B12 Solipsism

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Archive for the ‘health’ Category

Health, healthcare, science of food, and related topics

U.S. death rate from Alzheimer’s rose dramatically over 15 years. Why?

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Brain Salt
Brain Salt won’t help.

Grim indeed. I wouldn’t be surprised if the spike was related to the increase of chemicals like those in Febreeze or Downy, and other industrial chemicals sold to consumers in the guise of “cleanliness”. Or even the miasma of all of them combined. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just put out a grim report about Alzheimer’s disease in the United States.

Death rates from Alzheimer’s climbed 55 percent from 1999 to 2014, CDC found, and the number of Americans afflicted is likely to rise rapidly in the coming years. About 5.5 million people 65 years and older have the disease — a wretched and fatal form of dementia that erases memories and ultimately can destroy mental and physical capacity. By 2050, that’s expected to more than double to 13.8 million people.

The report is based on state- and county-level death certificate data from the National Vital Statistics System, and CDC researchers said the sharp increase in death rates may be due to the aging population, earlier diagnosis and greater reporting by physicians.

(click here to continue reading U.S. death rate from Alzheimer’s rose dramatically over 15 years. Why? – The Washington Post.)

All Your Brains Are Belong To Us
All Your Brains Are Belong To Us

The CDC adds:

The findings in this report are subject to at least three limitations. First, several factors relating to the assigned cause of death might affect estimates of death involving Alzheimer’s. Evidence suggests that Alzheimer’s deaths reported on death certificates might be underestimates of the actual number of Alzheimer’s deaths in the United States (8). Because cases were identified using the underlying cause of death, persons with Alzheimer’s but a non-Alzheimer’s underlying cause of death were not identified in this analysis. Second, complications from Alzheimer’s, such as pneumonia, might be reported as the cause of death although the actual underlying cause of death, Alzheimer’s, was not reported on the death certificate. Finally, a person with Alzheimer’s might have dementia assigned as the underlying cause of death rather than a more specific diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

Some modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as obesity and fewer years of education, have been identified as factors associated with an increased risk for dementia (9,10). Although some treatments have been demonstrated to alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s, there is no cure or definitive means of prevention (2). Until Alzheimer’s can be prevented, slowed, or stopped, caregiving for persons with advanced Alzheimer’s will remain a demanding task. An increasing number of Alzheimer’s deaths coupled with an increasing number of patients dying at home suggests that there is an increasing number of caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s. It is likely that these caregivers might benefit from interventions such as education, respite care, and case management that can lessen the potential burden of caregiving.

(click here to continue reading Deaths from Alzheimer’s Disease — United States, 1999–2014 | MMWR.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 26th, 2017 at 8:42 am

Posted in health

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Ryan Plans to Phase Out Medicare in 2017

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Medicare

Speaking of Shock and Awe, I wonder if the Tea Party types realize that by voting for Trump and his GOP buddies, they are about to get their wish fulfilled, and get government hands off of their Medicare. Because Medicare will cease to exist as soon as Trump takes office. Oopsie…

BRET BAIER: Your solution has always been to put things together including entitlement reform. That is Paul Ryan’s plan. That’s not Donald Trump’s plan.

PAUL RYAN: Well, you have to remember, when Obamacare became Obamacare, Obamacare rewrote medicare, rewrote medicaid. If you are going to repeal and replace Obamacare, you have to address those issues as well. What a lot of folks don’t realize is this 21-person board called the ipap is about to kick in with price controls on Medicare. What people don’t realize is because of Obamacare, medicare is going broke, medicare is going to have price controls because of Obamacare, medicaid is in fiscal straits. You have to deal with those issues if you are going to repeal and replace obamacare. Medicare has serious problems [because of] Obamacare. Those are part of our plan.

First, Ryan claims that Obamacare has put Medicare under deeper financial stress. Precisely the opposite is true. And it’s so straightforward Ryan unquestionably knows this. The Affordable Care Act actually extended Medicare’s solvency by more than a decade. Ryan’s claim is flat out false.

Second, I’ve heard a few people say that it’s not 100% clear here that Ryan is calling for Medicare Phase Out. It is 100% clear. Ryan has a standard, openly enunciated position in favor of Medicare Phase Out. It’s on his website. It’s explained explicitly right there.

Ryan says current beneficiaries will be allowed to keep their Medicare. Says. But after the cord is cut between current and future beneficiaries, everything is fair game. For those entering the system, Ryan proposes phasing out Medicare and replacing it private insurance with subsidies to help seniors afford the private insurance. That is unquestionably what it means because that is what Ryan says. So if you’re nearing retirement and looking forward to going on Medicare, good luck. You’re going to get private insurance but you’ll get some subsidies from the government to pay the bill.

