Medical Mythology

March 25, 2012 at 5:54 pm (By Realpc)

I was walking through town today (Sunday) and a woman offered to give me a ride home. I said no thanks, I have a car, I’m just taking a walk. But then I went back and asked how she knew where I live. She said she sees me walking, walking, walking, all the time. I explained that I only walk a half hour before work on week days, which really is not much. I asked if she thought I was a crazy homeless person, just because she sees me walking. I said I have been walking, and doing yoga, all my life and that is probably the reason I am not sick and on drugs, like practically everyone else my age.

(I don’t usually do this, must have been in a weird mood today).

So she replied that the drugs must be doing something right, because we are living longer than ever now. She said there are lots of people in their 90s now, and there never were before.

I said first of all, there were always people in their 90s. And if you ask someone in their 90s you may very well find out they don’t go to doctors or take drugs. I said we are not being kept alive past age 40 thanks to the drugs, that is just propaganda from the drug companies, to make us think we need them.

I tried to explain that average lifespan has increased, mostly because young children are not dying anymore, thanks to antibiotics and vaccines. I tried to explain how the drug companies misuse the statistics to make us think we would all drop dead at 40 if not for them.

She waited patiently for me to give up and leave. If she didn’t think I was a homeless crazy before, she was sure of it after my lecture.

But I am so tired of hearing the same old myth.

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54 Comments

  1. mockturtle said,

    Yep. People buy into that myth because the media perpetuate it.

  2. mockturtle said,

    After all, the pharmaceutical companies are some of their biggest sponsors.

  3. realpc920 said,

    People want to have faith in the medical experts. It’s scary to face the reality that if we get sick there might not be a pill to make us better.

    And everyone loves to have an excuse to not exercise. After all, people used to exercise a lot and they dropped dead at age 40.

    Exercise kills, give us pills!

  4. wj said,

    Some people have always lived into their 90s, even before modern medicine. And some still do today, without bothering with drugs, doctor visits, etc. (My grandmother, both in 1880, lived to 101 and was mentally sharp the whole time.)

    But that is not to say that the numbers (or, more to the point, percentages) of those living that long have not gone up, due to drugs and other medical procedures.

    Modern medicine cannot totally overcome foolish personal habits. But even those can have less impact than they once did. (Whether that is a good thing is a whole different discussion.)

  5. karen said,

    “Modern medicine cannot totally overcome foolish personal habits. ”

    Word.

    My folks are both diabetic(s?)– my Dad is insulin dependent. I’ve seen his sugar ~lows~ and, man– they are NOT pretty. He also survived lung cancer due to the removal of the lower lobe of his left lung and he had a triple bypass. He’s 79– and he’s a strong man, still- albeit a frail one compared to the guy i grew up w/.

    My brother is a schizo– of the paranoid persuasion. The meds he takes could probably floor a small horse, idk- and he lives a VERY great life compared to the hallucinations of his 20’s- all thanks to medication.

    I’m not a meds junkie–hell, we’re organic farmers. I think big pharma is a hog– they suck us into the next breathing medicine or the next ~feel good~ or ~CALM DOWN~ pill… Maybe you don’t mean this kind of medicine at all, real– but, my folks would be in very bad shape if they went w/out the insulin or the HBPressure meds– and they lead pretty frugal, healthy lives. Maybe they are reaping seeds of the past, sown.

    It can go both ways, too. A man i know- his cancer medicine wreaked his lungs and he’s going to a specialist for this, now. The perpetuation of medicine– a vicious cycle?

    Also, what of the plastic knees, hips, etc body parts?

  6. mockturtle said,

    Certainly some people’s lives are extended due to medications but what are the ultimate consequences? Is this why there are so many dementia cases today? Perhaps someone who might have died from a stroke or heart attack was kept alive with drugs, bypass, stents, etc. but then develops dementia. How do we know that some of these drugs and procedures aren’t causing dementia? Or that the same issues that caused their atherosclerosis, etc. don’t also lead to dementia? No easy answers. Modern medicine is a two-edges sword. Heart transplants??? Give me a break. Why can’t we just concentrate on providing good, basic care in a cost-effective way and leave the exotic procedures alone? Yes, and while not punishing those who neglect or sabotage their health, at least reward those who take care of their bodies.

    Genetics still play the biggest role in longevity, BTW.

  7. realpc said,

    “But that is not to say that the numbers (or, more to the point, percentages) of those living that long have not gone up, due to drugs and other medical procedures.”

    Not because of the new drugs you see advertised on TV. Mostly just because of antibiotics and vaccines, which have practically eliminated childhood mortality.

    Yes the numbers went way up, but not for the reasons they want you to think.

  8. wj said,

    If anybody thinks that the drugs that get all the advertising on TV are actually important ones, perhaps they should spend their time on QVC. At least they will have a better idea of the utility of what they are buying.

  9. Donna B. said,

    Define “exotic procedure”, please. It can’t just be a list of procedures that you don’t “like” either, mockturtle.

    Are liver and kidney transplants also exotic? BCG for bladder cancer? Ventriculoperitoneal shunts?

    What have you got in mind as a “reward” for those who take care of their bodies that they don’t already get?

    Also, the thinking that people should be allowed to die of some now preventable disease before they get old enough to develop dementia is the type of thinking that would come to the conclusion that childhood vaccines are bad because they allow children who would have otherwise died to get old enough to develop schizophrenia.

