Category Archives: Health

You may not get to die as you wish

Every adult should have a will, a healthcare proxy and an advanced medical directive or living will. But there’s no guarantee that when your final days come healthcare providers will follow your wishes. There are a number of reasons for this, but money is a big factor.

End-of-life care is a pot of gold in our modern medical system. Spending on Medicare beneficiaries in their last year of life accounts for about 25 percent of all Medicare spending. In 2011, Medicare spending was almost $554 billion ? 28 percent of which was spent during patients’ last six months of life, according to Kaiser Health News.

My father’s last days weren’t as good as they could have been. The doctors gave us mixed messages, leading us to believe that his life could be extended despite the obvious signs that his body was giving up. But ultimately it became undeniable. Thanks to his healthcare proxy I was able to talk to the doctors and because of his living will I was able to make the decision to switch him to comfort care knowing that was exactly what he wanted.

Movember 2016

As I have been doing every November since 2013 I’m participating in Movember, growing a moustache to raise money for men’s health. If you’d like to contribute go to http://mobro.co/tommaszerowski.

My dad was still alive when I started in 2013 but was still in the hospital. He would bounce from there to a rehab center and back again until finally passing in January of 2014. Although he was 92, his death came earlier than it should have because he delayed in getting the proper care. If I can get even one guy to go to the doctor when something initially seems wrong I will have considered this a success.

My approach this year is a little different than what I’ve done in the past. I’ve seen criticism of Movember as just a stunt to get yourself attention and that bothered me. I don’t like attention and I really have to force myself to do Movember and communicate on a regular basis. Nevertheless what I’m posting is mostly about health issues and I’m cutting back on the selfies to keep the focus on what it should be on.

The Quest to Make a True Blue M&M

In the last couple of years a number of the big packaged food companies have started an effort to remove artificial dyes from their products. This sounds like a pretty good deal, right? For consumers it certainly is but the food companies it’s been a difficult task.

One of the big advantages of using artificial dyes is their predictability, something lacking from dyes made from natural sources. Particularly difficult is the color blue, which is rare in nature to being with. Candy company Mars has spent years developing a blue M&M based on natural blue dye and they’re still at it.

Burnout: Minds turned to ash

We may think that job-related burnout is a modern affliction, but it’s been a recognized condition since the ancient Greeks and is mentioned in the Old Testament. Still, there’s something about modern life that causes more of us to be affected by it.

A walk in the country or a week on the beach should, theoretically, provide a similar sense of relief. But such attempts at recuperation are too often foiled by the nagging sense of being, as one patient put it, “stalked” by the job. A tormenting dilemma arises: keep your phone in your pocket and be flooded by work-related emails and texts; or switch it off and be beset by unshakeable anxiety over missing vital business. Even those who succeed in losing the albatross of work often quickly fall prey to the virus they’ve spent the previous weeks fending off.

Burnout increases as work insinuates itself more and more into every corner of life – if a spare hour can be snatched to read a novel, walk the dog or eat with one’s family, it quickly becomes contaminated by stray thoughts of looming deadlines. Even during sleep, flickering images of spreadsheets and snatches of management speak invade the mind, while slumbering fingers hover over the duvet, tapping away at a phantom keyboard.

One reason it’s different now is our always-on connection to the Internet, social media and apps that measure our steps, calories and sleep. As the article says, “The burnt-out case of today belongs to a culture without an off switch.”

Geri Tayor Is Living With Alzheimer’s

At age 69 Geri Taylor realized that the little memory lapses were more than just the vagaries of aging when she could no longer recognize her own face in the mirror.

For most, the path of Alzheimer’s takes eight to ten years but for each the way is slightly different. But no matter how determined someone might be in the beginning, the disease will eventually have its way.

Drugs You Don’t Need For Disorders You Don’t Have

You’ve seen them on TV. In fact, if you watch more than a few minutes your odds of seeing one are pretty much 100%. What are they? Ads for prescription medications. They tout some science, a distressingly long list of side-effects and tell you to “ask your doctor”. Their ubiquity has created a situation where patients ask for a drug by name and far too often get it, regardless of whether or not they have the condition the drug claims to treat. Italics because in many cases these new, and often expensive drugs don’t necessarily offer improvements over existing ones. But they do offer increased revenue for the drug companies and contribute to the rising cost of healthcare.

The Measles Mystery

The measles vaccine came out in the 1960s and as a result kids stopped getting measles. But that’s not all that happened. Childhood deaths from all diseases dropped markedly. Why did this happen?

Research has shown that the measles virus doesn’t just cause measles, it weakens the immune system overall, leaving children more susceptible to other diseases and more likely to die from them. By arming the immune system against measles it also protects against things like pneumonia and other illnesses that can result in death. And it lasts for years after inoculation.

Hat tip to Dan Lewis and his “Now I Know Newsletter”, which you should subscribe to right now (link on the right of the page).

Real-world doctors fact-check Dr. Oz, and the results aren’t pretty

Unlike “Dr.” Phil, Dr. Mehmet Oz is a real, practicing doctor (and surgeon). But that’s where the differences end. They both dispense a lot of questionable advice. How questionable? Less than one-third of it can be backed up by even modest medical evidence. Nearly 4 in 10 of the assertions made on the hit show appear to be made on the basis of no evidence at all.

So it’s not all bad, right? Well… Further fact-checking of Dr. Oz and his on-air guests found legitimate studies related to another 11% of the recommendations made on the show. Unfortunately, the show’s recommendations ran counter to the medical literature.

Netting it out: For recommendations in The Dr. Oz Show, evidence supported 46%, contradicted 15%, and was not found for 39%. It’s literally a crap shoot to follow his advice. Is that the kind of odds you want regarding your health?