(click here to continue reading Ryan Plans to Phase Out Medicare in 2017.)

Nah, probably not.  Many don’t seem to be particularly well-informed.

Keep govt hands off my medicare

Written by Seth Anderson

November 13th, 2016 at 10:05 pm

Diabetes and Low-Carb Diet

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Assembling Tian
Assembling Tian

Almost as if the healthcare industry (doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical corporations, insurance corporations) have a vested interest in making profits before healing people. Not that they are trying to harm people, rather that making money is the first motive.

A low-carbohydrate diet was in fact standard treatment for diabetes throughout most of the 20th century, when the condition was recognized as one in which “the normal utilization of carbohydrate is impaired,” according to a 1923 medical text. When pharmaceutical insulin became available in 1922, the advice changed, allowing moderate amounts of carbohydrates in the diet.

Yet in the late 1970s, several organizations, including the Department of Agriculture and the diabetes association, began recommending a high-carb, low-fat diet, in line with the then growing (yet now refuted) concern that dietary fat causes coronary artery disease. That advice has continued for people with diabetes despite more than a dozen peer-reviewed clinical trials over the past 15 years showing that a diet low in carbohydrates is more effective than one low in fat for reducing both blood sugar and most cardiovascular risk factors.

The diabetes association has yet to acknowledge this sizable body of scientific evidence. Its current guidelines find “no conclusive evidence” to recommend a specific carbohydrate limit. The organization even tells people with diabetes to maintain carbohydrate consumption, so that patients on insulin don’t see their blood sugar fall too low. That condition, known as hypoglycemia, is indeed dangerous, yet it can better be avoided by restricting carbs and eliminating the need for excess insulin in the first place. Encouraging patients with diabetes to eat a high-carb diet is effectively a prescription for ensuring a lifelong dependence on medication.

At the annual diabetes association convention in New Orleans this summer, there wasn’t a single prominent reference to low-carb treatment among the hundreds of lectures and posters publicizing cutting-edge research. Instead, we saw scores of presentations on expensive medications for blood sugar, obesity and liver problems, as well as new medical procedures, including that stomach-draining system, temptingly named AspireAssist, and another involving “mucosal resurfacing” of the digestive tract by burning the inside of the duodenum with a hot balloon.

(click here to continue reading Before You Spend $26,000 on Weight-Loss Surgery, Do This – The New York Times.)

Whether or not you have health issues, I believe a diet consisting of as many vegetables and fruits as you can eat is the best for you. Avoid processed foods as much as possible, etc.

Written by Seth Anderson

September 12th, 2016 at 5:34 pm

Vitamin B12 as Protection for the Aging Brain

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 https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8070/29501181065_60d9379c65_z.jpg

Source Naturals – Coenzymate B Complex

Interesting. I’ve found my general mood and energy levels are increased when I regularly consume B vitamins. I prefer taking a coenzymate B Complex, which includes B12. 

the ability to absorb B12 naturally present in foods depends on the presence of adequate stomach acid, the enzyme pepsin and a gastric protein called intrinsic factor to release the vitamin from the food protein it is attached to. Only then can the vitamin be absorbed by the small intestine. As people age, acid-producing cells in the stomach may gradually cease to function, a condition called atrophic gastritis.

A century ago, researchers discovered that some people — most likely including Mary Todd Lincoln — had a condition called pernicious anemia, a deficiency of red blood cells ultimately identified as an autoimmune disease that causes a loss of stomach cells needed for B12 absorption. Mrs. Lincoln was known to behave erratically and was ultimately committed to a mental hospital.

“Depression, dementia and mental impairment are often associated with” a deficiency of B12 and its companion B vitamin folate, “especially in the elderly,” Dr. Rajaprabhakaran Rajarethinam, a psychiatrist at Wayne State University School of Medicine, has written.

He described a 66-year-old woman hospitalized with severe depression, psychosis and a loss of energy and interest in life who had extremely low blood levels of B12 and whose symptoms were almost entirely reversed by injections of the vitamin.

European researchers have also shown that giving B12 to people deficient in the vitamin helped protect many of the areas of the brain damaged by Alzheimer’s disease. In a two-year study at the University of Oxford of 270 people older than 70 with mild cognitive impairment and low B12 levels, Dr. Helga Refsum, a professor of nutrition at the University of Oslo, found reduced cerebral atrophy in those treated with high doses of the vitamin.

“A B12 vitamin deficiency as a cause of cognitive issues is more common than we think, especially among the elderly who live alone and don’t eat properly,” Dr. Rajarethinam said.