    Yeah, that’s the ticket: childhood vaccines cause schizophrenia.

  10. Donna B. said,

    btw…my definition of an “exotic procedure” is one performed experimentally by an illegal immigrant with a strange hairstyle wearing pasties and a g-string.

  11. karen said,

    I think that kind of ~exotic procedure~ requires a cash only pymt, Donna;0).

    O/T- i wore pink while milking, tonight. In honour and memory of Melissa Jenkins– murdered in a most horrific and senseless way. The entire Kingdom is in mourning. We know her family– they farm up the road from us.

    As an aside to the real topic(real topic, get it?)- a man i know just passed away of ~natural~ causes because he refused to prolong his life any longer w/dialysis or meds that would take his competency. I think there is a trade off- a breathing existence and prolonged end to one of letting go and letting God– so to speak.

  12. mockturtle said,

    “Define “exotic procedure”, please. It can’t just be a list of procedures that you don’t “like” either, mockturtle. Anything costing a kazillion or more dollars

    Are liver and kidney transplants also exotic? BCG for bladder cancer? Ventriculoperitoneal shunts? Possibly. BTW, the average life of a kidney transplant is ten years, mostly due to the devastating effects of the anti-transplant drugs. Transplants are not the panacea the media would have us believe.

    What have you got in mind as a “reward” for those who take care of their bodies that they don’t already get? Cheaper insurance

    Also, the thinking that people should be allowed to die of some now preventable disease before they get old enough to develop dementia is the type of thinking that would come to the conclusion that childhood vaccines are bad because they allow children who would have otherwise died to get old enough to develop schizophrenia. I advocated no such thing! I merely pointed out that there are sometimes repercussions associated with increasing life span by medical intervention. My own husband has severe dementia.

    Yeah, that’s the ticket: childhood vaccines cause schizophrenia.” ???

  13. realpc920 said,

    It would be nice if people could have a more realistic view of modern medicine. Why is it necessary to think it’s all wonderful, just because some of it can be useful? People I love have been saved by emergency surgery. But many people I know have been seriously harmed by the idea that modern medicine can overcome the disastrous effects of the typical modern lifestyle.

    The drug companies keep churning out new products. No one knows how they work or the long term effects. We have no scientific reason to think people are healthier because of these drugs, or that the drugs had any role in increasing average lifespan.

    Most of the diseases (mental and physical) the drugs are used to treat are caused by lack of physical exercise. Americans don’t have time to exercise, yet they can spend hours vegging in front of the TV every day.

    I know people who have bipolar disorder, which is a very serious mental illness. It used to be rare but now is becoming common. Recently I did some internet research and found that bipolar disorder is associated with metabolic syndrome (a major factor in heart disease, diabetes and cancer).

    The drugs used to treat bipolar disorder are known to cause metabolic syndrome, but metabolic syndrome (which leads to chronic inflammation) is probably also a cause. So the drugs used to treat the disease are probably making the disease worse. Nice!

    I spoke to one of the people I know who has bipolar disorder, and told her what I found out. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I thought maybe it would be helpful. This person is over 50 years old and has gone most of that time with almost no physical exercise. I find it almost impossible to believe — yet that is probably true for most Americans.

    And the psychiatrist who has been treating her with drugs for many years never bothered to mention this.

    There are things like severe infections or injuries or appendicitis, etc, that can be cured by modern medicine. But many things cannot.

    The modern lifestyle is making people sick and, as I found out recently, it is making people insane. I mean, I was talking to this woman who spends half her free time in doctor’s offices for mental and physical disorders that are probably mostly caused by lack of exercise.

    Yes the doctors mentioned exercise, but she didn’t take it seriously, probably because they don’t really take it seriously. She is able to function because of the drugs, and does not care what the effects will be in 10 or 20 years.

  14. Donna B. said,

    Karen, I just googled Melissa Jenkins – how horrible. And her toddler witnessed it. I cannot imagine.

    But, back to the real topic (you crack me up Karen!) I think that everything in life might be reduced to a trade of some sort as long as we are free enough to have choices.

    What I think real and mockturtle are overlooking is that most people don’t choose the drastic, do-anything-and-everything to prolong life or make life options, nor do they choose to live comfortably “drugged” either legally or illegally. Some certainly do, but they are not the norm.

    What I cannot understand is the (sometimes not so) subtle hinting that pain and suffering are good. Or good for us. And that perhaps the suffering is deserved because the sufferer hasn’t walked far enough or done enough yoga. Or won the genetic jackpot.

    My husband just told me that there were 47 tickets sold with the winning numbers for tonight’s megamillions jackpot. I think that’s a decent metaphor for the genetic lottery… we share the bounty… and the lack of bounty. Or it’s an example of regression toward the mean… like life and genetics.

    IOW — the special people are the ones that DO make the drastic choices and it takes a smug form of jealousy to demean them.

  15. realpc920 said,

    “What I cannot understand is the (sometimes not so) subtle hinting that pain and suffering are good. Or good for us. And that perhaps the suffering is deserved because the sufferer hasn’t walked far enough or done enough yoga. Or won the genetic jackpot.”

    This has absolutely nothing to do with what I was talking about. The typical American these days gets almost no physical exercise at all, for years and decades. Mainstream medicine doesn’t understand what exercise has to do with health, so they don’t tell patients that it is is absolutely necessary.

