September 30th, 2014

ssfcWhen Jim first noticed the man sitting at the next table in the fast-food restaurant, he thought the man was having a heart attack. His hand was on his chest, and he looked scared. As the man’s lips darkened in color, Jim knew he should do someting. Jim got up, walked over to the man, and asked, “Are you choking?”

As he looked back on the incident, Jim was amazed. “I was thinking it was a heart attack, but the word ‘choking’ came out, because in my health class last year, that was what I was taught to ask.”

To Jim’s surprise, the man nodded, and Jim went into action. He called out “Help!” loudly, then turned to the man and said, “I can help you.” As he stepped behind the man, Jim turned to the manager of the restaurant, who had appeared at his side, and said, “He’s choking. Call an ambulance.”

Once behind the victim, Jim wrapped his arms around him and made a fist with one hand. He placed it in the middle of the man’s abdomen, below his breastbone but above his navel. He remembered to place the thumb side of his fist against the man and then covered it with his other hand. Keeping his elbows out, he pressed his fist into the man’s abdomen with a quick upward thrust.

It took three thrusts before he heard the food coughed from the man’s throat and onto the floor. Jim heard the ambulance siren as he helped the man sit down. He was too shaky to speak, but the man took Jim’s hand and shook it vigorously in gratitude.

The Heimlich Maneuver

The technique Jim used to clear the man’s airway is called the Heimlich maneuver or the Heimlich hug. It was developed by Dr. Henry J. Heimlich in 1974 when he was at Cincinnati’s Jewish Hospital.

The maneuver is used in one way for conscious victims, in another for unconscious victims. It relies on the fact that there is always air in the lungs even when an object in the throat prevents it from being expelled. By compressing the diaphragm forcefully, that air is pushed upward against the object, causing it to pop out like a cork from a bottle.

Ordinarily, a victim would do this himself by coughing, but when the object totally blocks the airway, air cannot get in or out. The victim could die within four to six minutes.

An important step in helping a choking victim is to be sure he is choking. Jim though the man was having a heart attack because his hand was on his chest, not his throat. To find out for sure, Jim asked. He found out he was choking. Choking victims can neither speak nor breathe’ they turn blue, and eventually collapse. Heart attack victims can usually speak, if conscious, and you know they aren’t choking.

In Case of Collapse

When Jim was performing the Heimlich maneuver on his victim, his mind was racing ahead to what he would do if the man collapsed. Jim knew he would:

1. Place the man on his back.

2. Open his airway by tilting his head back and do a finger sweep of the victim’s mouth to try to find the object. Then he would check breathing and try to give the man two breaths mouth-to-mouth.

3. If the air wouldn’t go in, he would straddle the victim and place the heel of one hand against the middle of the man’s abdomen just above his navel. Then Jim would place the other hand on top of the first with all fingers pointing toward the victim’s head.

4. He would then press into the abdomen six to 10 times.

5. He would go to the head of the victim and open the mouth, then do a finger sweep to remove any objects and try again to give air.

6. If the airway was still blocked, Jim would repeat the abdominal thrusts.

Special Victims

If the victim is too large to reach around, or is a pregnant woman, chest thrusts must be substituted for abdominal thrusts. To do chest thrusts, stand behind the victim and place your arms under the victim’s armpits and around the chest. Place the thumb side of your fist on the middle of the breastbone and grasp with your other hand. Give thrusts against the chest until the object is removed or the person loses consciousness.

If you are alone and choking, you can give yourself the Heimlich maneuver by placing the fist of one hand against your abdomen just above the navel and grasping it with your other hand. Make quick upward thrusts into your abdomen. You could also lean forward and press your abdomen over an object like the back of a chair or sink.

Preventing Choking

People may choke for a variety of reasons, but often it is because they tried to do two things at once: speak and eat. A mechanism in our throat called the epiglottis is designed to prevent choking. It is a flap that closes over the windpipe when you swallow so food will go down the esophagus instead of the trachea. But we can confuse this flap if we change our mind in mid-swallow.

For example, imagine you are in the school cafeteria eating lunch. You start to swallow a bite of sandwich when someone says something very funny. You want to laugh, so the epiglottis gets the message “breathe.” Since it is programmed to always give priority to breathing, the flap opens the trachea and you inhale. The bite of sandwich is sucked into the trachea and you begin to choke. If you can still get some air past the blockage, you will simply cought it up. Since coughing is the best way to clear the airway, always allow a person to cough when possible. But if no air can get in and out, or a wheezing sound is made, then the Heimlich maneuver is necessary.

The object blocking the airway isn’t always food. Children can choke on toys, especially balloons. If the balloon bursts unexpectedly, it can frighten a child. He or she inhales in surprise and a piece of balloon goes down the airway. Coins are also common offenders in choking children.

Do Nots

There are also some things not to do in rescuing choking victims. The old technique of hitting people on the back is no longer advised for a variety of reasons. It can lodge the object further down, frighten the person who then inhales, or damage the neck and back.

Do not wait for medical help if you are in the presence of someone with a blocked airway. Help may come too late.

Do not begin the Heimlich maneuver until you are certain the victim is choking. Ask first.

Do not squeeze the chest or abdomen with your arms. Pressure is applied only with the hands, and “hugging” could break ribs.

And remember: The victim’s life is in your hands.

Posted in Your Health |
September 20th, 2014

A funny thing happened on the way to adding rheumatic fever to the list of disappearing diseases – not funny as in “ha-ha,” but funny as in strange and troubling.

rmfThe hospital wards once set up to care for children with this dangerous disease (it can cripple the heart) had closed. To most young people, the image of the sad-eyed rheumatic fever victim watching from a window while friends romped and played outside was just a scene from some old melodrama. A dramatic 90 percent drop in the annual rate of new cases since the 1960s seemed to show rheumatic fever was going out with bell bottoms and love beads. Then–like Jason and Freddie and those other indestructible horror movie villains–it was back.

Unwelcome and unexplainable outbreaks of rheumatic fever in places as far apart as Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, and Boston began in the mid-1980s and caused medical experts to take a new look at an old disease. This disease, that usually strikes first among young people between the ages of 5 and 15, can lead to a lifetime with a damaged heart.

In the Begiining — Bacteria

If rheumatic fever is an unfamiliar term to you, how about group A hemolytic streptoccocci? You probably know that better as the bacteria that cause strep throat — and in the beginning, there is strep throat. Though rheumatic fever is not contagious (you cannot “catch” the disease), its potential parents, the strep germs, are. Because these bacteria are easily spread in coughs and sneezes, many young people are all too familiar with the classic strep symptoms: a suddenly sore throat that makes swallowing painful; fever; swolen lymph glands under the jaw, and often headache, stomachache, nausea, and vomiting.

Sometimes a red rash with goose-pimple-size dots will break out on the chest and back. The rush turns white when pressed and later peels. This form of strep complication is known as scarlet fver, and can be treated with antibiotics to kill the bacteria.

Antibodies: Defense and Deception

If there is no tell-tale rash, the presence of streptococci can be confirmed by a throat culture. A cotton swab is rubber over the back of the throat and the throat mucus is analyzed. If th result is positive, 10 days of antibiotic therapy will usually eliminate the strep.

Yet even without tretment, most strep throats last only a few days. If you’re going to get well anyway, why bother with tests and treatments?

The answer to that lies in American Heart Association statistics that show that more than 2 million Americans are victims of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease. In about 1 percent to 3 percent of children with untreated strep infection, the antibodies created by the immune system to fight off the invading bacteria mistakenly begin to attack healthy body tissues, especially in the joints and the heart muscle. Exactly what triggers this immune system reaction is still not known; the results of it are — rheumatic fever with its potential for permanent heart damage.

The strep throat goes away; the immune system reaction goes silently on. Several weeks after the sore throat, the high fever and joint pains for which rheumatic fever is named appear. The pains move around, lasting a day or so in one joint (usually a large one such as the knee, ankle, elbow, or wrist), then migrating to another. A child may have chest pains or be short of breath. Less common symptoms include hard nodules under the skin or a lacy red skin rash that comes and goes. Sometimes a nervous system disorder (chorea or St. Vitus’ dance) will develop with aimless, uncontrolled movements of the arms and legs.

