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If you’re planning on a church funeral when you die, a new study suggests you can delay it by up to 3.1 years if you attend church regularly as opposed to waiting for a priest or pastor to say final words over your casket.
Daniel hall, a pittsburgh medical doctor and episcopal priest, has published the results of a “meta-analysis” – a study of previous studies – in the march-april issue of the journal of the american board of family medicine that “demonstrates a robust but small association” between weekly attendance at religious services and a longer life.
While hall found going to church regularly accounted for only 2 to 3 extra “life-years,” compared to 3 to 5 life-years for physical exercise and 2.5 to 3.5 life-years for statin-type agents used to treat high chloresterol, religious activity proved to be a cheaper way to “buy” the extra years than using prescription drugs.
Using “admittedly limited assumptions” for his “thought experiment,” hall calculated life expectancy tables using the methodology of the national center for health statistics and analyzed his data to account for different “modalities” – church attendance, exercise and prescription drugs.
Using the annual cost of membership at the local gym ($500) as the cost for exercise, the average yearly household contribution to religious institutions ($1336) by the average household size (2.59) as the cost of attending church and the average yearly cost for statin-type therapy ($836) as the cost for prescription drug treatment, hall determined how much each additional year of life would cost for each of the lifestyle choices.
The cost per life-year gained was between $2,000 and $6,000 for regular exercise, $3,000 and $10,000 for regular religious attendance, and between $4,000 and $14,000 for statin-type agents. The higher figure for religious attendance assumed the giving of the old testament 10% tithe which is much higher than the average for religious giving.
Church attendance, hall concluded, is not a medical therapy but it is comparable to commonly recommended therapies in its effects and is more cost-effective than a regime of cholesterol-lowering drugs.
“there is something about being knit into the type of community that religious communities embody that has a way of mediating a positive health effect,” hall told livescience. Perhaps, it “can then decrease your level of stress in life or increase your ability to cope with stress.”
“this analysis should not be interpreted to mean that health care payers should start covering the annual tithe of religious patients,” hall writes. “and it is not clear that the observed reduction in mortality would accrue due to religious attendance. From a theological perspective such instrumental use of religion is idolatrous. From a methodological perspective, it is not at all clear that ‘instrumental faith’ is sufficiently genuine to accrue the observed reduction in mortality.”
“being in a religious community helps you make meaning out of your life,” hall said.
Men and women in North America are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than in any other region in the world.
Worldwide, the report shows that there were 10.9 million new cancer cases diagnosed and 6.7 million cancer deaths reported in 2002.
Lung cancer remains the biggest cancer threat, and it’s been the most common cancer worldwide since 1985.
Researchers say a striking finding of their study was that cancer is not a rare disease in developing countries, contrary to conventional wisdom.
For example, the results show that a man’s risk of dying from cancer before age 65 is just 18% higher in developed countries. But a woman’s risk of dying from cancer is actually higher in developing countries than in developed ones.
Global Cancer Trends
The study, which appears in the current issue of CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, used available data to estimate three major global cancer measures: the number of new cancer cases, the number of cancer deaths, and the number of persons alive with the disease.
They found that the risk of being diagnosed with cancer is highest in North America. But the risk of dying from cancer is greatest among Eastern European men and among women in East Africa and Northern Europe.
Other major findings include:
—China accounts for 20% of the world’s total of new cancer cases (2.2 million).
—North America’s 1.6 million new cancer cases account for 14.5% of the world’s total.
—In general, survival rates are better in developed countries, with the exception of Eastern Europe, which lags behind South America for most types of cancer.
—Lung cancer accounted for 1.35 million new cases (12.4% of world total) and 1.18 million deaths (17.6% of world total) in 2002. Almost half of lung cancer cases occur in developing countries, which marks a major change since 1980, when 69% were in developed countries The highest lung cancer rates are among North American and European (especially Eastern European) men.
—Although it is the most common cancer in men worldwide, lung cancer is second to prostate cancer in frequency in developed countries.
—Breast cancer is by far the most frequent cancer in women and accounts for 23% of all cancers. Breast cancer rates are highest in North America.
—Due to its high frequency and better prognosis than some other cancers, there are more breast cancer survivors at any time than any other type of cancer survivor. There are an estimated 4.4 million women alive who have had the disease diagnosed within the last five years, compared with 1.4 million survivors (men and women) from lung cancer.
A new survey of America’s doctors reveals three out of every four are believers in miracles.
The poll of 1,100 physicians found 74% of doctors believe miracles have occurred in the past, and 73% believe they can occur today.
The survey was conducted by HCD Research and the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.
“The picture that emerges is one where doctors, although presumably more highly educated than their average patient, are not necessarily more secular or radically different in religious outlook than the public,” said Dr. Alan Mittleman, director of the institute.
The poll also indicated American physicians are “surprisingly religious,” with 72% indicating they believe religion provides a reliable and necessary guide to life.
Those surveyed represent physicians from Christian (Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox Christian and other), Jewish (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and secular) Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions.
“Perhaps the most surprising result of the survey,” the report notes, “is that a majority of doctors (55%) said that they have seen treatment results in their patients that they would consider miraculous (45% do not). Most physicians pray for their patients as a group (51%). Even more, 59% pray for individual patients.”
Two-thirds encourage their patients to pray. Of those physicians, 5% did so for God to answer their prayers, 32% for psychological benefits and 63% for both reasons. One-third did not encourage their patients to pray.
Regarding their views on miracles and the source of the Bible:
# 37% physicians believe the Bible’s miracle stories are literally true, while 50% believe they are metaphorically true. Twelve percent indicated that they did not believe in the Bible’s description of miracles;
# 9% believe the Bible was written by God, 58% believe the Bible was inspired by God and 34% consider it human ancient literature;
# and 55% believe that medical practice should be guided by religious teaching (44% do not).
Additional findings indicate:
# Over half, 58%, attend worship services at least once per month;
# A plurality, 46%, believe prayer is very important in their own lives.
Prayer has the power to heal the sick, says a new book published by the Anglican Church of Canada.
“Only when we connect with our inner silence and profit from its richness can we heal,” proclaims the foreword to Healing Through Prayer, a collection of interviews and testimonials. “The door to that inner silence can be opened through the use of prayer and meditation.”
The book, released by the Anglican Book Centre in Toronto, includes interviews with doctors, nurses, religious leaders and spiritual healers. It provides a glimpse of some of the scientific studies done on the power of prayer, but does not delve into the details.
“We know that certain kinds of prayer elicit physiological changes in the body,” says Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist and medical professor at Harvard University.
“The rate of metabolism decreases, the heart rate decreases, the rate of breathing decreases, brain waves get slower.”
In the book, Dr. Benson says this is particularly true when ill patients recite phrases repetitively in prayer: Hail Marys, for instance, can help relax the body and aid in healing.
And he says healing is improved if patients believe they will get better, noting that 50 to 90% of many conditions either improve or disappear completely in patients who believe they are taking medication but are only given “placebos” or sugar pills.
Dr. Larry Dossey, a physician and author in New Mexico, says studies on how praying helps the ill have been “one of the best-kept secrets in modern medical science.”
In an interview published in the book, he says this is now changing.
He points to the 60 medical schools in the United States teaching classes on it. And he points to a growing number of studies — 150 of them — examining how someone else praying for a sick patient can help.
“Some have suggested that if you have an empathic, powerful, loving thought for me, you could be transferring some sort of subtle energy to me,” says Dr. Dossey, who has written three books on the subject of prayers and healing. “The problem with this explanation is that, although researchers have diligently explored whether or not any sort of subtle energy is transferred between the two people, no one has ever been able to discover any.”
Reached at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, yesterday, Dr. Dossey said the healing powers of prayer are becoming widely accepted among doctors and the public, despite the cry from critics that advocates are pulling medicine back to the Dark Ages.
“Spirituality is back in medicine,” he said. “The taboo has been broken.”
“People want more than just simply surgery and medication. They want something that answers their inner needs. And they see in prayer an element of that,” he said.
He points to a study published last week in the American Medical Association journal Archives of Internal Medicine showing that heart patients did 11% better when someone prayed for them.
After a year-long trial of nearly 1,000 cardiac patients, researchers in Kansas City, Missouri, found that those hospital patients who had been prayed for suffered fewer complications and heart attacks than the others.
Neither the patients nor their doctors knew they were being prayed for by volunteers outside the hospital. It wasn’t the first study to show this — Dr. Dossey said other researchers have come to similar conclusions.
“There is no guarantee that if you pray you are going to get well,” he said in the telephone interview from his home. “But if you look at the effects of prayer on people who have heart attacks, you can show that the people who get prayed for, on average, do better.”
Dr. Dossey and others who have researched this are stumped as to how the prayer helps. They are reluctant to say that God is answering the prayers, leaving that for others to decide.
“I think this is a huge mystery. I don’t think science can give an answer to that,” he said. “We can’t look behind the scenes and answer that question, in my opinion. I think everybody is pretty much on their own about the theological interpretations here.”
Meanwhile, even some believers in the power of prayer to make people feel better remain unconvinced that silent prayers from a distance can help
“Since I think of prayer as being very much a personal contact between an individual and God, it is difficult for me to imagine prayer having some effect on people who do not know they are being prayed for,” John Polkinghorne, a physicist, Anglican priest and former administrator at Cambridge University in England, says in Healing Through Prayer.
“I would need to examine the evidence very carefully before I could accept that prayer works that way.”
NEW YORK — Many medical schools are now offering students “spirituality training” — stressing the role of a patient’s spiritual beliefs within the healing process, according to a report in Internal Medicine News.
“The teaching of religion and spirituality is absolutely essential for any holistic notion of healing,” said Dr. Edmund Pellegrino, the John Carroll Professor of Medicine and Medical Ethics at Georgetown University School of Medicine.
At least 20 medical schools nationwide already include spirituality in their curriculum. A recent conference on the issue, held in Washington, DC, was sponsored by the non-profit National Institute for Healthcare Research of Rockville, Maryland. That conference ended with a resolution to publish a ‘consensus report’ that other schools could use when developing their own spirituality programs.
Research is revealing that a rich spiritual life may actually improve patient outcomes. A 28-year study of over 5,000 California residents discovered that regular churchgoers had lower death rates and better overall health than those who stayed home on Sundays.
Dr. Dale Matthews, associate professor of medicine at Georgetown, and senior fellow at the NIHR, said the spirituality movement is part of a general trend away from “disease-centered” care to a more “patient-centered” approach to healing.
Matthews himself conducts ‘spiritual interviews’ with patients during routine medical examinations. Such discussions revolve around individual patient beliefs that may someday help them cope with illness.
Such interviews may also yield information important to treatment decision. For example, some Christian groups do not accept blood transfusions.
Dr. Christina Pulaski, NIHR conference co-chair and internal medicine resident at George Washington Medical Center, said spiritual talks also make the doctor-patient relationship stronger. “People are more trusting and more willing to talk to you about areas in their life that are problems,” she said.
Of course, critics worry that the trend toward spirituality in medicine may lead to an emphasis on specific dogmas.
Pulaski disagrees. Spirituality is “usually a relationship with God,” she said, “but for others, it’s a connection with nature or music. It’s whatever or whomever gives your life meaning.”
Still, opposition to the trend continues. “There are the hard core medical types,” Matthews admitted, “the people concerned (that the movement) is promoting a religion, and the people who say ‘we don’t have time for this’ or ‘leave it to the chaplains.”‘
Pulaski believes stories from individual patients point to a real need. Such was the case with one of her patients suffering from terminal breast cancer. The woman revealed that, visiting the hospital, she felt outwardly anonymous, like any other patient needing care. “What makes me different are my beliefs,” she told Pulaski. “My spirituality helps me cope with my dying. It’s the most important part of my life. And I want my doctor to know about the most important part of my life.”
There was a Catskill comedian who used to tell a story about his first time away from home and home cooking. After a week in Army boot camp, his stomach started to feel funny. He was convinced that something was wrong with his digestive system, maybe his entire body.
Well, after much medical consultation, the problem was diagnosed. For the first time in his life he wasn’t suffering from heartburn.
I think about him every summer during the dangerous season of vacations. People, even presidents, get away from the office for a week or two, and if they’re not careful, they lose their disequilibrium.
They wake up in the morning and feel funny. They realize that something’s missing. Where has the stiffness in the neck gone? What happened to that old familiar stress lurking in the right quadrant of the brain?
They go through the checklist of personal items that are lost. The ironclad hinges that hold the jaw tight have let go and their teeth aren’t doing the midnight shift of grinding. The tension band around the eyebrows has released its death grip on their mental outlook.
It becomes clear, too, that the medicine cabinet of over‑the‑counter items advertised on evening news shows has stayed untouched for days. The symptoms have disappeared. The symptom‑bearers are feeling abnormal. Abnormally well.
Suddenly, the bio is feeding back subversive messages that say that unwork may be good for them. It begins to seep around the edges of their consciousness that maybe the work ethic is not the same as the pleasure principle. It occurs to them that if labor was all it’s cracked up to be, we wouldn’t celebrate Labor Day with a day off. We’d celebrate with overtime.
At this point in the season, any sensible adult with a decent job, a refinanced house, a non‑vested pension plan, and a primal fear of ending up on a sidewalk with a shopping cart begins to panic. They begin to suffer from re‑entry phobia.
