mm390: Mudge’s Healthy Obsession

MUDGE’s Musings

While puttering around doing the formatting and graphics hunt for today’s effort, discovered that, without really being specifically aware of it, MUDGE has devoted at least 30 posts to issues relating to health. That’s a sizable chunk of time and attention.

But, why not? As we’ve noted frequently, the oldest of the Boomer cohort of which I am nearly a charter member is 62 years old, eligible to retire (and, indeed, a number of MUDGE’s friends have already done so). And, regardless of age, for at least the past 25 years we Boomers have paid outsized attention to health issues.

This year alone at Casa MUDGE, while dealing with the Achilles tendon partial tear that has been a pest for way too long and my wife’s rotator cuff issue (after the last cortisone injection, doing very well thank you), we continue our concern with our Los Angeles daughter’s Crohn’s disease (current treatment seems to be helping, thank goodness, although there’s a health insurance battle brewing), and my dear mother’s recent diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia (she’s fighting it tenaciously).

Not to mention, of course, our various chronic conditions for which our monthly pharmaceutical expense is ever increasing.

So, health is on our mind, all of the time. Fortunately, there is never a lack of news.

In that spirit, to conclude setting the table for today’s health post, here’s a link table of our most important posts on the topic.

healthyobsession1_thumb[3] dreamstime_1230255-400_thumb[4] MUDGE‘s Healthy Obsession

mm386: Your Boomer brain…
mm363: “60 Minutes:” Dead wrong?
mm346: All together now: Ewwwww
mm325: I’m an Internet informed parent…
mm323: Get medicine out of the hands…
mm305: Google Health – 1984 for the 21st Century
mm283: Cause and effect: an ongoing mystery
mm281: No! Don’t take away my Mountain Dew!
mm276: Fat Tuesday…
mm270: Health trilogy
mm268: Sometimes it’s personal
mm251: Stem cells – Lab harvests non-destructively
mm230: Stem cells; Insurance scum; Overtreatment!
mm227: Nanotechnology: The future is safe?
mm223: Pigs, bees, fish – dangerous ways
mm221: The dread disease we all hope to catch
mm201: Stemming the tide of ignorance
mm200: Stem cells: an alternative source
mm198: GM foods – Wrongheaded opposition
mm197: Short attention span
mm190: U.S. Health Care – Excuses, not facts
mm177: Healthy eating — Overrated!
mm176.5: Sleep: The Threequel
mm176: Sleep: But <after> you read this, please!
mm172: Diabetes: Not so simple, Simon…
mm171: Maintain your brain
mm165: Junkfood Science: Obesity Paradox #13
mm152: Evidence of genetic response to diet
mm073: 22 ways to overclock your brain
mm012: Hazardous to your health

Our first story is rather unusual, in that the topic is what I would characterize as “science-plus:”

1. … and this is your brain on nirvana

nytimes[3]

A Superhighway to Bliss

By LESLIE KAUFMAN | Published: May 25, 2008

JILL BOLTE TAYLOR was a neuroscientist working at Harvard’s brain research center when she experienced nirvana.

Dr. Taylor says the right, creative lobe can be used to foster contentment.

But she did it by having a stroke.

On Dec. 10, 1996, Dr. Taylor, then 37, woke up in her apartment near Boston with a piercing pain behind her eye. A blood vessel in her brain had popped. Within minutes, her left lobe — the source of ego, analysis, judgment and context — began to fail her. Oddly, it felt great.

The incessant chatter that normally filled her mind disappeared. Her everyday worries — about a brother with schizophrenia and her high-powered job — untethered themselves from her and slid away.

We found this story extraordinarily fascinating, not the least because, before we’d read it last night we watched the DVD of the extraordinary film, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” the 2007 Cannes Film Festival award winner.

divingbellbutterfly

We don’t, as a rule, review films in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©, for the very good reason that, aside from finding all too few that are aimed at our cohort, we hardly are qualified by training or education to do so. That said, the timing of seeing this film, juxtaposed against encountering this NYTimes story is remarkable, as the film’s topic is an unexpectedly moving depiction of a true story, that of a 42-year old French magazine editor suddenly felled by a stroke, and the amazing story he somehow manages to tell. [Unscholarly recommendation: RENT THIS DVD! Truly breathtaking filmmaking.]

