Imbued with the holiday spirit while writing my January 1 blog, I thought that for my next one I would present good news only. I am sure that the idea came partly from my mixed feelings while reflecting on gun control so soon after Christmas.
I subscribe to a number of medical journals, two medical review newsletters, several newspapers, keep track of a few medical blogs including the Health Care Blog, read Consumer Reports, Consumer Reports on Health, and generally have my antennae out for medical facts that might be interesting and fun to pass along from any source. I hoped I would have significant good news. Not so. The few items I gleaned were during the first few days of January, and some of them are kind of marginal. It was as if they had been squeezed out by other stories during the holiday season, inserted as filler the next week, only to be overtaken by the usual news items the following weeks.
OVERWEIGHT PEOPLE CAN LIVE LONGER THAN "NORMAL" WEIGHT PEOPLE
People with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 25 to 29.9 have a slightly LESS risk of dying than "normal" people (BMI under 25). There is now the thought that a BMI of below 25 might be "too thin". Obese people (BMI over 35) still have the highest risk of death. The 1912 "perfectly healthy woman" was defined as 5 foot 7 inches and weighing 171 pounds. Her BMI would be 27. As a Cornell graduate myself I got a kick out of that statistic based as it is on measuring 400 Cornell co-eds at the time. My BMI is 30.4 ("overweight") and so miss the best risk category by just a few decimal points. I consider this good news. Do you know your BMI? Boston Globe 1/2/13; JAMA, Blackburn, MD
CHINA CATCHING UP TO U.S. IN OBESITY
The percentage of Chinese adults that are now overweight or obese rose from 25% in 2002 to 39% in 2010. The World Health Organization estimates that 50-57% of Chinese adults will be overweight or obese by 2015. This compares to 69% for U.S. adults. As Chinese wealth increases they are giving up bicycles to buy cars and are enjoying more McDonald's, Pizza Hut ("a fancy date-night restaurant"), KFC, T.G.I Friday's, and, of course, millions of cans of Coke. If we could restrict their access to the benefits of coffee (see below) by limiting the number of Starbucks there, we still might win the race for world domination. Boston Globe 1/6/13; Debra Bruno
ASTHMA INCIDENCE DECREASES BY 50%
The annual incidence of asthma in Boston public housing has dropped from 23% to 13% since 2005. The Public Health Commissioner relates this decrease to a successful program to exterminate roaches and rodents in the housing using LESS pesticide. Given the context that seems to me to be a bit of a reach for "good news", but I told you pickings were slim. Boston Globe 1/1/13; Kay Lazan
FDA APPROVES USE OF MARGINPROBE®
The FDA has approved a new technology already in use in Europe to detect during the breast surgery any cancer cells left in the margins of remaining tissue. Since 20% of lumpectomies for breast lesions result in a second operation at a later date based on pathology reports completed a week after the surgery, this $200 device could prevent some of those second surgeries that cost about $7.000. Breast lumpectomies are increasing in frequency as mastectomy procedures decrease in our efforts in "breast-conserving surgery". Boston Globe 1/2/13
MEDICARE PROVIDERS DUCK A 27% PAYMENT CUT
The "Fiscal Cliff Avoidance" Bill prevented a 27% reduction in payments to Medicare providers for one year. This is good news to beleaguered primary care physicians and to those patients who don't want them to become even scarcer. The bad news, of course, is that this one year reprieve merely delays once again the time when Congress and the Administration will have to deal in a systematic way with our expensive health care "system". As another testament to the workings of democracy, or at least of our Congress, this same 2AM bill continued the subsidy for rum manufacturers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands that offsets their liquor tariff costs. Boston Globe 1/2/13
HOMICIDE RATE IN BOSTON DROPS FOR THE THIRD YEAR IN A ROW
There were only 58 homicides in Boston this past year. Down from the high of 152 in 1990. The Suffolk County District Attorney called for even stronger gun control laws, but also speculated that the decrease could be due to an aging population (more people over 24 yo., and "older people" apparently kill fewer people), an increasing percentage of immigrants ("they tend to obey the law"), and improved trauma care in the hospitals (people still get shot, but are less likely to die). Boston Globe 1/1/13; Matt Carroll
TEN WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH
This is good news because I do most of these already. This list, "backed by scientific research", was complied by AARP.
1. Throw a Party - Social connections help you live longer.
2. Adopt a Pet - Excercise it (and you) and count it as another social connection.
3. Choose Dark Chocolate - An ounce a day keeps the doctor away.
4. Savor Your Coffee - It appears to lessen chances of diabetes, skin cancer, liver damage, etc. Three cups a day keeps Alzheimer's away.
5. Have a glass of wine or beer - "Guinness is Good For You" was said a long time ago. One glass a day for women, two for men!
6. Have Sex - There is nothing bad about releasing endorphins. It also counts as aerobic exercise.
7. Listen to Your Favorite Music - Music reduces pain and increases circulation. A song a day keeps the heart pumping away.
8. Take a Nap - A mid-afternoon snooze clears the brain to make room for new stuff. A nap a day keeps the hoarder away.
9. Go Outdoors - Go look at the greens, don't just eat them.
10. Use Soap. regular soap - Antibacterial soaps and cleansers with triclosan aren't worth the cost and the spray kind can trigger asthma. The FDA is researching triclosan safety in humans.