The academy estimates that between 10 percent and 30 percent of people older than 50 produce too little stomach acid to release B12 from its carrier protein in foods, and as the years advance, the percentage of low-acid producers rises.

But many people do not know they produce inadequate amounts of stomach acid. In fact, evidence from a study of young adults called the Framingham Offspring Study suggests that insufficient absorption of B12 from foods may even be common among adults aged 26 to 49, so the following advice may pertain to them as well.

While a B12 deficiency can take years to develop, encroaching symptoms can be distressing and eventually devastating. It can also be challenging to link such symptoms to a nutrient deficiency.

In an online posting in July, David G. Schardt, the senior nutritionist for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, noted that symptoms of B12 deficiency include fatigue, tingling and numbness in the hands and feet, muscle weakness and loss of reflexes, which may progress to confusion, depression, memory loss and dementia as the deficiency grows more severe.

(click here to continue reading Vitamin B12 as Protection for the Aging Brain – The New York Times.)

 

Everyone should have a little B12 in their daily routine…

Written by Seth Anderson

September 6th, 2016 at 9:59 am

Posted in health

Tagged with ,

Testing of Household Materials

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Star Kiss
Star Kiss

We’ve discussed this inexplicable loophole a few times before, ever since Bill Moyers tested his own body for chemicals and found over 70 different ones. We are glad that maybe something will be done, maybe. Though with the current group of knuckle-draggers and corporate sell-outs inhabiting Congress, I’m skeptical.

You can’t legally buy a drug in the United States that hasn’t undergone rigorous testing, mandated by Congress, to prove that it’s safe and effective. By contrast, that lipstick, shampoo, or deodorant you use every day may have undergone no such testing.

And there’s cause to wonder if those products are safe. More than 21,000 complaints of itching, rashes and hair loss, for instance, have been sent to the manufacturer and distributor of Wen Hair Care products. And hair-straightening products that contain formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, have caused allergic reactions, hair loss, rashes, blisters and other problems in salon workers and their customers.

A bill introduced by two senators — Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, and Susan Collins, Republican of Maine — would change that by requiring the Food and Drug Administration to evaluate a minimum of five chemicals used in cosmetics every year and to collect fees from the industry to pay for those reviews. The agency would also get the power to order companies to recall dangerous products and to force companies to provide it with safety data and reports of adverse health effects from consumers.

The bill has the backing of public interest groups like the Environmental Working Group and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, as well as much of the cosmetics industry, including big companies like Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble. But some manufacturers, like Mary Kay, oppose the bill because they argue that its provisions would be too onerous. They are pushing a much weaker measure introduced by Representative Pete Sessions, Republican of Texas, that would not require the F.D.A. to review risky ingredients and wouldn’t give the agency authority to order recalls.

(click here to continue reading Is Your Lipstick Bad for You? – The New York Times.)

See, Pete Sessions and his pals are doing their best to ensure you are poisoned by household chemicals. That’s democracy in America folks…

Let The Kiss Free!
Let The Kiss Free!

We are way behind Europe. As Bill Moyers and other pointed out, in the US, chemicals are only tested after they can be scientifically linked to problems: in Europe the chemical has to past those tests before being approved to the marketplace.  

All told, European officials have restricted or banned more than 1,300 chemicals and groups of chemicals, experts say; the F.D.A. has prohibited 11 ingredients. That shocking discrepancy makes clear how far behind the United States is in this area. It also shows that sensible regulations will not cripple companies that make cosmetics, since many of their products are already covered by European law.

 

Written by Seth Anderson

August 18th, 2016 at 10:20 am

Posted in government,health

Tagged with ,

America And Lead Poisoned Water

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When Thinking Leads To The Unthinkable
When Thinking Leads To The Unthinkable…

Scary, and even more reason we should dial back our military adventures, and instead invest in our infrastructure lest we kill ourselves…

“Lead in Flint is the tip of the iceberg,” notes Dr. Richard J. Jackson, former director of the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Flint is a teachable moment for America.”

In Flint, 4.9 percent of children tested for lead turned out to have elevated levels. That’s inexcusable. But in 2014 in New York State outside of New York City, the figure was 6.7 percent. In Pennsylvania, 8.5 percent. On the west side of Detroit, one-fifth of the children tested in 2014 had lead poisoning. In Iowa for 2012, the most recent year available, an astonishing 32 percent of children tested had elevated lead levels. (I calculated most of these numbers from C.D.C. data.)

Across America, 535,000 children ages 1 through 5 suffer lead poisoning, by C.D.C. estimates.

