical trials for cancer currently ongoing, over 3,000 are focused on chemotherapy -- a treatment that already has over 50 years of research to its credit with relatively little practical return on investment. Of the remaining trials, over 2,000 were focused on more advanced biological treatments such as anti-angiogenesis drugs, which work to cut off the blood supply to tumors.
In all, only 123 of the trials deal with any type of alternative or complementary treatment. "These 123 represent only 1.7% of the total and included trials of various foods, herbs and modalities such as: soy, ginger, Valerian, Curcumin, acupuncture, Reiki, meditation, garlic, Green tea, and Tai Chi," the authors state.. . .
"The overwhelming majority of these trials examined questions that did not focus on whether these approaches alone improved survivability from cancer," the authors report. What this means is that the treatments were actually being evaluated not as treatments, but as adjunctive therapies to improve the rate and intensity of symptoms among those patients already undergoing conventional therapy.
Of the 7,080 clinical trials for cancer currently underway in the U.S., only three focus on natural alternative methods of treating the disease.
BBC - A leading psychiatrist says that depression is not a human defect at all, but a defense mechanism that in its mild and moderate forms can force a healthy reassessment of personal circumstances.
Dr Paul Keedwell, an expert on mood disorders at the Institute of Psychiatry, argues all people are vulnerable to depression in the face of stress to varying degrees, and always have been.
The fact it has survived so long - and not been eradicated by evolution - indicates it has helped the human race become stronger. . .
SCIENTIFIC BLOGGING - University of Sussex astronomers predict that the Earth will be swallowed up by the Sun unless the Earth's orbit can be altered - but we have about 7.6 billion years to do it. Dr Robert Smith, Emeritus Reader in Astronomy, said his team previously calculated that the Earth would escape ultimate destruction, although be battered and burnt to a cinder, but they did not take into account the effect of the drag caused by the outer atmosphere of the dying Sun. . .
Life on Earth will have disappeared long before 7.6 billion years, however. Scientists have shown that the Sun's slow expansion will cause the temperature at the surface of the Earth to rise. Oceans will evaporate, and the atmosphere will become laden with water vapor, which (like carbon dioxide) is a very effective greenhouse gas. Eventually, the oceans will boil dry and the water vapor will escape into space. In a billion years from now the Earth will be a very hot, dry and uninhabitable ball.
Can anything be done to prevent this fate? Professor Smith points to a remarkable scheme proposed by a team at Santa Cruz University, who suggest harnessing the gravitational effects of a close passage by a large asteroid to "nudge" the Earth's orbit gradually outwards away from the encroaching Sun. A suitable passage every 6000 years or so would be enough to keep the Earth out of trouble and allow life to survive for at least 5 billion years, and possibly even to survive the Sun's red giant phase.
OF MEDICATIONS AND MASSACRES
SAM SMITH - Once again, in the case of the North Illinois University killings, there is a possible link to medications - reportedly anti-depressants. And, once again, media and officials are downplaying it. In this case, the reported situation is that the killer stopped using his meds a few weeks before the massacre, but this statement by a police official does not qualify as serious inquiry. For example, if there was actually some connection, it could have been because:
- Some people have extremely violent reactions when they stop using the drugs. If so, what steps need to be taken to avoid this?
- The drugs had altered the killer's brain in some way that not only contributed to the violence but got him to give up taking the drugs.
Of course, there may be no connection at all, but - as pointed out here in the past - the use of anti-depressants and similar drugs is so prevalent that one need not have more than a miniscule chance of violent reactions to have major consequences.
While there are no answers at present, we do know this: neither medicine nor the media seems to care much.
Medicine is part science and part gambling. That's what all the small print on your prescriptions is about. We need to look at the odds more closely.
ABOUT A QUARTER OF WOMEN, 11% OF MEN REPORT SUFFERING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
MSNBC - About a quarter of U.S. women suffer domestic violence, U.S. health officials reported, with ongoing health problems that one activist likened to the effects of living in a war zone. Some men also experience domestic violence, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey found.
The CDC said 23.6 percent of women and 11.5 percent of men reported being a victim of what it called "intimate partner violence" at some time in their lives.
SCIENTIFIC BLOGGING - Genetics Researchers from the Monell Chemical Senses Center have attempted to count the number of genes that contribute to obesity and body weight - and it isn't a pretty number.
The findings suggest that over 6,000 genes, almost 25 percent of the genome, could help determine an individual's body weight.
"Reports describing the discovery of a new 'obesity gene' have become common in the scientific literature and also the popular press," notes Monell behavioral geneticist Michael G. Tordoff, PhD, an author on the study. "Our results suggest that each newly discovered gene is just one of the many thousands that influence body weight, so a quick fix to the obesity problem is unlikely.". . .
Tordoff comments, "It is interesting that there are 10 times more genes that increase body weight than decrease it, which might help explain why it is easier to gain weight than lose it."