    Anyone can get sick no matter how healthy their lifestyle, but the odds are much greater that they will get sick if they don’t make a conscious choice to take care of their health. If you drive to work, sit at a desk all day, drive home, and then sit in front of the TV for hours, you will get sick.

    Aerobic exercise and stretching can prevent most of the diseases that are considered a normal part of aging. No, it IS NOT NORMAL to get disabling arthritis, dementia, cancer, heart attacks, and strokes. They ARE NOT the inevitable result of age.

    That is what the medical industry wants you to think — you will naturally get all those horrible diseases if you don’t take their drugs. It IS NOT TRUE.

    And young people are getting horrible diseases like bipolar disorder, diabetes, depression, etc., also, at rates that did not occur before.’

    It’s hard to prove with evidence because no one is really motivated to show that our medical mythology is mostlyBS. But just think about the people you know, and how many of them are suffering from mental or physical illness, and what kind of lifestyle they have.

  16. Donna B. said,

    It may have nothing to do with your topic today (bad pharma! bad!) but you just did it again. Perhaps you don’t realize you’re doing it. Mockturtle is much more explicit than you are about it. But then she’s just agreeing with you and expounding on the theme.

    In reply to your stated topic — you are wrong there because you set up the strawman that the “medical industry” wants us to believe we will GET sick if we don’t take their drugs. For the specific diseases you mention, I am unaware of any drugs that are even marketed for prevention of arthritis, dementia, cancer, bipolar, diabetes, or depression.

    (There are plenty of quacks promoting herbs, vitamins, and various sorts of woo who say they know how to prevent all these things, but not “mainstream medicine”.)

    Even for heart attacks and strokes, preventive medication isn’t recommended (by mainstream evidence and/or science based medicine) until or unless there are risk factors like high blood pressure or cholesterol or family history.

    Then there’s your other strawman that “mainstream medicine” doesn’t understand the relationship between exercise and health and therefore doesn’t tell patients exercise is necessary. I guess I haven’t seen any mainstream physicians lately.

    As for thinking about the people I know, their lifestyles and illnesses I have to laugh. Do you want me think about the ones that are into running marathons or the ones that are hooked on rock climbing? Maybe you mean those whose jobs require them to be fit enough to stomp through the woods occasionally?

    I’m thinking mostly of my relatives as I am part of a large extended family. Arthritis is something that all the descendants of my paternal grandmother have. It does end up crippling sooner or later. Since she also passed on some longevity and healthy heart genes, she and her offspring hang around long enough to experience the crippling and the joint replacements.

    She was also married twice. My father has whole, half, and step siblings. His step siblings don’t get arthritis — they get type II diabetes and heart problems. His half siblings get arthritis and milder heart problems. None of them have had any type of cancer except two of them that lived beyond age 85 and then it’s skin cancer that is likely due to years of working outdoors.

    It’s not just genetics for longevity, it’s genetics for almost everything. Exercise, diet, and pills can only mitigate whatever problems (or desirable traits) genetics leaves one susceptible to. They do not prevent problems.

    Real, you aren’t very good at creating strawmen and even less successful at knocking them down. But keep trying, you’ll get better at it with more exercise!

  17. realpc920 said,

    “It’s not just genetics for longevity, it’s genetics for almost everything. Exercise, diet, and pills can only mitigate whatever problems (or desirable traits) genetics leaves one susceptible to. They do not prevent problems.”

    You are wrong. An unhealthy lifestyle will cause different diseases in different individuals, depending partly on their genetics.

    Anyway Donna, you are so illogical I always find it’s a waste of time trying to reason with you.

  18. realpc920 said,

    I will spell it out for you very quickly Donna and then I will stop wasting time. Sometimes people get sick and it has nothing to do with their lifestyle. I could be a genetic defect, or exposure to some infectious disease or toxin. Sometimes people get sick because of old age, and eventually everyone will die from something.

    But there are some diseases that are very common in our modern society that obviously result from the unnatural modern lifestyle. Yes there are some Americans who exercise, but many who do not. And you know that perfectly well.

    Millions of Americans are taking drugs that supposedly prevent serious diseases. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are usually related to metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is related to chronic inflammation, a major cause of heart attacks, strokes, cancer and diabetes.

    Taking drugs that do nothing to correct the underlying cause of these diseases, and which can in some cases make the underlying causes worse, is very common.

  19. realpc920 said,

    Well I keep on finding more information. I read an article today about bipolar disorder in children, and the author, who had worked with many of these children, says that in his experience childhood bipolar disorder often evolves from ADHD. The child has been treated with Ritalin to control symptoms, and of course they need more and more for the same results, and eventually it stops working. So the diagnosis is escalated to bipolar disorder, and more serious drugs are prescribed.

    So maybe Ritalin actually makes children crazier in the long run, while calming them down only temporarily. Typical of the medical industry to treat symptoms and not worry about causes.

    So then I looked up ADHD and exercise, and sure enough they have found that physical exercise is great for children with ADHD. And that makes a lot of sense to me — kids (many or most Donna, not all) don’t go outside and play anymore, because they would rather stay inside with the TV and computer.

    Can you imagine being a kid and never going out to run around and burn off energy? Remember when you couldn’t go out for a few days because of bad weather — you were bouncing off the walls, right?