“We are indeed all Flint,” says Dr. Philip Landrigan, a professor of preventive medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Lead poisoning continues to be a silent epidemic in the United States.”

(click here to continue reading America Is Flint – The New York Times.)

Declining Issues
Declining Issues

and this short-sighted austerity by Congress is just sickening:

Some 24 million homes in America have deteriorated lead paint, of which occupants are often unaware. If a toddler regularly breathes lead-contaminated dust, or sucks a finger that has touched the dust, that child may suffer lifelong brain damage.

Yet anti-lead programs have been dismantled in recent years because in 2012 Congress slashed the funding for lead programs at the C.D.C. by 93 percent. After an outcry, some money was restored, but even now these lead programs have only a bit more than half the funding they once had.

 Reverse Osmosis Water Filter

I’ve owned a reverse osmosis water filtration system for a long time, but it only cleans my drinking/cooking water, not the water in my entire house. How about you?

If it is not possible or cost-effective to remove the lead source, flushing the water system before using the water for drinking or cooking may be an option. Any time a particular faucet has not been used for several hours (approximately 6 or more), you can flush the system by running the water for about 1-2 minutes or until the water becomes as cold as it will get. Flush each faucet individually before using the water for drinking or cooking. You can use the water flushed from the tap to water plants, wash dishes or clothing, or clean. Avoid cooking with or drinking hot tap water because hot water dissolves lead more readily than cold water does. Do not use hot tap water to make cereals, drinks or mix baby formula. You may draw cold water after flushing the tap and then heat it if needed.

You may also wish to consider water treatment methods such as reverse osmosis, distillation, and carbon filters specially designed to remove lead. Typically these methods are used to treat water at only one faucet. Contact your local health department for recommended procedures. If you want to know more about these filters, please contact NSF International, an organization for public health and safety through standards development, product certification, education, and risk management. Remember to have your well water tested regularly, at least once a year, to make sure the problem is controlled.

(click here to continue reading CDC – Lead and Drinking Water from Private Wells – Wells – Private Water Systems – Drinking Water – Healthy Water.)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 7th, 2016 at 11:53 am

Posted in government,health

Tagged with ,

Gilead Gouging Prices of Hepatitis C and H.I.V. Drugs

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Cut Rate Liquors and Real Drugs
Cut Rate Liquors and Real Drugs. 

Have we reached a tipping point for drug pricing yet? Seems close, at least, to a public consensus that pharmaceutical companies cannot set prices so high they shock the conscience. We have to weigh public health against private profits.

The attorney general of Massachusetts said on Wednesday that she had opened an inquiry into whether Gilead Sciences had violated state consumer protection laws by charging too much for its hepatitis C drugs.

The notification, which was contained in a letter to the company from the attorney general, Maura Healey, is the latest challenge to the practices of Gilead, which has become the largest and most profitable biotechnology company by dominating the market for drugs used to treat both H.I.V. and hepatitis C.

On Tuesday, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a nonprofit organization that treats patients with H.I.V. and AIDS, filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate patents covering the new version of Gilead’s mainstay H.I.V. drug, tenofovir. The lawsuit also says that Gilead, to maximize product life span but to the detriment of patients, delayed the introduction of the new, safer version of tenofovir until the old version was about to lose patent protection.

The hepatitis C drugs, Sovaldi and Harvoni, are widely considered breakthroughs — curing most patients in 12 weeks with few side effects. But Sovaldi has a list price of $1,000 per daily pill, or $84,000 for 12 weeks, and Harvoni costs $94,500. Those prices, and the great demand for the drugs, have strained the budgets of state Medicaid programs and prison systems, forcing many of them to restrict treatment to those most seriously ill.

In her letter to Gilead’s chief executive, John C. Martin, Ms. Healey said her office was examining whether Gilead’s pricing would be an “unfair trade practice,” in violation of Massachusetts law.

“Because Gilead’s drugs offer a cure for a serious and life-threatening infectious disease, pricing the treatment in a manner that effectively allows H.C.V. to continue spreading through vulnerable populations, as opposed to eradicating the disease altogether, results in massive public harm,” she wrote, referring to the hepatitis C virus by its initials.

One motivation for Ms. Healey’s letter was a class-action lawsuit filed against Massachusetts’ Department of Correction asking for more inmates to be treated for hepatitis C. Ms. Healey’s letter said that treating everyone at the list price of Sovaldi would “easily exceed our entire budget for prisoner health care.”

