Archive for November, 2017

Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …

Don’t laugh. That would be callous and rude.

Oh, the irony. Here are some quotes from an online article in the Dallas News:

The president of the Dallas-based American Heart Association is recovering after suffering a minor heart attack Monday morning at the organization’s scientific conference in California.

The president of the AHA not only suffers a heart attack, he has the comic timing to do it at an AHA scientific conference. That almost tops all the times Al Gore showed up to give a speech on global warming just as the host city experienced a record-cold day.

Anyway …

John Warner, a cardiologist, vice president and CEO of UT Southwestern University Hospitals, was in stable condition with his family by his side at a California hospital. Doctors inserted a stent to open an artery, the association said in a prepared statement.

Dr. Warner is 52 years old – i.e., seven years younger than yours truly. Out of curiosity, I looked up the average age for a first heart attack among American males. It’s 66. The president of the AHA had his 14 years younger than the average.

The American Heart Association explained it this way in a tweet:

Sending all our love and support to American Heart president Dr. Warner as he recovers from a mild heart attack. Heart disease can strike anyone, at any time. That’s why we keep fighting.

Yeah, that’s one explanation. Another explanation is that the AHA’s advice for avoiding heart disease just plain sucks. That’s how I’d put. Dr. William Davis (also a cardiologist) employed a more professional tone in a post on his Wheat Belly blog:

I am hoping that, now that this disease has touched you personally, your eyes will be opened to the corrupt and absurd policies of conventional coronary care and the American Heart Association. Your life, after all, may be at stake in coming years. Contrary to the self-serving Tweet from AHA staff to you, heart attack risk is 1) quantifiable, 2) trackable, 3) stoppable and reversible.

American Heart Association officials should read their own studies.

Perhaps Dr. Warner could have avoided a heart attack if he and other AHA officials checked their own data and studies before issuing dietary advice. The AHA has tunnel vision when it comes to cholesterol. They keep insisting that lowering LDL is the key to a healthy heart. But as I pointed out in a 2010 post, data available on their own web site says otherwise:

People with “high” LDL make up 32.6% of the population, but account for just 27.9% of the heart attacks … We’ve been told for decades that the higher your LDL, the more likely you are to clutch your chest in the middle of the night. But if the “high” LDL group experiences slightly less than their share of heart attacks, how can that possibly be true?!

And here’s the conclusion from a study recently published in one of the AHA’s own journals:

Stepwise higher concentrations of nonfasting triglycerides were associated with stepwise higher risk of heart failure; however, concentrations of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol were not associated with risk of heart failure in the general population.

Higher LDL wasn’t associated with heart failure.  But higher triglycerides – which are produced by high-carb foods like the hearthealthywholegrains! the AHA recommends — were associated with heart failure.

Boy, I bet the AHA’s scientific council members nearly had a heart attack when they read that. No, wait …

NuVal is NoVal.

If Dr. David Katz weren’t such an arrogant jackass, I’d almost feel sorry for him. Talk about a rough couple of months. First the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine declared that the USDA’s dietary guidelines (which Dr. Katz insisted are “excellent and supported by the weight of the evidence”) aren’t based on good science.

And now there’s this, as recounted in a press release by the National Consumers League:

The National Consumers League (NCL) has welcomed news that a supermarket-based nutritional scoring system of food products called NuVal, which at its peak was used in 1,600 grocery stores nationwide, has been discontinued.

NuVal, as you may recall, was the brainchild of Dr. Katz. The nutrition scoring was so back-asswards, it gave sugar-laden soy milk a higher nutrition rating than a chicken breast, as I explained in a 2010 post.

Back to the NCL release:

“The NuVal rating system was fatally flawed, and its removal from grocery store shelves is a win for consumers,” said National Consumers League Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “Its proprietary algorithmic formula – which was not made transparent to consumers or the scientific community – resulted in snack chips, soft drinks, and desserts being given as high or higher nutritional scores than some canned fruits and vegetables. We welcome the news that NuVal has been discontinued nationally.”

My guess is that the “proprietary algorithmic formula” was never made public because it consisted of Dr. Katz just making @#$% up as he went along … kind of like when he reviewed his own novel under a fake name and compared himself to Milton and Chaucer.

This is why Katz is hostile to the wisdom-of-crowds idea. He thinks we should stop sharing information and experiences in the “echo chamber” online and simply listen to (ahem) “experts” like him – and the president of The American Heart Association, of course.

Birthday Bash a Bust.

I turned 59 on Tuesday. I’d been looking forward to that birthday for months … not because 59 is a significant number, but because it was also the 20th anniversary of my first date with Chareva.

For those of you who haven’t heard the story, we met at an acting school in Chicago. I was 38, and she was 24 and just home from the Peace Corps. I was smitten, but figured the age difference was too great. I remember staring across the room at her during an improv class and thinking, “Damn. If only I were 10 years younger.”