    So kids never get any exercise (and Mom drives them to school a half mile away), and they bounce off the walls, and they are diagnosed with ADHD and given Ritalin. They calm down temporarily, then need more Ritalin (or some kind of speed-like stimulant), then eventually get diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

    Not all, not always Donna, but this could be they typical story.

    So kids with bipolar disorder, like adults with bipolar disorder, are given lithium and “atypical” anti-psychotic drugs. These drugs dull the symptoms, but they also cause and worse metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome results, most often, from lack of physical exercise.

    So guess what, exactly the wrong treatment is being prescribed, causing these children to be mentally disabled for life.

    I realize this scenario is probably not the whole story, and is probably not always what happens. But it sure sounds plausible, and it agrees with scientific evidence on the effects of exercise on the brain.

    Exercise is good for the brain? No, I don’t think of it that way. Complete lack of exercise is deadly poison for the brain, and the body.

  20. Donna B. said,

    There’s a very valid argument that some drugs and some medical procedures do little good and possibly do harm. You, however, are not making it.

  21. karen said,

    “What I think real and mockturtle are overlooking is that most people don’t choose the drastic, do-anything-and-everything to prolong life or make life options, nor do they choose to live comfortably “drugged” either legally or illegally. ”

    I think that’s not true up in my neck of the woods, Donna. I am targeting the comfortably numb angle… that’s because i think(i’m gonna get hit, here for using the broad brush)that people are willfully ignorant as to the effects of their lifestyles and then to the counter-balance of their chosen ~medicine~ to fix the problem w/out having to change a damned thing.

    I can name a huge handful of people i know that are on some sort of mood-enchancement drug(heh- i meant enhancement)– Prozac, Zoloft or whatever the hell it is– that docs dole out so people can ~feel~ better. They don’t try to fix the problem, they just mask the symptoms and rot in the rut. I feel this is so dangerous because these are mind-altering drugs, people!! They change the chemistry and if it isn’t a necessary chemical– then what the hell?

    My BinL was in a shitty marriage– his wife was a running female dog- they were both on depression meds and the kids(2 hers, 1 theirs) all on some sort of meds to deal w/the ADHD that real was talking about. He’s no longer walking in the land of the Living… so much easier to dope things up and not find the real problems, because that takes work. I’m not talking about medically necessary meds, here– i KNOW that there is a need for that–

    Life is hard. It takes hard work in all facets of it’s shiny, little existence(our existence)and if it’s easier to just pop a pill- my MinL is a big popper. Funerals, difficult issues– high as a freaking kite. No wonder she CRS(can’t remember shit)- she’s self-impaired!!

    My neck of the woods suffers from Vit D deficiency, too. It’s dark up here half the freaking yr. Wouldn’t it be amazing if taking a higher dosage of D would wake people up from their apathy?

    OK– off my soapbox.

    ps– real, i loves ya– but, you’re wrong to call any discussion a waste of time. I think of this blog as a 2nd home and i hate it when siblings fight.

    Donna– you are a cool woman:0).

  22. Donna B. said,

    My reply #20 was to your comments #17 and #18.

    In comment #19, you’re making a much better argument but you are still talking about outliers — special cases.

    You state that many or most kids don’t go outside and play because they would rather be inside with the TV and computer. I simply do not believe that statement is correct. It may be “conventional wisdom” and it may be true in some areas — large cities, high crime areas, winter in N Dakota, perhaps.

    I would probably agree that children do not play outside as much as they did a half century ago when I was a child. What does not follow from that observation is that that is the reason they (as a whole, not many or most) get less physical exercise — if they do.

    Parenting has changed. My mother would not allow jumping or running in the house. My daughters buy mini-trampolines so their kids can jump indoors. And though I cringe they are also allowed to run in the hallways.

    Bicycles and tricycles are still big items. Roller skates and scooters are still popular. One of the reasons McDonald’s and Chik Fil A are popular is because of their playgrounds. Play is now more supervised, more organized, more contained, and happens indoors more often, but it is not necessarily less physical.

    The reason there has recently been a great number of children diagnosed with bipolar disorder is mostly because that diagnosis did not exist for children 50 years ago. (Ten years ago?) Fifty years ago, hyperactive boys (and it’s almost always boys who get diagnosed with ADHD isn’t it?) ended up in reform school or as dropouts progressing to petty criminals. Or, they found a channel for their energy and became successful in whatever interested them.

    If you had limited your screed to overblown psychiatric/behavioral disorders, I’d probably agree almost completely. Or, if you’d lamented that opportunities for physical play are now more limited for low income children and that low income children are more likely to be “drugged” I would probably agree.

    I got ‘baptized by fire’ in 1983 when it comes to psychotropic drugs and the over-prescribing of them. It’s not new and it’s both better and worse now than it was then.

    (1983 is when my son suffered a closed head injury that left him physically, mentally, and emotionally handicapped. After more attempts than I can count, he successfully committed suicide in October 2011.)

    It’s better now because there are psychotropic drugs available that are more effective and less toxic. It’s worse because unscrupulous psychiatrists and uneducated primary care and family docs prescribe them too willy-nilly… because they are less toxic.

    It’s also worse now because there are people like you who think the use of psychotropic drugs is “bad” without understanding that there have always been and always will be people who cannot live without them. It’s also worse because there are others who think that because we have “good” drugs that psychiatric hospitals can perform miracles in 10 days or less.