Aiming for the Heart

The main target of the illness, however, is the heart, particularly its valves, which regulate the flow of blood. Though any part can be affected, it is usually the mitral valve between the left atrium and left ventricle that becomes inflamed and, over time, scarred and distorted. The damaged valve may not open completely (stenosis), so less blood than normal flows to the ventricle. Or it may not close completely (insufficiency), so blood will leak back into the atrium. Either way, the heart is continually overworked in its pumping efforts, and rheumatic heart disease, a condition of serious permanent damage, may result.

Most people recover from a case of rheumatic fever in a few weeks. There is no cure for the disease, but bed rest and medication to control the fever and inflammation help make recovery easier and keep the heart from more strain. If a valve is damaged, the normally soundless flow of blood through a valve becomes a disturbed murmur that can be picked up by a stethoscope during examination. A doctor can further determine heart damage through echocardiography, which uses sound waves bounced off the heart walls and valves to show the movement of the valves and size of the heart chambers.

Having a strep throat does not lead automatically to rheumatic fever (the majority of cases do not develop into the disease), and having rheumatic fever does not lead automatically to lifelong heart damage. The key in both cases is prevention. Prompt diagnosis of strep followed by tretment with antibiotics can cancel both the bacteria and the risk of an attack of rheumatic fever.

Prevent and Protect

Equally important is protection from another strep infection by anyone who has had rheumatic fever. Having the disease once does not bring immunity. Instead, it seems to make the risk of future attacks after a strep infection even greater. This in turn increases the risk of further heart damage. Long-term, sometimes lifelong, protection through antibiotics is needed, with special precautions necessary before and after dental work or surgery.

Knowing the importance of prevention has meant an added worry for doctors studying the new reports of rheumatic fever outbreaks. In many cases, the strep infection that set off the immune system reaction was so mild that children never suffered the painful sore throat or other common clues that would have alerted parents and physicians. Researchers, therefore, are looking at the possibility of an unfamiliar group A bacterial strain, and experts are urging a check for strep bacteria in any case of a sore throat. A new rapid strep test that uses antibodies from the immune system to identify the bacteria can be done in the doctor’s office with almost immediate results.

But why not just give penicillin or some other antibiotic for all sore throats? Most throat infections are caused by viruses that are not affected by antibiotics; unfortunately, the person receiving the antibiotic may be. Drugs usually have side effects, and the risk of developing an allergy to the antibiotic increases with frequent, unnecessary use.

The search for a vaccine to keep the strep bacteria from triggering the self-destructive immune system attack goes on. Until such a solution is found, however, the need to identify the bacteria remains vital. “Out of sight, out of mind” can be a dangerous concept, say medical experts charting the comeback trail of rheumatic fever, only recently a rare disease, almost forgotten . . . but not gone.

Posted in Your Health |
September 7th, 2014

dwadsThe lure of drugs is strong. For dealers, money motivates. For users, the desire for pleasure or escape usually prompts the entry into drugs. The quest to repeat the experience drives addiction.

Unwittingly, each user fuels an international drug economy that is built on violence, greed, and a callous disregard for human life.

The drug business is an ugly one, full of exploitation, wrecked health, and wasted lives. It also is a big business, the biggest in the world, with an annual volume exceeding $300 billion (some estimates go as high as $500 billion). But it is a big business that law enforcement agencies, national governments, and many small but powerful local initiatives are working to destroy. What are the chances of their doing this in the ’90s?

There are more than 40 million illegal drug users throughout the world — more than half of them in the United States alone. In fact, the United States is the single biggest market for the illegal drug trade.

Once thought of as merely a health or a social problem for drug users and their families, drug abuse in the United States during the last five to 10 years has created a set of problems so destructive and far-reaching that solving them has become one of our country’s top priorities. Why? Consider:

* Chief Justice William Rehnquist of the U.S. Supreme Court reports tfhat the number of drug-related cases in the federal courts has risen 85 percent in the last four years.

* The U.S. Department of Justice says that half of all men arrested for serious crimes are drug users.

* Between 1986 and 1988, there was an 1,100 percent increase in the number of semi-automatic weapons (the weapons favored by drug dealers and also the weapons involved in several mass murders at school playgrounds in recent years).

* In urban areas, entire neighborhoods are taken over by drug gangs, making them unsafe for residents. Also, in these neighborhoods innocent children are often killed in the crossfire of warring drug gangs.

* The spread of the deadly disease AIDS currently is highest among intravenous drug users.

* Approximately one in 10 babies in the United States is born with illegal substances in his or her system.

A Global Issue

Although the United States’ drug problem right now seems uncontrollable, we’re not the only ones with problems. Drugs have become a global issue. Use has dramatically increased in Europe and even in such previously untouched areas as the Soviet Union. Violence is a way of life–and a fact of life–for the international drug traffickers, where informants are routinely tortured and killed, and opponents are murdered by hired killers for as little as $10. And some Third-World countries’ entire economy is based on the illegal drug trade.

Take, for instance, Colombia, so much in the news in recent months. Cocaine is this country’s major export, bringing in more than $4 billion a year and supplying about 80 percent of the world’s cocaine. Entire villages in the Andes mountains depend on the coca leaf crop, from which cocaine is extracted, for their existence, not to mention the cities that have come alive from the conspicuous spending of the high-level drug traffickers. Medellin, the home of the country’s biggest drug cartels, or organizations, has million-dollar high-rise apartments equipped with huge satellite dishes for picking up American TV shows, expensive clothing and jewelry stores, imported cars, and other luxuries. Accompanying this opulence, however, is a staggering level of violence: Medellin has the highest murder rate of any city in the world not at war.

“Plomo o plata”

In addition, in many Latin American and Caribbean countries, the drug organizations have corruption on their side. With the drug traffickers’ policy called “plomo o plata” (which literally means lead or silver, or a bullet or a bribe), they have managed to buy off and scare people ranging from local police officers to a country’s highest leaders. In Colombia, this policy reigns supreme: Last August, a leading presidential candidate and anti-drug campaigner was shot down at an open-air political rally. More than 50 judges and two cabinet members were assassinated in the last two years after trying to crack down on the drug cartels. Making law enforcement even more difficult is the fact that in Colombia and neighboring countries, some elected officials are known drug dealers.

In Burma, the Southeast Asian country that is the world’s largest producer of heroin, the drug warlords have private armies to protect their businesses. There are no restrictions for crossing the border into neighboring Thailand. And the laws are such that dealers can only be arrested if they have possession of the drug — and they make it a policy never to touch it.

Clearly, the drug problem is complex and destructive. Here’s a closer look at this world issue.

The Big Three — And Where

They Come From

Supply and demand. That’s what rules the drug trade. It’s classic Keynesian economics. Says a writer in the Spanish news magazine Cambio 16, “On the day that a pound of bananas is worth more than a pound of cocaine, there will be no more South American coca farmers.”

And, conversely, the day Americans stop craving drugs, the world supply will shrink.

Marijuana, cocaine, and heroin are the drugs with the highest demand worldwide. In the United States, there are 18 million marijuana and hashish users, 700,000 heroin addicts, and an estimated 7 million who regularly use cocaine.

Mexico actually supplies more drugs to the United States than any other country, growing its own marijuana and heroin and serving as an entry point for Colombian cocaine.

Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia produce almost all of the world’s cocaine. The coca plant thrives in the mild, high-altitude climate of the Andes mountains.

Most of the heroin that reaches the United States comes from the opium grown in the poppy fields of what’s called the “golden triangle,” where Burma, Laos, and Thailand converge. Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan also ship this drug to our country.

The majority of illegal drugs slip into our country through southern Florida and across the Mexican border — drop-shipped onto high-speed boats, packed into private planes, hidden in imported goods, and concealed on bodies. Customs officials say they’ve seized drugs in the most improbable places: in coffins, in flower shipments, in diapers, and in beer cans. They’ve reported heroin-laced shampoo and dog collars containing cocaine.