... For this reason, as a public servant, I have assembled a handy reference sheet to grasp all during vacation. Lest we forget, lest we fear, this is to help us remember what is normal in the everyday workaday world.
o Normal is being woken up in the digital dawn by a radio playing a reveille of murder, mayhem, rock, roll and news of the latest failed foreign policy.
o Normal is saying the same six words to your children before the 7:30 a.m. school bus: Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up.
o Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to the job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car and, especially, the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it.
o Normal is following a time plan that requires you eat breakfast before you want it because otherwise you might be hungry for lunch before you can break for it.
o Normal is spending all day in a sick building with windows that don’t open and a thermostat that is seasonally dysfunctional, in order to make the environment consistently comfy and user‑friendly for the mainframe computer.
o Normal is solving complex emotional problems of sibling rivalry and adolescent moral dilemmas of right and wrong, in three‑minute telephone segments in mid‑afternoon under the disapproving eye of a supervisor who lives alone with a parakeet for which he has health insurance.
o Normal is socializing by E‑mail with friends who work no more than 10 metres away.
o Normal is being required to wear a beeper so that your boss can call you out of an important meeting at the critical point in order to find out how it’s going.
o Normal is sitting at a desk all day, under artificial light, eating machine food, hemmed in by four walls, with a plastic plant, a telephone, a Rolodex, a sense of deja vu and a manager who says you better start “thinking outside the envelope.” ...
o And of course, normal is being grateful for your job because in two more years, if they don’t downsize or move the office to Singapore, if the company isn’t bought out, the technology hasn’t become obsolete, and the entire work force hasn’t been put on part‑time, you’ll be entitled to three weeks off.
Now, there, don’t you feel it? That old burning sensation creeping up the digestive tract. This vacation too shall pass. Pretty soon everything will be back to normal.
New Canadian research suggests being obese doesn’t necessarily doom people to an early grave.
Two research teams using a new tool that ranks overweight and obese people according to underlying health have found that otherwise healthy obese people live as long as those of “normal” weight, and are less likely to die of cardiovascular causes.
The studies come as more evidence emerges that a significant proportion of overweight people are metabolically healthy and that the risks associated with obesity require a more sophisticated approach.
The findings not only challenge the notion that everyone who is obese needs to lose weight.
“Just because you’re normal weight doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re healthy,” said Jennifer Kuk, a researcher at York University in Toronto. “You can still have high blood pressure, you can still have diabetes, you can have a poor lifestyle — and all of these contribute to obviously negative health and early mortality risk.
“You really need to take the emphasis off trying to attain this normal body weight, because lifestyle practices are equally, if not more important.”
Both studies relied on the Edmonton Obesity Staging System, which grades obesity on a scale of zero to four, and notably takes into account the presence — or absence — of a spectrum of disease.
In a study published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, University of Alberta researchers tested the system using data from a survey of 8,143 people in two U.S. national health and nutrition surveys.
They found that after adjusting for age, history of smoking and metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes) about 2% of people at Stage 0 or 1 died during followup, compared to about 40% of Stage 3 patients.
“That’s a huge difference,” said Arya Sharma, who first proposed the Edmonton classification system.
“What this actually means is if I examine people today and I see that they’re Stage 0 or Stage 1, I can tell them to eat as healthy and be as physically active as possible rather than running out and trying to lose weight,” said Dr. Sharma, chair of obesity research and management at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.
Under Stage 0, the person is obese, but has no apparent obesity-related health risks, meaning their blood pressure, blood fats and other risks are all within the normal range.
Stage 1 obesity describes people with “sub-clinical” signs of trouble, such as borderline high blood pressure, elevated liver enzymes and occasional aches and pains.
In the second study, published online in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, researchers led by Dr. Kuk categorized 6,000 obese Americans according to a modified version of the Edmonton obesity staging system and compared their risk of dying to 23,000 lean individuals over a 16-year span.
They found that obese people with no or only mild health problems had a similar risk of dying over the followup period as normal-weight people. In fact, patients in Stage 0 or 1 were at lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or coronary heart disease than normal-weight individuals.
By contrast, people in stages 2 and 3 were 50% more likely to die from any cause than normal-weight people or even the Stage 0s and 1s.
People with higher scores were slightly older, had modestly higher BMIs, were more likely to be former smokers, lost more weight over their lifetime and lost more weight frequently. People with lower scores tended to be more physically fit. They ate more fruits and vegetables. And they were less likely to want to lose weight, Dr. Kuk said.
“They were happier with their higher body weight, and they had been obese for a longer period of time as compared to those who were Stage 2 or 3.” They had been heavier from a younger age.
Dr. Sharma said weight-management interventions, including publicly funded bariatric or weight-loss surgery, where waiting lists can stretch years, should be targeted at the people who have the most to gain.
“Obesity treatment is always expensive and its not always easy to do,” he said.
Currently, patients with a BMI over 40 are eligible for surgery, “but there are people with BMIs over 40 who are actually pretty healthy,” he said. “The question becomes, what’s the health benefit of doing that?”
The system is modelled after other staging systems used to determine how sick people are from diseases such as cancer or kidney failure.
“If someone comes to my office and their BMI is 35, they have obesity, there’s no question,” Dr. Sharma said.
“But if I do the tests and I find that they have no other risk factors, then I can confidently tell them that they are at extremely low risk of dying. There shouldn’t be an urgent need to lose weight just because their BMI is high. The focus really should be on trying to maintain that weight and not get heavier.”
The opposite could hold for people with lower BMI’s who don’t meet criteria for surgery but who are at high risk and should be treated. “And we’re missing those patients,” Dr. Sharma said.
People who have a history of weight cycling — losing large amounts of weight only to put the weight or more back on — appear to be at higher risk of obesity-related complications.
“If you’re constantly dieting and trying to lose weight, and you put it back and you diet again, you might actually be causing problems.”
The researchers looked only at the risk of death. Dr. Sharma said quality of life, “employability and the discrimination they face from society are also be important in making decisions about obesity treatments.”
A World Health Organization panel has concluded that cellphones are “possibly carcinogenic,” weighing in on the ongoing and often murky scientific debate about whether widespread cellphone use may be linked to cancer.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said there is enough evidence for the new classification of radio-frequency electromagnetic fields, which puts the widely used devices in the same category as certain dry-cleaning chemicals and pesticides as a potential health threat.
But James McNamee, a research scientist at Health Canada’s electromagnetics division and member of IARC’s working group, said it is vital to put the new classification in perspective.
“The best way to define this is it’s a recognition that there is some evidence from human studies and from animal studies.
“It’s very important to state that this evidence is far from established and it’s far from causal, but it is a recognition that a lot of work has been done, a great deal of work has been reviewed and it’s a statement of where the science is in time,” Dr. McNamee said in an interview.
A working group of 31 scientists, including two Canadians, assessed the evidence of the potential link between health and cellphone use at a week-long session in Lyon, France. The group did not conduct any new research but reviewed numerous existing studies that focused on the health effects of radio frequency magnetic fields, which are emitted by cellphones.
Dr. Jonathan Samet, a University of Southern California professor who was chairman of IARC’s working group, said the panel’s decision was based largely on epidemiological data showing an increased risk among heavy cellphone users of a rare type of brain tumour called a glioma.
The decision flagged results of an IARC study showing a 40% increased risk for gliomas in the highest category of cellphone users. This was calculated as a reported average use of 30 minutes per day over a 10-year period.
The panel made no comment on how large or small a risk cellphone radiation may pose to human health.
Working group member and University of Montreal epidemiologist Jack Siemiatycki said regulators such as Health Canada should take note of the classification, even though, he said, it’s a “first-level concern” or “probably the lowest level of flag that IARC uses for raising concern about possible carcinogens.”
A new report indicates that those who believe in God not only live a healthier life but also add 14 years to their life.
According to the new report published by U.K.-based Christian Medical Fellowship, those who have faith carry positive health benefits such as coping with illness, faster recovery, as well as protection from future illnesses.
The report, “Health Benefits of Christian Faith” by Drs. Alex Bunn and David Randall, drew its evidence from over 1,200 studies and 400 reviews.
It reads, “In contrast to the popular myth that Christian faith is bad for health, on balance, and despite its limitations, the published research suggests that faith is associated with longer life and a wide range of health benefits. In particular, faith is associated with improved mental health.”
One of the studies, where more than 20,000 American adults participated, shows that income and education had little impact but those who went to church regularly had seven years added to their life expectancy. It highlights that life expectancy doubled for African Americans with an extra 14 years.
People with mental health problems, such as psychosis, also proved to cope better when religion was involved. They also showed to be more compliant with their medication.
The report notes that the mental health benefits for believers include: “well-being, happiness and life satisfaction; hope and optimism; purpose and meaning in life; higher self-esteem; better adaptation to bereavement; greater social support and less loneliness; lower rates of depression and faster recovery from depression; lower rates of suicide and fewer positive attitudes towards suicide; less anxiety; less psychosis and fewer psychotic tendencies; lower rates of alcohol and drug abuse; less delinquency and criminal activity; greater marital stability and satisfaction.”
CMF emphasizes that health benefits depend on how devoted Christians are in their faith. For example, those who are genuinely devoted to God are less likely to associate themselves with “risky heath behaviors for instance problem drinking, smoking and permissive sexual behavior.”
“One study even found that religious attendance was associated with a more than 90% reduction in meningococcal disease (meningitis and septicemia), in teenagers, a protection at least as good as meningococcal vaccination. Furthermore, religious involvement has been associated with improved adherence to medication.”
For those living with an illness, studies have also indicated that spirituality or religion plays a positive role. “In one robust study of people living with HIV, those who grew in appreciation of spirituality or religious coping after diagnosis suffered significantly less decline in their CD4 counts and slower disease progression over a four year follow-up.”
While much-debated questions arise on whether to “prescribe faith” or not, the doctors personally support spiritual care but with caution because, in some cases, “They argue further that prescribing faith might be coercive, given the implicit authority gradient in the doctor-patient relationship, and that doctors could cause psychological harm by suggesting that patients’ illnesses are caused by a lack of religious devotion.”
The report concludes that although faith has positive physical benefits on each person, “The Christian faith is not to be judged by its material benefits, but by whether it is true,” especially when ironically, “suffering helps Christians to trust not in themselves but in God.”
“Christians should not promote health benefits as the primary reason for coming to faith in Christ. Jesus came into the world to work a far deeper transformation in human lives than simply curing disease.”
For some people, leaving their religion means more than taking a spiritual risk. They could be risking their physical health as well, according to one recent study.
In the study conducted done by Christopher Scheitle, a senior research assistant in sociology at Penn State University, 40% of those who said they practice a religion with strict social, moral and physical guidelines reported themselves to be in excellent health.
As they moved further from their strict religion, the percentage of those describing themselves in excellent health declined. About 25% of those who switched to a more liberal religious group said they were in excellent health, and the figure dropped to 20% for people who quit religion all together.
“Previous research showed some association between belonging to a religious group and positive health outcomes,” said Scheitle, whose study is published in the current issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. “We became interested in what would happen to your health if you left a religious group. Would people demonstrate any negative health outcomes?”
In the study, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) and Jehovah’s Witnesses were defined as “strict” religions. Both of the exclusive groups have strict guidelines for how members should live, including no alcohol consumption or tobacco use.
They also happen to be two religious groups that are not embraced by theological Christian conservatives, with the first group claiming the Book of Mormon as a holy text and the second rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity, among other major differences.
In his report, Scheitle suggested the decline in health could be a result of resuming unhealthy behaviors prohibited by the group, losing the formal and informal support structures that promote positive health, or suffering from increased stress.
“You could lost your friends or your family becomes upset when you leave, leading to psychological stress and negative health outcomes,” he said.
The sociologist said more studies need to be conducted to determine the correlation between leaving a religion and health. He emphasized that the study does not show that leaving a religion directly results in bad health.
Results of Scheitle’s study based on the examination of 30,523 cases collected from 1972 through 2006 in the General Social Surveys conducted by Opinion National Research Center.
Out of this data pool, the researcher narrowed the number down to 423 people in strict religious group, 96 people who switched religion, and 54 who are no longer affiliated with any religion.
Most Americans (48%) believe any government-subsidized health care plan should be prohibited from covering abortion procedures, according to the results of a new survey.
13%, meanwhile, believe such plans should be required to cover abortions, and 32% favor a more neutral approach with no requirements in either direction, reported Rasmussen Reports, which conducted the national telephone survey.
The survey also found that most Americans (52%) think it is too easy to get an abortion in America and even more (58%) say abortion is morally wrong most of the time.
“Today’s Rasmussen poll should remind lawmakers that including government funds for abortion on-demand in health care reform is not a winning policy for large segments of the American people,” commented Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, when the survey’s results were released one day before this past weekend’s Values Voter Summit in Washington.
“If the Congressional leadership and the President fall on the sword of abortion coverage, pleasing their allies and weaving it into the fabric of our daily lives, they do so at the peril of the entire bill and their own political future,” she added.
Among those surveyed by Rasmussen Reports who currently support passage of the health care reform legislation working its way through Congress, 22% said they want a prohibition banning abortion coverage and 22% want a mandate requiring such coverage. Forty-seven percent of the plan’s supporters prefer the neutral approach, and nine percent is not sure.
Among those who oppose the plan, 72% favor a prohibition against coverage of abortions while five percent hold the opposite view.
An earlier poll by the Susan B. Anthony List similarly found that a majority of Americans either believe that it is wrong for the government to pay for abortions or they simply do not want the government to help fund health care plans that fund abortions.
Only 38%, meanwhile, said that the government has an obligation to provide abortion services under its public health care plan.
For its survey, Rasmussen Reports interviewed 1,000 likely voters from Sept. 14 to Sept. 15.
For the Susan B. Anthony List’s survey, Public Opinion Strategies polled 800 registered voters on Sept. 1.
(1) National health care will punish the insurance companies.
You want to punish insurance companies? Make them compete.
As Adam Smith observed, whenever two businessmen meet, “the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” That’s why we need a third, fourth and 45th competing insurance company that will undercut them by offering better service at a lower price.