    My main disagreement with you, real, about almost everything is that your opinions and your writings about them are shallow, self-centered, narrow-minded, and grossly judgmental.

  23. realpc920 said,

    Karen, I agree with all that you said about drugs. Of course people feel better on drugs — these are DRUGS, after all. Why don’t psychiatrists write prescriptions for heroin? It’s the same idea — dull the pain so you don’t have to deal with reality.

    There are cases where patients have severe mental illness and nothing helps except drugs. Our medical science understands very little about how the brain works or what can go wrong or why. They can’t fix these patients, so It’s better to drug them than to lock them up like in the old days.

    But it’s a really big leap to go ahead and drug everyone who has any kind of emotional pain. That would eventually be everyone, and it looks like it will be pretty soon.

    The stuff I read today about what psychiatrists are doing to children is horrifying to me.

    And Karen I don’t mean to insult Donna, but her attitude towards me is always unthinkingly antagonistic any time I criticize mainstream science. She wants to worship and revere the great experts, but that just is not me.

    I question authority and I can’t help it and if she can’t stand to see her idols criticized than she doesn’t have to read my posts. It is a waste of time trying to reason with someone who deliberately misunderstands everything I say.

    Some people find it unbearable to think that their trusted experts are not gods. It hurts me too when I see some of the insane directions our society is taking. But that is WHY I write about it. Shoving these things under the rug won’t help.

  24. realpc920 said,

    “My main disagreement with you, real, about almost everything is that your opinions and your writings about them are shallow, self-centered, narrow-minded, and grossly judgmental.”

    And that statement is a perfect example of why I try not to waste time trying to reason with someone like Donna. I think trading insults is boring and stupid, but that’s all she is capable of. So if you want an insult contest Donna, find someone else because it’s just too boring and stupid for me to waste time on.

  25. karen said,

    Donna– i am so sorry.

    So, so sorry.

    2day would have been my BinL’s 34th b-day.

    i get it.

  26. Donna B. said,

    No, real — you do mean to insult me. It’s condescending and demeaning to both of us to state otherwise. Just as it would be condescending of me to state that I didn’t mean to insult you!

    And your contention that I worship science — mainstream or otherwise — is just plain wrong. Real — you are antagonistic to me because I don’t worship what you believe and I don’t tippy-toe around your overwhelmingly broad condemnation of that which you don’t care to contemplate or understand.

    I laughed at your reaction to someone disagreeing with you from a different viewpoint in another comment thread here recently.

    I can’t stand anyone who thinks they’ve got ALL the answers and whether you mean to or not, that’s the way you come across to me. You don’t discuss, you pontificate. That’s sad because I think you occasionally have some decent insight on some things.

    You willfully overlook all the instances where I have posted agreement with you. That makes you self-centered because you demand total agreement. You will not even attempt to contemplate the possibility that you might be wrong on occasion.

    ~~~
    Karen, thank you. We obviously have different experiences. I know very few people who are on “mood enhancing” drugs. I know more who use alcohol for the comfortably numb feeling, but still very few who depend on it. Perhaps it’s a regional thing and perhaps sunlight does have something to do with it. I do live in the south now and grew up in the southwest.

    Then I remember how comfortable I was visiting Scotland in November. I experienced no jet lag and felt immediately ‘at home’ with about 6 hours of daylight. I’m sure it’s not normal, but I enjoyed the extended darkness. I especially enjoyed the slanted, indirect but intensely colorful, sunlight that was available. I’m not sure I’d like the summers there when it’s daylight for 18 hours a day. Though it’s still an “off-centered” sunlight unlike that in the southern U.S.

    ~~~
    My husband is recovering nicely from a surgical procedure that has within days reversed his dementia and quite a few of his physical symptoms that could have been attributed to his other well-documented health problems.

    But it took us almost a year to get to the surgery because his doctors were not sure what the problem was and they were reluctant to advise cutting when the indicators were iffy. No drugs were suggested.

    This partly illustrates my experience with “mainstream medicine”. Physical medicine, that is. Psychiatric practices seem more than willing to experiment without regard to side effects.

    Another illustration is what I experienced when I discovered that my little meningioma was having a growth spurt and needed to be dealt with. One neurosurgeon was to me overly confident that he could excise the whole thing and I should let him operate right away.

    Of course he had no way to force me to do that. Doctors aren’t all powerful and cannot demand that we do this or do that. We, as patients, are always in charge of what goes into our bodies whether it be a drug or a knife.

    Doctors can also (and do) say no to us — nope you don’t need that, that won’t help so I won’t prescribe it, etc. They are human too and just as likely as their patients to be fallible and make a wrong decision.

    That’s why medicine is still considered an art, albeit one that wields science as a tool.

    That’s probably where I differ most in opinion with real and others who demean the tool by bestowing upon it magical powers when it’s actually disagreement with a subset of artists they’ve got a beef with.

  27. A said,

    Donna, I’m fascinated with your remark about how the light in Scotland affected you. I find I’m increasingly light-sensitive, and color-sensitive;
    these factors impact my physical state and my mood within minutes.

  28. realpc920 said,

    The reason I wrote this post was not to say that exercise is good for you, or that doctors are no good. Everyone already knows that exercise is good for you, and doctors often mention it to their patients. But the majority of Americans still don’t get regular physical exercise, and my post was an attempt to figure out why.