The Allure of Drugs

Once it gets here, the attraction of the drug world is particularly strong for inner-city kids who can make $200 to $3,000 a day selling crack. Some children start as early as 8 or 9 years old as lookouts for drug dealers, warning them when police enter the neighborhood. Lookouts make about $100 a day. In a few years they can graduate to “runners,” transporting drugs from the makeshift factories where drugs are processed to the dealers. Their salaries also graduate — to about $300 a day.

By the time they are teenagers, they can become “king of the street” or dealers. An aggressive crack dealer can rake in more than $15,000 a week. That’s more than half a million dollars a year. This money buys them the status symbols that make them neighborhood heroes–Mercedes Benzes, BMWs, Rolex watches, gold chains, designer clothes.

It’s no different for the South American peasant. The $1,000 offered by traffickers for every 2.5 acres to plant coca, whose leaf cocaine is made from, often means the difference between eating and starving. Nor is it different for the local poseros, or processors, who grind the coca leaf into paste. They fare even better: It’s not unusual to see color televisions in their shacks and four-wheel drive vehicles in their dirt driveways. And so it goes all the way up the ladder. The people who chemically process the coca paste, turning it into the powder form it is sold in, make even more. Pilots can earn $5,000 a kilo to transport the drug out of the country. And, of course, the leaders of the cartels are millionaires. Fortune magazine estimates Pablo Escobar, one of Colombia’s biggest drug barons, is a billionaire.

Big bucks are in the heroin trade, too. Opium from Burma costing $170 can be turned into $2 million on the streets of New York or Europe with minimal processing.

The United States Fights


In the fight against the drug trade, the United States is making a full-blown assault. FBI. DEA. CIA. Coast Guard. Customs agents. Local police. Schools. Hospitals. The legal system. Congress. Everyone’s getting involved. The federal government budgeted $6 billion for 1989. “Drug Czar” William Bennett wants more. “The bill will be big,” he says, “but the bill for not doing something will be bigger: $150 billion to $200 billion.”

It seems, however, whatever the United States spends is never enough. The federal government’s dollars seem like pennies compared with the millions the drug dealers have to spend. Often they have faster boats, more powerful weapons, and a cold-blooded lack of hesitation in killing anyone who stands in their way.

In addition, our overloaded legal system has difficulty handling the number of cases it has. In some cities, only a small percentage of adults arrested on drug charges actually serve time. Cases where the drug offender is a minor — as is true with the majority of crack offenders — mostly go through the juvenile court system. This involves a series of court supervisions, probations, and foster homes for first-time offenders. Sometimes it takes as many as seven or eight arrests before a juvenile dealer is jailed.

Posted in Your Health |
August 28th, 2014

fchushWhen it comes to making choices in the supermarket, most of us try to look for food that is good for our health. And food companies all tell us their products are just what we’re looking for.

Pork has become “the other white meat,” lean and low in cholesterol like chicken. Bran for breakfast may help us reduce the risk for some forms of cancer. Old-fashioned oatmeal helps protect us against heart disease. And TV commercials are full of trim, healthy people who use yogurt, prunes, grapefruit juice, and diet soft drinks.

Not to mention all the food packages that rpoclaim their contents are “Fresh!” “Natural!” “Lite!” “Low-fat!” “High Fiber!” “Sugarless!” “Cholesterol-free!”

Health claims for food are everywhere now, and they’ve stirred up a hot debate among nutrition experts.

The promotion for some products comes across as a mini-lesson in nutrition education. On one major brand of bran cereal, for example, the entire back of the package is filled with advice on a good total diet. It includes information about hig-fiber foods (like bran cereals, of course), from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), offers an NCI hotline number, and provides an address for an NCI booklet with more health tips. TV and print ads have the same emphasis on health.

Product Info: Useful or


Some nutrition experts believe health messages of this kind, if they are truthful and accurate, can carry useful information to many more consumers.

Other experts believe these health claims are a bad idea. Some manufacturers may make claims that are invalid, they point out; research may be incomplete or unsound, and consumers may be confused and misled. A recent TV ad campaign for a leading brand of cheese slices, for example, was rated false and deceptive in a preliminary ruling by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) last year.

The ads, showing a young girl, claimed that imitation cheese slices used hardly any milk, but that the advertised brand had 5 ounces per slice,” . . . so her little bones get the calcium they need to grow.” The FTC noted that the advertised product may have had 5 ounces of milk per slice, but 30% of the calcium was lost in processing, leaving the advertised cheese slices with no more calcium than the imitation slices.

“Lite” and “Natural”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that it is preparing to require major changes in the nutrition labeling on packaged foods. But what about the nutrition buzzwords presently found on package labels? Some terms are defined by law, and have very specific meanings. Food labeled “low calorie,” for example, must have no more than 40 calories in a serving and no more than 0.4 calories per gram.

Terms like “fresh,” “natural,” “new,” and “naturally sweetened,” on the other hand, have no legal definition, and can mean anything at all. “Lite” and “low-fat” are not defined by the FDA, which has jurisdiction over 80 percent of food products. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which is responsible for animal products, has several meanings for “lite,” but defines “low-fat” as 10 percent or less fat in meat, by weight, and 0.5 percent to 2 percent fat in milk.

“No cholesterol” labels are found on foods ranging from bread and peanuts to vegetable oil. Food cholesterol, however, is only found in animal foods, never in foods from plants. In fact, saturated fat does much more than food cholesterol to raise the cholesterol level in the body, and thus to contribute to heart disease.

The Fine Print

Then how does a shopper sort through all these health and nutrition claims?

The American Heart Association has a program starting this year that promises some help. Packaged food products that meet AHA standards for total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium contents will carry the AHA heart-and-torch logo in ads and on the package.

But we still have decisions to make about all the products without the AHA seal of approval. The answer, experts tell us, is to read the fine print on the package.

The ingredient list is the first place to look. It’s on every food package, except for ice cream, mayonnaise, and a few other products that have standardized ingredients.

Ingredients are always listed in order of weight, the heaviest first, the lightest last. If you buy muffins that offer oat bran in big letters, and you find oat bran at the end of the list, along with salt and spices, you’re getting just a sprinkle of bran.

Things to Watch

Some other things to watch:

Sugar: Check the list for honey, corn syrup, fructose, and other forms of sugar. Add them together. Sugar may be the main ingredient.

Sugar-free: See what you get instead. Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and saccharin, have almost no calories. Sugar alcohols, including sorbitol and mannitol, have about the same calorie count as sugar. They’re used in some chewing gum and diet products; the body handles them differently.

Fats and Oils: Coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils are more highly saturated than butter or beef tallow. They are sometimes listed in either/or style: “coconut oil and/or palm oil and/or soybean oil. . . .” If they are high on the list, pass the product by. If they are low on the list in a low-fat product, it’s more acceptable.

Hydrogenation is a process that makes oils saturated. “Partly hydrogenated” means partly saturated. Shortening is hydrogenated.

How Many Grams of Fat?

In addition to the ingredient list, about 55 percent of package foods have a panel of nutrition information. This is required if vitamins or minerals are added, or if there is a nutritional claim like “low in sodium.” Many manufacturers provide this nutrition material voluntarily. Every product with the AHA logo will also carry this information.

The nutrition section is a list that shows how many calories and how much fat, carbohydrate, protein, and sodium the product has, in each serving, measured in grams.

It also shows the percentage of the USRDA( U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance) per serving for seven essential nutrients: protein, vitamins A and C, thiamin, niacin, plus calcium and iron.

Some manufacturers also include cholesterol, fiber, or additional nutrients.

Watch the serving size. Cereals, for instance, vary from 90 to 130 calories a serving, but a serving can range from 1/4 cup to 1 1/4 cups.

Find out how many calories you get from fat. Too much is a hazard to your health and your waistline. A croissant, for example, has 106 calories, and 6.1 grams of fat. Each gram of fat has 9 calories. Multiply 6.1 by 9 and you will see that more than half the total calories come from fat.

Reading the fine print takes know-how and a little time, but it’s the sure way to choose food that keeps you trim and healthy.

Posted in Your Health |
August 18th, 2014

lahdLead is a useful metal. It doesn’t rust, it bonds with organic materials like wood, it is strong, heavy, and easy to mold. The ancient Romans hammered it into cups and plates and water pipes. In fact, our word plumbing comes from the Latin word plumbus, meaning lead.

