Tag Archives: Health

Hot Dogs and Bacon

I like sausage, and now and then I enjoy some bacon.  Because I am not a total idiot, I have known for some time that these things are not health foods.  Most things that taste really good, aren’t.  But man, and woman do not live by kelp alone.

When the World Health Organization (WHO) came out with their big report on cured meats, I didn’t cheer, but I didn’t worry much either.   If you missed it, the headline was that cured meats cause increases in cancer.

The folks at www.authenticenlightenment.com looked through the hysteria and offered an analysis which I’ve excerpted below:

“Each 50-gram (1.8-ounce) portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent, the agency (WHO) estimated.

A 50-gram portion would be the equivalent of eating one hot dog or two slices of bacon. Americans eat about 21.7 grams of processed pork per day, according to a 2011 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

What are the actual odds of getting colorectal cancer?

While most people hear the words “18% increase” and think that their odds of getting this disease have gone to better than one in five, the reality is that it means the odds have gone up 18% from what they actually were. For example when something has a 1% chance of happening, if you increase the chances of that thing happening by 18% the new odds are not 19% as some would think, but 1.1% (1/100) * (118/100) or 118/10000 = 1.1%

{At http://www.cancer.org, their charts say} …men have a lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer of 1 in 21, or 4.84%, and the odds of a woman catching the same disease is 4.49 or 1 in 22

So even though we know that, according to the stats given, we eat only 43.4% of a hot dog per day on average, let’s assume for the sake of argument that you actually eat a hot dog every single day for your entire life. What does that do to your cancer odds?

Well if you do the actual math and multiply 4.84/100 by 118/100 it means that 18% increase makes a man’s odds of getting colorectal cancer go to 5.7%. For a woman… the odds go up to 5.2%

In other words, if this study is absolutely positively spot on correct, eating that hot dog every single day for your entire life raises your odds of catching colorectal cancer by nearly but not quite….1%.”

I’d bet that getting a colonoscopy and other exams improves your chances of catching cancers in time by more than 1%.

So, now that you’ve got the bottom line, make your own meat choices. And, if you look, you can find bacon and hot dogs that are smoked, and not cured with nitrites and nitrates. They aren’t health foods either, but life is too short to worry about everything.


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Filed under 2015

Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes

There was a time in all of our lives when we realized that we, and other people, had various body parts.  We didn’t know what they were called at first.  The “Got your nose” uncle or neighbor helped out with putting a name on the old smeller, and the diaper changing routine familiarized our young minds with what our butts are.

Over time, we needed more information, and as a means of educating our young selves, and working on some muscle coordination, we were taught the “head, shoulders, knees, and toes” song.  To refresh your memory, the song consists of the title, repeated twice, followed by “eyes and ears and a mouth and a nose,” concluding with another repetition of the title.

The idea is to touch the various body parts as they are referenced in the song.  As I said, it’s good for coordination training and also for fitness – especially the toe part.

To refresh your memory, the song basically consists of repeating the body parts in the name two times, listing the eyes, ears, mouth, and nose, and then repeating the head, shoulders, etc. again.

As we reach what might be charitably called “upper middle age” we all know what our various body parts are called.  We may not be able to reach them all, but we know what they are.

It occurred to me the other day that that song does a surprisingly good job of identifying maladies that I and others of my era are dealing with.

Head: In addition to migraines, who among us doesn’t need to have their head examined?

Shoulders: Frozen shoulders, rotator cuff tears, and bursitis are going around.  I’m thankful for the physical therapist who helped me with mine.

Knees: I know several people my age who have had one or more knee replacements.  My knees are fine, as long as I don’t run too much.

Toes: Bunions aren’t just giant loggers.  Women who wore stylish shoes for years pay the price.

Eyes: Not only do most of us wear glasses, but some have glaucoma, macular degeneration, and/or cataracts.

Ears: I know I’ve lost some hearing in both ears – one more than the other.  I’m mostly just annoying the people who talk to me by asking them to repeat everything at this point.  But, some sort of hearing aid will likely be in my future.  A great joke on that topic:

“I love my new hearing aid!”

“What kind is it?”

“Three o’clock.”

Mouth: Crowns and bridges sound very royal and impressive until they put them in your mouth.

Nose: Between allergies and sinus conditions, the over-the-counter industry and the tissue companies are doing quite well.

So, all together now, for those of us who can: Head, shoulders, knees, and toes, knees and toes…

Next we’ll tackle the “Hokey Pokey” and the meaning of life.  That’s what it’s all about, after all.

