Saturday, December 29, 2012

When Drinking is a Problem

It’s the season of celebrating and many people will usher in the new year with the pop of a champagne cork or a glass of wine with dinner. Before long, we will be watching the bowl games with a beer in hand. Alcohol can be a fun part of celebrating but can be a problem for many people.

Alcohol intake is a problem when it affects one’s personal or professional life. If someone has told you that you drink too much, you probably do. Alcohol use and dependence runs in families. Problem drinking can affect women and men of all ages and backgrounds but it’s more common among men. Alcohol abuse is common over the age of 65 and causes many fall-related injuries. Alcohol also interacts with medications.

Over the long term, alcoholics can develop diseases of the liver, pancreas, brain and heart. Alcohol can destroy families and careers.

One drink is 12 oz of beer, 9 oz of malt liquor, 5 oz of wine or 1.5 oz of 80 proof liquor. Moderate drinking is less than 2 drinks per day for men and less than one drink per day for women or anyone older than 65 years. Binge drinking is more than 4 drinks for women or 5 drinks for men at a single occasion.

If you think that alcohol is a problem in your life or a problem for someone you love, there is effective treatment. The gold standard is Alcoholics Anonymous for the drinker and Al-Anon for those suffering collateral damage.

More information:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Public Health Crisis

It is time to change the Constitution and abolish the Second Amendment. I cannot think of even one reason for an ordinary citizen to own a gun, let alone an assault weapon.

Injuries and death from weapons is a public health crisis. Petty arguments are being settled with gunfire. Casual owners are not sharpshooters and are more likely to injure/kill bystanders than hit their intended target. Domestic disturbances turn deadly when there is a weapon in the house. There is no need to defend one’s castle with artillery – exactly what do you possess that is so valuable?

Drive-by shootings is an important subset of this problem, leading to both injury and death. The shooter is often inexperienced in handling a gun and the intended or unintended victims may be slow to react to an unanticipated attack.

Our standards of behavior have changed since the eighteenth century. It is no longer acceptable to use religious slurs or exhibit other hateful behavior. One can no longer own another human being.

Our laws codify accepted standards of behavior. Stop at the red light. Don’t take things that don’t belong to you. It’s time to stop owning weapons.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Dark Side of the Sun

As the number of hours of sunlight dwindle, few people are thinking about the damage that the sun can inflict upon the skin. Truth be told, we need to worry about sun even in the winter. The incidence of melanoma of the skin, the most commonly fatal form of skin cancer, is increasing faster than any other potentially preventable cancer in the United States. Five-year survival rates for people with melanoma depend upon the stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis. Survival rates decline steadily as the tumor thickness and disease stage increase. Most people with thin stage I lesions can expect prolonged disease-free survival and even cure, while those with thicker, later stage lesions (eg, >2.0 mm) are more likely to die from metastatic disease.

Practice Safe Sun is the message of Mollie Fund, an organization dedicated to increasing melanoma prevention. The excellent website has tips on self-examination, a video on the “Dark Side of the Sun” as well as a link for iPhone and Android. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Packing on the Pounds

The annual eating extravaganza lasts from Halloween through the Super Bowl. Most people estimate that they gain five pounds between November and the end of January. Actually, the news is not that bad – the average weight gain is one pound during the winter holidays. The terrible news is that the extra one pound is probably permanent, since few people lose it by the next summer. People who are already overweight tend to gain more than one pound and they too don’t lose it.

The tendency to pack on the pounds during the holidays starts in the late teens. People don’t just overeat at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner: there is more snacking, more alcohol and more high calories foods.

My recommendation is the two-bite rule. Have two bites of whatever you want. I assure you that the third, fourth and fifth bites taste exactly the same, so why bother?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Saving the Earth

It’s the shopping season and the holiday catalogs are arriving daily. It will be a long time before we are paperless. As inhabitants of this planet we need think about our use of forest products. It is important to ensure that healthy forests will thrive for our children and grandchildren. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) uses the power of the marketplace to protect forests for future generations. Look for the FSC logo on catalogs and other printed materials. If the printed material doesn’t have the logo (which looks like a tree), contact the merchant to insist upon the responsible use of paper.

When shopping, look for the green frog seal to show that a product is certified by the Rainforest Alliance. Why this matters: Farming and the grazing of livestock are responsible for 70 percent of global deforestation. By choosing products that bear the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal, you’re supporting farms that protect soils from erosion and waterways from pollution and that support the well-being of farm workers and their communities.

You don’t have to go to the ends of the earth to save the rainforest: Follow the Frog.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Almost everyone in the area has been without power for days. Some people are fortunate enough to have professionally installed hard-wired generators that click on as soon as the electrical supply is interrupted. These generators are located at a distance from the house and far away from windows. Other people will use ‘portable’ units that are typically only an extension cord length away from the house (and that cord may be run through the kitchen window). Another common tactic is to charge telephones in an idling car in the garage.

There is a considerable danger from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning in the latter two scenarios. An open garage door is not sufficient - an idling car should be completely out of the garage, since CO can accumulate in garage corners and under the vehicle. Things might seem fine to the person in the car charging his phone and listening to the radio, but since CO cannot be detected by humans, he may never make it from the car back into the house.

The consequence of a slow leak of CO into the living quarters may not be as dramatic but could be equally deadly. Unfortunately, 500 people lose their lives to CO poisoning very year and the numbers go up following hurricanes.

Carbon monoxide makes it difficult for the blood to deliver oxygen to the tissues.  It also directly interferes with muscle activity at the cellular level and can lead to “myocardial stunning” even if there is adequate oxygen delivery. Forty percent of those who survive CO poisoning will have permanent neurocognitive impairment due to damage in the brain cells.

Every home needs CO detectors. If the CO detector goes off, get out! Call the fire department once everyone is out of the house.

The basics about carbon monoxide poisoning.