In the Middle Ages, lead played a role in the great explosion of learning. It was used in making type for the newly invented printing press. With the Industrial Revolution, lead became an important part of many manufacturing processes and products. In the early 20th century, it found a new application as a gasoline additive, greatly improving engine performance. Today, lead is used in thousands of manufactured products, as well as in construction. Americans use more than a million tons of it every year.

Lead Poisoning

As useful as lead is in human technology, the human body does not need even a minute amount of it. In fact, it’s a poison. Ingesting a piece of lead the size of a person’s fingernail can kill. Nausea and vomiting are followed by convulsions, coma, and finally, death.

Even in small amounts, lead can cause big trouble. The body takes four to six weeks to rid soft tissues of the metal after it is ingested. It can take up to 30 years for lead to leave the bones. Meanwhile, there may be temporary illness or even permanent harm.

Lead can damage the brain, liver, and kidneys. The symptoms of lead poisoning are many and varied. Lead interferes with the production of red blood cells, leading to anemia. Lead strips the myelin coating from nerves, causing weakness in the hands and feet. Even very tiny amounts can cause high blood pressure.

The danger is greater for babies and young children, and in children who are not completely healthy. (The metal is excreted very slowly from the bodies of people suffering from poor nutrition.) Children with high body levels of lead develop slowly physically and mentally, and they may have emotional problems, as well as other symptoms of lead poisoning. The U.S. Public Health Service estimates that 17 percent of American children under the age of 6 may be lead-poisoning victims. One study suggests that body lead levels may be related to succss in school: The higher the lead level, the less likely it is that a student will do well.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has set the maximum safe lead level at 24 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. (A microgram is a millionth of a gram; a deciliter is 100 milliliters.) Recent studies show that lead-poisoning symptoms in children appear at levels far below 24 micrograms, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has suggested lowering the safe lead level standard to 9 micrograms. Some researchers say that no lead at all is the only safe standard.

The Spread of Lead

How does lead get into the human body? Peeling paint is one important route. The U.S. government has reduced the amount of lead permitted in paint products, but old buildings pose a continuing threat. Their paint peels, ad children inhale airborne flakes. Very young children may eat the poisonous, slightly sweet paint chips.

Tap water can contain lead, too. Tiny amounts of lead from lead pipes and lead solder on copper pipes get into the water. In some areas, tap water is the source of almost half of environmental lead.

The largest source of lead in the environment, however, has long been the lead from automobile emisions. In 1975 alone, cars spewed more than 160,000 metric tons of lead into the air. People inhaled it. It settled onto agricultural crops and farmers’ fields and so, ultimately, people ate it, too.

Once it’s loose in the environment, lead is there for good. Years after a house has been razed, lead from its peeling paint still contaminates the site. Lead from automobile emissions is everywhere, from backyard dirt to well water.

The result is that it is estimated that today there may be as much as 500 times more lead in our bones as we find in the bones of prehistoric people. Researchers looking at layers of polar ice built up over thousands of years find 800 times as much lead in new ice as in ice thousands of years old.

Getting the Lead Out

Two thousand years ago, a Greek scientist named Dioscorides warned about the dangers of lead. In 1786, Benjamin Franklin (who was a printer as well as a patriot) wrote about workers who handled hot-lead type and suffered from lead poisoning. People have known about the hazards of lead exposure for a long time.

And they have done something about it. In the early 1900s, laws were passed to protect people who work with leads and to remove lead from many products. In the 1960s and 1970s a great wave of environmental awareness resulted in laws that banned the sale of leaded paint, outlawed the use of lead solder in the seams of baby food and baby formula cans, and phased out lead in gasoline.

This last step was important. By 1984, the amount of lead entering the environment through auto exhaust had fallen 75 percent. The result was dramatic. In 1982, a national health and nutrition survey showed that the average American blood lead level had fallen by 37 percent.

The amount of lead entering the environment has been dropping. But problems persist. Lead paint lurks in hundreds of thousands of buildings across the country. Old plumbing spills lead into the water people drink. Safely removing the paint and repairing the plumbing will cost thousands of dollars per site. Discarded lead in landfills and dumps is a continuing source of environmental lead.

It’s clear that we can get the lead out. To researchers concerned about the toll deadly lead takes on health, it’s something that must be done, and soon, no matter what it takes.

Posted in Your Health |
August 7th, 2014

tdgsAt this time of the year, it’s tantalizing to imagine lounging in the shade of a tall palm tree, looking over the shimmering waters of a tropical ocean. You watch gulls swooping down over the waves and porpoises leaping playfully in rhythmic patterns. As you slowly sip on an ice-cold lemonade, you think, “This is paradise!”

Paradise it may well be, but even paradise has its hazards. One of them is the possibility of contracting a travel disease. Such diseases range from mild malaise due to jet lag to disabling dengue fever. However, smart travelers can usually avoid illness by finding out before they go what diseases they may be exposed to while traveling.

Jet Lag

Going to places like Canada, Europe, Australia, or New Zealand poses very few health risks for most travelers. Nevertheless, people traveling by plane across the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean may suffer from jet lag. This condition occurs when the body’s internal clock is out of sync with local time.

A simple example will show how a long plane ride can wreak havoc with the body. Pretend you are traveling to Rome. The plane ride from New York City to Rome is 8 1/2 hours long. Rome is six hours ahead of New York timewise. That means if you take off from New York at 5 p.m., you will land in Rome at 7:30 a.m. the next morning (Roman time). The city will be busy and noisy. If you were on a Roman schedule, you would probably be full of vigor. However, according to your body’s clock, it is only 1:30 a.m. (New York time). Your body feels like it’s the middle of the night–and you probably haven’t had much sleep.

As you can see, jet lag can make it difficult for a traveler to keep pace with daily life in a new place. Jet lag can cause headaches, insomnia, irritability, forgetfulness, and digestive problems. It may increase a traveler’s susceptibility to common infections, such as colds and the flu. Time is the only cure fot jet lag. But its effects may be minimized by drinking plenty of nonalcoholoci liquids during the flight, by being well-rested before the journey, and, of course, by trying to sleep during the trip. After a few days in a new time zone, a traveler’s internal clock resets itself. The only problem is that when the traveler returns home, he or she must adjust to the shift back to local time.

La Turista

Although it can cause people to feel out of kilter, jet lag is not, clinically speaking, a disease. The most common of the bona fide travel diseases is diarrhea. This unpleasant ailment is known by numerous descriptive names. If you’ve been in Mexico, you might know it as La Turista, Montezuma’s Revenge, or the Aztec Two-Step. In North Africa, it is often dubbed Casablance Crud. In India it goes by the name Delhi Belly. Whatever its name, traveler’s diarrhea has the same symptoms: watery bowel movements sometimes accompanied by cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever, and weakness. A bout of traveler’s diarrhea usually lasts for three or four days. Treatment includes resting, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking a stomach-soothing medicine, such as Pepto-Bismol. Travelers can contact their doctor prior to their trip for advice on taking Pepto-Bismol or taking antibiotics to prevent the illness altogether.

Prevenion, The Best Step

The best step to take against traveler’s diarrhea is to try to prevent it in the first place. Most cases are caused by unclean food or water. In Latin America, Africa, and Asia, many regions have drinking water contaminated with bacteria. These germs can cause illness in people whose digestive system isn’t used to them. Travelers going to regions with contaminated drinking water should avoid drinking untreated tap water. Instead, they should drink only commercially bottled beverages and beverages made from boiled water, such as tea and coffee. Beverages cooled by ice cubes are safe only if the ice is made from treated water.

Avoiding unsafe food is a little trickier. Any food washed in bacteria-laden tap water can cause problems. Therefore, in regions with unclean drinking water, it is best to avoid all raw vegetables and eat only fruits with a thick, unbroken skin that can be peeled. No matter how tempting, eating foods bought from street vendors often leads to digestive problems. Inadequate cooking or lack of refrigeration allows disease-causing bacteria to grow on these street foods. Eating well-cooked food from established restaurants in tourist areas is a good idea for international travelers.

