Category Archives: Health

Minnesota Goes Smoke-Free on October 1, 2007

The Minnesota Legislature passed a bill that will ban indoor smoking, including all bars and restaurants, effective October 1, 2007. It’s about time. I think this is a simple public health issue. I just don’t get these kind of complaints:

“I don’t smoke, but I’m a small-business owner and this is a huge violation of personal choice. It is a simple violation of people’s rights,” said Sue Minehart, owner of the Main Street Grill in Alden, Minn.

Personal rights end when they infringe on the rights of others. My right to healthy lungs trumps your right to destroy your lungs. And frankly, I don’t see why we shouldn’t ban smoking entirely. We ban other harmful substances regardless of personal choice, why not cigarettes? It’s not like they offer a shred of benefit or even illusory medicinal value. They just kill people.

Nostalgia, Shelley & Cancer

5th Grade TripI came across a blast from my past yesterday, this lovely photo from a fifth grade class trip. My dorkiness doesn’t so much surprise me. I’m used to that. But it’s the collective dorkiness that’s impressive. At least in hindsight.

While stumbling across the picture, I also came across a story from an old friend. I’ve talked about Shelley before (though reading it now it seems a bit stalkerish–sorry Shelley), but that was before I reconnected with her. She tells the story on her MySpace blog (I think you need to be her friend to read it) of her struggle with cancer. It’s riviting. Nobody my age is supposed to be fighting for their life against cancer. But I guess they are. But Shelley kicked cancer’s ass. And honestly, that doesn’t surprise me. She recently participated in a walk to raise money for cancer, hence the recollection of her experience.

Here’s one small excerpt:

On the drive from my apartment to school for the relay, I started to get teary eyed, reflecting on everything that has happened over the past few years. I was headed to an event that honored and celebrated my survivorship, something that I would gladly give up and never wish upon anyone. Sure, my life is so much more fulfilling after having cancer, but it’s horrible to think that I had to suffer so badly before the good fully entered into my life, or at least into my awareness, as I do believe the good was always present.

As I sit here watching my daughter crush Wheaties with her bottle, such a monumental struggle seems so far away. But it’s not. It always amazes me what people go through, if only we take the time to find out.

Minnesota to Ban Smoking

I hope the state of Minnesota will soon be going smoke free. Ramsey County passed a smoking ban two years ago when St. Paul couldn’t get one passed (thank you very much former Mayor Randy Kelly–I voted against you based on this issue) and I think it’s the right move for public health.

Now that we’re moving out of Ramsey County I’m not eager to return to smoke-filled restaurants, so I hope the state-wide ban is passed. I just e-mailed my state representative urging him to support the bill (find yours and do the same).

Video Games Improve Eyesight

A new study shows that playing action video games can actually improve your vision. Specifically the action games like first-person shooters help you better pick out objects (i.e., targeting the baddies in a dark room). Slow-moving games like Tetris don’t cut it.

But gaming will only help specific situations, like optical nerve or brain dysfunctions–or old age–but not typical problems with the physical size and shape of the eye (so I’m probably screwed).

Of course then they throw this bit in at the end:

On the downside, research suggests that too much time on a bright screen can cause eyestrain and may disrupt the body’s biological clock, particularly if played just before bedtime, and that some games may be psychologically damaging.

Psychologically damaging. Meh, minor issue.

Fits of Yuck

I’m really bad at being sick. I spent most of yesterday curled up in the fetal position, moaning and thrashing as my stomach turned upside down and emptied itself a few times and the muscles in my legs and back tightened into sleep-defying cramps. I crawled into bed at 7:00 p.m. last night and could barely roll over without launching my stomach into fits of yuck. It was at least 11:00 p.m. before I feel asleep, and I woke several times before finally giving up at 7:00 a.m. All I had to eat yesterday was breakfast. The three sips of pop I tried wouldn’t stay down, though the quarter of a saltine I managed just before 11:00 seemed OK.

Most of the night my mind kept wandering into bizarre rationales for the pain I was feeling, a mix between dreaming and some kind of stream of consciousness rambling. My favorite rationale was that it was some kind of bad magic, thanks to having finished season six of Buffy earlier that day. Another rationale had something to do with opened and closed systems. It made incredible sense at the time, but now it seems like weird hallucinations.

