Vol. 61 February 15, 2011 Nothing But Good News

February 15, 2012


Several readers have remarked on the “downers” in some of my most recent posts, from child abuse to good things that weren’t so good to hazards of negotiating emergency rooms, so here is a post of mostly good news.


If you are a Massachusetts resident over 50 years of age, watched the Super Bowl game, and did NOT have a heart attack then that is good news for you, so far.

A study in Los Angeles revealed that cardiovascular deaths in men increased by 15% and in women by 27% on the day of, and up to 14 days after, the Los Angeles Rams lost the 1980 Super Bowl. The death rates were even higher in those over 65 years. The Rams’ 1984 win dropped the death rate by 1%.

There has been a steady decline in cardiovascular deaths in the U.S. from 1950 to present from approximately 450 deaths per 100,000 annually to 100 deaths per 100,000.

This decline in deaths is associated with clear scientific advancements in identifying coronary risk factors, use of diagnostic imaging, building of coronary care units, new pharmaceutical agents, open heart surgery, and interventional cardiology. Next to come will be pharmocogenomics, molecular targeting, stem cell biology, regenerative medicine, and other new terms of“precision medicine”. (1)

Your politics may be a result of your birth order, your emotions, or even your DNA, so tell your friends and colleagues to stop trying to change yours.

An older sister can make a younger sibling more liberal, whereas (how is that for sneaking in a lawyer-type word) an older brother can make a younger sibling more conservative. (2) By measuring the time people spent looking at and reacting to  “disagreeable” and “agreeable” pictures University of Nevada scientists were able to distinguish liberals from conservatives and vice versa. “Conservatives are easily appalled;liberals are easily enchanted.” (3) DNA Samples from 60 Wall Street traders revealed that the most veteran traders (presumably the most successful) had genes associated with moderate levels of dopamine activity in the brain; a sign  associated with moderate, balanced risk-taking disposition. Veteran traders were also less likely to trade in volatile markets. (Have you asked your broker about his or her DNA?) (4)

Medicare takes a step toward becoming more like Visa!

Medicare is implementing soft-ware screening technology to spot patterns of potential abuse and fraud PRIOR to a claim being paid. (I remember using my Visa card to buy fuel for my boat in two different states in two days, and Capital One called me the next day to see if the second purchase was really made by me.) Up until this time Medicare would “pay” the claim and then “chase” the suspicious ones. “The largest Medicare frauds are designed at the highest level of companies, with accountants, billing experts and salespeople smoothing over the paperwork so that it will slide past all the proctors.” Don Berwick, Medicare Administrator at the time, said “We’re getting ahead of the game here.” (5)

Gun control works.(6)

The states that have strong gun control laws and low gun ownership have the lowest gun death rates.

Hawaii 9.7% gun ownership – 3.18 gun deaths per 100,000
Massachusetts 12.8% ownership- 3.42 deaths per 100,000
Rhode Island 13.3% ownership – 4.18 deaths per 100,000

The three highest?

Alaska 60.6% gun ownership – 20.64 deaths per 100,000
Mississippi 54.3% ownership – 18.47 deahts per 100,000
Louisiana 45.6%  ownership – 19.32 deaths per 100,000

Most kids who are allergic to milk can eat muffins and pizza without symptoms.

75% of milk-allergic kids in one study could tolerate milk as a baked product. In fact those children who routinely ate baked milk products were significantly more likely to become tolerant of uncooked milk than those who avoided all forms of milk, including baked milk products. Unfortunately, baking peanuts, nuts, and seafood does not modify their allergic properties. (7)

The FDA now requires more nearly honest labeling of sunscreen products.(8)

Sunscreen above UVB 15 SPF can protect against skin cancer and reduce photoaging. Sunscreen below UVB 15 SPF can NOT, but both can be labeled “broad spectrum”. The term “water-resistant” has to be linked with a statement that it’s duration is either “40 minutes” or “80 minutes.” Sunscreen sprays have not been studied and may NOT provide the same protection.  Keep reading the fine print and adopt the Australian slogan, “slip-slop-slap”; slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, and slap on a hat.