Treat It Seriously

A traveler who takes on precautions has about a one-in-three chance of getting diarrhea. A careful traveler can improve on these odds. Common though it is, diarrhea must be treated seriously. During this illness, a person can lose enough fluids to become severely dehydrated. A person who becomes dehydrated may need to see a doctor and may even have to go to the hospital.

How does a traveler find a doctor in a foreign country, especially if he or she doesn’t speak the local language very well? Travelers who plan ahead before they go can get a free list of English-speaking doctors in 120 countries around the world from the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers in Lewiston, New York. Otherwise, travelers can usually find English-speaking doctors by contacting the staff at a large hotel or at the local U.S. Consulate or Embassy.

Caution: Malaria

Although diarrhea rarely requires a doctor’s treatment, other travel diseases often do require medical attention. Many of these serious diseases are transmitted by insects. Malaria is probably the most common of the diseases spread by insects. Mosquitoes in many tropical areas of the world carry this disease. In terms of symptoms, malaria looks much like the flu. It causes fever with alternate sweats and chills and a general feeling of ill-health. However, with most kinds of malaria, the fever comes for a few days, subsides, and then returns a day or two later. If the disease goes untreated, the cycle can continue for months. People traveling to regions where malaria is common are advised to take anti-malaria medicine starting two weeks before they leave. These same medicine are also prescribed to treat the disease.

Yellow Fever

Yellow fever is another serious tropical disease transmitted by mosquitoes. The disease comes on quite rapidly, starting with a headache, a backache, a rising fever, and the vomiting of blood. After a few days, the skin and whites of the eyes may turn yellow, which is how the disease got its name. Reducing the fever and resting are the only ways to cure yellow fever. However, a vaccine is available to prevent the disease. In fact, this vaccine is usually required for travelers visiting areas where the disease is found.

Mosquito-Borne Dengue

The same mosquitoes that carry yellow fever also carry dengue (den’ge) fever. Dengue begins with a fever, severe joint pain, and pain behind the eyes. The fever may subside slightly and then rise again, accompanied by a rash. As with yellow fever, there is no cure for dengue. With rest, most people recover. There is no vaccine against this disease.

Because these three mosquito-borne diseases–malaria, yellow fever, and dengue–are so serious, it is important for travelers going to areas where these mosquitos breed to do everything they can to avoid insect bites. Doctors advise such travelers to use insect repellent and mosquito coils when spending time outdoors. Wearing long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and closed shoes also affords some protection against mosquitoes. Since mosquitoes tend to be most active around sunset, staying indoors during this time of day can also help prevent mosquito bites.

Posted in Your Health |
July 30th, 2014

fhpeye, have a look at this: the space-age diet that lets you “eat all day, and still lose weight.” Or, the one that promises results “within hours.” Or, the potion that will “add inches to your height in just 10 weeks.” Or, that beauty cream that guarantees “a gorgeous, proportioned figure.” Or, the ancient nutrient from the Far East that will “optimize your life force.”

The modern-day health quack is ready to give you–for a price–any or all of these pie-in-the-sky “miracles.”

The health hucksters and frauds are out to get you if you don’t watch out. They are ready with the remedy-of-the-month. Their scams offer you miracle drugs, super-pills, revolutionary formulas, dramatic results. They know secrets that will help you grow hair, lose pounds overnight, get rid of skin blemishes, melt away fat. They can cure whatever ails you, with “newly-discovered” foods, drugs, potions, devices–all with a money-back guarantee that’s as phony as the products they sell and the claims they make.

In the past, the huckster was a snake-oil salesman. Today he, or she, can be almost indistinguishable from a legitimate business person. The modern-day quack doesn’t do business from the back of a wagon or in front of a tent. The quack’s messages now come to you in sophisticated newspaper and magazine ads, on radio and TV, in books and lectures.

The United States Constitution bars censorship, so the government can’t stop quacks from making exaggerated or false claims in books, newsletters, lectures, or radio and TV interviews.

Many teenagers–and adults–fall for the quack’s promises because they are in a hurry. They want results right away–to look good, feel strong, have an alluring figure, be attractive, have a “healthy” tan.

“Quacks know how to get inside your skin,” says John Renner, M.D., of the National Council Against Health Fraud. “They know how to make you feel afraid. They know how to make you feel guilty if you don’t want to buy. They know how to make you feel that if you don’t act quickly, you’ll miss out.”

How do you protect yourself? Remember this: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Magical Diets

Teenagers–especially girls–are not exempt from the American passion for dieting. Nutrition quacks offer “magical” diets and pills to take pounds off. One ad offers a naturally-grown vitamin that “guarantees far fewer colds, better complexion, shinier hair” — and calls this all a scientific breakthrough. A mail-order company offered a “glandular complex” pill for “instant” weight loss; the pill was nothing but a mix of ground-up animal organs.

There’s nothing easier to find these days than diet plans–they are offered by television personalities, magazines, newspapers, and each year’s crop of best-selling diet books. People bounce from a gourmet diet, to a brown-bag diet, to a 30-day countdown, to a nine-day wonder diet, to a 24-hour easy diet.

Most of the diets and virtually all of the pills are worthless, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some are even dangerous. The FDA for example, has warned consumers that some “herbal” diet pills sold by mail order contain dangerous levels of prescription drugs and should not be used. This is especially true for some types of diet pills imported from other countries. Some pills promoted for weight loss can cause unpleasant side effects such as nervousness, nausea, and insomnia, and can also be addictive.

Body wraps to burn off fat are another favorite gimmick of the quacks. But the wraps do not burn or dissolve fat. Rubberized or plastic suits worn during exercise and purported to cause loss of weight through loss of water can actually cause serious dehydration, especially in warm weather.

There are no magic foods, pills, wraps, diets, or wands for losing weight. “It is extremely rare,” say Consumers Union medical consultants, “that a short-cut approach to weight reduction brings about permanent weight control.” Teens should not diet excessively. Their growing bodies can’t tolerate the nutrient loss that comes with eating too little.

The only safe and effective way to lose weight is to eat less while maintaining a properly balanced diet — and to exercise more. Consult your doctor before you start on a particular weight-loss program.


Misleading claims are being made for vitamins–claims that the more vitamins you take, the better it is for you. Some manufacturers fraudulently claim their vitamin supplements are necessary for good nutrition and that megadoses provide “supernutrition.”

That’s dangerous. Most healthy young people get all the nutrients they need from eating a balanced and varied diet. If you may need a vitamin supplement, your doctor or other health professional will advise it.

But taking vitamins in amounts higher than the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is an invitation to trouble. Megadoses (usually 10 or more times the RDA level) can have serious harmful effects.

Prolonged excessive intake of vitamin A can cause headache, increased pressure on the brain, bone pain, and damage to the liver. Too much vitamin D can cause kidney damage. High doses of vitamin E can cause fatigue and other problems. High doses of vitamin C can cause diarrhea. Large doses of niacin can cause severe flushes, liver damage, and skin disorders. Large doses of vitamin [B.sub.6] can damage the nervous system.

The National Council Against Health Fraud has a case report of a young man who took megadoses of vitamin A in the mistaken notion it would help his acne. He developed severe brain pressure and was saved from surgery only by the fact that his physician learned in time about the self-administration of the excess vitamin A.

Body Beautiful

Young women want to look alluring–and young men want to be muscular, macho, great, athletes, winners. And men, like women, want it right away. They are easy targets for the quacks who are peddling black market steroids and other “super”-pills.

The pills can cause severe side effects. We all want to be winnes, but anabolic steroids are the wrong way to go. “They can be dangerous,” says Dr. Frank Young, FDA Commissioner, “deadly dangerous.”

Anabolic steroids have been used by athletes, both male and female, to build muscle. They are also used by young men who just want to look better. But they are drugs that may only be sold by prescription. Their use–particularly in the large doses that some athletes may take–can stunt growth, lead to cancer, damage the liver, cause heart problems and sterility, change your personality, and lead to other complications. Steroids can cause enlarged breasts in boys. For girls, the side effects include developing masculine traits such as facial hair, baldness, and a deep voice. These may be irreversible.

The Urge to Tan

Then there’s the urge to get a quick “healthy” tan. Can you get one at a tanning salon? Tanning salons promise a safe tan without a burn, but is there such a thing as a safe tan? Most experts don’t think so. Tanning salons, they say, offer no health advantage, but do have health hazards.