    I have questioned mainstream science and medicine all my life because I started learning about alternative science decades ago. There were certain things I felt I needed to understand, and my searching led to a holistic way of thinking, which is very different from what is taught in our schools.

    Mainstream science has plenty of evidence that exercise is good for you, but no real understanding of why. I had mentioned Angela, the woman I know who has bipolar disorder — Angela’s psychiatrist suggested exercise, because it can reduce stress.

    But Angela ignored the suggestion — why, because Angela would rather reduce stress by vegging in front of the TV for several hours after work. Angela never learned anything about alternative science or medicine, and she never heard of metabolic syndrome. And her psychiatrist never bothered to tell her.

    I put together what I think is a plausible and reasonable scenario — that metabolic syndrome, which results mostly from an inactive lifestyle, and which leads to chronic inflammation, might be a major factor in bipolar disorder. After all, if the brain is affected by chronic inflammation it would not be too surprising if symptoms result.

    Angela, and her psychiatrist, never put these fairly obvious ideas together. The new anti-psychotic drugs cause metabolic syndrome, so they worsen what could be the underlying cause of bipolar disorder. And they also increase the odds of the patient eventually getting heard disease, diabetes, cancer or dementia.

    So naturally I am curious about why so many people seem to be unconcerned about their inactive lifestyle, and that’s why I wrote this post. I think it must be because of our cultural mythology that gives us unreasonable faith in mainstream medicine.

    And that mythology might have come from the idea that our lives are longer and healthier now than ever before, thanks to modern medicine. And that is a hard myth to argue against since there is truth in it. But the truth is mixed with untruth, and the challenge is to separate them and try to look at the reality.

    And it does matter, for a lot of different reasons. For one thing, the cost of health care is probably one of the most urgent problems facing our society.

  29. Donna B. said,

    A — I don’t think I’m particularly sensitive to light. I don’t even wear sunglasses very often though I probably should.

    What struck me as odd was how comfortable I was being in that time zone — I was naturally awake before 7am and I am not known as a morning person!

    It was the quality of the light that struck me so, most dramatically when there was a rainbow. I’ve seen some awesome rainbows in the southwest, but the ones in this part of Scotland (Firth of Clyde) during that particular rainy windy November were the most colorful and defined I’ve ever witnessed.

    The light in the SW U.S. washes the colors out rendering rainbows most often in fuzzy pastels.

    There also seemed to a golden hue to whatever the sun happened to be shining on in Scotland. This is likely due to the fact that there were almost always clouds and rain accompanying the shafts of sunlight.

    It was probably a time/place/mood thing overall. Next time, I will have a better camera.

  30. karen said,

    I read in the Week– a newsy little magazine, that as people age, they need to resist shading themselves(their eyes)from the sun because of their… can’t remember the word.. rhythm of the body– circacia? Nope. Shit.

    My Mom and Aunt both know this special rhythm because they are RNs. Circadia? Nope. The angry, squiggly line is screaming in my face.

    Anyway– we need this rhythm of the body to stay awake and function. But…

    I’m too tired to think. Gotta go to bed. And, i’m constantly thinking of Randy– can someone update? Please?

    Real– i appreciate that comment.

  31. Donna B. said,

    circadian. You were oh so very close!

  32. amba12 said,

    What have you got in mind as a “reward” for those who take care of their bodies that they don’t already get? Cheaper insurance

    Hear, hear!

  33. amba12 said,

    Jesus, Donna. I’m just reading the comments here for the first time (I don’t know what’s going on on “my own,” our own, blog!) and I didn’t know about your son. I don’t know what to say. I wish I could just sit at the kitchen table with you for about six hours, talking or not. Come to think of it, I had many moments over the last six months of wondering “where you were” and how you were. I was too preoccupied or withdrawn or something to just ask. What a long heartbreak.

  34. amba12 said,

    Real, I don’t recognize your portrait of Donna as a blind science worshipper AT ALL. Unfortunately, it reflects badly only back on you. You are seeing your enemies from the skeptic blogs (some of whom really are arrogant, science-worshipping pricks) everywhere, including where they are not, and you really can’t seem to see it when someone has a view of things that is modulated, not black and white. You have to set them up as being the deluded bad guy to your martyred good guy. Even warriors can’t fight 24/7, but you seem stuck in battle mode, like someone with PTSD.

    Thinking just isn’t precise enough to draw a razor-sharp line between right and wrong. People who entertain both sides of an argument (pro and con Western medicine, e.g.) are trying to get closer to the complexity of reality. They are not automatically taking the opposite side from you just because they are pondering both sides. You even do that yourself at unguarded moments.

  35. amba12 said,

    the majority of Americans still don’t get regular physical exercise, and my post was an attempt to figure out why.

    Because human beings are lazy! You can look at it from an “evolutionary” perspective and say that animals try to conserve energy when its life-and-death expenditure is not required (and likewise that we’re programmed to gorge ourselves against famine because we starved more than not for hundreds of thousands of years). Or you can look at it from a spiritual/religious point of view and say that sloth is one of the seven deadly sins, and may even be the root one — that and/or pride. It’s pretty much the same thing if you ask me. The Greeks had a word, “akrasia,” that means “acting against one’s own self-interest” (or failing to act in one’s own self-interest, as in exercise). We tend to go for the short-term comfort, or avoiding the short-term discomfort. We’re always looking for shortcuts. We act on what we feel rather than what we know. etc. etc. etc. It’s universal. It can be fought. It can be forgiven. It can be laughed at. It can be frontally attacked or danced with and tricked.