Tiny little France and Germany have more competition among health insurers than the U.S. does right now. Amazingly, both of these socialist countries have less state regulation of health insurance than we do, and you can buy health insurance across regional lines — unlike in the U.S., where a federal law allows states to ban interstate commerce in health insurance.
U.S. health insurance companies are often imperious, unresponsive consumer hellholes because they’re a partial monopoly, protected from competition by government regulation. In some states, one big insurer will control 80% of the market. (Guess which party these big insurance companies favor? Big companies love big government.)
Liberals think they can improve the problem of a partial monopoly by turning it into a total monopoly. That’s what single-payer health care is: “Single payer” means “single provider.”
It’s the famous liberal two-step: First screw something up, then claim that it’s screwed up because there’s not enough government oversight (it’s the free market run wild!), and then step in and really screw it up in the name of “reform.”
You could fix 90% of the problems with health insurance by ending the federal law allowing states to ban health insurance sales across state lines. But when John McCain called for ending the ban during the 2008 presidential campaign, he was attacked by Joe Biden — another illustration of the ironclad Ann Coulter rule that the worst Republicans are still better than allegedly “conservative” Democrats.
(2) National health care will “increase competition and keep insurance companies honest” — as President Barack Obama has said.
Government-provided health care isn’t a competitor; it’s a monopoly product paid for by the taxpayer. Consumers may be able to “choose” whether they take the service — at least at first — but every single one of us will be forced to buy it, under penalty of prison for tax evasion. It’s like a new cable plan with a “yes” box, but no “no” box.
Obama himself compared national health care to the post office — immediately conjuring images of a highly efficient and consumer-friendly work force — which, like so many consumer-friendly shops, is closed by 2 p.m. on Saturdays, all Sundays and every conceivable holiday.
But what most people don’t know — including the president, apparently — with certain narrow exceptions, competing with the post office is prohibited by law.
Expect the same with national health care. Liberals won’t stop until they have total control. How else will they get you to pay for their sex-change operations?
(3) Insurance companies are denying legitimate claims because they are “villains.”
Obama denounced the insurance companies in last Sunday’s New York Times, saying: “A man lost his health coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because the insurance company discovered that he had gallstones, which he hadn’t known about when he applied for his policy. Because his treatment was delayed, he died.”
Well, yeah. That and the cancer.
Assuming this is true — which would distinguish it from every other story told by Democrats pushing national health care — in a free market, such an insurance company couldn’t stay in business. Other insurance companies would scream from the rooftops about their competitor’s shoddy business practices, and customers would leave in droves.
If only customers had a choice! But we don’t because of government regulation of health insurance.
Speaking of which, maybe if Mr. Gallstone’s insurance company weren’t required by law to cover early childhood development programs and sex-change operations, it wouldn’t be forced to cut corners in the few areas not regulated by the government, such as cancer treatments for patients with gallstones.
(4) National health care will give Americans “basic consumer protections that will finally hold insurance companies accountable” — as Barack Obama claimed in his op/ed in the Times.
You want to protect consumers? Do it the same way we protect consumers of dry cleaning, hamburgers and electricians: Give them the power to tell their insurance companies, “I’m taking my business elsewhere.”
(5) Government intervention is the only way to provide coverage for pre-existing conditions.
The only reason most “pre-existing” conditions aren’t already covered is because of government regulations that shrink the insurance market to a microscopic size, which leads to fewer options in health insurance and a lot more uninsured people than would exist in a free market.
The free market has produced a dizzying array of insurance products in areas other than health. (Ironically, array-associated dizziness is not covered by most health plans.) Even insurance companies have “reinsurance” policies to cover catastrophic events occurring on the properties they insure, such as nuclear accidents, earthquakes and Michael Moore dropping in for a visit and breaking the couch.
If we had a free market in health insurance, it would be inexpensive and easy to buy insurance for “pre-existing” conditions before they exist, for example, insurance on unborn — unconceived — children and health insurance even when you don’t have a job. The vast majority of “pre-existing” conditions that currently exist in a cramped, limited, heavily regulated insurance market would be “covered” conditions under a free market in health insurance.
I’ve hit my word limit on liberal lies about national health care without breaking a sweat. See this space next week for more lies in our continuing series.
With the Democrats getting slaughtered — or should I say, “receiving mandatory end-of-life counseling” — in the debate over national health care, the Obama administration has decided to change the subject by indicting CIA interrogators for talking tough to three of the world’s leading Muslim terrorists.
Had I been asked, I would have advised them against reinforcing the idea that Democrats are hysterical bed-wetters who can’t be trusted with national defense while also reminding people of the one thing everyone still admires about President George W. Bush.
But I guess the Democrats really want to change the subject. Thus, here is Part 2 in our series of liberal lies about national health care.
(6) There will be no rationing under national health care.
Anyone who says that is a liar. And all Democrats are saying it. (Hey, look — I have two-thirds of a syllogism!)
Apparently, promising to cut costs by having a panel of Washington bureaucrats (for short, “The Death Panel”) deny medical treatment wasn’t a popular idea with most Americans. So liberals started claiming that they are going to cover an additional 47 million uninsured Americans and cut costs ... without ever denying a single medical treatment!
Also on the agenda is a delicious all-you-can-eat chocolate cake that will actually help you lose weight! But first, let’s go over the specs for my perpetual motion machine — and it uses no energy, so it’s totally green!
For you newcomers to planet Earth, everything that does not exist in infinite supply is rationed. In a free society, people are allowed to make their own rationing choices.
Some people get new computers every year; some every five years. Some White House employees get new computers and then vandalize them on the way out the door when their candidate loses. (These are the same people who will be making decisions about your health care.)
Similarly, one person might say, “I want to live it up and spend freely now! No one lives forever.” (That person is a Democrat.) And another might say, “I don’t go to restaurants, I don’t go to the theater, and I don’t buy expensive designer clothes because I’ve decided to pour all my money into my health.”
Under national health care, you’ll have no choice about how to ration your own health care. If your neighbor isn’t entitled to a hip replacement, then neither are you. At least that’s how the plan was explained to me by our next surgeon general, Dr. Conrad Murray.
(7) National health care will reduce costs.
This claim comes from the same government that gave us the $500 hammer, the $1,200 toilet seat and postage stamps that increase in price every three weeks.
The last time liberals decided an industry was so important that the government needed to step in and contain costs was when they set their sights on the oil industry. Liberals in both the U.S. and Canada — presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter and Canadian P.M. Pierre Trudeau — imposed price controls on oil.
As night leads to day, price controls led to reduced oil production, which led to oil shortages, skyrocketing prices for gasoline, rationing schemes and long angry lines at gas stations.
You may recall this era as “the Carter years.”
Then, the white knight Ronald Reagan became president and immediately deregulated oil prices. The magic of the free market — aka the “profit motive” — produced surges in oil exploration and development, causing prices to plummet. Prices collapsed and remained low for the next 20 years, helping to fuel the greatest economic expansion in our nation’s history.
You may recall this era as “the Reagan years.”
Freedom not only allows you to make your own rationing choices, but also produces vastly more products and services at cheap prices, so less rationing is necessary.
(8) National health care won’t cover abortions.
There are three certainties in life: (a) death, (b) taxes, and (C) no health care bill supported by Nita Lowey and Rosa DeLauro and signed by Barack Obama could possibly fail to cover abortions.
I don’t think that requires elaboration, but here it is:
Despite being a thousand pages long, the health care bills passing through Congress are strikingly nonspecific. (Also, in a thousand pages, Democrats weren’t able to squeeze in one paragraph on tort reform. Perhaps they were trying to save paper.)
These are Trojan Horse bills. Of course, they don’t include the words “abortion,” “death panels” or “three-year waits for hip-replacement surgery.”
That proves nothing — the bills set up unaccountable, unelected federal commissions to fill in the horrible details. Notably, the Democrats rejected an amendment to the bill that would specifically deny coverage for abortions.
After the bill is passed, the Federal Health Commission will find that abortion is covered, pro-lifers will sue, and a court will say it’s within the regulatory authority of the health commission to require coverage for abortions.
Then we’ll watch a parade of senators and congressmen indignantly announcing, “Well, I’m pro-life, and if I had had any idea this bill would cover abortions, I never would have voted for it!”
No wonder Democrats want to remind us that they can’t be trusted with foreign policy. They want us to forget that they can’t be trusted with domestic policy.
(9) If you like Medicare, you’ll love national health care, which will just extend Medicare’s benefits to everyone.
Hey — I have an idea: How about we make everyone in America a multimillionaire by pulling Bernie Madoff out of prison and asking him to invest all our money! Both Medicare and Bernie Madoff’s investment portfolio are bankrupt because they operate on a similar financial model known as a “Ponzi scheme.” These always seem to run fabulously well — until the money runs out.
Not only is Medicare bankrupt, but it is extremely limited in whom and what it covers. If Medicare were a private insurer, it would be illegal in many states for failing to cover hearing aids, podiatry, acupuncture, chiropractic care, marriage counseling, aromatherapy and gender reassignment surgery.
Moreover, Medicare payments aren’t enough to pay the true cost of those medical services it does cover. With Medicare undercutting payments to hospitals and doctors for patients 65 and older, what keeps the American medical system afloat are private individuals who are not covered by Medicare paying full freight (and then some). That’s why you end up with a $10 aspirin on your hospital bill.
National health care will eliminate everything outside of Medicare, which is the only thing that allows Medicare to exist.
Obviously, therefore, it’s preposterous for Democrats to say national health care will merely extend Medicare to the entire population. This would be like claiming you’re designing an apartment building in which every apartment will be a penthouse. Everyone likes the penthouses, so why not have a building in which every apartment is a penthouse?
It doesn’t work: What makes the penthouse the penthouse is all the other floors below. An “all-penthouse” building is a blueprint that could make sense only to someone who has never run a business and has zero common sense, i.e., a Democrat.
(10) National health care won’t cover illegal aliens — as the president has twice claimed in recent radio appearances.
Technically, what Obama said is that the bill isn’t “designed” to give health insurance to illegal aliens. (That bill, the “Health Insurance for Illegal Aliens Act of 2009,” was still being drafted by Ted Kennedy at the time of his death, may he rest in peace.)
But unless the various government bureaucracies dispensing health care are specifically required by law to ask about citizenship status, illegals will be covered. We can’t even get employers and police to inquire about citizenship status, but liberals assure us that doctors will?
And by the way — as with the abortion exclusion — the Democrats expressly rejected amendments that would have required proof of residency status to receive national health care.
Still not convinced? Day after day, The New York Times has been neurotically asserting that national health care won’t cover illegal aliens (without ever explaining how precisely it will exclude illegal aliens).
So far, just this week, these Kim Jong Il-style pronouncements have appeared in the Treason Times:
— “Illegal immigrants will be covered. (Myth)” — Katharine Q. Seelye, “Myth vs. Fact vs. Other,” The New York Times, Sept. 2, 2009
— “(Sen. Jim DeMint) fueled speculation that a health care overhaul would cover illegal immigrants, although specific language says it would not.” — Katharine Q. Seelye, “Fighting Health Care Overhaul, and Proud of It,” The New York Times, Aug. 31, 2009
— “‘Page 50: All non-U.S. citizens, illegal or not, will be provided with free health care services.’ ... The falsehoods include (that italic statement).” — Michael Mason, “Vetting Claims in a Memo,” The New York Times, Aug. 30, 2009
— “But that would not help illegal immigrants. Contrary to some reports, they would not be eligible for any new health coverage under any of the health overhaul plans circulating in Congress.” — Duff Wilson, “Race, Ethnicity and Care,” The New York Times, Aug. 30, 2009
The last time the Times engaged in such frantic perseveration about a subject was when the paper was repeatedly insisting that Durham prosecutor Mike Nifong had a solid case against the Duke lacrosse players.
By August 2006, every single person in the United States, including the stripper, knew the stripper’s claim of “gang rape” was a lie. That was when Duff Wilson — quoted above — co-wrote the Times’ infamous cover story on the Duke case, titled: “Files From Duke Rape Case Give Details but No Answers.” No answers!
(11) Obama has dropped his demand for the ironically titled “public option” (i.e., government-run health care), which taxpayers will not have an “option” to pay for or not.
Liberals never, ever drop a heinous idea; they just change the name. “Abortion” becomes “choice,” “communist” becomes “progressive,” “communist dictatorship” becomes “people’s democratic republic” and “Nikita Khrushchev” becomes “Barack Obama.”
It doesn’t matter if liberals start calling national health care a “chocolate chip puppy” or “ice cream sunset” — if the government is subsidizing it, then the government calls the shots. And the moment the government gets its hands on the controls, it will be establishing death panels, forcing taxpayers to pay for abortions and illegal aliens, rationing care and then demanding yet more government control when partial government control creates a mess.
Which happens to be exactly what liberals are doing right now.
(12) Only national health care can provide “coverage that will stay with you whether you move, change your job or lose your job” — as Obama said in a New York Times op-ed.
This is obviously a matter of great importance to all Americans, because, with Obama’s economic policies, none of us may have jobs by year’s end.
The only reason you can’t keep — or often obtain — health insurance if you move or lose your job now is because of ... government intrusion into the free market.
You will notice that if you move or lose your job, you can obtain car and home insurance, hairdressers, baby sitters, dog walkers, computer technicians, cars, houses, food and every other product and service not heavily regulated by the government. (Although it does become a bit harder to obtain free office supplies.)
Federal tax incentives have created a world in which the vast majority of people get health insurance through their employers. Then to really screw ordinary Americans, the tax code actually punishes people who don’t get their health insurance through an employer by denying individuals the tax deduction for health insurance that their employers get.
Meanwhile, state governments must approve the insurers allowed to operate in their states, while mandating a list of services — i.e. every “medical” service with a powerful lobby — which is why Joe and Ruth Zelinsky, both 88, of Paterson, N.J., are both covered in case either one of them ever needs a boob job.