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Filed under 2015

A Shorter Longer Life

This week I’m writing to you at 4:30am from Atlanta’s giant airport.  I just flew in from Las Vegas (and, as the joke goes, boy are my arms tired) after a long day of meetings.  I slept a little bit on the flight that left at 11pm Pacific time last night.

I mention this odd hour (I normally sleep until 7am, but listen to the radio until 8am or later), because by violently violating my routine, I’ve probably cost myself some alive-time.

That’s right: in addition to everything else that’s bad for us, it turns out that not having a consistent schedule is rough on our bodies, including all those important slimy organs that do so much work to keep us going.

The article I read, which I’m probably reporting on poorly (lack of sleep) said that our bodies really like consistency, and not getting it makes our body parts age prematurely.  Oh, that’s just great!  Especially for people who work in rotating shifts, like to drive to Florida in one shot, or, basically, do anything interesting and exciting.

Scientists have gotten more and more preachy about getting enough sleep over the past few years.  Not only does too little sleep age our bodies, it can contribute to Alzheimer’s onset as our brains can’t clear out the debris that collects there.  And by debris I don’t mean memories of having watched Jerry Springer and his ilk, but rather actual chemicals that build up during the day.

In a positive development, some scientists are saying that gluten isn’t as evil as they had thought unless you have Celiac disease, which is an allergy to gluten.  Since I’m a glutton for gluten, that’s good to know.

More good news: salt isn’t evil unless you have high blood pressure.  But, wait until next month.

Sugar, on the other hand, is very bad.  Here’s the reason it is very bad: It is very good.  I’m just waiting for the day science tells us that Brussels sprouts are a carcinogen.  It will probably be a very cold day in a four-lettered town in Michigan.

And, while we’ve been gooping sunscreen onto our Scandinavian epidermises, we’ve been depriving our bodies of vitamin D, the absence of which isn’t a good thing.

My dad was a creature of habit, and most weeks his getting up and going to bedtimes didn’t vary by more than 20 minutes.  He ate at consistent times in the day, including his “second breakfast” of toast and jelly around 10am.  His habituations bothered me, and I swore I didn’t want to be like that, but as age creeps along, I realize that consistency does make me feel better.

By now it’s 5am, and before long I’ll be on my way back home, trying to be at least somewhat productive despite having had little sleep.  And, despite the joke above, my arms really are tired.  I must have not slept on them funny.

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Filed under 2015

Sleepy Athlete

I think I’ve figured it out.

In this case, “it” is why I’m overly large for a person of my height.

Part of it is surely genetic. While my mom was a very slight woman, and my dad was tall, but not overweight, my mom’s brother weighed as much as 500+ pounds at times in his life.

But that’s not the main cause.

I like to eat, and I like to drink soady-pop, as they say in Sikeston, Missouri. Lots of thin people like to eat too, so that’s not the complete cause.

As a youth (as we older people say) I played baseball, basketball, and tennis, along with football, bike riding, and generally running around. I played sports through my sophomore year in high school, and even pick-up games in college and beyond. I consider my self to be an athlete.

Fast forward a few dozen years, and yes, I can still play basketball (after a fashion) and tossing a baseball around is fun, and after a year’s absence, I plan to get reacquainted with my bike this summer. But, the intensity with which I exercise has not caught up with the amount calories I take in.

But here’s the biggest reason for my oversizeness: mirrors. As the tall person in our household, there are no mirrors that easily show the parts of me that have become super-sized. From the chest up, I look okay. Below the chest is where the problems start. When visiting or in a hotel room, I’m shocked to see how much of me there is.

Anyway, the title above talks about being a sleepy athlete, and, while I haven’t been diagnosed officially, I know I snore and have some sleep apnea. I know the non-motorized treatment for apnea is considerable weight loss. So, for the sake of my health and longevity, it’s time for the athlete to try to reemerge, and for the big eater to push away from the table a little sooner.

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Filed under 2014

Too True To Be Good

One thing is pretty certain: there have always been, and will always be people lined up around the block trying to sell you something. Most of those people are honest and have perfectly good products and services that some folks need. This isn’t about those people.

The Romans had a phrase – or at least Latin teachers do – “Caveat Emptor,” or, “Buyer Beware.” While we do have some legal protections against fraud in commercial transactions, the burden falls on us as consumers to determine if we should or shouldn’t buy something.