Children raised in bilingual homes may have mixed syntax and vocabulary in both languages up until age 2, but then they learn multi-tasking and different ways of solving problems earlier than monolingual children, besides being proficient in two languages.

Newborn infants born to bilingual mothers can differentiate between the rhythms and sounds of the two languages, presumably a prenatal effect. At 4 months infants of bilingual mothers could distinguish between the two languages spoken by the mother on a SILENT videotape of the mother, presumably by watching movements of the face and mouth. (9)

Mothers can take the credit for the good math scores of their sons.

While the origin of gender differences of all sorts is a constant cause of discussion and research, one study revealed that mothers, particularly middle-class white mothers, referred to numbers more than twice as much when interacting with their pre-school sons than in talking to their daughters. (10)

1.  NEJM 366;1 Jan 5, 2012 200th Anniversary Article
2.  Br Jour of Pol Sci, Urbatsch, R., 2011
3. Bos Globe Feb. 5, 2012, Kevin Lewis
4. “A Combination of Dopamine Genes Predict Success by Professional Wall Street Traders”, Sapra, PLoS ONE, Jan. 2012
5. Cape Cod Times June 18, 2011
6. Violence Policy Center, CDC Reports, Oct. 2011
7. J Allergy Clin Immun 2011 July
8. FDA press release , Jun 14, 2011
9. NY Times Oct. 10, 2011 Klass, P.
10. Jour Lang and Soc Psych Dec 2010, Chang, A.

Vol. 48 July 15, 2011 Worry Globally, Act Locally.

July 15, 2011

“What, me worry? ”          –  Alfred E. Neuman 1959

Yesterday I did something about all the worries I have.

What worries?

1.Debt to China – Our stock market had an up-tick today because the China economy improved more than expected this past quarter.
2.Debt ceiling – My children and grandchildren are already in hock up to their eyeballs, and their grandfather doesn’t want his Medicare benefits cut.
3.Medicare fraud – CMS has hired only 41 of 649 needed analysts needed to implement their new anti-fraud computer programs that cost $130 million plus. Why can’t Medicare be like Visa or Capital One. Capital One just announced a 50% increase in their profit this quarter, so I don’t worry about them.
4.Netflix just raised their prices by 60%!
5.My next colonoscopy?  When? Two years, five years, when the gastroenterologist sends me a reminder letter, or never? At least I don’t have to worry about when to get a mammogram!
6.I am over one PSA screening age threshold according to some studies, so I don’t worry about that anymore, … though my internist thinks differently. Maybe I should worry about which study of PSA screening is right for my prostate.
7.Bears! No, no that is Steven Colbert’s worry, not mine.
8.Why does autism seem to be increasing despite our country’s declining immunization rate? They must NOT be related.
9.How come I can’t find the time to do all the things I want to now that I am retired? How did I miss writing my blog for July 1? Did anybody notice? I worry that it may be related to the decreasing energy of increasing age.
10.Global “weirding”, previously known as global warming, now includes droughts, floods, unexpected tornadoes, and severe winters or melting ice depending on your geography and it all makes me worry about my environment.

 This is the worry I did something about.

Yesterday I collected five water samples from Buzzards Bay. I keep my boat on Buzzards Bay.

Samples from the bay have been collected for the past twenty years by over 700 volunteers from the Buzzards Bay Coalition. The samples reveal increasing amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous and other compounds that are earmarks of “pollution”. I felt that volunteering would be a concrete way to contribute to pollution solutions, other than “dilution”.

The sampling was more complex than I thought,and it took the better part of a day. It was 90 degrees with a honking wind out on the bay. There are other steps I take to combat the deterioration of our environmental, but I felt particularly good about this concrete contribution to a local effort. Attending a public hearing about the pros and cons of wind turbines would not have been nearly as satisfying.

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