Wednesday, November 27

Health Care and Thanksgiving 2013

 
This week marks a time when Americans celebrate a uniquely American holiday—Thanksgiving. No other nation marks this time, and as Americans have become accustomed to having a day set aside as a national time of refreshment and rest, the meaning of the season has often been lost on football (also uniquely American), tons of food—turkey ad nauseum--and the beginning of the holiday shopping season.
Even this year, stores cannot wait til “Black Friday,” so called because the day after Thanksgiving on Thursday is the busiest retail shopping day of the year that brings billions of dollars to stores. In 2012, that was a $59 billion dollar day. This year, shopping starts after dinner on Thursday. Has the nation lost its mooring to the original intent of this time?
In 1789, George Washington, a freshly minted first President and Father of a new nation, proclaimed a time to be set aside for all Americans to honor God in a time to give thanks for the blessings bestowed on a country that was brand new, and that had just come through almost a decade of war with its former parent nation, Great Britain. Still searching for a new identity as the United States of America, the population of three million new citizens were looking for a cohesive way to make it in the world.

According to The Heritage Organization, following a resolution of Congress, President George Washington proclaimed Thursday the 26th of November 1789 a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer” devoted to “the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.” Reflecting American religious practice, Presidents and Congresses from the beginning of the republic have from time to time designated days of fasting and thanksgiving (the Thanksgiving holiday we continue to celebrate in November was established by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and made into law by Congress in 1941).

In setting aside a day for Thanksgiving, Washington established a non-sectarian tone for these devotions and stressed political, moral, and intellectual blessings that make self-government possible, in addition to personal and national repentance. Although the First Amendment prevents Congress from establishing a religion or prohibiting its free exercise, Presidents, as well as Congress, have always recognized the American regard for sacred practices and beliefs.
Thus, throughout American history, Presidents have offered non-sectarian prayers for the victory of the military and in the wake of catastrophes. Transcending passionate quarrels over the proper role of religion in politics, the Thanksgiving Proclamation reminds us how natural their relationship has been. While church and state are separate, religion and politics, in their American refinement, prop each other up. Here is the proclamation:

“By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other trangressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington”

As you go about your annual celebration of this season, and gather with family and friends, remember to eat and drink in moderation. Stay away from harmful activities, and share the blessings of the holiday with others not so fortunate as you. Here are a few thoughts: instead of gorging on several plates of turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie until you pass out, volunteer on Thanksgiving Day at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen to feed the down and out. Donate food to a charitable organization to help those who are unable to buy food. Go to your local church or synagogue for services, and ask God to provide safety and protection to the first responders—firemen, police, and our military—as they serve to keep the nation safe.

Give thanks for both the tangible and intangible rewards you enjoy each day. Teach your children and grandchildren the true meaning of Thanksgiving and why it is such an important occasion. Take time to reflect on your blessings, and why you are thankful. Give thanks to God for what He has provided no matter how much or how little you have. Don’t take it for granted. After all, you could be living in a country that is totally clueless about this time of year. What a shame that they miss all the blessings of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Until next time.

 
 
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Friday, November 22

Health Care and JFK

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, in downtown Dallas, Texas. A huge shock to the nation, it singlehandedly affected the entire population at once and forever changed the image of news coverage in the US as well as the leading cause of the end of the “Age of Innocence” in America. Also, the tragic loss of JFK was a harbinger of how vulnerable society was to violent acts and violence in general.

As an 8 year old living in southwestern Pennsylvania, I remember distinctly this day. Although it has been fifty years to the day, I still remember the announcement by our elementary school principal over the loud speaker in our room, and how the entire teaching staff and some students reacted to the news pronounced slowly and haltingly by a grown man not typically known to be emotional. Many of the female teachers screamed and ran into the hallway, crying out loud and shaking. Some of the students in my third grade class were upset because of their reaction to the news. And school was suddenly dismissed, interrupting our preparations for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

In those days, it was still safe to walk home from school. And as I entered the house when I got home, I noticed my mother who was not a big fan of the President, crying at the news being broadcast our black and white television set in the living room. Although she was not a political creature by nature, the shear unbelievable event was enough to cause her to be emotionally affected. We listened for the rest of that afternoon and into the evening, and we cried for the loss of life, and for the loss of certainty in our lives and as a country.
Although I really did not understand fully the implications of JFK’s assassination at the time, I did know what being murdered and dying was about. As a kid, I could not really comprehend why someone would want to kill the President. But as I grew older, and began to understand how the world works, I realized that evil is alive and seeks to destroy all good things.

