The bright side of black death

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

It’s easy to think that nothing good could come from a disease that killed millions of people. But Dr. Pat Shipman, an anthropologist at Pennsylvania State University, disputed that notion in his recent article in “American Scientist,” where he suggested the Black Death that ravaged Europe in the Middle Ages may have resulted in some positive effects on the human population. Considering that we are in the midst another significant plague (the Ebola virus in West Africa), we could certainly use more information about the role of pandemics on human populations.

The Black Death or Bubonic plague started in the mid-1300s and was caused by a bacterium called Yersinia pestis, which typically enters the body through the bite of a flea. Once inside, the bacterium concentrates in our lymph glands, which swell as the bacteria grow and overwhelm the immune system, and the swollen glands, called buboes, turn black. The bacteria can make their way to the lungs and are then expelled by coughing, which infects others who breathe in the bacteria. The rapid spread of the infection and high mortality rates wiped out entire villages, causing not only death from disease but starvation as crops were not planted or harvested. It killed somewhere between 100 million to 200 million people in Europe alone, which was one-third to one-half of the entire continent’s population at the time. The plague originated in the Far East and spread due to improved trade routes between these two parts of the world. Continue reading

More information about acupressure and its effects

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

After last week’s column about tapping on your acupressure points to bring energy and balance to sports and other performance, I received an unusually large number of enthusiastic comments. So, I thought I’d follow up with a more general coverage of acupressure.

I also wanted to offer a clarification that some of my readers brought to my attention this week. Tapping is done bilaterally over the paired meridians on the face and body points except when the point is in the midline, above and below mouth, and on the sternum. The index and middle finger are used to tap firmly a half dozen times or more over each point. The diagram last week showed only one point per side on the face so I have brought a revised one this week, and also one of the hand points. Tapping can be done on either or both hand points less obtrusively. Again, if tapping isn’t your thing, you can apply pressure over the points while taking a deep breath or two for the same benefits. For those of you that missed the article, you can look back on the GDN website or get a detailed overview by getting a copy of Coach Greg Warburton’s easy to read paperback, Winning System from Amazon. Continue reading

Chocolate’s flavonols good for the mind

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Peanuts creator Charles Schulz once said, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” New research shows he might be right. In one study, certain compounds in cocoa called flavonols reversed age-related memory problems.

Flavonols, found in a variety of plants, are potent antioxidants that help cells in the body deal with free radicals. Free radicals arise from normal cellular processes, as well as from exposure to environmental contaminants, especially cigarette smoke. Unless your body gets rid of free radicals, they can damage proteins, lipids and even your genetic information. You can get flavonols from tea, red wine, berries, cocoa and chocolate. Flavonols are what give cocoa that strong, bitter and pungent taste. Continue reading

Tapping into your inner energy

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Some years ago, I was introduced to the Emotional Freedom Technique. At the time, it seemed a little strange to me so I put it aside. Lately though, my interest has been reawakened through a new approach to using it for sports psychology.

EFT is a simple method of helping us notice our disturbed feelings, problems with performance, anxieties, negative expectations, and so on. It is a tool for releasing and replacing them through a process of physical and mental exercises. Once they are cleared, we can be free to affirm a new, positive experience. Such a process can be used not only for improving performance in sports, but in any endeavor such as school, work, public speaking, before a business presentation, or anytime the stakes are high and your confidence is shaky. It is essential to be truthful with ourselves about the nature of our feelings, to breathe deeply during the process, and to carefully monitor our inner self-talk, avoiding negative, distorted, or unhelpful verbiage. Continue reading

Declining sense of smell a signal of death

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

This may be a Debbie Downer question, but can you guess what condition is most indicative of a person’s imminent demise? It turns out that the strongest predictor of impending death is not cancer, stroke, heart attack, diabetes or emphysema, but a person’s declining sense of smell.

Scientists at the University of Chicago have revealed that the loss of the sense of smell, officially called olfactory dysfunction, is a significant forecaster of death in older Americans. In this study, 3,005 people aged 57-85 were asked to identify five common scents: peppermint, fish, rose, leather and orange. Five years later, the health of the same people was evaluated.