If Democrats really wanted people to be able to purchase health insurance when they move or lose a job as easily as they purchase car insurance and home insurance (or haircuts, dog walkers, cars, food, computers), they could do it in a one-page bill lifting the government controls and allowing interstate commerce in health insurance. This is known as “allowing the free market to operate.”
Plus, think of all the paper a one-page bill would save! Don’t Democrats care about saving the planet anymore? Go green!
(13) The “public option” trigger is something other than a national takeover of health care.
Why does the government get to decide when the “trigger” has been met, allowing it to do something terrible to us? Either the government is better at providing goods and services or the free market is — and I believe the historical record is clear on that. Why do liberals get to avoid having that argument simply by invoking “triggers”?
Why not have a “trigger” allowing people to buy medical insurance on the free market when a trigger is met, such as consumers deciding their health insurance is too expensive? Or how about a trigger allowing us to buy health insurance from Utah-based insurers — but only when triggered by our own states requiring all insurance companies to cover marriage counseling, drug rehab and shrinks?
Thinking more broadly, how about triggers for paying taxes? Under my “public option” plan, citizens would not have to pay taxes until a trigger kicks in. For example, 95% of the Department of Education’s output is useful, or — in the spirit of compromise — at least not actively pernicious.
Also, I think we need triggers for taking over our neighbors’ houses. If they don’t keep up 95% of their lawn — on the basis of our lawn commission’s calculations — we get to move in. As with Obama’s public option trigger, we (in the role of “government”) pay nothing. All expenses with the house would continue to be paid by the neighbor (playing “taxpayer”).
To make our housing “public option” even more analogous to Obama’s health care “public option,” we’ll have surly government employees bossing around the neighbors after we evict them and a Web site for people to report any negative comments the neighbors make about us.
Another great trigger idea: We get to pull Keith Olbermann’s hair to see if it’s a toupee — but only when triggered by his laughably claiming to have gone to an Ivy League university, rather than the bovine management school he actually attended.
(14) National health care will not cover abortions or illegal immigrants.
This appeared in an earlier installment of “Liberal Lies About Health Care,” but I keep seeing Democrats like Howard Dean and Rep. Jan Schakowsky on TV angrily shouting that these are despicable lies — which, in itself, constitutes proof that it’s all true.
Then why did Democrats vote down amendments that would prohibit coverage for illegals and abortion? (Also, why is Planned Parenthood collecting petition signatures in Manhattan — where they think they have no reason to be sneaky — in support of national health care?)
On July 30 of this year, a House committee voted against a Republican amendment offered by Rep. Nathan Deal that would have required health care providers to use the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) Program to prevent illegal aliens from receiving government health care services. All Republicans and five Democrats voted for it, but 29 Democrats voted against it, killing the amendment.
On the same day, the committee voted 30-29 against an amendment offered by Republican Joe Pitts explicitly stating that government health care would not cover abortions. Zealous abortion supporter Henry Waxman — a walking, breathing argument for abortion if ever there was one — originally voted in favor of the Pitts amendment because that allowed him, in a sleazy parliamentary trick, to bring the amendment up for reconsideration later. Which he did — as soon as he had enough Democrats in the hearing room to safely reject it.
If any liberal sincerely believes that national health care will not cover illegals and abortion, how do they explain the Democrats frantically opposing amendments that would make this explicit?
I’m trying to get to the next installment of my Pulitzer Prize-deserving series on liberal lies about national health care, but apparently liberals have decided to torture us by neurotically fixating on one lie.
After President Barack Obama gave a speech to a joint session of Congress last week passionately defending his national health care plan, the Democrats were agog at the brilliance of the speech. Nancy Pelosi was so thrilled, her expression almost changed.
But as Obama ticked off one demonstrably false claim after another — eliciting 37 standing ovations from the Democrats in the audience — America’s greatest living statesman, Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., yelled out, “You lie!” in response to Obama’s claim that the bill will not cover illegal aliens.
There are a number of theories about why America’s greatest living statesman shouted “You lie!” at that juncture, but mine is that Wilson said it because Obama told a big, fat stinking lie.
Every single American knows it’s a lie. But liberals take pleasure in repeating it — and then condescendingly accusing anyone who doesn’t accept their lie of being a toothless, illiterate racist.
Our politicians, media and courts have done everything they can to encourage illegal immigration, including obstinately refusing to enforce the border. While illegals streaming across the border generally aren’t prosecuted, U.S. border patrol agents who naively try to guard the border often are.
Wise (and pregnant) Latinas dash across the border just in time to give birth at American hospitals — medical services paid for by U.S. taxpayers — gaining instant citizenship for their children, thereby entitling them to the entire Chinese menu of American welfare programs.
In 2004, 42.6% of all babies born at taxpayer expense in California were born to illegal aliens, according to a state report on Medi-Cal-funded deliveries. In hospitals close to the Mexican border, the figure is closer to 80%. Remember: This is before health care becomes “free” to every U.S. resident.
Hospitals across the country are going bankrupt because the federal government forces them to provide free services to illegals. This situation appears to have angered some segment of the population, in particular, American citizens who pay taxes to support the hospitals, but then are forced to spend hours writhing in pain in hospital waiting rooms.
With Americans in a boiling cauldron of rage about the government’s impotent response to the tsunami of illegal immigrants, last year, both political parties ran candidates for president who favor amnesty for illegal immigrants.
And now Democrats have the audacity to tell us to our faces that national health care won’t cover illegals. Not only that, but they tell us we must not be able to read if we think it does.
The crystalline example of this sneering liberal pomposity came from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Monday night:
“Reading the House health care bill would show you that (the bill does not cover illegal aliens). But you know, sometimes reading is hard. Fortunately, in the case of the health reform bill, there is a way to get all of the information that’s in it without any of that pesky reading.
“It’s called HearTheBill.org. Volunteer voiceover actors have donated their time to read all 1,017 pages of the house health care reform bill, HR-3200, the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009.
“So if you don’t want to tire out your eyes, you could just listen to the thing that disproves (Rep. Wilson).”
Maddow then played an audio clip of Section 246 from the bill. This section, which liberals keep brandishing like a DNA-stained dress, states: “Nothing in this subtitle shall allow federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.”
In other words, illegal aliens are excluded from precisely one section of the thousand-page, goodie-laden health care bill: Section 246, which distributes taxpayer-funded “affordability credits” to people who can’t afford to pay for their own health care.
Even this minor restriction on taxpayer largesse to illegals will immediately be overturned by the courts. But the point is: Except for vouchers, the bill does not even pretend to exclude illegals from any part of national health care — including the taxpayer-funded health insurance plan.
Moreover, liberals won’t have to wait for some court to find that the words “nothing in this subtitle shall allow” means “this bill allows,” because the bill contains no mechanism to ensure that the health care vouchers aren’t going to illegal aliens. Nor does the bill prohibit the states from providing taxpayer-funded health care vouchers to illegals.
Democrats keep voting down Republican amendments that would insert these restrictions — just before dashing to a TV studio to denounce anyone who says the health care bill covers illegal aliens.
It’s as if we have a relative who shows up at every holiday gathering, gets bombed and totals the family car. At the 18th Christmas celebration, he’s not only demanding a drink, but also calling us liars for saying he’s already totaled 17 family cars. Gimme a gin and tonic and the car keys, you lying racist!
I think that’s why America’s greatest living statesman erupted with rage when Obama retailed this particular lie during his speech on health care.
It’s bad enough to be lied to, but to be lied to by people who accuse us of not being able to read when the problem is that we can read — and also can remember what happened at the last 17 family Christmases — is more than even Mother Teresa could bear without a quick heckle.
(15) Democrats lost Congress in 1994 because President Clinton failed to pass national health care.
I’m not sure if this is another example of the left’s wishful-thinking method of analysis or if they’re seriously trying to trick the Blue Dog Democrats into believing it. But I gather liberals consider the 1994 argument an important point because it was on the front page of The New York Times a few weeks ago in place of a story about Van Jones or ACORN.
According to a news story by Jackie Calmes: “In 1994, Democrats’ dysfunction over fulfilling a new president’s campaign promise contributed to the party’s loss of its 40-year dominance of Congress.”
That’s not the way I remember it. The way I remember it, Republicans swept Congress in 1994 not because Clinton failed to nationalize health care, but because he tried to nationalize health care. HillaryCare failed because most Americans didn’t want it. (For more on this, see “ObamaCare.”)
Bill Clinton had run as an old-school, moderate Democrat and then, as soon as he got elected, immediately became Che Guevara. (What is it with all our black presidents and these bait-and-switch tactics?)
Instead of pursuing “mend it, don’t end it” on welfare and no “middle-class tax hike” — as Clinton promised during the campaign — he raised taxes, signed ridiculous gun restrictions into law, enacted “midnight basketball” as the solution to urban crime, announced that he was putting gays in the military and let Hillary run riot over health care.
But just to check my recollection, I looked up the Times’ own coverage of the 1994 congressional races.
Republicans won a landslide election in 1994 based largely on the “Contract With America,” which, according to the Times, promised “tax cuts, more military spending and a balanced-budget amendment.” Far from complaining about Clinton incompetently failing to pass health care, the Times reported that Republicans were “unabashedly claiming credit for tying Congress up in knots.”
These claims were immediately followed by ... oh, what was that word again? Now I remember ...
It was almost as if the voters agreed with the Republicans in opposing Clinton’s risky health care scheme, then voted accordingly.
The Times’ own polling showed that two-thirds of voters believed that “government should be less involved in solving national problems” — which doesn’t sound to me like voters being huffy with Clinton for failing to stage a government takeover of one-sixth of the economy.
In a Hail Mary pass just before the election, President Clinton pulled Hillary off the health care beat. CNN’s repository of liberal cliches, Bill Schneider, reported that Clinton was trying to calm voters by “removing the most visible symbol of the liberal tilt of the last two years, which is the first lady.”
And what a morale boost for the Democrats that must have been! Kind of like firing the manager of a losing baseball team in the last week of the season.
Too late. Shouldn’t have tried to socialize health care.
(16) America’s relatively low life expectancy compared to countries with socialist health care proves welfare-state health care is better.
The life expectancy argument is so stupid even The New York Times hasn’t made it — except in news stories quoting others or in the ramblings of the Times’ more gullible op-ed columnists. You mostly hear the life expectancy argument from Hollywood actresses and profoundly dumb Democrats, such as Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland.
Trying to evaluate the quality of a nation’s health care by looking at life expectancy is like trying to estimate the birthrate by counting the number of flowers bought on Valentine’s Day. (Or estimating future pregnancies of women with low self-esteem by adding up the total number of U.S. cities on a Bobby Brown tour and then multiplying by 2.)
There are lots of ways to get pregnant that don’t require flowers or a backstage pass to a Bobby Brown concert, just as there are lots of ways to die that don’t require setting foot inside a doctor’s offfice.
For example, more Americans are murdered with guns than in any other industrialized country. (And it would be even more without concealed-carry laws! See John Lott, “More Guns, Less Crime.”) According to a 1997 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the homicide rate with firearms alone was 16 times higher in the U.S. than in 25 other industrialized countries combined.
That will tend to reduce the U.S.’s “life expectancy” numbers, while telling us absolutely nothing about the country’s medical care. (I promise that if you make it to a hospital alive, you are more likely to survive a gunshot wound in the U.S. than any place else in the world.)
It’s comparing apples and oranges to talk about life expectancy as if it tracks with a country’s health care system. What matters is the survival rate from the same starting line, to wit, the same medical condition. Not surprisingly, in the apples-to-apples comparisons, the U.S. medical system crushes the welfare-state countries.
(17) America’s low ranking on international comparisons of infant mortality proves other countries’ socialist health care systems are better than ours.
America has had a comparatively high infant mortality rate since we’ve been measuring these things, going back to at least the ‘20s. This was the case long before European countries adopted their cradle-to-grave welfare schemes and all while the U.S. was the wealthiest country on Earth.
One factor contributing to the U.S.’s infant mortality rate is that blacks have intractably high infant mortality rates — irrespective of age, education, socioeconomic status and so on. No one knows why.
Neither medical care nor discrimination can explain it: Hispanics in the U.S. have lower infant mortality rates than either blacks or whites. Give Switzerland or Japan our ethnically diverse population and see how they stack up on infant mortality rates.
Even with a higher-risk population, the alleged differences in infant mortality are negligible. We’re talking about 7 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in the U.S. compared to 5 deaths per 1,000 for Britain and Canada. This is a rounding error — perhaps literally when you consider that the U.S. tabulates every birth, even in poor, small and remote areas, while other countries are not always so meticulous.
But the international comparisons in “infant mortality” rates aren’t comparing the same thing, anyway. We also count every baby who shows any sign of life, irrespective of size or weight at birth.
By contrast, in much of Europe, babies born before 26 weeks’ gestation are not considered “live births.” Switzerland only counts babies who are at least 30 centimeters long (11.8 inches) as being born alive. In Canada, Austria and Germany, only babies weighing at least a pound are considered live births.
And of course, in Milan it’s not considered living if the baby isn’t born within driving distance of the Côte d’Azur.
By excluding the little guys, these countries have simply redefined about one-third of what we call “infant deaths” in America as “miscarriages.”
Moreover, many industrialized nations, such as France, Hong Kong and Japan — the infant mortality champion — don’t count infant deaths that occur in the 24 hours after birth. Almost half of infant deaths in the U.S. occur in the first day.
Also contributing to the higher mortality rate of U.S. newborns: Peter Singer lives here.
But members of Congress, such as Reps. Dennis Kucinich, Jim Moran and John Olver, have all cited the U.S.’s relatively poor ranking in infant mortality among developed nations as proof that our medical care sucks. This is despite the fact that in many countries a baby born the size of Dennis Kucinich would not be considered a live birth.