Thankfully I’m feeling better this morning. I can not only roll over in bed, but can also wonder the house without doubling over. A piece of slightly buttered toast, a few saltines and a shot glass of Sprite were a poor excuse for breakfast time. I’m starving, but afraid to try much more.

The freaky part is that it’s all strangely reminiscent of the banana-induced stomach suck I experienced a while back. Though I haven’t eaten any bananas since.

If I ever have some serious medical condition or have to go to the hospital or endure any kind of health related yuck, I’m going to be terrible. I think I have a very low tolerance for pain. I made my poor wife do the most meaningless of tasks last night, like transfer my Sprite from an ordinary cup to a water bottle so I could drink it without sitting up. I can’t imagine she got any sleep last night, with all my thrashing and rolling.

The dog seems to have an innate sense of sympathy when it comes to pain. When he realized I wouldn’t lift him up on to the bed he curled up on the blankets on the floor. While in the bathroom heaving, Speak would hear me from downstairs and come running, though his excited licking wasn’t exactly what I wanted.

Stop the Smoke

Ironically, after some friends and I fled a smoke-filled bar on Friday night, I read about proposed smoking bans in St. Paul and Minneapolis.

It seems there’s a fairly strong push to ban smoking in bars and restaurants as a public health measure. The negative effects of second-hand smoke have been well documented, but recent studies show the effects for short-term exposure can be just as deadly. A study reported in Time magazine last week found a 40% drop in the number of heart attacks when the city instituted a smoking ban. When a court order lifted the ban 6 months later, the number heart attacks bounced back.

From the smoker’s side it’s an argument of freedom and letting the people decide. They argue that government shouldn’t be involved and that people will decide simply by where they spend their money. If non-smokers stayed away from smokey bars and there was enough economic pressure, restaurants and bars would voluntarily ban smoking.

It seems logical enough to me, except that we’re not talking about a simple matter of choice. We’re talking about a health risk. One argument in the articles I read compared it to aspestos in a restaurant falling onto people’s food from the ceiling and the government doing nothing about it. The other side countered by saying that’s a false comparison — aspestos is illegal, cigarettes are not. Which leads me to the question why not? We ban drugs that have a harmful effect on the body, why not cigarettes? I don’t know of any positive effect smoking can give that might outweigh their negative effects (alcohol, on the other hand, has tremendous negative social effects, but it does have positive health effects when people drink responsibly). I don’t think it’s even possible to smoke responsibly.

But rather than just rant about it in my blog, I did a quick Google search to find the e-mail addresses of the St. Paul City Council members. A minute later my voice had been heard. The Internet: Is there anything it can’t do?

It’s Been a Bad Day

Yesterday was not a good day. Abby stayed home sick. I had a lot of work to do. I basically had one day to write my business plan (so I procrastinated a little), which had to be ready to present today. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I’m not trying to convince bankers. I also had church last night, which meant a good chunk of the evening was gone.

It meant for a busy day, but not too bad. Then I had lunch.

Continue reading It’s Been a Bad Day

I’m Lovin’ It?

Morgan Spurlock decided to eat three meals a day for 30 days at McDonald’s. The result? A gain of 25 pounds, a 65-point cholesterol spike, vomitting, toxic liver, depression and headaches. According to the New York Post, this was all for his documentary, “Super Size Me,” which he’s entering in the Sundance Film Festival.

After stories like this and books like Fast Food Nation, I wonder why I even consider eating fast food. Yet I still do.

Eating Right

I’ve been eating fruit lately. I should probably clarify that lately means the last four or five days. Basically since we last went to the grocery store. This comes as a worthy piece of news because I’m not exactly the healthiest eater on the planet. They tell you to eat four to five servings of fruits or vegetables per day. I usually eat that many per week. In high school it was per month.

Since college I’ve gotten much better about vegetables. I actually like mushrooms, onions, and green peppers. Match those with the already acceptable potatoes, corn, and lettuce, and you’ve got something. Throw in the ‘acceptable when eaten in something like pasta or salad’ vegetables, including tomatoes, broccoli, carrots and the like, and you could call me a vegetarian.