As this was an older population, some of the subjects died before the study contacted them again. The surprise was that almost 40 percent of those who died had failed the scent test, identifying only one or none correctly. Anosmia is the technical term for complete loss of the ability to smell, while hyponosmia is the significant (but not total) loss of smell. The mortality rate for those with anosmia was four times higher than for those with normal smell. Those who were hyponosmic had an intermediate mortality compared to normal individuals. So being either anosmic or hyponosmic is associated with an increase in a person’s mortality. And because of the limited length of this study and the relatively small group examined, the effect on mortality is probably underestimated. Continue reading

LOL-Laughing Out Loud

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

“Laughing is the shortest distance between two people.” Victor Borge, actor. Have you noticed how a heartfelt laugh can fill a room like liquid sunshine. A friend of mine is instantly recognized in a room by his loud and infectious laugh. Everyone can quickly tell when he is at the gym or other social setting by the sound of his cheerful laugh. Like the recently deceased Tom Magliozzi of Car Talk fame whose signature laugh on the radio show made even the most tense people smile, my buddy’s easy and natural outbursts of laughing out loud just bring joy to those around him. My little granddaughter Serenity, now nearly seven, can be sitting quietly with us in a room and for no apparent reason, burst into giggles and then uproarious laughter. No matter how bad we might feel at that moment, it is like a switch is turned on by the sound of laughter to bring warmth and pleasure into our lives.

Other kinds of outbursts may have the opposite effect. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have shown that anger can kill. For those at higher risk of heart disease in particular, bursts of anger can bring on a heart attack or stroke. Continue reading

All pain relievers are not equal

Dr. Sally Robinson

Dr. Sally Robinson

Keeping Kids Healthy

Your child has a fever, cough and headache. You reach in the medicine cabinet and find several bottles of pills and liquid medicine. Brand names vary, but the generic names include ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen and aspirin. How do you know what is right for your child’s discomfort? Is there any difference?

The answer depends on your child’s age, weight and symptoms. If you are not sure which medicine to give your child, check with your pediatrician or heath care provider according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Two main kinds of pain relievers are available for most children without prescription: acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). There are many brands of these two pain relievers/fever reducers. Most can be found in the children’s section of your drugstore. Adult pain relievers and fever reducers contain higher amounts of medicine and should be used only for the ages listed on the package. Continue reading

Pain more than simply a physical reaction

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Writer CS Lewis once said, “when pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.”

In his same book, “The Problem of Pain,” Lewis further noted, “Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”

Pain is much more than a physical event, the irritation of a nerve ending due to injury. A core phenomenological triad of experience of pain includes the intervention, the condition, and the patient and their motivation. Of course, one would think all of those suffering from pain would be highly motivated to be free of this burden; but it is not always so clear or easy as emotional, spiritual, and psychological factors often play hidden, powerful roles. Continue reading

Smoking in the home can cause long-term medical problems

Dr. Sally Robinson

Dr. Sally Robinson

If you read these articles, in all likelihood you are the parent of young children. So we have a couple of questions to ask you that often remain unasked in polite society. Is there a smoker in your home? Do you smoke?

If so, according to an article in “Contemporary Pediatrics,” by Dr. Dana Best of George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and Dr. Sophie Balk of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the smoke that wafts around the house is sufficiently toxic to be causing your children very serious and long-term medical problems, such as lifelong reduction in lung function, increased ear, throat and breathing infections, asthma, and more dangerous periods under anesthesia should your children require surgery.
The smoker really has to stop. If it is you, then you know that you really have to stop — for the welfare of your family, of your children.

Consider this: Continue reading

The secret behind the appropriately offered hug

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

A longtime motto of the American Holistic Medical Association is “Hugs Heal.” Sounds kind of corny right?

Well, this group of unabashed huggers has discovered that nothing makes a connection better and faster with a hurting person than an appropriately offered hug. By the way, hug “heart to heart” by putting your head over the left rather than right shoulder. The electricity of the heart to heart makes for a different kind of warmth in a hug.

A study of foundling babies in Great Britain during the early 1900s showed an amazing tale of the importance of touch. Orphaned babies left in a crib with adequate food and diaper changes rarely survived. However, in one story, an old nurse used to cuddle, rock, and hold the babies in her charge. They gained more weight, were brighter, and more socially interactive than those left alone. Important brain connections do not form in the absence of touch. Continue reading