Tanning booths use high-intensity light sources that send out ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation. This is supposed to be less dangerous than the shorter-wavelength ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation. But UVA is far from safe, say the skin doctors. It penetrates into the skin more deeply, causing premature aging. It may damage blood vessels. It also sensitizes the skin so that sunlight will be more likely to cause skin cancers–including the most serious form, malignant melanoma. Fair-skinned people are at the greatest risk for skin damage.

UVA rays affect the eyes by increasing the risks of cataracts and retinal damage. Protective goggles should be worn, but many who use the salons worry about a so-called “panda” effect (white circles around the eyes where the skin doesn’t tan), so they don’t use them all the time.

Tanning pills are not safe either. Advertisements claim the pills produce a rich, golden-bronze, natural-looking tan that makes one look healthy, energetic, and attractive all year. But the pills actually produce a distinct orange tinge on the skin. Also, says the FDA, the pills may leave fatty deposits in the blood, liver, and skin, and on the eye’s retina, where they may interfere with night vision.

Less Than Skin Deep

Cosmetics ads can be misleading. The ads urge you to buy moisturizers to nourish your skin, slow the aging process, or reduce wrinkles. Can they? No, say the experts at the University of California’s School of Public Health. All they can do is help prevent dry skin. Despite advertising claims, these creams and lotions can’t penetrate or feed the deeper layers of the skin. And collagen creams are no better than other creams; you can’t absorb this proten through your skin.

Dermatologists say that rubbing on any food substance, nutrient, or other biochemical such as protein or vitamins offers nothing more than a temporary “feel good” benefit. There is no evidence that consuming protein boosters or taking vitamin and mineral supplements will improve your nails or hair. In the absence of an actual vitamin deficiency, there’s no proof that taking extra vitamins is beneficial to the skin.

Some cosmetic creams contain the hormone estrogen, which can penetrate the skin to produce feminizing effects. The FDA says that while the levels of hormones used in cosmetics sold over the counter are inadequate to make skin younger looking, as is sometimes claimed, the amounts can be enough to produce unwanted side effects.

Hair removal claims are often questionable. The only effective way to remove unwanted hair permanently is with electrolysis–a process by which hair roots are destroyed with an electrified needle. Electrolysis should be performed only by a physician or professional electrologist, according to the American Medical Association.

Effective means of temporarily removing hair include shaving, tweezing, waxing, and using cream or lotion depilatories. But the FDA cautions that there is no risk-free method of removing hair. Waxing, for example, can be painful, and creams can cause rashes and swelling.

Who Is Susceptible?

We all believe that it is only the other guy who is taken in by health frauds. But quacks are clever and you have to be on your guard. It is ignorance and lack of knowledge of health matters that allow health fraud and quackery to thrive.

Educate yourself in health matters. The more you know about good health principles and good nutrition, the less likely you are to fall for health frauds. Don’t accept health and medical claims for products or therapies at face value. Check with your doctor, pharmacist, or other health professional.

It is human nature to believe that ads in print and on the air are essentially accurate because, if their claims were not true, we tell ourselves, they couldn’t say it. The fact is, misleading claims about health and nutrition are difficult to regulate.

What Can Be Done?

Federal and state agencies are limited in what they can do about fraudulent practices because they may not violate constitutional rights of free speech and a free press. The freedom to give information, whether supported scientifically or not, is guaranteed the same protection under the First Amendment as any other information.

The Federal Drug Administration is one of the main federal agencies on the lookout for health frauds. The FDA has jurisdiction over product labels; it’s against the law to make a false claim on a label, or to market a product without adequate directions for use, or to market a drug product or medical device without FDA approval.

But there’s no law against making false or exaggerated claims on a talk show or in a book. Hundreds of “health” books–especially on diets–contain therapeutic claims that would be illegal on product labels.

Mail Fraud

Be particularly careful in making purchases of health and medical products through the mail. This is a growing and largely unregulated area in which health fraud flourishes. An ongoing survey by Dr. Stephen Barrett, author of numerous books on health quackery, found mail-order health ads in virtually every popular magazine on the newsstands. Of 500 magazines, more than 100 ran health ads that could not possibly deliver on their claims, according to Dr. Barrett. There were diet ads, and ads for sauna belts, wrinkle removers, bust-developers, and waistline reducers, among countless others.

As harmless as any ad may seem to be, it is only taking up space in a particular magazine because the advertiser wants to make money. Yet the costliest price a person pays for quack products, experts say, is time. By buying a “miracle,” you may be delaying necessary treatment for a real problem. The control of your health is in your hands, not someone else’s pocketbook.

Posted in Your Health |
July 20th, 2014

Rappeling down a cliff, creating a science project, or dialing the number of that special someone you’ve wanted to call for weeks now may seem like very diverse experiences with nothing in common. But actually, these scenes all involve one decision: the decision to take a risk.

Some risk-taking has the potential for dangerous consequences. Consider aviators Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, who successfully flew nonstop around the world in 1987 in a feather-light aircraft without refueling, risking their lives.

Domino’s Pizza founder and Detroit Tigers owner Tom Monaghan, whose father died when he was 4 years old and who spent his childhood in foster homes and orphanages, became a multimillionaire in spite of the odds. He risked losing lots of other people’s money and the possibility of financial ruin instead of financial success.

While these risk-takers succeeded, others do not see such happy endings. How about that friend of a friend of your, who risked ignoring the speed limit and didn’t live to tell the story of how he skidded on the highway?

An “Epidemic”

rcuhtExperts agree that risk-taking behavior accounts for much of the high death rates of adolescents by violence, accidents, suicides, and homicides. But risk-taking isn’t an adolescents-only problem. Scientists at a conference on risk-taking behavior, sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health, concluded that “although some degree of fearlessness is admirable, the U.S. culture as a whole is in the midst of an ‘epidemic’ of violent and destructive risk-taking behavior.”

Risk-taking behavior may be partially explainable, say scientists, by a person’s biochemical predisposition. A psychologist in Newark, Delaware, devised a four-part sensation-seeking scale measuring this tendency. He found a strong neuro-psychological and biochemical correlation among people who score high on this scale.

Compared to the rest of the population, these thrill-seekers, also called Type T individuals, tend to have lower levels of monoamine oxidase, an enzyme that normally breaks down certain transmitters related to emotion and cognition. The psychologist concluded that there is a genetic correlation that helps explain sensation-seeking — a lack of certain biochemical regulatory controls.

A Form of Protest?

Other scientists are taking a strictly cognitive approach as they try to understand why people choose risky behavior when there are safe alternatives. In this way, risk-taking may represent a form of protest, as a means of asserting independence or even inflicting pain on their parents and other loved ones. A California psychiatrist claims that it may also arise from an actual desire to harm oneself as well, as a guilt-inflicting measure.

A third, and equally compelling, explanation for the upsurge in risk-taking behavior is in our culture’s contradictory views on risk-taking. Police and detective programs on television graphically illustrate drug use, violence, and sex as a way to get what a person wants. At the same time, society has high expectations for personal and public health as well as environmental safety.

Type T individuals have been called the great experimenters of life. They have a strong competitive edge, are inclined to be intelligent, self-confident, can handle stress, and tend to break the rules.

So what separates the “safe and successful” risk-takers from the “dangerous and destructive” ones? Experts point to risk-taking’s positive elements as lessons to be learned–elements such as courage, curiosity, creativity, and growth. The risk-taking spirit involves not being afraid of the possibility of failure and viewing it not as an end but as a beginning. And problems are seen as opportunities, researchers say.

Then, of course, thesre is old-fashioned planning and skill. Rutan’s trip around the world was not as much a risk for him as it may have been for you. Rutan had flown 325 combat missions during the Vietnam War and had designed his plane appropriately for the conditions. He and Yeager boarded the plane with a great deal of confidence.

But you don’t have to fly around the world to find out if you are a risk-taker. There is a risk-taking in your day-to-day life. Anytime you make a decision that isn’t based on fact alone, but uses your instinct, an inner knowledge of yourself, and an ability to see future outcomes, this is considered taking a risk. It is all in how you make the decision.