The difference, of course, is that Dr. Taylor has been able to frame her observations informed by her background as a neuroscientist.

In February, Dr. Taylor spoke at the Technology, Entertainment, Design conference (known as TED), the annual forum for presenting innovative scientific ideas. The result was electric. After her 18-minute address was posted as a video on TED’s Web site, she become a mini-celebrity. More than two million viewers have watched her talk, and about 20,000 more a day continue to do so. An interview with her was also posted on Oprah Winfrey’s Web site, and she was chosen as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world for 2008.

TED is one of my favorite sites — don’t get there often enough, and indeed, I missed Dr. Taylor’s video. But, through the magic of linking, faithful reader doesn’t have to.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

A Stroke Leads a Brain Scientist to a New Spirituality – NYTimes.com

I’d prefer not to achieve spiritual peace in that same manner, thankyouverymuch!

2. A progressive understands being outnumbered

Bacteria. We’ve been educated to believe that bacteria are harmful. We wash our hands frequently. More and more of our hand soaps and even our dishwashing soap is often labeled anti-bacterial.

It’s a losing battle, people! Bacteria outnumber the number of our own cells in our body by an order of magnitude. Fortunately, bacteria can be good for you, such as the six tribes of bacteria found on the skin of your inner elbow. Six tribes? One million bacteria per square centimeter? Read on:

nytimes[3]

Bacteria Thrive in Inner Elbow; No Harm Done

By NICHOLAS WADE | Published: May 23, 2008

The crook of your elbow is not just a plain patch of skin. It is a piece of highly coveted real estate, a special ecosystem, a bountiful home to no fewer than six tribes of bacteria. Even after you have washed the skin clean, there are still one million bacteria in every square centimeter.

But panic not. These are not bad bacteria. They are what biologists call commensals, creatures that eat at the same table with people to everyone’s mutual benefit. Though they were not invited to enjoy board and lodging in the skin of your inner elbow, they are giving something of value in return. They are helping to moisturize the skin by processing the raw fats it produces, says Julia A. Segre of the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Dr. Segre and colleagues report their discovery of the six tribes in a paper being published online on Friday in Genome Research. The research is part of the human microbiome project, microbiome meaning the entourage of all microbes that live in people….

Since humans depend on their microbiome for various essential services, including digestion, a person should really be considered a superorganism, microbiologists assert, consisting of his or her own cells and those of all the commensal bacteria. The bacterial cells also outnumber human cells by 10 to 1, meaning that if cells could vote, people would be a minority in their own body.

This is one of those really intriguing stories that one can be sure will be updated frequently, as the analysts and their tools get better at their jobs.

dreamstime_4773198-caption400

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

6 Tribes of Bacteria, the Good Kind, Found to Be at Home in Inner Elbow – NYTimes.com

You’ve undoubtedly heard it before, that the wide spectrum antibiotics we take so profligately, and that self-same anti-bacterial soap we use so automatically (clean = good!), are probably counterproductive. They may kill off as many useful bacteria as dangerous ones, and their widespread use will only cause their targets to mutate into more resistant strains.

But, consider again. Six tribes! One million bacteria per square centimeter!

Ain’t science grand?

But statistics, that’s another story entirely. Read on.

3. Yet another case of misplaced priorities

Faithful reader knows exactly what I think of Sandy Szwarc, whose blog, Junkfood Science is what yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s Left-Handed Complement blog would be had I education, wisdom and a highly informed point of view. Well, one can aspire, anyway. But Ms. Szwarc’s blog is the real deal.

sandyszwarc At least six of the links in the table above relate to her politely ferocious media hype-busting and statistical-bubble bursting white papers (blog posting simply doesn’t do justice to the knowledge and preparation that are reflected therein).