Now, fifty years later as the news programs and documentaries have been broadcasting all week long about the history of that day, and as those who were close and personally involved in everything from the presidential limousine, to the arrest of Lee Oswald, to his murder by Jack Ruby, and the finality of little John John saluting a flag draped casket on its way to Arlington Cemetery, it is very apparent that memories sometimes are lucidly clear, and sometimes are given to modified revisions of actual events. The closer you were to that day, the more you remember.
I live in the Dallas area today, fifty years later. And I have been to the locations that have been re-broadcast in black and white footage, and even Dealey Plaza and the grassy knoll shown so clearly in the Zapruder film. That few seconds of film forever changed the way the American President now rides through traffic, under a very bullet proof, armored limousine—no more open cars, and no more lax secret service. 

Even the physician who operated on JFK that day at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, trying to save a life drained of brain, blood, and breath, changed the way treatment has been done on all trauma cases. And emergency services have improved dramatically since that day. Over the past five decades, health care has changed dramatically for anyone who has a life threatening event. And for those who need regular medical care, the improvements in medicine have advanced beyond comprehension to those who were watching life drain from the American President on November 22, 1963.
Has the American population changed in its overall social attitude toward Presidents? There have definitely been better and worse executives in the Oval Office since 1963, but the overarching message is that no matter who the occupant of the White House is, and no matter how much you may agree or disagree with his policies, the need to keep him safe and secure is tantamount to national security, and international stability.

No matter what side of the political aisle you stand, always remember one thing. The Office of the President deserves respect. You may disagree with his policies, but respect the Office. You may campaign against him, but respect the office. You may vote for another candidate, but honor the office. The Bible commands that you pray for all those in authority, no matter the office. Pray for wisdom, for following God’s will, and for safety and protection. And, no election results happen by accident. If you are in doubt, read these passages: Proverbs 21:1, and Daniel 2:21.
Fifty years—where has it gone? Over the years, sometimes time seems to crawl.  Looking back, however, the time has flown. The older you get, the faster it goes. Here’s to making every moment count!

Until next time.
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Tuesday, November 12

Health Care and Choking

Choking is the mechanical obstruction of the flow of air from the environment into the lungs. Choking prevents breathing, and can be partial or complete, with partial choking allowing some, although inadequate, flow of air into the lungs. Prolonged or complete choking results in asphyxia which leads to anoxia and is potentially fatal. Oxygen stored in the blood and lungs keep the victim alive for several minutes after breathing is stopped completely; but unless the choking issue has been resolved and life saving measures have been implemented in time, you could die.

According to the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide, a person who is choking will instinctively grab at the throat. The person also may panic, gasp for breath, turn blue, or be unconscious. If the person can cough or speak, he or she is getting air. Nothing should be done. If the person cannot cough or speak, begin the Heimlich maneuver immediately to dislodge the object blocking the windpipe.

The Heimlich maneuver creates an artificial cough by forcing the diaphragm up toward the lungs.  If you are choking and alone, you can perform the Heimlich maneuver on yourself by giving yourself abdominal thrusts. Or position yourself over the back of a chair or against a railing or counter and press forcefully enough into it so that the thrust dislodges the object. See more info on this topic at this site: http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/firstaid/choking.shtml.
Choking and suffocation is the third leading cause of home and community death in the United States, according to the National Safety Council. Foods are responsible for most choking incidents. But for children, objects such as small toys, coins, nuts or marbles can get caught in their throats. Choking can cause a simple coughing fit or something more serious like a complete block in the airway, which can lead to death. Although choking can occur in people of all ages, children under the age of three are particularly vulnerable. Older adults also have an increased risk of choking on food. More details can be found at their site: http://www.nsc.org/safety_home/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Pages/Choking.aspx.

To understand choking, you first have to understand what goes on at the back of your throat hundreds of times per day. All the food you eat and the air you breathe passes through your throat to get into your body. Food and liquid go down one pipe — the esophagus— to your stomach. Air goes down another pipe — the trachea or windpipe — to your lungs. These two pipes share an opening at the back of your throat, according to KidsHealth.org.
So if they share an opening, how does the food know which pipe to go down? Lucky for you, your body has it all under control. A little flap of cartilage called the epiglottis sits near your trachea, and every time you swallow, it springs into action. Acting like a little door, it closes off the entrance to your trachea so that food is sent down your esophagus into your stomach instead of into your lungs.