(click here to continue reading Gilead Faces Fights Over Hepatitis C and H.I.V. Drugs – The New York Times]

More to come on this topic, I assume…

Written by Seth Anderson

January 29th, 2016 at 3:04 pm

Americans should drink more coffee

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Morning Coffee Ritual
Morning Coffee Ritual

Since I’m descended from the Murphy clan, who habitually drink coffee by the gallon daily for the last 70 years, I’ve always been a coffee enthusiast.

When the nation’s top nutrition panel released its latest dietary recommendations on Thursday, the group did something it had never done before: weigh in on whether people should be drinking coffee. What it had to say is pretty surprising.

Not only can people stop worrying about whether drinking coffee is bad for them, according to the panel, they might even want to consider drinking a bit more.

The panel cited minimal health risks associated with drinking between three and five cups per day. It also said that consuming as many as five cups of coffee each day (400 mg) is tied to several health benefits, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

“We saw that coffee has a lot of health benefits,” said Miriam Nelson, a professor at Tufts University and one of the committee’s members. “Specifically when you’re drinking more than a couple cups per day.”

That’s great news if you’re already drinking between three and five cups each day, which Nelson and the rest of the panel consider a “moderate” level of consumption.

(click here to continue reading It’s official: Americans should drink more coffee – The Washington Post.)

About 1250 ml of water
About 1250 ml of water

Well, I should be safe. Every morning, as part of my current coffee ritual, I pour about 1250 ml of water from my 5-stage Reverse Osmosis filter into a pot, boil it. Meanwhile, I grind fresh coffee beans in a burr grinder, and place them in a paper filter, held in place with a ceramic cone. The cone is placed above a coffee thermos, and then I pour the hot water slowly over the grounds. My carafe only holds 1000 ml, so when it is about half full, I pour out the days first cup, then continue pouring the hot water over the coffee grounds.

1250 ml is roughly 5 8 oz cups1 – that is perfect for me. Later in the day, if I need more, I’ll either make a single cup, or an espresso, or some days switch to black or green tea.

Pour Over Coffee
Pour Over Coffee

For several years, I had switched to a French press, but got tired of the film and sediment, so started making pour-over coffee again.

Footnotes:
  1. 42.268 oz []

Written by Seth Anderson

February 25th, 2015 at 9:14 am

Posted in Food and Drink,health,science

Tagged with ,

US poised to withdraw longstanding warnings about cholesterol

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Cajun Campfire Breakfast
Cajun Campfire Breakfast

An amazing sea change in nutritional policy. Just think of all the times you’ve heard to avoid cholesterol-laden foods like eggs.

The nation’s top nutrition advisory panel will drop its caution about eating cholesterol-laden food, a move that could undo almost 40 years of government warnings.

The group’s finding that cholesterol in the diet need no longer be considered a ‘‘nutrient of concern’’ stands in contrast to its findings five years ago, the last time it convened. During those proceedings, as in previous years, the panel deemed ‘‘excess dietary cholesterol’’ a public health concern.

The new view does not reverse warnings about high levels of ‘‘bad’’ cholesterol in the blood, which have been linked to heart disease. Moreover, some experts warn that people with particular problems, such as diabetes, should continue to avoid cholesterol-rich diets.

But the finding follows an evolution of thinking among many nutritionists who now say that, for a healthy adult, cholesterol intake may not significantly affect the level of cholesterol in the blood or increase the risk of heart disease.

The greater danger, according to this line of thought, lies in foods heavy with trans fats and saturated fats.

The panel’s report will be the basis for the next version of the ‘‘Dietary Guidelines,’’ a federal publication that has broad effects on the American diet. A person with direct knowledge of the proceedings said the cholesterol finding would make it into the group’s final report.

(click here to continue reading US poised to withdraw longstanding warnings about cholesterol – Nation – The Boston Globe.)

For me, I’ve never particularly hewed closely to these guidelines (I’ve eaten eggs more mornings than not the last 45 years, sometimes with bacon, or cooked in butter!), but still will be happy to see these guidelines revised.

O'Shaughnessy's Irish Breakfast
O’Shaughnessy’s Irish Breakfast

HHS’s Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has the administrative leadership for the 2015 edition and is strongly supported by USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion in Committee and process management, and evidence analysis functions. The Departments jointly review the Committee’s recommendations and develop and publish the revised Dietary Guidelines for Americans policy document.

Recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are intended for Americans ages 2 years and over, including those at increased risk of chronic disease, and provide the basis for federal food and nutrition policy and education initiatives. The Dietary Guidelines encourage Americans to focus on eating a healthful diet—one that focuses on foods and beverages that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight, promote health, and prevent disease.