Apart from the fact that we count — and try to save — all our babies, infant mortality is among the worst measures of a nation’s medical care because so much of it is tied to lifestyle choices, such as the choice to have children out of wedlock, as teenagers or while addicted to crack.
The main causes of infant mortality — aside from major birth defects — are prematurity and low birth-weight. And the main causes of low birth-weight are: smoking, illegitimacy and teenage births. Americans lead most of the developed world in all three categories. Oh, and thank you for that, Britney Spears.
Although we have a lot more low birth-weight and premature babies for both demographic and lifestyle reasons, at-risk newborns are more likely to survive in America than anywhere else in the world. Japan, Norway and the other countries with better infant mortality rates would see them go through the roof if they had to deal with the same pregnancies that American doctors do.
As Nicholas Eberstadt demonstrates in his book “The Tyranny of Numbers: Mismeasurement and Misrule,” American hospitals do so well with low birth-weight babies that if Japan had our medical care with their low birth-weight babies, another third of their babies would survive, making it even harder for an American kid to get into MIT.
But I think it’s terrific that liberals are finally willing to start looking at outcomes to judge a system. I say we start right away with the public schools!
In international comparisons, American 12th-graders rank in the 14th percentile in math and the 29th percentile in science. The U.S. outperformed only Cyprus and South Africa in general math and science knowledge. Worse, Asian countries didn’t participate in the last 12th-grade assessment tests.
Imagine how much worse our public schools would look — assuming that were possible — if we allowed other countries to exclude one-half of their worst performers!
That’s exactly what liberals are doing when they tout America’s rotten infant mortality rate compared to other countries. They look for any category that makes our medical care look worse than the rest of the world — and then neglect to tell us that the rest of the world counts our premature and low birth-weight babies as “miscarriages.”
As long as American liberals are going to keep announcing that they’re embarrassed for their country, how about being embarrassed by our public schools or by our ridiculous trial lawyer culture that other countries find laughable?
Don’t be discouraged, liberals — when it comes to utterly frivolous lawsuits against obstetricians presented to illiterate jurors so that John and Elizabeth Edwards can live in an 80-room house, we’re still No. 1!
(18) America’s lower life expectancy compared to countries with socialist health care proves that their medical systems are superior.
President Obama has too much intellectual pride to make such a specious argument, so instead we have to keep hearing it from his half-wit supporters.
These Democrats are all over the map on where precisely Americans place in the life-expectancy rankings. We’re 24th, according to Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Barbara Boxer; 42nd, according to Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell; 35th, according to Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson; and 47th, according to Rep. Dennis Kucinich. So the U.S. may have less of a “life expectancy” problem than a “Democratic math competency” problem.
But also, as described in last week’s column, the citizenry’s health is not the same thing as the citizenry’s health care system.
Besides America’s high rate of infant mortality — based on biology and lifestyle choices, not medical care — Americans are also more likely to overeat or smoke than people in other developed nations. And the two biggest killers in the Western world are obesity and smoking.
Liberals shouldn’t have to be reminded how fat Americans are, inasmuch as they are always chortling about it. A 2004 New York Times article leeringly quoted a foreign doctor, saying: “We Europeans, whenever we came to America, we always noticed the enormous number of obese people on the streets.” I note that these are the same people who openly worship Michael Moore.
Somewhat surprisingly to those of us who have long admired France for its humanitarian smoking laws, until the mid-1980s, Americans had had the highest rate of smoking in the developed world. This makes patriotic Americans like me wonder if there’s a way to get Michael Moore to start smoking. (You know, just to keep his weight down or whatever.)
To be fair, the French are still being exposed to large amounts of smoke due to all the cars being set on fire by Muslims.
In 2003, America led the world in smoking-related deaths among women — followed by Hungary. Simply excluding all smoking-related deaths from the World Health Organization’s comparison of life expectancies at age 50 in 20 developed nations would raise U.S. women’s life expectancy from 17th to 7th place and lift American men from 14th to 9th place.
Americans are also more likely to die in military combat than the whimpering, pant-wetting cowards our military has spent the past 70 years defending — I mean, than “our loyal European allies.” This is a health risk Europeans have managed to protect themselves against by living in a world that contains the United States military.
These are risk factors that have nothing to do with the health care system. To evaluate the quality of our health care, you have to compare apples to apples by looking at outcomes for specific medical conditions.
Although the United States has a higher incidence of heart disease, cancer and diabetes compared to Europe — because of lifestyle choices and genetics — it also has better survival rates across the board for all these medical problems.
The most revealing international comparisons look at cancer survival rates, because of the universally extensive record-keeping for this disease.
A European study found that, compared to 18 European countries, the U.S. had strikingly higher five-year survival rates in all 12 cancers studied, except for one: stomach cancer. Even there, the survival rates were close — and the difference was attributed to the location of the cancer in the stomach.
For all types of cancers, European men have only a 47.3 percent five-year survival rate, compared to 66.3 percent survival rate for American men. The greatest disparity was in prostate cancer, which American men are 28 percent more likely to survive than European men.
European women are only 55.8 percent likely to live five years after contracting any kind of cancer, compared to 62.9 percent for American women.
In five cancers — breast, prostate, thyroid, testicular and skin melanoma — American survival rates are higher than 90 percent. Europeans hit a 90 percent survival rate for only one of those — testicular cancer.
Most disturbingly, many cancers in Europe are discovered only upon the victim’s death — twice as many as in the U.S. Consequently, the European study simply excluded cancers that were first noted on the death certificate, so as not to give the U.S. too great an advantage.
There are no national registries for heart disease, as there are for cancer, making survival-rate comparisons more difficult. But treatments can be measured and, again, Americans are far more likely to be on medication for heart disease and high cholesterol — medications that extend the lives of millions, developed by those evil, profit-grubbing American drug companies.
To get to the comparison they like (America is not as good as Sweden!), liberals have to slip in the orange of “life expectancy,” and hope no one will mention monster truck races, Krispy Kremes and Virginia Slims. As the old saying goes: Life doesn’t last longer in socialist countries; it just feels like it.
The last two presidents of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) have both been staunch advocates of increased private care. The incoming president, Anne Doig of Saskatoon, who will be installed this week, says our health-care system is “imploding.” While not as committed to private options as her predecessors, Dr. Doig acknowledges our current universal public system is “unsustainable.” She also argues we should not fear private options, but rather should implement whatever models from around the world — be they public or private — that produce the best results for patients. On the other hand, the physician who will replace Dr. Doig next summer, Ottawa’s Dr. Jeff Turnbull, promises to be a passionate defender of the government health monopoly during his one-year term.
Overall, then, three of the four most-recent CMA presidents and presidents-elect have argued to varying degrees that private options for patients are inevitable; just one believes our current government-administered system can be prolonged. Only a dogmatic left-wing outlet such as the Toronto Star editorial page would view this —as it argued in an editorial on Sunday — as proof that a “fresh [pro-medicare] approach may be taking hold” at the CMA, an approach that will “ensure the reactionary American debate over the future of its health care does not poison our own.”
Like most defenders of Canada’s health monopoly, the Star misses the point of what is going on Stateside. Contrary to what one might conclude from the clucking and preening exhibited by Canada’s friends of medicare, not even those Americans backing guaranteed care for all are holding out our system as their ideal.
No one in the United States, for example, is calling for a Canada Health Act-like ban on private insurance. Even Barack Obama, while allowing that our system may work for us, was emphatic that the Canadian system “would not work for the United States.” No mainstream U. S. politician is calling for the closure of private clinics.
Indeed, fewer and fewer countries believe, as medicare’s defenders do, that it should be illegal for ordinary citizens to use their own after-tax dollars to buy supplemental care. Even major countries with cradle-to-grave social benefits such as France, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Britain, all permit their citizens private options. All allow user fees. Most also permit surgeons to charge thousands of dollars extra for non-emergency, non-life threatening operations, including hip replacements. Even Sweden, long the utopian ideal of the Canadian left, has recently permitted private clinics and hospitals to compete to provide publicly funded procedures. And the Scandinavian sky has not fallen.
Dr. Doig is neither categorically in favour of private options nor fundamentally opposed. She wants Canadians instead to debate what care they want and how they want it paid for. That strikes us as quite sensible. It is unfortunate her successor is not similarly enlightened.
Reading in dim light won’t damage your eyes, you don’t need eight glasses of water a day to stay healthy and shaving your legs won’t make the hair grow back faster.
These well-worn theories are among seven “medical myths” exposed in a paper published in the British Medical Journal, which traditionally carries light-hearted features in its Christmas edition.
The research was conducted by Aaron Carroll, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Regenstrief Institute, Indianapolis, and Rachel Vreeman, fellow in children’s health services research at Indiana University School of Medicine.
They took seven common beliefs and searched the archives for evidence to support them.
Despite frequent mentions in the popular press of the need to drink eight glasses of water, they found no scientific basis for the claim.
The complete lack of evidence has been recorded in a study published the American Journal of Psychology, they said.
The other six “myths” are:
Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight
The majority of eye experts believed it was unlikely to do any permanent damage, but it might make you squint, blink more and have trouble focusing, the researchers said.
Shaving makes hair grow back faster or coarser
It has no effect on the thickness or rate of hair regrowth, studies say. But stubble lacks the finer taper of unshaven hair, giving the impression of coarseness.
Eating turkey makes you drowsy
It does contain an amino acid called tryptophan that is involved in sleep and mood control.
But turkey has no more of the acid than chicken or minced beef. Eating lots of food and drink at Christmas are probably the real cause of sleepiness.
We use only 10% of our brains
This myth arose as early as 1907 but imaging shows no area of the brain is silent or completely inactive.
Hair and fingernails continue to grow after death
This idea may stem from ghoulish novels. The researchers said the skin dries out and retracts after death, giving the appearance of longer hair or nails.
Cell phones are dangerous in hospitals
Despite widespread concerns, studies have found minimal interference with medical equipment.
BLACKSBURG, Virginia — Eight out of 10 crashes in the United States involve drivers who are drowsy, chatting on a cell phone, applying makeup or otherwise distracted from the road ahead, according to a government study released Thursday that videotaped people behind the wheel.
Reviewing thousands of hours of video and data from sensor monitors linked to more than 200 drivers, researchers found that a wide range of distractions can lead to crashes or near-crashes.
Reaching for a moving object while driving increased the risk of a crash by nine times, while reading or applying makeup from behind the wheel enhanced the risk by three times. Dialing a cell phone, meanwhile, increased the risk of a crash by nearly three times, researchers found.
The project helped show what happens in the fractions of a second before a crash or near miss. Researchers said it showed the first links between crash risks and popular multi-tasking activities — from eating and talking to receiving e-mail in the driver’s seat.
“All of these activities are much more dangerous than we thought before,” said Dr. Charlie Klauer, a senior research associate at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
For more than a year, researchers with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute studied the behavior of the drivers of 100 vehicles in northern Virginia and metropolitan Washington, D.C., equipped with video and sensors. They tracked 241 drivers, who were involved in 82 crashes of various degrees of seriousness — 15 were reported to police — and 761 near-crashes.
Called the 100-Car Study, the massive research project analyzed nearly 2 million miles driven and more than 43,300 hours of data.
Drowsy driving increased the driver’s risk of a crash or near-crash by four to six times, the study said. But the study’s authors noted drowsy driving is frequently underreported in police crash investigations.
When drivers took long glances away from the road ahead of them at the wrong moment, they were twice as likely to get into a crash, the report said.
Some safety organizations cautioned that the study was among a growing body of research and worried that it might set off reactionary laws across the states.
“I urge legislators not to interpret these results as a need for new legislative initiatives. It is simply not good public policy to pass laws addressing every type of driver behavior,” said Lt. Col. Jim Champagne, chairman of the Governors Highway Safety Association.
[KH: I happen to be a chocolate lover so I like this message]
You’d love a piece of chocolate, but you’ve heard about the health benefits of green tea. What to do?
New research suggests: Follow your heart.
When it comes to lowering blood pressure, a piece of dark chocolate beats green tea, hands down.
A survey released Monday is one of the first to be done on chocolate and shows that cocoa’s polyphenols, or flavonoids, help lower high blood pressure, Dirk Taubert, senior lecturer in pharmacology and toxicology at the University Hospital of Cologne and lead author of the report, told HealthDay News.
The tea trials yielded no reduction in blood pressure.
Tea and cocoa contain different polyphenols — flavan-3-ols in tea, procyanids in cocoa, the researchers said.
“Based on our analysis, regular consumption of polyphenol-rich cocoa products like dark chocolate may be considered a part of a blood pressure-lowering diet, provided there is no total gain in calorie intake,” Taubert told HealthDay News.
“However, in the studies we reviewed, the blood pressure results occurred with cocoa doses above the habitual intake and were observed only in the setting of short-term interventions.”
What does this mean, exactly? The effects on an average sweet-toothed chocoholic are unknown.
“To date, it is not known whether long-term intake of small habitual amounts of cocoa, such as a small bar or piece of chocolate per day, may also cause significant blood pressure effects,” Taubert told HealthDaily News.
Leave it to the Dutch, known for their luscious candy, to demonstrate the benefits of chocolate. It might be good for you.
Men who consumed the most cocoa had a 50% lower risk of dying from heart disease compared with those who did not eat cocoa, researchers in the Netherlands said yesterday.
Cocoa is known to lower blood pressure, though previous studies have disagreed about whether it prevents heart disease over the long-term, particularly because it is contained in foods high in fat, sugar and calories.
The new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine concluded that it was not lower blood pressure that corresponded to the lower overall risk of death — although the biggest cocoa consumers did have lower blood pressure and fewer cases of fatal heart disease than non-cocoa eaters.