But every once in a while, especially if you are laughing while you are eating, the epiglottis doesn't close in time. A piece of food can slip down into the trachea. Most of the time, it's no big deal. Your body makes you cough and forces it back up. Here are four great ways to prevent choking:
·         Be extra careful when eating certain foods that are easy to choke on. They include things like: hot dogs, nuts, grapes, raw carrots, popcorn, and hard or gooey candy. Check food labels to make sure the food isn't the kind that can lead to choking.

·         Sit down, take small bites, and don't talk or laugh with your mouth full! And more than good manners are at stake. Following that advice will help prevent choking.

·         Look out for the little guys — and girls. Babies and toddlers love to put things in their mouths, so help keep them safe by picking up anything off the floor that might be dangerous to swallow — like deflated balloons, pen caps, coins, beads, and batteries. Keep toys with small parts out of reach.

·         Learn the Heimlich maneuver. It's usually taught as part of any basic first-aid course — the kind that might be held by the Red Cross, the YMCA, the American Heart Association, schools, or hospitals in your community. Who knows? You could be a lifesaver someday!
The body needs oxygen to stay alive. When oxygen can't reach the lungs and the brain, a person can become unconscious, sustain brain damage, and even die within minutes. That's what makes choking such a serious emergency. More info can be found at this website: http://kidshealth.org/kid/watch/er/choking.html#.

Choking can be prevented, according to HealthyChildren.org. Food accounts for over 50% of choking episodes. Be alert for small objects that can cause choking. Check under furniture and between cushions for small items that children could find and put in their mouths. Toys are designed to be used by children within a certain age range. Age guidelines take into account the safety of a toy based on any possible choking hazard. Don’t let young children play with toys designed for older children. Latex balloons are also a choking hazard. If a child bites a balloon and takes a breath, he could suck it into his airway. More details can be found here:http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/injuries-emergencies/pages/Choking-Prevention.aspx
If you encounter a conscious, choking individual that is coughing, encourage continued coughing. The Red Cross has a great overview of how to help someone who is choking: http://www.redcross.org/flash/brr/English-html/conscious-choking.asp.

If an adult is choking, you may, according to eMedicineHealth.com, observe the following behaviors:
  • Coughing or gagging
  • Hand signals and panic (sometimes pointing to the throat)
  • Sudden inability to talk
  • Clutching the throat: The natural response to choking is to grab the throat with one or both hands. This is the universal choking sign and a way of telling people around you that you are choking.
  • Wheezing
  • Passing out
  • Turning blue: Cyanosis, a blue coloring to the skin, can be seen earliest around the face, lips, and fingernail beds. You may see this, but other critical choking signs would appear first.
If an infant is choking, more attention must be paid to an infant's behavior. They cannot be taught the universal choking sign.
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weak cry, weak cough, or both
Choking is a true medical emergency that requires fast, appropriate action by anyone available. Emergency medical teams may not arrive in time to save a choking person's life.Much more detailed information about choking can be found at this site: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/choking/article_em.htm.

Choking can be dangerous, and should not be taken lightly by anyone. Children, senior citizens, and those with certain physical handicaps should always be on your watch list to keep safe from the dangers from choking. And, make sure you know how to call for help, and learn how to use the Heimlich manuever.
Until next time.
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Tuesday, November 5

Health Care and Baldness

Many people worry about losing their hair, especially if they are going through certain medical procedures or illnesses that can cause loss of the hair on their head. However, some baldness is caused by the body’s reaction to some drug therapies, and some is due to genetics. Also, aging has an effect on losing your hair. There are multiple reasons that cause baldness.