The first edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans was released in 1980. As mandated in Section 301 of the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act of 1990 (7 U.S.C. 5341), the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is reviewed, updated, and published every 5 years in a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Beginning with the 1985 edition, HHS and USDA have appointed a Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) consisting of nationally recognized experts in the field of nutrition and health. The charge to the Committee is to review the scientific and medical knowledge current at the time. The Committee then prepares a report for the Secretaries that provides recommendations for the next edition of the Dietary Guidelines based on their review of current literature.

(click here to continue reading Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015 | Dietary Guidelines for Americans | Health.gov (ODPHP).)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 11th, 2015 at 10:12 am

Your Data Is Not Safe at Anthem Nor At Other Healthcare Corporations

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Classless Society

The next decade is going to be a continual escalation of these sorts of crimes. Many sectors of corporations have skimped on beefing up their security practices, making data theft easier for criminals to steal consumer data.

patient medical records typically include information not easily destroyed, including date of birth, Social Security numbers and even physical characteristics that make them more useful for things like identity theft, creation of visas or insurance fraud by falsely billing for expensive medical or dental procedures that were either never done or performed on someone else. Some criminals have also tried a form of so-called ransom ware in which they threaten to reveal medical information unless they are paid.

“The whole thing is evolving,” said Barbara Filkins, an analyst with the SANS Institute, which has studied the risk to the health care sector.

Hospital systems, for example, are increasingly asking for photo IDs and driver’s licenses in an effort to block patients who have stolen someone else’s medical identity, said John Barlament, a lawyer at Quarles & Brady in Milwaukee. The use of medical identity fraud is growing, he said. “It’s a one-way trend here,” he said.

(click here to continue reading Data Breach at Anthem May Lead to Others – NYTimes.com.)

Site of the Doctors' Commons
Site of the Doctors’ Commons

From my perspective, I hate when health care providers make copies of my drivers license and write down my social security number and so on. Why? Because I don’t trust that they will keep my data safe. Especially as there is a push to digitize health records, health practitioners need to have stronger data management and destruction policies. Should a dentist I visited once several years ago be able to keep all my information for ever? I guess I need to get a fake ID for these sorts of situations.

The push to digitize patient health records in hospitals and doctors’ offices has also made medical records increasingly vulnerable, according to security experts. Moving medical records from paper to electronic form allows both patients and providers better access, but it has also made patient records susceptible to breaches, whether unintentionally or through a criminal attack.

About 90 percent of health care organizations reported they have had at least one data breach over the last two years, according to a survey of health care providers published last year by the Ponemon Institute, a privacy and data protection research firm. The founder, Larry Ponemon, a security expert, says most were because of employee negligence or system flaws, but a growing number are malicious or criminal.

Last year, 18 health care providers reported data breaches because of some form of hacking. Information at Centura Health was compromised last year after a phishing scheme obtained access to employee email accounts. The data included, in some instances, Social Security numbers, Medicare beneficiary numbers and clinical information for 12,000 patients of the facility, based in Englewood, Colo. In another case, a keystroke logger virus that infected three computers for a few weeks early last year at the student health center at the University of California, Irvine, may have captured patient’s health and dental insurance numbers and diagnoses.

Health care providers have sharply increased their spending on data security in the last year, but they remain technologically far behind other industries, say experts.

(click here to continue reading Data Breach at Anthem May Lead to Others – NYTimes.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 7th, 2015 at 12:35 pm

Posted in Business,health

Tagged with , , , ,

Marijuana policy should be based on fact, not on Susan Shapiro’s self-serving narrative

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High Voltage Grass
High Voltage Grass.

Susan Shapiro claims to have been a cannabis addict for decades, and has turned this former addiction into a career, including books, articles and so on. 

For instance, the Chicago Tribune published this bit of op-ed agit-prop today:

I know the dark side. I’m ambivalent about legalizing marijuana because I was addicted for 27 years. After starting to smoke weed at Bob Dylan concerts when I was 13, I saw how it can make you say and do things that are provocative and perilous. I bought pot in bad neighborhoods at 3 a.m., confronted a dealer for selling me a dime bag of oregano, let shady pushers I barely knew deliver marijuana, like pizza, to my home. I mailed weed to my vacation spots and smoked a cocaine-laced joint a bus driver offered when I was his only passenger.

(click here to continue reading So you think marijuana isn’t addictive – Chicago Tribune.)

Here’s the thing: I don’t doubt Ms. Shapiro had a problem with addiction; I don’t doubt her anecdotes, but I’m skeptical that this reefer madness essay should be the underpinning of national anti-drug policy. Especially since so many of her citations don’t hold up to even the quickest of fact-checks.