Since I know that you didn’t click all 30 links above, here are Sandy Szwarc’s again.

Junkfood Science: Sandy Szwarc’s Genius

mm363: “60 Minutes:” Dead wrong?
mm305: Google Health – 1984 for the 21st Century
mm276: Fat Tuesday…
mm197: Short attention span
mm177: Healthy eating — Overrated!
mm165: Junkfood Science: Obesity Paradox #13

I saw one of those Washington Post stories she criticizes; the childhood obesity epidemic is regularly news.

Not so fast, she says:

junkfoodscience[4]

Misplaced priorities for the children

Sandy Szwarc, BSN, RN, CCP | Junkfood Science | May 21,2008

Mass emailings went out around the country yesterday with a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation press release, praising the Washington Post for making its childhood obesity agenda front page news all week. While massive governmental and medical programs are being proposed — to address the young people who fall at the 95th percentile on revamped BMI growth charts, despite the fact that today’s children are healthier than ever and living longer than ever in our country’s history — about 13 million children in our country currently don’t have enough to eat. And their numbers are growing. Little attention has been given to these young people whose lives and futures are endangered now, today, and for real.

Creating an epidemic

Instead, everyone’s focus has been directed towards childhood obesity. It’s been frighteningly easy to get people to believe in a crisis and an epidemic of childhood obesity.

So while everyone wrings hands over what Szwarc so effectively skewers as a total non-crisis, millions of children are much more quietly starving.

So, this week, while the Post hypes an exaggerated childhood obesity crisis, a few news outlets have been reporting on a returning crisis of hunger like this country hasn’t seen in generations, and food banks unable to keep up with the growing numbers needing help. If we want to do something to help children and ensure their health and futures, perhaps our eyes might be better focused on this story.

Virtually all food banks (98.9%) report they’ve had increased numbers of hungry people and families coming to them for food. The rising costs of fuel and food are the primary contributing factors, followed by rising unemployment and underemployment. Even food stamps don’t stretch with the higher prices of food experienced this year. According to Second Harvest’s data gathered from 180 food banks across the country from April 28th through May 2nd of this year, 81.11% can’t meet the need for foods and are having to reduce the amount of food or their services.

In a so-called land of plenty, surely it’s outrageous that so many children go to bed hungry every night. And still more ghastly is how little national visibility this desperate endangerment of our precious human capital has managed to acquire, as opposed to the “epidemic” of childhood obesity that has been distorted and hyped so egregiously.

Take a look at the statistics on hunger and the effects of malnutrition that Ms. Szwarc presents.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Junkfood Science: Misplaced priorities for the children

Please donate your time, or treasure, or canned and packaged shelf stable food to a food bank near you. Or, do what Mrs. MUDGE and I did last week, help to prepare (Mrs. M) and serve (both of us) a meal at a soup kitchen.

These places exist near you, even in your particular blessed corner of opulence, folks — search them out, and support our next generation.

And, keep reading Junkfood Science.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE
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5 Responses to mm390: Mudge’s Healthy Obsession

  1. Priti says:

    I read “My Stroke of Insight” in one sitting – I couldn’t put it down. I laughed. I cried. It was a fantastic book (I heard it’s a NYTimes Bestseller and I can see why!), but I also think it will be the start of a new, transformative Movement! No one wants to have a stroke as Jill Bolte Taylor did, but her experience can teach us all how to live better lives. Her TED.com speech was one of the most incredibly moving, stimulating, wonderful videos I’ve ever seen. Her Oprah Soul Series interviews were fascinating. They should make a movie of her life so everyone sees it. This is the Real Deal and gives me hope for humanity.

  2. mudge says:

    Hello, Priti,
    Thanks for your insightful comment.

  3. […] quite a number of posts to health topics, most recently here (you might also be interested in this recent post; it contains an ambitious link table that lists many previous […]

  4. Interesting…I’m adding your rss.

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