According to the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University, baldness, also known as alopecia, is hair loss, or absence of hair. Baldness is usually most noticeable on the scalp, but can occur anywhere on the body where hair grows. The condition is more common in men than in women. Hair loss is believed to be primarily caused by a combination of the following:

·         Aging
·         Change in hormones
·         Illness
·         Family history of baldness
·         Burns
·         Trauma
·         Untreated ringworm of the scalp
·         Deficiency in iron or protein intake
·         Excess vitamin A intake
·         Rapid weight loss
·         However, hair loss is not caused by the following:
·         Poor circulation to the scalp
·         Dandruff
·         Excessive hat-wearing

Generally, the earlier hair loss begins, the more severe the baldness will become. According to Time Magazine, turning hair growth on its head — by transplanting hair follicles upside down — may provide hope for receding hairlines. Growing hair to cure baldness has always been a question.
It’s one of the more vexing problems in medicine — about half of men and women over age 50 experience hair loss, from thinning of their scalp to male pattern baldness. Their options, however, are few. Medications can only slow the rate of loss, without generating lush new growth, while surgical strategies essentially move hair-growing cells from one part of the scalp to another, with varying success. The ideal solution would be one that prompts defective hair follicles to sprout new hair, or that allows transplanted follicles to have a greater chance of laying down roots. More info is at this site: http://healthland.time.com/2013/10/21/closer-to-a-cure-for-baldness/.  

A full head of hair is associated with strength, virility, youth, and power. Though men aren't encouraged to openly discuss their emotional reaction to hair loss, it's there. Frustration, depression, loss of self-esteem, social withdrawal, even suicide. It's not just about looks, although that's certainly a part of it; it's about a loss of control, the passage of time, mortality. "When men lose their hair, it can be devastating," says Spencer Kobren, founder and president of the American Hair Loss Association and founder of thebaldtruth.com.

Kobren says, "Most guys would do just about anything to keep from going bald. We'd rather regrow our hair than lose body fat. If you told a balding guy he could keep his hair if he were to run five miles a day and eat a specific diet, he'd absolutely do it. An overweight guy? Maybe. Hair is different." More information about male baldness can be found at this website: http://www.mensfitness.com/gear/fashion-and-trends/your-diabolical-follicles-treating-male-pattern-baldness. 

Conventional treatments focus on promoting hair growth or hiding hair loss. First priority should be to recognize and treat identifiable causes of hair loss, such as medications, infections, nutritional deficiencies, medical conditions or hormonal imbalances.

Certain drug treatments may help to slow or prevent the development of pattern baldness in men or women, according to Dr. Andrew Weil. Minoxidil (brand name: Rogaine), is available without a prescription and is used for pattern baldness and alopecia areata. It is directly applied as a liquid or foam to the scalp. New hair growth may be shorter and thinner than normal but sufficient enough to hide bald spots or blend with existing hair. It may take several weeks to notice an effect, and new hair growth slows down soon after you stop taking it.

Another drug, Finasteride (brand name: Propecia), is available by prescription only. It comes in pill form and is only indicated for men, as it poses a serious danger to women of child-bearing age - even skin contact can result in absorption of the drug and lead to birth defects in pregnant women. It works by stopping the conversion of testosterone into DHT.

Steroid injections are sometimes used as a suppressive treatment for patches of alopecia areata. Ointments and creams can also be used, but aren't as effective. Another topical treatment consists of using Anthralin ointment, a synthetic substance made from tar used to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis, that may stimulate hair growth in those with autoimmune hair loss. Surgical treatments involving hair transplantation or scalp reduction are often a last resort but may be effective in the right candidate, although they can be expensive. Much more information about baldness can be found at Dr. Weil’s website: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03030/Hair-Loss-Alopecia-Baldness.html.
It is important to know what is causing the hair loss and become educated about the available treatment options, according to the American Ostheopathic Association.  Hair loss is caused when the hair follicle gradually becomes smaller, which results in shorter and finer hair and eventually no hair. While genetics does play a role in male pattern hair loss, the gene can come from either parent, not just the mother. In addition, males who experience hair loss usually have a high presence of endocrine hormones.

Symptoms of male pattern baldness may begin appearing in men as young as 20 years old and can consist of thinning hair; a receding hairline, usually from the front toward the back over time; loss of hair around the crown of the head; or progression of hair loss in a typical “M”-shaped pattern. “Unfortunately, there is no cure for male pattern hair loss,” says Dr. Phillip Ginsberg. “But, there are treatments available that may help to slow down the process or even make new hair grow.”

Baldness is common in many people, male and female, but even though it may cause embarrassment, you can embrace various options to help slow the process in many cases. And, you an even decide to go all with complete baldness and exuding a strong physical presence, especially for males. Women are much less apt to go hairless, but can use wigs and other methods to hide bald spots. Baldness is something that almost everyone sooner or later may deal with as part of the aging process.
Until next time.

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