Instead, the report credited antioxidants and flavonols found in cocoa with boosting the functioning of cells that line blood vessels and for reducing the risks from cholesterol and other chemicals that can cause heart attacks, cancer and lung diseases.
Flavonols are a class of healthy flavonoids that are found in many vegetables, green tea and red wine.
“It’s way too early to make recommendations about whether people should eat more cocoa or chocolate,” said Brian Buijsse, a nutritional epidemiologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, who co-authored the study.
Still, the Dutch study, supported by grants from the Netherlands Prevention Foundation, appears to be the largest so far to document a health effect for cocoa beans. And it confirms findings of smaller, shorter-term studies that also linked chocolate with lower blood pressure.
“This is a very important article providing epidemiological support for what many researchers have been observing in experimental models,” said Cesar Fraga of the University of California at Davis, who does similar research but was not involved in the new study.
The 15-year study of 470 men aged 65 to 84 in Zutphen, the Netherlands, found one-third did not eat any cocoa, while the median intake was 4.2 grams per day among the third who consumed the most cocoa — including cocoa drinks, chocolate bars and chocolate pudding.
From 1985 to 2000, 314 of the men died, and the biggest cocoa eaters were at half the risk of dying compared with men who did not eat it.
Candy companies have been responding to studies showing that chocolate has health benefits. McLean candy giant Mars is introducing its flavonol-rich Cocoa Via line of chocolate bars in stores nationwide. And Hershey’s has a new line of chocolates, the Extra Dark Assortment, promoting antioxidants’ health benefits.
Mr. Buijsse noted the men eating the most cocoa products were not heavier or bigger eaters than the men who ate less cocoa.
“Our study consisted of elderly men,” he said. “If you look at the other interventional studies, you see the same effects in men and women, younger people and older people. It may be the findings are generalizable to women, but you never know.”
But a U.S. doctor said a larger study needs to be done.
Said Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York who did not participate in the research: “This study is not generalizable to the public because it was done in men over the age of 65 years.”
Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him (James 5:14)
Prayer heals. So say thousands of Americans who use prayer to improve their health. According to a study by Dr. Anne McCaffrey of the Harvard Medical School one third of Americans use prayer to facilitate physical healing. 69% of the 2,000 people surveyed said prayer greatly improved their health. Additional studies have linked prayer to positive health outcomes with high blood pressure, asthma, heart attacks, headaches, and anxiety. “It’s not a fringe thing,” says McCaffrey. “I think very mainstream Americans are using prayer in their daily lives.”
Though Western medicine, with its focus on the scientifically quantifiable results, tends to eschew the links between prayer and healing, the Old and New Testament have long espoused the healing power of prayer. A prayer for the sick is a regular part of Catholic and Jewish religious services. Members of Muslim congregations often conclude daily services by asking the imam to offer a special prayer for those who are sick. ‘This is the most ancient, widely practiced therapy on the face of the earth,” said Dr. Mitchell Krucoff, a professor of medicine and cardiology at Duke University Medical Center
Patients describing the benefits of prayer often talk about how it provides a sense of well being. Makes sense. When we accept God, we achieve a spirituality that connects us to the significance of life and provides an immutable foundation from which to judge right and wrong. This foundation is not transient like the vain and materialistic trappings of life. It is eternal. Even during the worst hardships, when the other things in our lives seem to fall apart, we can still find peace in the eternal love of God. People who understand this will feel God’s love reflected back. That is to say, a person cannot love God, without loving himself. How could a belief system designed to bring about such a sense of peace not have positive general health benefits?
Of course, none of this means that spiritual health is a substitute for traditional medicine, or that prayer will ensure physical well being. After all, many saints suffered from a laundry list of physical maladies. We are only human. But what’s telling about the Harvard study is that it reveals just how critical a component prayer is in most American’s lives. Doctors cannot and should not ignore that. Traditional medicine needs to explore this critical component of patient’s lives to better understand their response to illness and recovery. “Doctors need to realize that we don’t have the market on what people are doing to make themselves feel better,” says McCaffrey.
Of course, it is difficult to test the effects of prayer. You cannot reduce spirituality to a quantifiable figure. You can’t measure its effects in a beaker. Perhaps that’s why physicians are loathe to discuss the matter with patients. But the fact that prayer is a critical component in most people’s lives tells us that spirituality— when combined with traditional medicine should be embraced as an integral part of the health care process.
A recent study by the University of Maryland School of Medicine says laughter is good for cardiovascular health. According to the School of Medicine’s website, the study included 20 non-smoking, healthy volunteers, who were shown parts of two movies “at the extreme ends of the emotional spectrum.” When watching a movie like Saving Private Ryan, researchers discovered that blood flow from the heart of the study’s participants was restricted. Just the opposite occurred when volunteers watched a comedy and experienced lots of laughter.
The study confirms previous research that mental stress actually narrows the blood vessels. But it also confirms a great biblical truth of old, which says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (Proverbs 17:22).
Certainly there are times to be serious in life, but God never takes pleasure in a sourpuss. The way some Christians look and act, you would think they had been given a permanent dose of Castor oil. Dr. Warren Wiersbe said a Christian foreign missions executive once told him that he would never appoint a missionary to the field if the candidate didn’t have a sense of humor. “To be able to laugh at yourself and at the world around you,” said Wiersbe, “is a mark of maturity.”
It was G.K. Chesterton who said, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly. Never forget that Satan fell by force of gravity.”
Some of the people I’ve admired the most in life knew how to laugh at themselves and their circumstances.
For example, Dr. Billy Graham says that he was once on a crowded airliner to Charlotte, when a heavy-set fellow was sitting directly in front of him who obviously had too many drinks. Intoxicated, the man filled the plane with raunchy language, was unashamedly flirting with the stewardess, and boisterously annoying everyone on the flight. Finally, one of the passengers tried to take matters in hand by asking the fellow if he knew the famous evangelist was sitting right behind him.
At that point, Graham said the bleary-eyed man struggled to his feet, turned around, looked at him and extended his hand, saying: “Billy Graham? Put ‘er there. I’m really glad to meet ya. I’m one of your converts.”
Rev. Coy Privette, now retired, had my job for 15 years as director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina. He also served four consecutive sessions in the North Carolina House.
Privette is both a powerful preacher and an astute politician. Often we travel together, speaking at various places in seminars, where we educate churches and communities on the evils of our governor’s push for a state-operated lottery. At each of these events, Privette always tells the story about a time when he was running for re-election in his district. He says when he was campaigning he assumed everyone in his constituency knew him. “I just thought they all knew I was that Baptist preacher from over there in Kannapolis, North Carolina,” he says in his countrified way.
“One day,” says Privette, “I pulled up to a gas station in a rural section of Union County.” Underneath a car on a rolling pallet was a man working on an engine. Privette says he got down on one knee, while holding some of his campaign literature and said to the man: “Hello, I’m Coy Privette. I’m running for the North Carolina House and I would appreciate your vote.” Slowly the man under the car rolled out from underneath and asked Privette a question. “What’s your name again?” asked the man. Privette said, “I’m Coy Privette. I’m running for the North Carolina House and I would appreciate your vote.” “You know what,” responded the man. “I’m going to vote for you, because anyone would be better than that Baptist preacher from over there in Kannapolis.”
In his book, Small Wonders, Rev. Harold E. Kohn writes: “While there is much terror and sordid ugliness in the world, there is also a stream of health, cascading like a clear mountain rivulet of melted snow through human experience. This stream is the flow of wholesome, spontaneous laughter — God’s gift for refreshing and renewing our souls. A life lived with little laughter is like land devoid of springs, streams, lakes, or ground water; there are some things such a life cannot grow. We cannot take ourselves seriously if we cannot occasionally take ourselves lightly. Laughter is an affirmation of God’s final triumph over the worst that can befall us.”
After warming up a crowd of several thousand rain-soaked young people with some jokes in the main square of Trent, Italy, Pope John Paul II told his audience: “Don’t tell your colleagues, and above all the press, that the Pope made jokes instead of a serious meditation on the council ... but being holy means living in profound communion with the God of joy, having a heart free from sin and from the sadness of the world.”
It’s interesting to note that the word “humor” and “humility” come from the same root of the Latin word, “humus.” In other words, to be humble means you can laugh at yourself. You know how short of the glory of God you fall. You know it’s a laugh to think you can get along in life without Him. It’s also a source of endless joy knowing God lovingly rules and reigns in the circumstances of all who put their trust in Christ.
On the eve of His crucifixion, Jesus said: “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be full” (John. 15:11). Think of it. Jesus was talking about joy as he approached the death of the cross.
Yes, laughter “doeth good like a medicine.” Maybe you should go tell someone a good clean joke today. Yeah, that’s a good idea. Chances are they never heard it before.
Rev. Mark H. Creech (email@example.com) is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.
A study by an award-winning cancer expert shows that cell phone use could kill more people than smoking, it is reported.
According to the U.K.’s Independent newspaper, the study, headed by Dr. Vini Khurana, shows that there is a growing body of evidence that using handsets for 10 years or more can double the risk of brain cancer.
Khurana — one of the world’s top neurosurgeons — based his assessment on the fact that three billion people now use the phones worldwide. That is three times higher than people who smoke. Smoking kills some five million globally each year.
He warned that people should avoid using handsets whenever possible and called on the phone industry to make them safer. France and Germany have already warned against the use of mobile phones, especially by children, it is reported.
The study is said to be the most damning indictment of cell phone use. According to the Independent, cancers take at least 10 years to develop, which has influenced earlier cancer studies showing relative safety when using cell phones.
Parents should think twice before giving in to a middle-schooler’s demands for a cell phone, some scientists say, because potential long-term health risks remain unclear.
Researchers have speculated for more than 10 years that the electromagnetic radiation emitted from cell phones may damage DNA and cause benign brain tumors, said Henry Lai, a bioengineering professor at the University of Washington.
“We don’t know very much about the health effects of cell phone use on kids, but there are speculations,” Lai said.
In Britain, the chairman of the National Radiological Protection Board advised in January that parents should not give mobile phones to children age 8 or younger as a precaution against the potential harm of radiation from the devices.
When you use a cell phone, 70 to 80% of the energy emitted from the antenna is absorbed by the head, Lai said.
Last week, a federal appeals court in Maryland reinstated five class-action lawsuits claiming that the cell phone industry has failed to protect consumers from unsafe levels of radiation.
Several research studies have pointed to the potential impacts of long-term absorption of cell phone-emitted radiation but little of the research has focused on the children.
Lai said he was concerned about the impact on children because young skulls are thinner and the growing brain may be more susceptible to radiation.
He also said that because brain tumors usually take 30-40 years to develop, children who use cell phones from their teen years onward would have a longer period of time to see a cumulative impact.
“We don’t know if kids are really more susceptible,” Lai said, but he encourages everyone to use a headset to keep the antenna away from the brain, “even if they’re not cool.”
Most research on the subject has stopped in the United States except for some work supported by the cell phone industry, he added. Independent studies continue in Europe.
A Swedish study published in October suggested that people who use a cell phone for at least 10 years might increase their risk of developing a rare benign tumor along a nerve on the side of the head where they hold the phone.
The study’s subjects had been using cell phones for at least 10 years, nearly all analog models that emit more electromagnetic radiation than the digital models now on the market.
Digital phones emit radiation in pulses; the older analog varieties emit continuous waves. Since cell phones exploded in popularity in the late 1990s, most of those sold used digital technology.
Marriage and health often go hand in hand, research shows.
Except for weight problems, married people are healthier than those who are divorced, widowed, never-married, or live with a partner, says the CDC.
The news comes from a new CDC report that looked at more than 127,000 adults between 1999 and 2002.
Here’s a quick glance at the country’s marital status during the study period:
—Nearly 60% of American adults were married.
—One in 10 were separated or divorced.
—One-fifth had never married.
—Less than 7% were widowed.
—About 6% had a live-in partner.
Married People Live Healthier
White adults were the most likely to be married, followed by Hispanics. Fewer black adults (38%) were married, says the CDC.
Across the board, married people were healthiest. “Married persons were healthier for nearly every measure of health,” says the CDC.
That was true for all ages, ethnicities, and levels of income and education. The connection between marriage and health was strongest in the youngest group, aged 18-44.
Married people were, in general, in better health than those who were divorced, widowed, never-married, or living with a partner. They were also less likely to suffer from health conditions like back pain, headaches, and serious psychological distress.
Married people were also less likely to smoke, drink heavily, and be physically inactive.
For instance, married men and women under age 44 were about half as likely to be current smokers.
Does Marriage Pack on the Pounds?
The healthy trend stopped when people hit the scales.
Married men were more likely to be overweight or obese. The problem was worst among middle-aged married men; three out of four men aged 45-64 were overweight or obese. The slimmest groups were men and women who had never married.
Living with someone wasn’t the same as being married. People with live-in partners didn’t match the health of married adults. Instead, they were more like divorced or separated people, in terms of health.
For the last century, studies have shown that married people are healthier. But that doesn’t mean that marriage improves health. It may be that healthier people get married and stay married, but no one knows for sure.
For the first time, scientists say they have proved what creative minds have known all along: that our sleeping brains continue working on problems that baffle us during the day, and that the right answer may come more easily after eight hours of rest.
The German study is considered to be the first hard evidence supporting the commonsense notion that creativity and problem-solving appear to be directly linked to adequate sleep.
Some researchers said the study provides a valuable reminder for overtired workers and students that sleep is often the best medicine.
“A single study never settles an issue once and for all, but I would say this study does advance the field significantly,” said Dr. Carl E. Hunt, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health. “It’s going to have potentially important results for children for school performance and for adults for work performance.”
Sleep has long been thought to improve creativity. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards said the riff in “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” came to him in his sleep, while the 19th-century chemist Dmitri Mendeleev literally dreamed up the periodic table of elements.