She took a few Microsoft Office training classes at a Manpower office where I was a part-time trainer, and some female co-workers finally talked me into asking her out. They insisted she was as attracted to me as I was to her. A woman can tell, etc., etc. I finally got over my hesitations and asked her to dinner and a play on my 39th birthday. The rest is history.

Anyway, I’d planned on celebrating the anniversary with a big night out. Nice expensive meal, good bottle of wine and all that. The shoulder surgery put the kibosh on my plans. I can’t drink because of the painkillers, and I didn’t relish the idea of ordering a prime rib, then watching Chareva lean across the table to cut it into pieces for me. So we postponed the big night out to an unspecified future date.

Instead, she made a Fat Head pizza at home. Pretty good stuff, even if I am a bit embarrassed that people call it Fat Head pizza, since I had nothing to do with creating it. All I did was post the recipe.

For my birthday present to myself, I bought this:

I expect the surgeon will give me the green light to do leg presses at the gym soon. But full workouts are out of the question for several months. Same goes for heavy-duty farm work. If I don’t get enough exercise, I tend to start feeling lethargic, so I figured I can at least put in some long walks on the treadmill while I’m waiting the shoulder and bicep to fully heal.

As you may have noticed, the treadmill is strategically placed to allow for watching movies and football games while I walk.

In the meantime, I’ve graduated from the recliner to a makeshift desk. For the first 10 days or so after surgery, I was only comfortable leaning back in the recliner, so I worked with a laptop on my thighs. With the sling keeping my elbow pinned to my side, I can’t reach a keyboard on my desk – my chair doesn’t raise high enough.

But I have an IKEA table in my office than can be lowered quite a bit, so Chareva lowered it for me. At the current height, it looks like a table for a toddler. But it allows me to position a laptop pretty much on my lap, with an inch of tabletop separating my thighs and the keyboard. It ain’t much, but getting myself out of the recliner for my programming job feels like progress.

I just try to avoid looking out my office window at the lovely autumn weather and thinking how much I’d love to be out there splitting wood or playing some disc golf.

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As you can see, I’m able to do my programming work from the comfort of my big recliner … although Rascal occasionally hops up to remind me I should take a mental break and pay attention to something besides work.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that recovery is going to be a lot longer and more involved than I’d anticipated.

The surgeon originally predicted I’d be back to normal activity within six weeks. That’s because he thought all he’d have to do in there is shave down the bone spur that was causing collisions in the shoulder joint. And in fact, that part of the operation wasn’t traumatic at all. I have three small punctures in my skin where he went in with a scope. I get a bit of an ache in that part of the shoulder, but it’s nothing much.

The torn bicep tendon is another matter altogether. No scope for that procedure. He had to go in the old-fashioned way and slice open my arm. To re-attach the tendon (as I learned later), he cut a slit in the arm bone, then nailed the tendon into the slit with a tiny titanium spike. The bone will eventually grow back over and around the tendon and the spike (which will remain in my arm), and then the tendon will be fully attached.

Well, it turns out that when a surgeon cuts open your arm, slices away a portion of bone, then pounds a little spike into the bone, it hurts rather a lot. I’m allowed to take two Percocet tablets every four to six hours, according to the prescription. I don’t want to process that much acetaminophen and oxycodone through my liver, so after the first day recovering at home, I started limiting myself to one tablet every four hours. Then I stretched it to five hours, then six.

I’ve gotten to the point now where I take one tablet during the day, then two before bed. I need the two-pill dose before bed because if the pain isn’t completely numbed, I can’t sleep. I usually wake up five or six hours later with my shoulder throbbing, take one more pill, then go back to sleep for another three or four hours. During the day, I can mostly get by with cold packs to reduce the pain.

The pain level will continue to diminish. Unfortunately, it will take 10 weeks for the bone to grow around the re-attached bicep tendon, and I’ll be stuck wearing a sling that pins my arm to my body the entire time. I’m not supposed to flex the bicep muscle at all, not even to pick up a coffee cup. A physical therapist will move the arm for me, but the most I’m allowed to do on my own is lift the forearm with my other hand and place it on the laptop for working.

I won’t be able to fully exercise the arm for four to six months. Yeesh. I went through that the last time I had major shoulder surgery. As you’d expect, I lost rather a lot of muscle and strength – not just in the arms, but in the entire upper body, because you can’t do much upper-body work that doesn’t involve the arms.

So no farm work, no fixing up Sara’s cabin, nothing until spring. I’m not happy to be in this situation, but I still feel more gratitude than anything. The surgeon found the torn bicep tendon and fixed it. That was him being a good doctor and looking for problems that didn’t show up on the MRI. I can still do my programming job. I can still write blog posts.  After a bit more healing, I’ll be able to get back to working on the film.

