Category Archives: Dangers

The October Resolve

As I mentioned my “October Resolve” in the cheesecake entry published Thursday, it occurred to me that I had not explained what I meant by that term. Actually, I invented that term (but not the goals that lay behind it) when I wrote the post.

Recently, I have become irritated by myself and my failures in several areas. A week or so back, I determined that I had to make progress on these three items or I would probably find myself frustrated and defeated going forward. I’ve code-named them G, L, and S, but I can trust you with their actual identities.

G stands for the sin of gluttony. I’ve been up and down with my weight, my healthy eating, and my general level of fitness over the last five years or so. Over the summer, Penny and I both did great. Then I went back to school and wheels came off. Workouts ended and restraint with food went out the window. My G resolve is to eat within control every day through October. I’ll be measuring myself using MyFitnessPal and remembering Proverbs 23:20-21.

L stands for the sin of lust. Let’s be clear–especially if you’re my wife reading this–I’ve not completely gone off the rails. However, I have found my eyes and thoughts going where they should not go.  My L resolve is to keep my eyes on the right things as much as possible and to maintain a pure mind in sexual matters. I seek this beyond October, but I’ll start with these 31 days. To assist, I’m lining up scriptures like 1 Corinthians 6:18-19 to remind me of the importance of mental fidelity.

S stands for the sin of sloth. Although I have plenty of good things that I should be doing with my time, I’ve been a bit of a sluggard recently. With Proverbs 6:10-11 in my mind, I know that I simply have to use my time more productively. Yes, there are lots of good things on Netflix, but I don’t have to watch them all right away. I’ve created a document file that I’ll use to record my actions each day. So far, I’ve felt very good about my use of time, but can I keep it up for a month? We’ll see.

That’s what I’m striving to do this month. There’s no grand conclusion to draw, but I thought I’d share.

You Can’t Exercise Yourself Away from Alzheimer’s

happy old guyThis really stinks.

I like puzzles. I like games. I exercise a good six days a week. And now I find out that all of that stuff has been a total waste. My brain, it seems, is still going to atrophy into a mess of cottage cheese.

According to a recent study, those activities, long suspected to stave off Alzheimer’s, do not seem to have the effects that would indicate progress in that direction.

Physical and mental activity don’t appear to prevent the brain from developing the telltale beta-amyloid deposits that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, a new study suggests.

If you’re confused, think of it like this. High blood pressure doesn’t actually hurt you, but it leads to nasty things like strokes and heart attacks. Since you don’t want to wait around to have a stroke to see if a treatment helps, reduced blood pressure is a good indicator that a treatment is helping.

So if you want to do your sudoku, play Clash of Clans, or pump iron, do it for its own benefits and not to hold Alzheimer’s at bay.

How to Save $457 Million and Your Skin

red-headed-woman-clear-skin-looking-at-arm-mol-melenoma-skin-cancer-handbagSince 1982, rates of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, have more than doubledfrom 11.2 cases per 100,000 people. That may not seem like a lot unless you happen to be one of the those odds-beating people diagnosed. It is estimated that 73,000 people will be so diagnosed in the United States in 2015 with a projected 113,000 cases in 2030. I’ve seen two of these diagnoses in my own family, so the matter is high in my attention.

Treating melanoma costs something like $457 million in 2011. As health care costs go, that’s not too extreme, weighing in around $6,000 per case. Most cases will involve a chunk of skins being taken out in a relatively simple outpatient surgery. An unlucky 9,000 per year, however, die from this form of cancer.

So how do we save that $457 million? Or at least save ourselves from becoming one of those statistics? Not only is it reasonably simple to shift the odds in our favor but the remedies have other benefits as well.

  • Wear sunscreen. By wearing sunscreen you’ll not only reduce your risk but you’ll also avoid painful sunburns.
  • Cover up with hats and clothes. You can avoid slathering sunscreen on yourself by wearing long sleeves and brimmed hats.
  • Stay out of the sun. By avoiding the heat of the day, you not only make the most of the shade but give yourself a good excuse not to mow the grass.

That’s it. Melanoma–and other skin cancers–are not mysterious afflictions, like pancreatic cancer, that seem to pop up for no real reason. By far the biggest risk factor is exposure to the sun (or other sources of UV radiation like tanning beds). Avoid the sun and you’ll likely stay out of those statistics.

Even a diagnosis of melanoma shouldn’t rob someone of hope. With Job, that person can claim, “Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God”(Job 19:26). But better yet, avoid the destruction.


In Search of Goldilocks Exercise

The problem with a lot of academics, including academics in the medical field, is that they have to keep researching and writing and publishing in order to keep their jobs, get promoted, or move on to greener pastures. Because of this need, a lot of people are tempted to offer less-than-stellar work for publication.

In recent years, a cluster of researchers, notably Carl Lavie and James O’Keefe, have led the charge in advocating something called the excessive exercise theory. At the heart of their theory lay the idea that vigorous exercise, for example running more than a couple of times a week, could be harmful to health.

As these things tend to go, the studies that allowed these researchers to sound an alarm over excessive exercise have been undercut by other studies that don’t support the theory, causing the writers to backtrack. Lavie shares his current position:

As first author, while I believe there are risks associated with very high levels of exercise, I wanted to emphasize several points, he wrote. First, low exercise is a much more prevalent problem for our society than is excessive exercise. Second, the maximal health benefits of exercise typically occur at quite low levels. More exercise may burn more calories and improve athletic performance, but probably does not lead to better health outcomes.

I’m imagining Lavie describing a search for a Goldilocks level of exercise: something that’s not “too much” or “too little,” but “just right.”

On the off chance that you won’t study up on all the background information, let’s just summarize by saying that there’s, at best, conflicting information on negative health effects from excessive exercise. Some studies suggest that an enormous amount of exercise has mildly negative effects while others say that it is positive.

In reality, most mortals don’t exercise so much that they’d need to worry about those negatives.

The fault I have with research like Lavie’s is that it tries to boil everything down to a single factor, treating human exercise like an algebraic equation. He admits that a great deal of exercise will burn more calories and increase athletic performance but suggests that these positives will come at a cost in “health outcomes.”

I’m the last one to volunteer to die tomorrow, but since when did “health outcomes,” decreases in morbidity and mortality, become the absolute gold standard in human life. I’d be much more interested in talking about “life outcomes.” Who wants to live a very long, very healthy, but very empty life? Such a life amounts to hoarding years, which is surely as unworthy as hoarding money.

I’m all for Goldilocks and a “just right” life, but I don’t believe the excessive exercise crowd have found the way to measure that.

Sunburn: The Gift that Keeps Giving

hot-sunEcclesiastes tells us that there’s nothing new under the sun. Therefore it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Douglas Brash of Yale Medical School tells us to wear our sunscreen. What might seem new, however, comes once you have gotten out from under the sun. Brash’s study discovered that the harmful effects of solar radiation keeps on doing their damage for more than three hours after you get back under cover.

What this boils down to is that exposure to the sun doesn’t just keep our skin cooking for three hours after we go inside but also increases the possibilities of us joining the 2 million Americans who are diagnosed with skin cancer annually.

To preserve the skin that God stuffed into at your birth, do the sensible things: wear a hat, put on sunscreen, minimize your exposure to the heat of the day. That’s not news. Like I said, there’s nothing new under the sun.