Cut Rate Liquors and Real Drugs
Cut Rate Liquors and Real Drugs

I was going to point out flaws in her argument, but in the beginning stages of researching, discovered instead a rebuttal by Paul Armentano, published in the LA Times.1

 Mr. Armentano make points such as:

Many of Shapiro’s claims regarding pot’s risk potential are unsupported by the scientific literature. For instance, she expresses concerns that some cannabis products possess greater THC content today than in the past while ignoring the reality that most consumers regulate their intake accordingly. (When consuming more potent pot, most consumers typically ingest lesser quantities.) Further, THC itself is a comparatively nontoxic substance, having been approved as a medicine by the Food and Drug Administration in 1986 and descheduled by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 1999 (to a Class 3 drug from a Class 2) because of its stellar safety record. 

The author further asserts that cannabis “contributes” to 12% of traffic fatalities in the United States. But the purported source of this claim alleges nothing of the sort. In fact, the study in question solely assessed the prevalence of cannabis or its inert metabolites in injured drivers. (These metabolites, the authors state, may linger in the blood for up to a week following ingestion and should not be presumed to be a measurement of drug impairment.) The study’s authors make no claims in regard to whether these drivers were under the influence of pot or whether their driving behavior was responsible for an accident.

Further, studies evaluating whether marijuana-positive drivers are more likely to be culpable in traffic accidents find that the plant typically plays little role in auto fatalities. According to a 2012 review paper of 66 studies assessing drug-positive drivers and crash risk, marijuana-positive drivers possessed an odds-adjusted risk of traffic injury of 1.10 and an odds-adjusted risk of fatal accident of 1.26. This risk level was among the lowest of any drugs assessed by the study’s author and it was comparable to the odds ratio associated with penicillin (1.12), antihistamines (1.12) and antidepressants (1.35). By contrast, a 2013 study published in the journal Injury Prevention reported that drivers with a blood alcohol content of 0.01% were “46% more likely to be officially blamed for a crash than are the sober drivers they collide with.”

 

(click here to continue reading Marijuana policy should be based on fact, not on an ex-pothead’s experience – LA Times.)

or on the IQ question:

Shapiro also repeats the specious claim that cannabis use lowers intelligence quotient. But a review of a highly publicized 2012 study purporting to link adolescent pot use to lower IQ later in life determined that once economic variables were factored into the assessment, cannabis’ actual effect was likely to be “zero.” The findings of a previous longitudinal study from Canada that tracked the IQs of a group of marijuana users and non-users from birth similarly concluded, “Marijuana does not have a long-term negative impact on global intelligence.”

One other minor point: even in Shapiro’s anecdotes, one gets the sense that if our national drug laws were more sane, she wouldn’t have to go to shady neighborhoods in the wee hours of the night to score, instead she could have just bought something that wasn’t oregano at her local organic cannabis dispensary.

Footnotes:
  1. I wonder if the Chicago Tribune plans on running the rebuttal in tomorrow’s paper? Probably not []

Written by Seth Anderson

January 8th, 2015 at 10:27 am

Posted in government,health

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1105 W Fulton Might Be A Medical Cannabis Dispensary

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I Think I Saw It On Fulton Street
I Think I Saw It On Fulton Street.

Interesting. And a block from the big Sterling Bay rehab of the Fulton Market Cold Storage building, set to be a regional headquarters for Google, Inc., et al…

Prospective medical marijuana dealers made their pitches to the Zoning Board of Appeals to set up in various neighborhoods, touting their security and financial plans.

Perry Mandera, owner of a Near North Side strip club called VIP’s, A Gentleman’s Club, got the go-ahead for a permit to operate a cannabis dispensary in the meatpacking area of the West Town neighborhood, at 1105 W. Fulton Market.

The approval came despite opposition from three area residents who live around Fulton Market and said they worried about safety because of cash pickups at the dispensary, and additional congestion because of the heavy truck traffic and limited parking available near where Mandera wants to operate.

(click here to continue reading Panel approves 6 more marijuana dispensaries, denies 1 for Wicker Park – Chicago Tribune.)

Of course, the licensing has not yet been granted to anyone in Illinois, as far as I know. 

Greater Fulton Market
Greater Fulton Market

I probably have a photo from this specific block of Fulton somewhere, but am too lazy to find at the moment.

Written by Seth Anderson

November 22nd, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Running 5 Minutes a Day Has Long-Lasting Benefits

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Blago Jogging on May Street
Blago Jogging on May Street

Does running to the wine cellar count?

Running for as little as five minutes a day could significantly lower a person’s risk of dying prematurely, according to a large-scale new study of exercise and mortality. The findings suggest that the benefits of even small amounts of vigorous exercise may be much greater than experts had assumed.