If I feel the least bit tempted to complain, I remind myself that Chareva’s father lost the use of his left arm permanently after his stroke. My situation is temporary. It will take some time and effort to get back to full strength and normal activities, but I will get there.

In the meantime, there are plenty of books I’ve wanted to read and courses I’ve wanted to watch on Lynda.com. With no weekend farm work in my near future, I may as well get to them.

 

 

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As you’ve probably guessed by the fact that I’m answering comments, I’m home from surgery. The bone-shaving procedure apparently went well. The surgeon told Chareva he also discovered that I had torn a bicep tendon at some point, so he reattached it.

In addition to general anesthesia, they gave me something called a shoulder blocker. It’s like having an entire shoulder on Novocain. I have absolutely no sensation from the elbow to the neck. You could stab me in the shoulder and I wouldn’t know it. That, of course, will wear off. I’m supposed to start taking Percocet later this evening.

I won’t be able to shower or sleep in bed for a few days. I’ll be living in my La-Z-Boy recliner. We’ve already got  The area set up  with my iPad, charger, phone, TV remotes, a video adapter to put my iPad screen on the big TV, etc. I can’t really type yet, but the dictation feature On the iPad Pro is pretty accurate … although as you may have noticed, it has a bad habit of capitalizing words for no apparent reason.

I appreciate everyone’s good wishes. I feel pretty good, considering. Time to kick back and binge-watch a couple of shows and catch up on some Lynda.com tutorials.

 

 

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Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …

Soy it ain’t true, Joe

Makers of soy-based foods will no longer be able to claim soy protects against heart disease, at least if the FDA gets its way. Here are some quotes from an article in Fortune magazine:

Since 1999, food makers have been able to slap a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared claim onto their products that soy protein has proven heart health benefits. But the FDA on Monday moved to revoke that soy heart benefit claim—the first time ever that the agency has attempted to nix a previously authorized health claim.

That’s not to say there isn’t any kind of heart benefit to soy protein—it’s just not as certain as an officially designated claim would suggest. “[S]ome studies, published after the FDA authorized the health claim, show inconsistent findings concerning the ability of soy protein to lower heart-damaging low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol,” as the FDA notes.

Of course, I don’t care if soy lowers LDL or not, because most people who have heart attacks are already in the supposed “good” range for LDL. I don’t eat soy because it lowers testosterone, to name just one of many negative effects. You can read about those here.

There’s a corny joke in here somewhere …

I remember my grandma hugging me when I was a wee tyke and saying things like, “Oh, I could just eat you up!” Lucky for me she didn’t live on corn … and wasn’t a hamster. Here are some quotes from an article in Science New For Students:

People who eat a diet dominated by corn can develop a deadly disease: pellagra. Now something similar has emerged in rodents. Wild European hamsters raised in the lab on a diet rich in corn showed odd behaviors. These included eating their babies!

“Corn again?! Where’s junior? I need a real meal.”

Hamsters and other rodents are known to eat their young. But only occasionally. This tends to happen only when a baby has died and the mother hamster wants to keep her nest clean.

To be perfectly truthful, our house would be a lot tidier if Chareva ate the girls without waiting for them to die. But I’d rather put up with the mess, so we limit our corn consumption to the occasional tortilla.

Wait … a high iron level is good now?

Some of you may recall the Wood Allen movie Sleeper, in which a man wakes up in the future and discovers (among many other things) that everything once considered good for you is now considered bad for you and vice-versa.

We’ve been told for years to avoid eating too much red meat because the iron it contains will build up in your body and cause heart disease. So I found a recent study reported in Medical News Today rather interesting:

Recent research suggests that iron may have a protective effect against heart disease. These promising findings could pave the way for new treatments.

A team of researchers from Imperial College London and University College London, both in the United Kingdom, set out to examine the link between levels of iron in the body and the risk of developing the most common type of CVD: coronary artery disease (CAD).

Previous research has put forth the idea that levels of iron in the body may be linked to heart disease. But the studies that investigated this link yielded inconsistent results, with some of them suggesting that high iron levels can protect against heart disease and others indicating the exact opposite.

The new research uses Mendelian randomization to investigate this link more closely. More specifically, the scientists – led by Dr. Dipender Gill, a Wellcome Trust Clinical Fellow at Imperial College London – tried to establish causality, examining whether or not iron status has a direct effect on CAD risk.

The results confirmed the hypothesis that higher levels of iron reduce the likelihood of developing CAD. “These findings,” the authors conclude, “may highlight a therapeutic target.”

So now a high iron level might be good for us … and of course the goal is to develop new treatments for low iron.

I think I’ll just eat a steak and go on my merry way.

Meatless Mondays in the land of good beef?