How You Decide

Take rappeling down a cliff. Let’s say that you have never done this before. You aren’t sure of what to bring or how to attach the rope to the cliff, and you’re thinking that you might want to do it alone. You are taking an uninformed, potentially very dangerous risk. By contrast, if you have never rappeled before, but you are going with an experienced person who will be bringing along the right tools and is intending to teach you how, you might consider taking this risk for the sense of accomplishment it would give you.

There are different, perhaps less dangerous, risks involved in the decision to enter something like a science contest. You could, for example, write a by-the-book report on how pollutants affect the ozone and hope for a B grade. Or, you could gather photos of a garbage dump in your area and use an overhead projector for slides of the atmosphere and some artists’ rendering of a future look at our environment. By doing this — taking the minor risk of developing a report that is our of the ordinary — you have increased the possibility of learning a little more and even getting a higher grade.

Or, let’s say that particular person you have noticed in your class has given you a small indication of interest. You could approach that person, introduce yourself, and ask him or her out for lunch or on a date. If you don’t think you could bear being rejected face-to-face, try the telephone.

Any level of risk you take, where it doesn’t involve a threat to your own or someone’s else’s physical being, may reap you great rewards. How about taking a small safe risk today?

Posted in Your Health |
July 10th, 2014

rrauI remember the exact moment I fell victim to road rage. It happened four years ago on, of all days, Christmas morning. I was driving on a freeway in Austin, TX. My two children, then 8 and 4, were in the backseat.

My driving record at that point was excellent. I had not had an accident since high school. My last speeding ticket was a dim memory. But that day, I was dangerously preoccupied. My mother had died of breast cancer just three months before. This was my first Christmas without her, and my grief was fresh. The kids and I were traveling to my aunt’s house in Houston. I remember hoping my aunt could give my children what I did not have the strength to: a merry Christmas.

Suddenly, a man driving a minivan cut in front of me and shot down the highway in a blue blur of speed. Before he was out of sight, I saw that his rear car,o area was filled with Christmas packages and that he was chatting happily with his wife. “How dare you do that to me!” I said to myself, before stomping the accelerator all the way to the floor.

“Mommy,” I heard Tyler, my 4-year-old. say from the backseat, “what are you doing””

I did not know. Emotion, not reason, was driving my car. All I knew was that I did not want the man in the blue van to get away with that random act of rudeness. I may not have been able to control all the other stresses in my life, but I sure did not want to eat that man’s dust. I felt something I had been too numb to feel throughout my mother’s long illness: the cleansing rush of pure, unfettered anger. It was thrilling.

Traveling at 70 miles per hour, then 80, then 90-with my two children in the backseat-was, of course, a crazy, irresponsible thing to do. The fact that I did not know the man is what made the conflict not only possible but also deeply satisfying. We were two strangers hurling down the freeway in separate 3,000-pound tanks. It was easy to be at war.

The war ended when I saw the red lights of a highway patrol car flashing in my rearview mirror. As I pulled over, I saw the blue van fade victoriously into the horizon. All I got for Christmas was a $200 speeding ticket, and the realization that I needed to find some safe release for my anger.

AGGRESSION ON THE ROAD IS ON THE RISE, according to Ricardo Martinez, M.D., administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator (NHTSA). For years, NHTSA focused on a long list of dangerous drivers-the drunk, the unbelted, the speeding. Now Dr. Martinez and others are focusing on the new and growing problem of road rage.

Roadway Rambos put themselves and others at risk. They are guilty of a wide variety of driving offenses: running stop signs and red lights, speeding, tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic, honking, flashing their high beams, passing on the right, cutting other cars off, yelling and making hostile hand gestures, and, in general, treating other drivers like the enemy.

More men are involved in fatal crashes than women. In 1995, for instance, 37,500 men were involved in accidents, compared to 13,000 women. However, Barbara Crystal, spokesperson for the American Automobile Association (AAA), in Heathrow, FL, says there are signs that the gender gap is narrowing. A 1996 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows that women are just as likely to run red lights-one symptom of aggression-as men. “At least on the road, aggression is a learned behavior,” says Crystal. “More women are driving than ever before, and they are leaming to be just as aggressive as men.”

In a 1996 poll done by the Washington, DC, metro-area AAA, 42 percent of drivers rated aggressive drivers as the biggest threat on the road; drunk drivers came in second at 35 percent. There’s good reason for fear. During the first quarter of 1995, traffic fatalities in Maryland increased by more than 33 percent from the same period a year ago. State police concluded the deaths were triggered by ordinary incidents of aggression and recklessness. “Aggressive drivers operate with a total disregard for the safety of others,” says Captain Greg Shipley of the Maryland State Police.

METRO POLICE OFFICER WENDY STEWART, 38, patrols Interstate 10, one of Houston’s most congested roadways. Her job puts her face-to-face with foultempered drivers.

“There go a couple of jerks,” says Stewart, behind the wheel of her patrol car, pointing out two drivers darting in and out of traffic, each one determined not to allow the other to get ahead.

Stewart watches the man driving the small, black Toyota truck that has just swerved across three lanes and a half dozen other cars in order to catch up with the driver of a larger, red pickup who cut him off about 500 yards back. Racing ahead, he pulls up parallel with the driver of the red pickup. Raising one fist in the air and then slamming it on the dashboard, he shouts obscenities.

“Same old story,” fumes Stewart. “Dueling testosterone.”

She hits the lights on her patrol car. The siren screams. Re driver of the red pickup speeds out of sight, but the 29-year-old at the wheel of the Toyota sheepishly slows down and pulls over.

“That truck kept cutting me off!” he blurts, handing Stewart his license and registration. “He just wanted to get. ahead of me.”

“I guess you sure the heck showed him, didn’t you?” says Stewart, her voice growling with sarcasm as she writes him a ticket for making an unsafe lane change, which carries a $150 fine.

Stewart has a no-nonsense, no-excuses policy. She has seen what happens when drivers like this one take their anger out behind the wheel.” I have seen dead kids pulled out of cars,” says the mother of three boys, quietly. “I have seen people maimed for life. I have seen cars flipped like pancakes and people crushed inside. All because jerks like this one lose their temper.”

Aggressive driving is what caused the deaths last April 17 of three people in a harrowing crash on the George Washington Memorial Parkway outside Washington, DC. During that morning’s rush hour, Billy Canipe, Jr., 26, who was driving a Chevrolet Beretta on his way to work at his construction job on Capitol Hill, became enraged at another driver, Narkey Keval Terry, also 26, a computer technician in a red jeep. Canipe cut off Terry’s jeep in traffic. The two drivers chased each other for more than eight miles at 80 miles an hour, and finally hurtled over the median into oncoming traffic. Terry survived, but Canipe was killed — and so were two other drivers who had been on their way to work: Nancy McBrien, 41, a wife and mother of three children, and George Smyth, Jr., 49, married with two grown children.

Canipe, it turned out, had received 15 traffic violations over eight years; at the time of the accident, his license was suspended. Terry was convicted of two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of reckless driving. He was sentenced to ten and a half years in prison, more than twice what federal guidelines call for. The judge, Leonie M. Brinkema, said she intended the unusually stiff sentence to be a deterrent to others not to use roadways to vent anger.

Last November, in another rush-hour duel, two drivers, gesturing angrily after one cut the other off, raced along Virginia’s Interstate 95. Their cars collided. Thirty-seven-year-old Robert Finck’s Ford Explorer flipped over several times, injuring his wife and critically injuring his 3-year-old daughter, who were in the car with him. Both drivers were charged with reckless driving; they face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The girl’s neck was broken in three places; she is now in a long-term rehabilitation center.

A particularly deadly combination is an enraged driver with a gun. Last August in Wabash, IN, a 40-year-old man driving a truck that was hauling his boat became incensed when a motorcycle driver crashed into the boat. The truck driver pulled out a gun and shot to death the motorcyclist and two passersby. The trucker was charged with three counts of murder and had yet to be tried at press time. A few weeks later in Houston, another male driver, 41, was charged with murder after shooting an 18-year-old woman whom he had struck from behind in a minor car accident. He was sentenced to life in prison.

rrtWHAT CAN EXPLAIN SUCH BEHAVIOR? One factor is too many people crowded onto too few miles of roadway. The number of vehicle miles driven each year is up 35 percent from ten years ago. But miles of roads increased only 1 percent, according to NHTSA.