Scientists at the University of Luebeck found that volunteers taking a simple math test were three times more likely than sleep-deprived participants to figure out a hidden rule for converting the numbers into the right answer if they had eight hours of sleep. The findings appear in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature.
Jan Born, who led the study, said the results support biochemical studies of the brain that indicate memories are restructured before they are stored. Creativity also appears to be enhanced in the process, he said.
“This restructuring might be occurring in such a way that the problem is easier to solve,” Born said.
Born said the exact process in the sleeping brain for sharpening these abilities remains unclear. But it appears that memories start deep in an area of the brain called the hippocampus, and are eventually pushed outward to the neocortex to be consolidated.
The changes leading to creativity or problem-solving insight occur during “slow wave” or deep sleep, which typically occurs in the first four hours of the sleep cycle, he said.
The findings also may explain the memory problems associated with aging, because older people typically have trouble getting enough sleep, especially the kind of deep sleep needed to process memories, Born said.
History is rife with examples of artists and scientists who have awakened to make their most notable contributions. Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote the epic poem “Kubla Khan” after a long night of rest. Robert Louis Stevenson credited a good night’s sleep with helping him create scenes in “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” And Elias Howe came up with his idea for the sewing machine after waking up.
Other researchers have long suspected that sleep helps to consolidate memories and sharpen thoughts. But until now it had been difficult to design an experiment to demonstrate it.
Born and his team “have applied a clever test that allows them to determine exactly when insight occurs,” Pierre Maquet and Perrine Ruby at the University of Liege said in an accompanying commentary.
Some 70 million Americans are believed to be sleep-deprived, contributing to accidents, health problems and lower test scores.
Maquet and Ruby said the study should be considered a warning to schools, employers and government agencies that sleep makes a huge difference in mental performance.
The results “give us good reason to fully respect our periods of sleep — especially given the current trend to recklessly curtail them,” they said.
Live five more years: Tending babies cited as factor behind better ability to cope
Scientists say a major reason why women live five years longer than men appears to be that they sleep better.
Not only do women sleep more soundly, they cope better with the effects of sleep deprivation. Millions of years of midnight feedings and crying babies may have given women superior sleep patterns, U.S. researchers say.
“Women are sleeping better, so can this be one of the reasons they are living longer?” says sleep researcher Alexandros Vgontzas of Pennsylvania State University.
The research, presented recently at U.S. Endocrine Society annual meeting, examined the impact of shift work and sleep loss on human longevity.
In Canada, women born in 1991 are expected to live to age 81.7. Men are expected to live to 76.3, according to Statistics Canada estimates. Although reasons for this gap include higher rates of industrial and motor accidents for men, the principal explanation is they suffer more heart attacks and strokes at a younger age than women.
Researchers believe this may be connected with male quality of sleep.
Far from a state of passive unconsciousness, sleep is an critical part of our 24-hour cycle, which regulates the production of hormones.
Lack of sleep also causes the buildup of harmful proteins in the bloodstream.
In the current study, Dr. Vgontzas and his colleagues measured the effects of missing two hours’ sleep per night on 25 men and women in their 20s. After seven days, all the volunteers were sleepy during the day and displayed poor performance on vigilance.
Both men and women had higher levels of inflammatory chemicals known as cytokines in their bloodstreams. However, only men had increased levels of a protein called tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF), which studies suggest leads to damage to artery walls, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.
“Greater increases in TNF-alpha levels put men at greater health risks from lack of sleep,” Dr. Vgontzas says.
He concludes the study shows even a minor sleep shortage can have measurable health effects.
The study also found women had 70 minutes of deep sleep per night compared with just 40 minutes for men. Dr. Vgontzas says data on sleep patterns of 1,700 men and women collected at Penn State shows women invariably sleep better than men. In addition, the quality of sleep declines with age, but the drop-off occurs at a younger age for men than women.
Although women’s sleep patterns are thought to be formed by the need to care for babies, the onset of menopause does not appear to have a noticeable impact on sleep.
Dr Vgontzas said it was possible the longevity gap could be closed if men were able to sleep more like women, but researchers say it is premature to make broad conclusions from this study because of its small size.
The noted increase in cytokines and TNF-alpha in the study subjects is considered worrisome because so many people in our culture do shift work.
Paul Schoenberg, a professor of industrial psychology who specializes in sleep research at Stanford University, says: “Many women will be delighted to hear that waking up in the middle of the night with a baby, which at the time feels like it takes years off your life, may actually improve their survival. There’s a nice irony in that.”
Parents, shift workers living at risk: expert
Almost half of all Canadians are walking around sleep-deprived, and shift workers and parents are most likely to cut down on sleep when pressed for time, a Statistics Canada study released yesterday reveals.
The Statistics Canada’s General Social Survey, conducted in 1998, found that 47% of Canadians try to pack more activities into their days by spending less time sleeping.
The survey found that the average Canadian gets about 8.1 hours of sleep a night — a healthy amount of shut-eye, up from an average of 8.0 hours in 1992. But parents get less than the recommended eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night: The average father sleeps 7.7 hours a night, while mothers average 7.9 hours a night. Shift workers are worse off, with 25% of night-shift workers sleeping less than 6.5 hours a day.
According to a University of Toronto sleep expert, that choice can have serious health consequences — from traffic accidents caused by fatigue to high blood pressure.
“If your body is designed to have an eight-hour sleep period and if you deviate significantly from that, it creates an internal stress. You might not be outwardly stressed, but your body is running on a different engine than it’s best designed for,” said Richard Horner, assistant professor in the University of Toronto department of medicine.
“There is statistical evidence that it can promote disorders of general health.”
The study also found a significant number of people are not sleeping well: about 25% of adults regularly had problems going to sleep or staying asleep, compared with 20% in 1992. Dr. Horner views that phenomenon with concern.
People who have trouble breathing at night suffer from lack of oxygen, and often wake up a hundred times during the night, he said. Waking up constantly deprives the heart of rest, which can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.
The Statistics Canada findings echo those of previous North American studies. One recent U.S. study suggested two-thirds of American adults experience a sleep problem a few nights per week while 17% of drivers report dozing off behind the wheel at least once a year.
The 2000 edition of Harvard Medical School’s Family Health Guide reported that people who regularly sleep fewer than four hours a night do not live as long as people who sleep between four and nine hours per night. Another study suggests even moderate sleep deprivation — such as being awake more than 18 hours a day — results in reaction times slower than those of people who are legally impaired from alcohol.
And shift work has long been known to disrupt sleep patterns, because humans are wired to be awake during the day and asleep at night. Dr. Horner says a lifetime spent working night shifts can reduce life expectancy by as much as five years.
“It’s worse than being jetlagged, because you’re doing it so often,” says Wendy Pearson, a registered nurse at the Ottawa Hospital’s Civic site, of her experience working shifts. “You’re constantly flipping back and forth to get back on to everyone else’s schedule.”
She said that while most young nurses adjust well to rotating shift schedules, older nurses tend to get only four or five hours of sleep a day.
“Once you get home (from a night shift), nurses that have children have to get the kids to school. Then when you sleep in the day, you’ve got noise, you’ve got the phone going off. I know some nurses that put tinfoil on their windows to keep all the light out, because you’re so messed up.”
While the study suggests most Canadians get at least eight hours of sleep a night, Dr. Horner says he’s skeptical about those figures. He says eight hours might reflect the time people spend in bed, but not the time they spend sleeping, since many people read or watch television in bed before going to sleep.
He says the value of a good night’s sleep should not be underrated.
A 1999 study by a team of University of Chicago researchers suggests it’s never too late to catch up on lost sleep. While the researchers argued that lack of sleep can upset the body’s metabolism — and possibly hasten the onset of age-related illnesses like diabetes, hypertension and memory loss — they also found that sleep debt can also be made up by spending longer than the normal eight hours in bed.
New Ottawa mental health centre will compare alternative and conventional treatments
A new Ottawa research centre will be the first in North America to use clinical trials to study the effects of alternative therapies — including prayer, meditation, herbs and electromagnets — on mental illness.
The Institute of Mental Health Research, officially established this week, will compare these therapies to traditional mental-health treatments, including prescription drugs.
There is already some anecdotal evidence from institutions in the United States suggesting that the Ottawa research will find considerable value in the alternative therapies. Duke University researchers, for example, have found that people who pray and have religious faith recover from mental illness 70% faster than those who do not.
Indeed, support for prayer as medicine is growing quickly.
The Anglican Church of Canada just published a book of interviews and testimonials claiming that prayer can help heal the physically ill. And research published in an American Medical Association journal suggested that heart patients did 11% better when someone prayed for them.
The new Institute of Mental Health Research, which is linked to the Royal Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa, will take a broader look at alternative therapies for mental illness, in part through human clinical trials.
Dr. Jacques Bradwejn, chief of psychiatry at the Royal Ottawa Hospital, said mental illness requiring treatment will affect an estimated 10 to 15% of Ottawa-Carleton residents at some time in their lives. That means up to 100,000 of the region’s 650,000 people will, at one point, suffer from conditions ranging from sexual dysfunction and substance abuse to schizophrenia.
Dr. Bradwejn said one study being designed would compare the anxiety level of patients engaging in prayer or meditation each day to those given some form of mental exercise or conventional prescription drugs.
Ottawa researchers will study herbal remedies such as Gotu Kola from India or Tibet to reduce stress and St. John’s wort to treat depression, Dr. Bradwejn said.
“We will have a team of clinicians and a botanist doing herbal research,” Dr. Bradwejn said. “They will be examining herbal compounds not known in the West and testing them on animals and humans. We are the pioneers in this field in Canada.
“Some herbs are available over the counter, but we will obtain others from aboriginal and Third World folk doctors. Any drugs we develop will benefit patients here and countries in South America. Farmers that now produce cocaine will be able to grow herbs instead.”
Dr. Bradwejn said Ottawa is the ideal city for studying alternative treatments for mental illness because of a high level of education here, the interest in non-traditional therapies and the proximity to Health Canada officials who are considering regulations for herbal medicine.
Dr. Harold G. Koenig, of Duke University, said the clinical study of prayer and meditation planned in Ottawa will be unique.
“We have found that religious involvement seems to help prevent mental illness and helps speed recovery,” said Dr. Koenig, a professor of psychiatry and internal medicine. “There is a connection between prayer, involvement in a religious community and protection from depression.
“People who have religious faith recover 70% faster than those who do not. Taking a pill is the North American way to treat mental illness, but one-third of patients don’t respond, and the pills cost $2.50 each. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people could take control of mental illness through prayer or having a church pray for them?”
Dr. Koenig said prayer doesn’t help all patients and many people still need drugs for depression, especially if there is a risk that they will commit suicide.
The Ottawa institute, which began its work before this week’s official opening, is already testing small electromagnets strapped to patients’ foreheads to relieve depression. Dr. Bradwejn said a study done by the National Institute for Mental Health in Washington, D.C., has shown the devices help some patients with mild to moderate depression.
The Ottawa institute will study job stress at Ottawa-area high-technology firms. And it has just done a Canada-wide study examining the effectiveness of audio tapes for treating 250 panic-disorder patients at home.
Most clinical trials at the institute will involve about 20 groups of 40 to 50 people each for periods of eight to 12 weeks.
The 60-member Ottawa research group has received a $100,000 research grant from the Royal Ottawa Health Care Foundation, which raised the money in the Labatt 24-hour marathon this summer. The research institute is also receiving federal and provincial grants, but Dr. Bradwejn did not say how much moeny was involved.
Now based at the Royal Ottawa Hospital on Carling Avenue, the institute hopes to build its own building on the ROH campus within two years. But Ontario government approval for such a building depends on the outcome of massive restructuring under way at the province’s hospitals.
NEW YORK — High heels may be more than just uncomfortable — a study suggests that shoes with 2 1/2‑inch heels and higher may increase the risk of developing arthritis of the knee.
“The altered forces at the knee caused by walking in high heels may predispose (wearers) to degenerative changes in the joint,” according to a report published in the current issue of the British journal, The Lancet.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School and the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, say orthopedic and arthritis specialists have long known that arthritis of the knee is twice as common in women as in men.
Suspecting that differences in footwear might contribute to this gender gap, the investigators asked 20 women (averaging 34 years of age, 5’ 6” in height, and 136 pounds) to walk along a 60‑foot platform. Each woman performed this task while barefoot, and then while wearing shoes with 2 1/2‑inch heels. Pressure sensors embedded in the platform, along with videotapes of each test, allowed the researchers to determine the forces borne by ankles, knees, and hips during each exercise.
They discovered that “wearing high‑heeled shoes significantly alters the normal function of the ankle.” This results in compensatory changes at the knee and hip to maintain balance, but “most of the compensations (for this change in walking dynamics) occur at the knee.”
Specifically, they found that walking in high heels puts an extra strain on the area between kneecap and thighbone, as well as on the inside of the knee joint. The latter phenomenon might be especially linked to arthritis of the knee, since “osteoarthritic changes at the knees of human beings are more common in the medial (inner) aspect than the lateral (outside) aspect of the knee,” according to the study authors.
Still, they caution that the study findings only point to an association between high heel use and later arthritis. The Boston experts believe further research will determine whether or not there is an actual cause‑and‑effect relationship between heel design and knee degeneration.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Scientists are warning that overprescribing antibiotics for every sniffle and ear infection is fast helping germs mutate so the medicines no longer work when they are really needed.
Antibiotic resistance appears “to be on the verge of desperation,” said Nobel laureate Joshua Lederberg, chairman of an Institute of Medicine panel that called Thursday for global efforts to fight the problem.
Up to 40% of antibiotics prescribed for various respiratory and ear ailments are inappropriate, said microbiologist Gail Cassell, vice president of Eli Lilly & Co.
