Saturday, March 11, 2017

A Healthy Dose of Sarcasm - Here's Your Pill

After a brief blog diversion to Body Odor, this week's post returns to Death Factor X and the pathway to finding it.

Big Healthcare has its actuarial tables worked out. They know the average human's biological and psychological cycle and have a plan to profit from it - complete with a marketing budget. You can say it any number of ways but perhaps the simplest form is "There's money in them there pills."

Prior to middle age you go to the doctor for the equivalent of an oil change and fluid check. Towards the end, you're in for a transmission overall and electrical system replacement - the one they never get right, requiring multiple return visits until you eventually sell the car.

Big Healthcare's actuarial tables state the following based on your age:
  • 20 to 39 - 99% of the time there’s nothing wrong that lifestyle changes or time can’t fix. You're Big Vanity's profit center for now.
  • 40 to 49 - doctors look for things to treat later unless they find something to treat now. Big Vanity loves this age as you try to keep your looks from the previous decade.
  • 50 to 59 - doctors look for Death Factor X and begin treatment if needed. Big Vanity's profits begin to give way to Big Healthcare.
  • 60 and later - Jackpot! 
By some unwritten rule, sometime in your 40s, you must have a pill - usually for high blood pressure or high cholesterol. After the first pill, each doctor's visit involves swapping the prescription for another or adding a new medication. Doctors, especially doctors in large corporate healthcare organizations, get the benefit of routine office visits to evaluate the effectiveness of your medication.

Of course, you're only out the copay for the office visit and the prescription. Your insurance company, if you have one, picks up the rest. I suspect the entirety of Big Healthcare would collapse if the pill pattern changed.

I don’t care much for the healthcare industry. Mostly because Big Healthcare isn't designed to maintain health; they treat symptoms and diseases. If you have high blood pressure - get the speech on lifestyle modification and a pill. If your blood pressure goes higher, another speech on lifestyle modification and a different pill.

However, there is data to support the pill approach. Dr. Worth, my previous doctor, prescribed my very first forever pill for Hypertension aka High Blood Pressure. This seemed logical due to my family history of heart disease and elevated blood pressure.

I’m not alone in needing a forever pill in my mid-forties according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). By 55 over half the American population have hypertension.

Age of Diagnosed Hypertension
Men (%)
Women (%)
75 and older

Hypertension is nasty stuff. Treat it! Check out these statistics from the American Heart Association if you think high blood pressure isn't a threat.
  • First heart attack: About 7 of every 10 people having their first heart attack have high blood pressure.
  • First stroke: About 8 of every 10 people having their first stroke have high blood pressure.
  • Chronic (long-lasting) heart failure: About 7 of every 10 people with chronic heart failure have high blood pressure.
Of course, you have a choice regarding the forever pill. According to the Mayo Clinic, you can
  1. Shed belly fat
  2. Exercise regularly
  3. Eat a healthy diet
  4. Reduce sodium in your diet
  5. Limit alcohol intake
  6. Quit smoking
  7. Cut back on caffeine
  8. Reduce stress
Most people opt for the pill.

I took my pill and promised Dr. Worth I'd tackle at least half the items on the list. I lost weight and exercised more. It worked. I dropped from 239 lbs down to 216 lbs, mostly by cutting out fast food; a mainstay of my diet at the time.

Every trip back to the doctor brought the same lifestyle lecture but Dr. Worth seemed pleased with the weight loss. Things were going well. My blood tests showed good blood sugar and cholesterol levels. That's why Dr. Worth confused me with the suggested I start another medication for cholesterol.

I disagreed.

Which leads to our next post: Firing Your Doctor.

Until then - stay healthy, my friends.

10 ways to control high blood pressure without medication - Mayo Clinic
High Blood Pressure Facts - Centers for Disease Control

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A Healthy Dose of Sarcasm - Baking Soda: A Pit's Best Friend

I've been told my last post was a bit morbid so I decided to tackle a problem everyone faces: BO.

As a general statement: people stink. People stink more when they sweat. Here's why.

Body odor - or technically bromhidrosis, osmidrosis, or ozochrotia - is an unpleasant smell given off when the bacteria living on your skin break down the proteins found in sweat. Perspiration itself has no odor until the bacteria transform it into thioalcohol. Armpits stink more than other body parts because it’s warm, moist, and usually dark: party central for bacteria. Shoed feet have the same issue.

Big Vanity - corporations specializing in makeup, soap, deodorant,  toothpaste, etc. - produced a wide variety of products to keep humanity from an odorous existence. They approached the problem with antiperspirant, to keep you from sweating, and deodorant, to cover the smell.

According to WebMD, antiperspirants work by forming a chemical reaction with the water in perspiration to create a physical plug in your sweat ducts. Their answer is pretty simple - stop sweating. Deodorant masks the sweat making it through the chemically clogged perspiration plumbing.