In recent years, moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, has been the focus of a great deal of exercise science and most exercise recommendations. The government’s formal 2008 exercise guidelines, for instance, suggest that people should engage in about 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week. Almost as an afterthought, the recommendations point out that half as much, or about 15 minutes a day of vigorous exercise, should be equally beneficial.

As a group, runners gained about three extra years of life compared with those adults who never ran.

Remarkably, these benefits were about the same no matter how much or little people ran. Those who hit the paths for 150 minutes or more a week, or who were particularly speedy, clipping off six-minute miles or better, lived longer than those who didn’t run. But they didn’t live significantly longer those who ran the least, including people running as little as five or 10 minutes a day at a leisurely pace of 10 minutes a mile or slower.

“We think this is really encouraging news,” said Timothy Church, a professor at the Pennington Institute who holds the John S. McIlHenny Endowed Chair in Health Wisdom and co-authored the study. “We’re not talking about training for a marathon,” he said, or even for a 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) race. “Most people can fit in five minutes a day of running,” he said, “no matter how busy they are, and the benefits in terms of mortality are remarkable.”

The study did not directly examine how and why running affected the risk of premature death, he said, or whether running was the only exercise that provided such benefits. The researchers did find that in general, runners had less risk of dying than people who engaged in more moderate activities such as walking.

But “there’s not necessarily something magical about running, per se,” Dr. Church said. Instead, it’s likely that exercise intensity is the key to improving longevity, he said, adding, “Running just happens to be the most convenient way for most people to exercise intensely.”

(click here to continue reading Running 5 Minutes a Day Has Long-Lasting Benefits – NYTimes.com.)

not that I have a wine cellar myself, more like an area under the stair that has a few bottles stored for a moment or two…

In Between the Rains
In Between the Rains

Seriously, it can’t hurt to go for a vigorous walk or run every day, and you might even enjoy it. 

Written by Seth Anderson

July 31st, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Posted in health,science

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Don’t Remove Your Appendix

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Gathered forgetfulness
Gathered forgetfulness

The medical establishment is about to issue a big Ooopsie to all the people who had their appendix removed; people who were assured by their doctor that it was no big deal to live without an appendix.

There is growing evidence for the role of the appendix in restoring a healthful balance of microbes in the body. Though long considered an expendable, vestigial organ, the appendix is now being looked at as “a storehouse of good bacteria,” Dr. Dunn said. In a study of recovery rates from Clostridium difficile, which causes a severe form of infectious diarrhea, often following antibiotic therapy, patients whose appendixes had been removed were more likely to have a recurrent infection than those who still had appendixes.

(click here to continue reading Probiotic Logic vs. Gut Feelings – NYTimes.com.)

I wouldn’t be surprised if the tonsils do something too, we just don’t know what yet…

Written by Seth Anderson

July 28th, 2014 at 9:55 am

Posted in health,science

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Coconut Water Changes Its Claims

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A Favorite Breakfast Beverage
A Favorite Breakfast Beverage

Funny how that works. A few years ago, coconut water was being marketed as a panacea for each and every thing wrong with you. And now? Not so much. However, people still repeat those initial, miracle-drug claims. Shows you the power of advertising, doesn’t it?

When coconut water broke into the American market 10 years ago, it was billed as a miracle drink able to fight viruses, kidney disease and other ailments like osteoporosis. Global sales now reach $400 million a year, and many consumers believe that the beverage has a wide variety of health benefits. But they may be unaware that the drink’s marketers have sharply scaled back their claims.

The minerals in coconut water are what prompted the early claims of curative power, but their amounts are quite modest and they are widely found in other foods. A banana, for example, has 422 milligrams of potassium, compared with 660 milligrams in a typical container of coconut water. The water’s big three minerals are potassium (19 percent of the daily recommended intake), calcium (4 percent) and magnesium (4 percent).

Coconut water taps into a “deep consumer vein,” Tom Pirko, a beverage industry analyst, wrote in an email. “It is not seen as a ‘manufactured’ concoction, but rather the issue of Mother Earth.” And it seems poised to become just the first in a wave of natural waters; already for sale are bottled waters from maple and birch trees, barley, cactus and artichokes, with their own exuberant promotions.

 

(click here to continue reading Coconut Water Changes Its Claims – NYTimes.com.)

I do think coconut water is tasty, occasionally refreshing, but I would not expect it to cure anything. But then I’m a natural born skeptic…

Written by Seth Anderson

July 28th, 2014 at 8:54 am

Posted in Advertising,health,science

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