Crystal believes the stress of having too much to do in too little time is what accounts for the rise in women’s aggression behind the wheel. Women have a tendency to drive in “trip chains,” which means they go to a number of destinations in a short period of time. Wending her way from the supermarket to pick up her children at day care and then to drop them off at sports activities can be frustrating, especially on a tight schedule. “This feeling that we are all racing against time is what causes aggression and accidents. If you have more places to go in less time, it’s naturally going to raise stress levels,” Crystal says.

Louis Mizell, president of Mizell and Company International Security, has recorded an average of 1,500 incidents per year in which someone is killed or seriously injured due to relatively minor disputes. His data, part of a long-term study conducted from 1990 to 1996 for the AAA, also puts the blame on the emotional states of drivers. “Normally we find these drivers just have had a bad day, climb into the car, and take it out on someone else,” he says. Accidents are triggered because the agressive driver has lost his job, is going through a divorce, or simply can’t find a convenient parking place.

“What’s clear from the data is we can’t underestimate the rage and the general rudeness out there,” says Mizell. “People now feel free to get into other people’s faces in a way that they didn’t twenty years ago. There is a tendency to let it all hang out everywhere: at the office, at home, in schools, and, not surprisingly. on the highway. Anyone who lifts their middle finger at another driver in today’s society is playing with fire.”

It may be easier to do this in a car than anywhere else. Having access to the speed and size of a car may make people feel more powerful than they do when they are simply fuming on a long line at the dry cleaner. What’s more, “a car is a highly territorialized space,” says Raymond Novaco, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of California, Irvine, who has studied anger and aggression extensively. “We think of cars as extensions of the personality. And threats to that sense of self are responded to antagonistically.”

ALL OVER THE COUNTRY NEW PROGRAMS are being started to combat aggression. Maryland’s Operation Aggressive Driver was started in 1995. Anyone who has a cellular telephone and sees an incident of aggression on the road can dial #77 and report the driver’s license plate, a description of the car, and its direction of travel to state police. The information is given to the nearest trooper, who locates the car and pulls it over. Troopers can then issue tickets or make arrests, based on their own observations of the driver. The service is well used. On a typical day, up to 283 people call in to report aggressive drivers. Efforts are paying off. Traffic fatalities in 1996 were 13 percent below what they were in 1995.

Others are turning to technology for solutions. Allan Williams, Ph.D., senior vice president of the insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Arlington, VA, is pressing for the increased use of automated cameras to enforce traffic laws. The cameras are set up on highways in some urban areas now; they photograph the license plates of drivers who either speed or run red lights. Tickets are sent in the mail, which, Williams argues, makes more sense because it does away with the added danger of high-speed police chases on already crowded freeways.

IT’S NEAR THE 5:00 P.M. RUSH hour in-houston. Officer Stewart receives a call over the radio about a two-car accident. Within a matter of minutes, she is at the scene of the wreck. Two fire trucks and several ambulances are blocking eight lanes of piledup traffic, a familiar sight on America’s freeways. A 23-year-old woman, Maria Fuentes, and her two children are on stretchers in the middle of the highway. One of the children, a boy who looks to be about 8 years old, is screaming; his leg is broken. His mother lays helplessly nearby.

The scene does little to cool the tempers of the backed-up drivers. One of them rolls down his window and screams, “Get this out of the way! I’m in a hurry.”

Stewart says nothing, but shakes her head. Soon she learns what caused the accident. Another car cut in front of the young mother’s car. She slammed on her brakes, lost control and crashed into a wall; her car burst into flames. Fuentes managed to wrestle herself and one child free from the blaze. An undercover police officer, who happened to be driving behind her, pulled the other child to safety.

“They were lucky,” says Stewart, soothing the hair of one of the injured children. “Naturally, the guy who caused all this is long gone.” Standing in the middle of the freeway, surrounded by the twisted steel of the wreck, Stewart suddenly looks a little defeated. “Most of this could be avoided,” she offers, “if everyone just made up their minds to do everything a little bit slower and realized how deadly anger on the road can be.”

Posted in Your Health |
June 10th, 2014

ffhdWhen Ginny Judson met Dick Thornburgh at the 1963 wedding of a college classmate in Pittsburgh, she knew instantly he was the one for her. “I found out he was a man of full disclosure,” she says. “On our second date – before he’d even kissed me – he took me to his house and showed me his three little boys asleep in their beds.”

Their mother (also named Ginny) had been killed in a car accident three years earlier when the children were 3, 2, and 4 months old. Peter, the baby, had sustained a serious brain injury in the crash.

Ginny and Dick were married just six months after they met. At the time, he was a 31 -year-old lawyer starting a career that would lead to such top-echelon posts as governor of Pennsylvania, U.S. attorney general, and undersecretary general of the United Nations. “One of his most attractive qualities was that he was a wonderful father,” Ginny says now. “He even asked if our wedding could be postponed a week so he could be with his son David on his fifth birthday.”

Ginny gave up her job as a grade-school teacher to become the boys’ second mother (she hates the word stepmother) but got more than she’d bargained for: “I was a naive twenty-three-year-old; I cried a lot during those first few months because I felt so inadequate. Peter was almost four and couldn’t walk or talk – a large section of his skull had been removed to prevent additional pressure on his brain. The other boys needed me too. I told Dick that I enjoyed our little boys but didn’t know if I loved them. He told me not to worry, that the feeling would grow in me.”

It did. “One night I woke up and heard Peter trying to say the word Mom,” she remembers. “There was no doubt then in my mind that I loved him and his brothers.” In 1966, the boys got another sibling, when Ginny gave birth to son Bill.

The crusade that would become her life’s work began the day she transferred Peter, then 8, to a special-education class at a public school in Pittsburgh. The room was in a dark, sooty basement where water was seeping through the walls. She stormed up the stairs and confronted the principal. He just looked at her. “These kids don’t care,” he said. “Of course they do,” she replied angrily.

She joined the local chapter of the Association for Retarded Citizens and became its president. After Dick was elected governor, she visited institutions, hospitals, and schools for people with disabilities to ensure that problems were brought to the attention of state officials. Later, she was appointed to the President’s Committee on Mental Retardation.

In 1989, Alan Reich, president of the National Organization on Disability in Washington, DC, asked her to start a program that would help religious congregations to be more welcoming to people with disabilities. A philosophy and religion major in college, with a strong Presbyterian upbringing, Ginny jumped at the chance.

“It’s not enough to build a ramp,” she says with some force. “Negative attitudes are the worst barriers of all. Many people with disabilities are ignored, isolated, or rejected, yet they have gifts to bring to their churches and synagogues. Spiritual access is every bit as important as access to health care, education, and jobs.”

As director of the Religion and Disability Program, Ginny travels the country – sometimes in the company of Reich, who uses a wheelchair – bringing her message to people of all faiths. She doesn’t think small: At Ginny’s request, Pope John Paul II convened an international conference on disabilities at the Vatican in 1992. She’s also written or edited three practical guidebooks. (“Don’t say ‘the disabled,’ ‘the blind,’ ‘the deaf,”‘ she insists. “Put the person first: ‘a child with a disability,’ ‘a man with a hearing impairment.'”)

In the living room of their sunny Washington apartment, the Thornburghs have a photograph of President Bush signing the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, which Dick helped frame as attorney general and Ginny energetically lobbied for. Dick is unabashed in praising his wife’s work: “Ginny truly loves people, down to the least of us,” he says. “There isn’t a person I can imagine her not being able to connect with. It’s a gift.”

Their four sons are grown now, and they have two daughters-in-law and six grandchildren, all in Pennsylvania. “Nobody has finer sons than we do,” Ginny declares. But she is proudest, perhaps, of Peter, who had to fight the hardest to get where he is. Today, Peter lives in a supervised apartment in Harrisburg and works in the warehouse of a food bank.

“There’s a quality of peace and acceptance about him that we all respect,” says Ginny. “Peter is really the glue that holds this family together.”

Posted in Your Health |