Despite various reports linking antiperspirants to cancer, Alzheimer's, and kidney disease - the only common side effect to antiperspirant is occasional irritated or swollen skin. The few medical reasons for avoiding antiperspirants include kidney disease or those undergoing radiation therapy for cancer. The radiation beams will heat the aluminum in the antiperspirant causing burns.

After reading an interesting section in Baking Soda: House and Home, I decided to try another approach: kill everything living in my pits.

The book stated you can use Baking Soda like talcum powder, dusting it over areas generating more odor than socially acceptable. Armpits and feet are the most common areas for treatment. The book claims Baking Soda makes skin inhospitable to the thioalcohol-creating bacteria.

I’ve used it for a while now and there is literally no smell from my pits for days at a time. And when I say no odor, I mean it - even with my daily trips to the gym.

The benefits of Baking Soda over Big Vanity products include:

  • No artificial perfume smell
  • No gooey feeling from stick deodorants/antiperspirants
  • A nice dry feeling upon application
  • It's incredibly low cost
You can also use Baking Soda for:
  • Toothpaste
  • As an exfoliant in your bath
  • To sooth rashes and bug bites
  • In laundry to remove smells and sweat stains
  • As a counter cleaner
So you can stay smelling fresh, brush your teeth, and clean the bathroom sink and counter - all with one substance. Pretty impressive for something that's been used by man since Ancient Egypt.

Baking Soda is cheap, available in large containers, and useful in the kitchen, bathroom, garden, and tool shed. You can even use it on pets to prevent fleas. Check it out if you want to give your pits a break from Big Vanity.

Body Odor: Causes, Prevention, Treatments - Medical News Today
Antiperspirant Safety: Should You Sweat It? - WebMD (short answer - no)
Meet The Bacteria That Make A Stink In Your Pits - NPR
Baking Soda: House & Home - Amazon Link
“Baking soda is far more than a baking ingredient – it can be used in all manner of household tasks including cleaning, laundry, animal care, and health and beauty. This is the essential guide to maximizing the potential of this cheap, environmentally-friendly and multi-purpose product. Tips range from removing baked-on food from pans to making your own facial scrub, from getting stubborn stains out of your clothes to shampooing your dog. "Baking Soda" also gets the kids involved, with some fun science experiments and sweet treats, as well as providing culinary tips and a few tasty recipes for breads, cakes and cookies.”

Sunday, March 5, 2017

A Healthy Dose of Sarcasm - Death Factor X

It’s an odd thing, growing older. New rules kick in once you reach age 40th. Middle age approaches like a steamroller, slowly plodding toward you. In the past, you may have laughed at the steamroller. Maybe you played chicken with your friends, running just in front of its ponderous path. But at 40, you find yourself trapped in a dead end alley with the steamroller at the mouth slowly eating up space, forcing you backward to the end of all things.
Cheery thought, isn’t it?
So, if you’re still with me, I’ll explain the reason for this short series of posts on health and wellness. At the end of 2015, I was given a death sentence by my doctor. He backed it up with test results explaining exactly how much space I had between my personal steamroller and end of the alley. This isn't unusual for people my age.
Around 45 your doctor begins looking for the most likely catalyst to shuffling off your mortal coil. I call this catalyst Death Factor X. The identification of Death Factor X isn’t a sure thing but, if you’re betting on the one thing that’s going to speed the steamroller, Death Factor X is the lead foot on the gas pedal.
Luckily - in an odd, somewhat ironic meaning of the word - doctors can identify Death Factor X more easily and with greater accuracy than in the past. There are batteries of tests used to determine your risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, etc. that are now easily available to most physicians. They don't simply look at your current metrics, but see into your past and correlate the data with your genetic predispositions. Ask your doctor about them on your next visit.
Part of this series will discuss selecting the right health care professionals. I believe I found a good doctor. For the purposes of this blog I’ll call him Dr. Buttons. He’ll get the joke.

Dr. Buttons digs in and provides relevant data to back up his diagnoses. He also doesn’t candy coat things. In my experience, a doctor's coddling doesn't lead to great health results.
In the ‘Healthy Dose of Sarcasm’ series, I’ll describe how I found Dr. Buttons and the lifestyle modifications that put it in reverse.
My hope is to keep these posts as light and humorous as possible while presenting actionable information. I hasten to add that this information is based on my conditions and predispositions. As with anything regarding health, <insert standard disclaimer about seeing your doctor - you’ve heard it before>.
Speaking of doctors, you might want to fire the one you have now. More on that topic in a few weeks.
Next week we’ll discuss Men (and Women) of a Certain Age aka The Steamroller is Closer Than You Think.
Until next time - stay healthy, my friends.
Comprehensive List of State-of-the-Art Tests - Boston Heart Diagnostics