  36. amba12 said,

    Donna, does your husband have normal pressure hydrocephalus? That’s the only form of dementia and disability I’ve heard of that can be substantially reversed by surgery. Is there another one?

  37. amba12 said,

    Real, I certainly agree with you that big pharma is in collusion with the lazy part of people, the part of me that wants someone else to fix me without any effort on my part, that wants an all-powerful authority to save me from mortality and death. It’s really very childlike. People used to put that kind of faith in prayer, God, and Heaven, and now many people put it in science. Ironically, insofar as either one works, the placebo effect and the power of belief play a substantial part in it (though I certainly don’t mean to say that’s the only factor in either case). Our bodies and minds have some fairly remarkable powers that sometimes only work when we project them onto authority figures. Crazy!!

  38. realpc920 said,

    “My main disagreement with you, real, about almost everything is that your opinions and your writings about them are shallow, self-centered, narrow-minded, and grossly judgmental.”

    I don’t agree Amba. This is the kind of thing Donna always says about whatever I write. She is adversarial towards me, always, I do not think it’s my fault as you said.

  39. realpc920 said,

    “It’s really very childlike. People used to put that kind of faith in prayer, God, and Heaven”

    Maybe where you live this is no longer going on, but in most of America we still are childlike. I get more childlike every day.

  40. amba12 said,

    Here’s a series of quotes on science as it should be: not so sure of itself.

    Real, I mean “childlike” (maybe “childish”) here not in the sense of innocent wonder and trust, but in the sense of wanting a powerful parent to fix everything. In that sense, I think we need to grow up. We still need to pray, in whatever sense different people do it, but we can (and must) also do more for ourselves than some people’s strictly religious view allows. Jacques wrote in his book about the people in the prison transport to the Donbas who prayed, cried, and died. When their notion of an omnipotent God did not rescue them, they despaired. It didn’t occur to some that even God might need a collaborator.

  41. amba12 said,

    Here’s my spiritual practice: when I am critical of something about someone else, or something about them drives me nuts, I look for that thing in myself. I can usually find it.

  42. realpc920 said,

    Amba, we can have childlike trust in and love for the whatever that created us, and that maintains our existence, and that we can’t ever be separated from. Whatever we prefer to call it.

    I think that a child’s natural trust in and devotion for its parents is a reflection of the more general trust and devotion all creatures feel.

    If I trust something infinitely greater than myself it doesn’t mean I won’t do anything to help myself. The something infinitely greater IS myself.

    The part of us that feels separate, the ego or whatever it is, is really helpless and alone, and it feels like an orphan. We are never orphans.

    And yes, what you said is true, we should not judge others or feel superior to them. That is just the pathetic ego trying to feel special.

  43. realpc920 said,

    “They are not automatically taking the opposite side from you just because they are pondering both sides. You even do that yourself at unguarded moments.”

    I can’t ever remember thinking there were two opposite sides to anything. I never thought Donna was taking an opposite side from mine, and that wouldn’t be possible anyway because I don’t remember ever agreeing with extremists about anything. That’s exactly what I don’t think I ever do.

    I almost never understand what Donna is talking about, so maybe I get impatient, and I admit shouldn’t. She can’t help it that whatever she says is incomprehensible to me. She also likes to insult me, and I should try harder to ignore it.

  44. Donna B. said,

    Yes, he has normal pressure hydrocephalus. And type II diabetes, colon cancer, prostate cancer, bladder cancer, and heart disease. All those diseases and the various side effects of the treatment for some of them could easily account for all the NPH symptoms except the dementia.

    That snuck up on us. He’s always had a problem losing his wallet, keys, glasses, cell phone. We used our sense of humor to cover up mental lapses quite well also.

    So, perhaps this didn’t get investigated as soon as it might have been. It was a bad fall that really got everyone’s attention. That was 10 months ago and we thought then that he’d get a shunt inserted in early summer. But the special MRI wasn’t ‘conclusive’ and two neurosurgeons advised a ‘wait and see’ strategy.

    But the difference in his walking ability within hours of the surgery was simply amazing. In addition to walking much faster than he had in at least 2 years, he appeared to be several inches taller. I hadn’t realized how stooped he’d been.

    The surgery (like every other medical treatment) caused problems of its own. It’s been a month now and he still has bouts of nausea and headaches though farther apart and less severe. Now that he’s not feeling so physically sick, I’m noticing that his facial expressions are brighter and more varied along with his attitude.

    Overall, I’d say he’s “unaged” at least 5 years.

  45. realpc920 said,

    “Because human beings are lazy! You can look at it from an “evolutionary” perspective and say that animals try to conserve energy when its life-and-death expenditure is not required (and likewise that we’re programmed to gorge ourselves against famine because we starved more than not for hundreds of thousands of years). ”

    I really don’t know. People used to love taking walks. It was a common way of relaxing and socializing. Walking is one of the pleasures of life, and everyone used to know that. So I am not convinced that laziness is the reason people are inactive.

    Pet dogs and cats want to go outside and run around. They don’t want to be stuck inside, but they will get used to that lifestyle if they don’t have a choice.