And while I’m eating steaks to keep my iron status up, officials in Argentina are looking for ways to reduce beef consumption. Here are some quotes from an article in The Economist:

Argentina is famous for its beef… In 2010 Argentines lost the title of the world’s biggest beefeaters, when measured by annual consumption per person, to neighbouring Uruguayans. Diego Vecino, a writer, lamented Argentina’s declining beef consumption and suggested the country was “immersed in shame”.

Now it seems the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace, is embracing the trend. In a bid to start a debate on health and the national diet, it has instituted meat-free Mondays. For one lunch each week, the canteen will only serve vegan options to the 500-plus employees, including President Mauricio Macri.

I love it. In fact, I think our federal government should require all employees to eat nothing but vegan foods at every meal. That alone might reduce the number of federal employees – and if we’re lucky, the ones who remain would be too fatigued to cause trouble for the rest of us.

The introduction of meatless Mondays to the Casa Rosada adds Argentina to the list of countries investigating ways to limit meat consumption. The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are in the middle of an obesity crisis. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that a majority of people are overweight in all but three countries of the region.

Argentina has particular grounds for concern. The rate of obesity among its boys is the highest in Latin America, and among girls it is the third-highest. This has been linked to various causes, including excessive eating of beef.

Head. Bang. On. Desk.

So Argentina has a childhood obesity problem and they think BEEF is the cause?! Note to Argentine officials (somebody translate this into Spanish): if your kids are getting fat, check their consumption of sugar and other processed carbs. I’m pretty sure beef isn’t the problem.

The Argentine Beef Promotion Institute, a lobbying group, has denounced the move as a bid for votes. Indeed, the promotion of meat-free eating has become rather political. A German proposal from 2013 calling for “Veggie Day” in public canteens led to a backlash. It was condemned as an “ecological dictatorship” and received considerable attention in pre-election coverage. Germans voted “nein” to the Greens that year.

And of course, The Anointed accepted the will of the masses rather than proceed with the Grand Plan …

Undeterred, the country’s environment ministry said earlier this year that it would stop serving meat and fish at official functions.

Yeah, that’s what I expected. The article provides more examples of The Anointed in action:

Portugal passed a law this year requiring a vegan option at public institutions. The UN’s International Resource Panel has called for governments to tax meat products. Researchers at Oxford University found that pricing food according to its climate impact could prevent more than half a million early deaths every year, largely in Europe, the United States, Australia and China. And surveys show that measures restricting meat consumption could be accepted by the public if justified in their interest.

Riiight. Because when The Anointed impose their preferences on you, it’s always for your own good.

I believe I have the answer for Argentina’s childhood obesity problem: put everyone on an all-corn diet. People will then develop an appetite for youngsters. Boom, no more childhood obesity problem.

Luckiest Deer Collision Ever?

We drove to Illinois over the weekend to see The Older Brother’s Middle Son and Youngest Son perform in a play. (They’re both talented actors. In fact, they provide most of the cartoon dialog in the upcoming film version of Fat Head Kids.) I usually do most of the driving, but with my aching back and all, I asked Chareva to drive so I could recline in the back seat.

As she drove along a winding, hilly road a few miles from home on the return trip, I reminded her that deer like to run across the road at night. She slowed down.

Sure enough, we came around a bend and saw three deer in our lane. Chareva let off the gas and steered left to go around them. Unfortunately (as often happens), one of them panicked and ran toward the van instead of away from it.

WHAM!

I jumped in my seat and said a bad word. Sara and Alana were so startled, they almost looked up from their iPads. Chareva might have said a bad word, but I wouldn’t know because I said my bad word too loudly to hear other bad words.

I had no idea how much damage had been done to the deer or the vehicle, but I could see that both headlights were still working, so that was a good sign. I fully expected to have a major dent somewhere on the passenger side.

When we pulled into the driveway, I got out to look. This was the extent of the damage:

I’m not happy we had to replace the mirror, but I felt more gratitude than anything. One of our neighbors had his windshield bashed in by a deer.  Another neighbor hit a big ol’ buck, which came through the windshield and seriously injured his daughter in the passenger seat.  One of the antlers poked a hole in her skull.

We got lucky. Same probably goes for the deer. With the minimal damage to the car, I’m thinking the deer likely ended up with nothing more than a headache and a good story to tell its deer pals.

Shoulder Surgery

I’m having surgery tomorrow to remove the bony mass that’s messing up my left shoulder. The surgeon told me he won’t know how much cutting and bone-sawing will be required until he’s in there. I hope it’s considerably less traumatic than my last shoulder surgery.  I was useless for weeks after that one.

Anyway, I’ll probably be too doped up to post for several days. I’ll let you know how the surgery goes, even if I have to dictate a short post to Chareva.

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