The issue is so pressing that the government and American Academy of Pediatrics have mailed every pediatrician new brochures to give parents, urging that they not demand drugs for every sniffle. The rate of antibiotic use in children under 15 is three times higher than for any other group.
“When your child is sick, antibiotics are not always the answer,” say the brochures. They explain that antibiotics have no effect on viruses, which cause all colds and most sore throats, and are not always needed for ear infections.
Doctors once predicted antibiotics would vanquish infectious diseases. But the bugs are rapidly overwhelming today’s medicines.
At the government’s request, the private Institute of Medicine convened top bacterial experts to monitor the problem.
WASHINGTON, April 28 — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) relaunched its health information site, at www.healthfinder.gov, Tuesday and said consumers need help navigating the many health Internet sites.
Here is a list of a few of the sites that are available:
— The American Medical Association site is at www.ama-assn.org.
— The American Cancer Society has a site at www.cancer.org.
— Johns Hopkins University operates its Intellihealth site at www.intellihealth.com/IH/intlH. It answers questions, offers a library of information, and has a news section.
— The page at www.mediconsult.com has news from journals, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and answers questions.
— Reuters posts stories on health from the Reuters world wire at www.reutershealth.com. — The Virtual Hospital by the University of Iowa has information on a range of diseases. It can be found at indy.radiology.uiowa.edu.
— Dr. Stephen Barrett operates a page that alerts users to incorrect information at www.quackwatch.com/index.html.
— Drug Information Technologies on Tuesday launched its “Drug Risk Navigator” at www.DITonline.com, which invites consumers to enter the names of drugs they are taking, both prescription and over-the-counter, to see if there are any cross-reactions.
Non-U.S. sites include:
— The International Medical Center of Japan at www.imcj.go.jp/imcj2.htm
— University Hospital Services in Jordan at www.arab-business.net.uhs
— Canada’s Hepatitis Information Network at www.hepnet.com.
Jennifer Wayne-Doppke, who edits the monthly newsletter “Medicine on the Net” and consults on Internet issues for Cor Research Incorporated in Port Byron, New York, said using a good search engine was key to finding health information on the Internet.
Search engines, which include the very popular Yahoo at www.yahoo.com, trawl the Internet. But each one searches different sites in different order.
“If a person doesn’t find something online, they shouldn’t assume that it doesn’t exist. It looks very easy, but it’s not,” she said.
Doppke recommends using Medical World Search at www.mwsearch.com or Medhunt at www.hon.ch/MedHunt.
Users should also narrow the search as much as possible. Typing in something simple such as “asthma” can produce 20,000 documents — more than anyone can read. The more terms are specified, such as “asthma” plus “drugs,” the more specific the search will be.
NEW YORK — A 70-year study of personality traits suggests that pessimism is a risk factor for early death, especially among men.
The study results also indicate that pessimism can be linked to increased risk for sudden death from accidents or violence. Being “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” may actually be a result of pessimistic or fatalistic thinking, rather than coincidence in some cases, according to the report published in the March issue of Psychological Science.
Christopher Peterson of the University of Michigan analyzed data from the Terman Life-Cycle Study, which began enrolling California public-school children with high IQ s in 1921 and followed them throughout their life. Most of the 1,528 children were preadolescents when the study began. Those still living are now in their 80s.
In 1936 and 1940, participants were asked to complete a questionnaire designed to elicit information about difficult life events and their effect on overall outlook. One such question was, “What do you regard as your most serious fault of personality or character?”
Pessimists were defined as fatalistic people who tend to blame themselves when things go wrong and who believe that one bad event can ruin the rest of their life.
They also tend to expect bad things to happen to them and feel that they have little or no ability to change their situation.
Males were more likely than females to be classified as pessimistic. Compared with individuals with a more cheerful and optimistic outlook, pessimists were more likely to die from accidents and violence (including suicide).
A pessimistic personality may lead to poor problem-solving ability, social difficulties and risky decision-making. Taken together, these variables put the pessimist at higher risk of untimely death, say the researchers.
Such a person is less likely to avoid or escape potentially hazardous situations, the researchers concluded.
A pessimistic way of thinking in which people “catastrophize about bad events, projecting them across many realms of their lives, foreshadows untimely death decades later,” according to Peterson.
WASHINGTON — Women tend to feel pain more than men but cope with it more effectively, according to a study of arthritis sufferers made public on Wednesday.
The study showed that “while women may experience more intense pain, they may be better able to limit its emotional consequences than men,” the author, Francis Keefe of Ohio University’s Department of Psychology, said.
Keefe was one of a number of scientists from around the country participating in a two-day conference on gender and pain organized by the National Institutes of Health.
Researchers at Ohio University conducted a study on 48 men and 99 women diagnosed with either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, who were asked to keep a daily log of their activities for 30 days.
“Women reported more pain than men (with a similar condition) but there were substantial differences in the way they coped with it,” Keefe said.
He said women were more active in responding to pain, showing “more emotional focus, seeking emotional support, trying out medicines ... venting, reading in it maybe a message for them, actively trying to find a meaning in it.”
He said men used similar strategies, but less often.
One conclusion, he said, was that men may need more training in how to cope with their pain.
Keefe said his study showed women appeared able to recover more quickly than men, at least as far as their mood was concerned.
“Our study showed what happens the day after a patient is challenged by high levels of pain. Men are more likely to show a carry-over effect and report a more negative mood,” he said.
Keefe said social factors must be taken into account.
“Certainly in our society we’re taught to act in certain ways. Men don’t show their feelings and don’t seek out assistance as readily as women,” he said, adding: “That may very well be what’s going on in this case.”
He and other speakers at the conference stressed that research on the issue of different reactions and sensitivity to pain among men and women was at an early stage.
Christine Miaskowski, professor of nursing at the University of California at San Fransisco, reported on differences in the way men and women react to pain killers.
She said research showed that some drugs that work on the central nervous system and are used often in post-operative care were more effective on women than men.
Misakowski cited studies done across the United States with patients who had wisdom teeth removed and received painkilling drugs immediately after the operation.
“If given to women these drugs get a much better pain response that lasts longer,” she said. She mentioned in particular pentazocine, nalbuphine and butarphanol. Nalbuphine is often used as a pain-killer during childbirth.
She stressed that the studies were preliminary. “This is a new area and people are starting to realize that differences in the hormonal milieu may contribute” to these effects.
“Men and women respond differently to pain and in women responses may be more complex than with men. Scientists are doing work on hormonal status — changes may occur during the menstrual cycle and during the menopause,” she told Reuters.
WASHINGTON — Acupuncture does work in some cases, and insurers should consider paying for it, a U.S. panel of experts said Wednesday.
The panel, organized by the National Institutes of Health, decided the ancient Chinese treatment helped to ease the nausea suffered after cancer chemotherapy and after an operation, and relieved morning sickness and pain after a dental operation.
“It is time to take it seriously,” panel chairman David Ramsay, president of the University of Maryland, told a news conference.
The panel also said acupuncture might work either with traditional Western medicine or as an adjunct to it in other areas. These included addiction, stroke rehabilitation, headache, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia (general muscle pain), low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and asthma.
“We need more high quality research to validate what appears to be useful for the millions of Americans that have used acupuncture in this country,” Ramsay said.
One area in which no study showed acupuncture worked was in helping people stop smoking. “That doesn’t mean for sure we know it doesn’t work,” said Marjorie Bowman, a family practitioner at the University of Pennsylvania. Perhaps the right approach had not been found yet, she added.
But the panelists, who included doctors who had and had not used acupuncture, acupuncturists and experts in the areas treated by acupuncture, said they had been very thorough in their investigation. They spent two days plowing through studies on acupuncture and heard from an array of experts.
“We bent over backwards to be careful,” Ramsay said.
He said not only did acupuncture work for many people, especially in pain relief, but there was some evidence of how it worked.
“Some links have now been found between the stimulation of these points in the skin and the things we know to be involved in pain,” Ramsay said.
“Considerable evidence supports the claim that opioid peptides (natural body chemicals that ease pain) are released during acupuncture and that the analgesic effects of acupuncture are at least partially explained by their actions,” the panel’s final report read.
“Stimulation by acupuncture may also activate the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, resulting in a broad spectrum of systemic effects.” Both glands are responsible for secreting important hormones.
The group looked at traditional acupuncture, which involves the insertion of needles at fixed points into the skin. They did not have enough research to look at acupuncture methods using lasers.
The American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, which represents medical doctors who also practice acupuncture, welcomed the statement.
“It is (our) belief that the study of medical acupuncture will ultimately lead to an expanded understanding of human health and physiology and a significant improvement in patient care,” it said in a statement.
READYMADE meals and bread help to kill tens of thousands of people a year because they contain too much salt, researchers say today.
Halving our intake of salt would save at least 34,000 lives a year, according to the study published in The Lancet. Graham MacGregor, who co-ordinated the study, said food manufacturers were ignoring the medical evidence for commercial reasons.
Even a modest reduction in salt lowers blood pressure in older people, significantly reducing the risk of heart attacks. But Dr MacGregor said the growing popularity of readymade processed foods, which are heavily salted by the manufactuers, made it difficult to control salt intake.
“Between 70% and 80% of our salt intake now comes from salt hidden in processed food and bread,” Dr MacGregor, of St George’s Hospital Medical School in Tooting, South London, said. “We need the co-operation of the food-processing industry to reduce the very high concentrations of salt in processed foods, often equivalent to seawater.” The food industry is worth £80 billion a year, and Dr MacGregor said that manufacturers had a vested interest in keeping salt levels high. “They add salt to processed food because it is the cheapest flavour enhancer and causes people to become addicted to the taste.
“It allows more water to be added to the product, increasing the weight of it at no extra cost. It makes people thirstier so they drink more liquids, often soft drinks manufactured by food companies.”
Dr MacGregor also criticised the way that salt was classified as sodium on food labels: “To find the real level of salt in anthing you have to multiply the sodium content by two and a half. To understand what is happening you almost need a degree in biochemistry.” The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said that food labelling was under review.
The Food and Drink Federation said it would study the findings: “The scientific evidence is not established.”
Heinz has a policy of reducing salt and sugar in all products. Since 1989 it has cut the amount of salt in a tin of baked beans by 14%, with no drop in sales.
Get a taste for a healthier diet
SMOKED haddock, crispy bacon or several pinches of salt added to a boiled egg increase the enjoyment of a traditional breakfast. Cereals also contain salt in considerable quantity and butter on toast may further add to the intake of salt, and therefore sodium, at the start of the day.
The average daily requirement for salt is between 3g and 6g (0.1oz to 0.2oz), but the average intake per person is 8g to 12g. Additional sodium may be consumed through eating food containing sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), fish or meat cured with sodium nitrite, or dishes flavoured with monosodium glutamate which is frequently added to enhance taste.
A high intake of sodium, or depletion of potassium so that the ratio of sodium to potassium is unusually high, in susceptible people causes a rise in blood pressure. This in turn increases the likelihood of stroke, coronary thrombosis or kidney damage.
Not everyone’s blood pressure is sensitive to salt, but it is usually assumed that salt restriction is important in the maintenance of a healthy cardiovascular system in about one in four of the population. There is some evidence that people with hypertension are those whose blood pressure reacts to a change in salt intake. Restriction of salt is particularly important for people taking diuretics, betablockers and ace inhibitors.
More than a quarter of the salt eaten daily is from cereal products. Salt is also found in abundance in milk, eggs, meat, cheese, butter and cream.
The standard advice is to stop adding salt to food at the table, to use less in cooking and to avoid cured and processed foods. The tastebuds quickly come to accept a lower level of salt. Additional potassium in the form of fruit juice is also helpful.
ATLANTA (AP) — A handful of the nation’s medical schools will get a financial boost to offer students classes on the role of spirituality and religion in health care.
The National Institute for Healthcare Research and the John Templeton Foundation today announced $25,000 grants to eight medical schools. The money will fund courses on religious beliefs, the role of faith among the terminally ill and more.
Among the goals is teaching potential doctors how to include a “spiritual history” in their diagnoses.
“They might be great with surgical techniques and medicine, but unless they can understand the pain and confusion that the human spirit experiences, they are not going to be great doctors,” said Dr. Myles Sheehan, a physician and Jesuit priest who will help teach the course at Loyola University’s medical school in Chicago.
In the 1950s, doctors were discouraged from discussing religion or sex with their patients, but now “we talk about everything except religion. The time has come,” said the institute’s Dr. David Larson.
The classes shouldn’t be misinterpreted as a way to force religion on a doctor or a patient, said Dr. Dale Matthews, a professor at Georgetown Medical School. He said learning about a patient’s spiritual beliefs simply provides a complete picture.
Doctors also must know where treatment might conflict with those beliefs, said Dr. Valencia Clay of Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.
“A Jehovah’s Witness is against blood transfusions,” she said. “There are some Christians who don’t believe in birth control. We have one whole class on religious beliefs that may act as barriers.”
At Loyola, students will go on rounds with hospital chaplains. Students at the University of Kentucky School of Medicine will learn how to take a “spiritual history.”
Morehouse’s course will pair students with terminally ill patients from the day they are diagnosed to the day they die. They will even be involved in the funeral arrangements.
“They will see the whole dying process from what the patient goes through to how the patient uses religion as a relief,” Ms. Clay said. “We want them to see how the patient copes with the whole process.”
Recent surveys have indicated patients’ reliance on faith.
A survey of 268 doctors at an American Academy of Family Physicians meeting last year found 91% had patients who asked a priest, rabbi, minister or faith healer to help with their illness. A 1996 survey of 1,004 people by the Ropercenter at the University of Connecticut found 64% want their doctor to pray with them.
The other four medical schools to teach the courses are Brown University, the University of Chicago, the University of Rochester and the Oregon Health Sciences University School of Medicine.
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