    We can lose touch with our physical selves and forget what it’s like to feel good. And we have the medical mythology telling us that back when people were physically active they dropped dead at age 40.

  46. A said,

    I’m fascinated to read of normal pressure hydrocephalus–which I’d never heard of—and even more to read of “unaging” five years.
    I’d bet it’s a dx that is often missed, though I could be wrong about that. This is an informative blog. I’m glad your husband is better, Donna!

  47. amba12 said,

    We can lose touch with our physical selves and forget what it’s like to feel good.

    I think that’s true.

    People used to do brutal physical work, especially in the agricultural and industrial eras. Leisure was considered a prestigious luxury. So maybe we (generally) are still reacting to the collective memory of so much physical struggle, overindulging in our “freedom from movement” the same way we overindulge in our freedom from hunger. It seems to be taking us a long time to realize that in fact we are built to move (and built to fast periodically too!), but in the long view of human history maybe a generation or two is just an eyeblink.

    It’s interesting in this regard to think about the current craze for all things “paleo.” The more our activity (and diet?) resembles that of hunter-gatherers, the better we seem to feel — or so say the “paleo” advocates. The Biblical narrative of getting cast out of the garden to earn our bread by the sweat of our brow could have to do with the invention of agriculture.

  48. amba12 said,

    Donna, A, a friend of ours — Jacques’ former immigration lawyer — was diagnosed 8 or 10 years ago with NPH, that’s how I know about it. Balance problems, incontinence, dementia — all reversed to a significant extent by a shunt. And he was in his 80s when diagnosed! He just died at age 94. The shunt definitely bought him a lot of quality time.

  49. realpc920 said,

    “It’s interesting in this regard to think about the current craze for all things “paleo.” The more our activity (and diet?) resembles that of hunter-gatherers, the better we seem to feel — or so say the “paleo” advocates. The Biblical narrative of getting cast out of the garden to earn our bread by the sweat of our brow could have to do with the invention of agriculture.”

    YES.

  50. realpc920 said,

    “People used to do brutal physical work, especially in the agricultural and industrial eras. Leisure was considered a prestigious luxury. So maybe we (generally) are still reacting to the collective memory of so much physical struggle, ”

    Being inactive was a sign of being aristocratic, in the agricultural societies. That’s probably why Chinese aristocrats had long fingernails, and the women had bound feet. Being fat could also be a sign of aristocracy. And women with very white skin, because they never worked out in the fields, were considered more beautiful.

    Now women are considered beautiful if they are thin and tan — just the opposite of the aristocratic ideal. However, I think we still have the leftover idea that fat and white is better.

    It still does mean you are not a manual laborer.

  51. Donna B. said,

    “People used to do brutal physical work, especially in the agricultural and industrial eras. Leisure was considered a prestigious luxury. ”

    “People used to love taking walks. It was a common way of relaxing and socializing.”

    Two different classes of people are being discussed. Those who did the brutal physical work probably did not take many walks to relax or socialize.

    As for the brutal physical work, much of it didn’t involve a lot of bodily movement. It was more likely to involve being in one position for great lengths of time with only parts of the body in movement — repetitive, damaging movement in many cases. Isn’t that what made it brutal?

    “The more our activity (and diet?) resembles that of hunter-gatherers, the better we seem to feel — or so say the “paleo” advocates. The Biblical narrative of getting cast out of the garden to earn our bread by the sweat of our brow could have to do with the invention of agriculture.”

    Perhaps the ‘bad’ thing now is that we (at least by some definitions of “we”) combine the “best” of what we had in the past. We will consume that scrumptious roasted-over-a-fire paleo meat along with the breads and sweets of agriculture.

    At least that’s what I plan on doing tonight…

    As for the Garden of Eden being such a paradise, just what did Adam and Eve do all day long?

    “we are built to move (and built to fast periodically too!)”

    Built? That presumes we have a purpose other than to exist or survive. It presumes there is a best way to move and eat… and that those that don’t adhere to it aren’t fulfilling their purpose. Or perhaps it’s duty… If we’re built, something had to do the building and we owe them something for that.

  52. karen said,

    SooOOooo-paleo= redneck, eh? Heh- gotta know i like THAT:0).

    Our old, black dog got hit today & my husband and littlest(&bravest)daughter buried him across the road- up on the bank between the daffodils– and above the woodchuck hole he used to love to dig in. He was to be 15 next month– and i suppose it is a blessing in disguise– i feel bad for the fella that did the deed- such an accident. Buddy was deaf as a post.

    I also am learning to use my l- W/OUT A MOUSE- there’s this tricky pad thingy that sucks rotten eggs– it’s a taptap type of idiot thing. I think i will not get used to such a thing as this little square scratchpad.

    Farming is aging us. I’d love to take a walk– if i were not so tired out from the milking and the cleaning and the… everything.

  53. karen said,

    … to continue form the above– I = Laptop.
    No mouse. :0(.

  54. amba12 said,

    We will consume that scrumptious roasted-over-a-fire paleo meat along with the breads and sweets of agriculture.

    At least that’s what I plan on doing tonight…

    LOL!

    As for periodic or occasional fasting — there’s some scientific evidence that it’s healthful — cells go into conservation mode and consume their trash for fuel, cleaning things up a lot. I’m up too late again and too tired to explain better.

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