Unfortunately, even the smartest people don’t have enough knowledge to make purchasing decisions in every possible situation. Maybe 200 years ago the average person could judge whether a plow or an anvil or a pound of butter was a good value, but with hundreds of thousands of products available in the modern marketplace, it’s impossible to know a good buy from a bad one.

Though, to be fair, useless patent medicines were around back then, and plenty of people spent a lot of money on snake oil and miracle cures.

Medical science in this new century is so complex, what with the human genome having been at least partly unlocked, Eastern healing practices and other alternative therapies gaining popularity, and new research on nutrition and sociological factors in health – including job stress, lack of sleep, and other variables we never much thought of in the past.

Not only that, but some things we never dreamed could be treated can now be addressed: things like baldness, impotence, and obesity can be helped by the drugs Propecia, Viagra, and stomach “stapling.” And, almost anybody can see pretty well without glasses, thanks to laser surgery.

The knowledge that such miracles are possible leaves us emotionally vulnerable to the same snake-oil salesmen and women who have been around for years and years.

Radio stations – particularly AM stations, and TV stations – particularly late at night, have a continuing stream of ads for diet products, menopause cures, erectile dysfunction pills, and brain function herbal treatments. One thing they almost always have in common is that they will gladly give you a month’s supply free, in exchange for your credit card information. Not that they plan to steal it or sell it, but any attempt to reach them to get your money back, or to cancel the monthly shipments you’ve inadvertently authorized, will likely be difficult and time consuming, to the point that some people end up paying for months before they can actually reach somebody at the company.

Commercials disguised as TV and radio shows feature “doctors” who pretend to be interviewed by a concerned show hosts on one medical topic or another, and – shock of all shocks – they happen to have a product that will solve all your problems.

My favorite line from these infomercials in disguise is that “doctors and the pharmaceutical companies don’t want you to know about these cures.” There’s nothing like a good conspiracy theory to sell products.

The sad thing is that some non-traditional approaches to medical problems really do offer legitimate help and relief. Not wanting to be suckers, or having been burned in the past, people may shy away from anything new or different.

When it comes to medical things, I’m likely to trust doctors who have studied for eight years or more in medical school, and I’ve found that most of them are pretty open-minded about new approaches. And they may know which ones to steer clear of for safety reasons.

One part of Caveat Emptor is that we all have to make up our own minds about choices we make on our health and everything else. One tip that might help us choose wisely is this: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

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Filed under 2012

Inventory Time

I got another letter from my doctor’s office last week. He’s gone. Moved on to wherever doctors go. That’s the second Dear John letter I’ve gotten from a doctor over the past 10 years. I like having a long-term relationship with my doctor, but apparently the feeling isn’t mutual.

So, instead of getting a physical this summer, I think I’ll just do an inventory of my body, from top to bottom, so to speak.
1. Top of head: missing some hair. Make a note to get hair plugs if I get rich.
2. Brain: works okay most of the time. Getting a little fuzzy.
3. Head in general: Migraine headache today. This too shall pass.
4. Ears: Hearing isn’t what it used to be. I’m reminded of the guy telling his friend about his new hearing aid, and how well it works. The friend asks what kind it is, and the fellow says, “It’s 3:15.”
5. Eyes: Glaucoma is under control, and vision is great, with glasses. Without them, I’m a mole.
6. Mouth: Able to process large amounts of food. Teeth hanging in there. Should floss more.
7. Neck: Sore most of the time. Should see a doctor, probably. Don’t care for chiropractor’s adjustments. Should be renamed “painful neck twists.”
8. Shoulders: Not the best. Should do more exercises and stretches, I guess.
9. Chest: Pretty good. Could use more muscles.
10. Belly: Plenty big. Hard to believe I could once do 200 sit-ups in a row.
11. Arms: Smaller than they used to be, but mostly functional.
12. Hands: Sore from pulling weeds, but mostly fine.
13. Area below the waist: (Comments redacted for national security reasons)
14. Knees and legs: Pretty good for an old guy. Of course, running or jumping makes them sore. It’s surprising how little running and jumping a guy really needs to do.
15. Feet: Flatter than they used to be, but mostly not a problem. My toe nails are getting farther and farther away as my belly gets bigger, so I might need to either lose weight or start getting pedicures.
So, that’s my top to bottom body inventory. There’s plenty I can work on to improve things. There is also plenty that might be going on inside, unbeknownst to me. That’s why actual physical exams are a good idea. Maybe I’ll hand my new doctor this inventory, since it will obviously be a big help.

Or, more likely, he’ll suggest that I have a “check-up from the neck-up.”

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Filed under 2012