So vegetables haven’t been a problem. It’s fruit I’m not wild about. And part of the problem is delivery. It’s easy to add vegetables to a dish and you have a guaranteed delivery system. Tacos, baked potatoes, and pasta are all excellent vegetable delivery systems. But fruit has very few ready made delivery systems. Yogurt is probably the most healthy, but everything else seems to veer into the realm of baked goods, which kind of defeats the purpose.

Of course I shouldn’t act like I’m eating all sorts of fruits. I’m mainly an apples and bananas kind of guy. I think those are the great American school lunch fruits. And I suppose if juice counts, I drink a glass of orange juice every day. That counts for something, right?

I’m also trying to be more active. Of course I’m always trying that. But in the past week I have exercised twice, which is two-thirds of what I should be doing. Not that I’ve ever cared much or care now for formal exercising. I’ve always thought it’s pathetic that we reduce ourselves to mice running in a spinning wheel just to stay physically fit. It used to be that our labor kept us in shape. And if it wasn’t our labor, it was our play. Now we don’t do either, so we hit the running wheel. I’m hoping my exercise falls somewhere between the running wheel and play. And the more towards play I can be, the better.

Don’t worry, I’m not turning into a health nut. I just want to be physically fit. When I sprint to catch the bus I don’t want to be catching my breath for the next five minutes. When I join the broomball team every January, I don’t want to spend the first weeks in agony at my lack of activity. When I’m 60 I don’t want to have trouble getting up.

Now if only I could give up my addiction to Pepsi, I’d really be on the road to good health. Wait! No! That’s my caffeine delivery system.

Jamie Overdosed

A few weeks ago someone found a good friend of mine passed out on their dorm room floor. We’ll call her Jamie. Apparently she’d overdosed on painkillers. Life had become a little too much for Jamie. Thankfully she survived, and now she’s in the psyche ward of some rural state hospital.

Anorexia and depression were the culprits. She’s a size 0, but that wasn’t good enough. She counted every last calorie she consumed, from half a rice cake, to a stick of Trident. She had all the excuses in the book, like “I had a big lunch,” and “I’m going out with friends later.” Everyone guessed she was anorexic, but nobody really did anything. She was seeing a counselor, and that was supposed to make everything okay. I wonder how the counselor feels now?

So Jamie spends her days under restriction in a far-flung wing of a hospital. When it’s time to eat she stubbornly refuses, picking at her food with disdain, mentally adding the fat content and calories until it makes her sick. If she doesn’t eat, they cram a tube down her throat and force feed her a can of Ensure. She figures the 200 calories in the Ensure is less than the meatless chicken nuggets she’d have to eat, so she wins this way. “And I don’t have to chew,” she points out. She’s also a Vegan, an extreme habit she hasn’t had before. A few years ago she became a vegetarian, but we all thought it was okay. She’d still eat dinner. She’d still come home from school and have a bowl of cereal. She ate strangely, but she ate. Maybe it was just practice.

On top of all the eating troubles, Jamie’s still suicidal. She says she swallowed the bottle of pain killers and any other drugs she could find because she was so sick of dealing with it. She knew what anorexia was doing to her body, how eventually her body would consume itself, how her skin and hair would become unhealthy. She knew all the facts, but it didn’t matter. She still wouldn’t eat. Somehow she decided killing herself could be a way out.

She still sees it that way. She refuses to eat, and if it kills her, so be it. She basically has no hope. Which makes my role pretty difficult in all of this. There’s no sense in reasoning with her. She’s so emaciated logic doesn’t mean anything. So I can’t convince her to eat. And how do you tell someone who sees no value in life that life is actually worth living? I guess I try with the small things. A phone call, a letter, a visit. Maybe these simple acts will show her that someone loves her. That’s really all I can hope for.

Now as I walk through the mall, stop at the bookstore, and ride the bus, I think about Jamie. Who told her she was fat? I see the magazine covers that adorned the floor of her room. I scan those covers in the line at the grocery store, the tag lines about looking sexy, losing weight, being thin, and snagging your man. It’s all one mental image. Thin=beauty. I see thin girls walking by and I wonder if they have an eating disorder. I wonder if they hate food, if they count the calorie of every morsel they chew. I wonder if they think they’re sexy because they can buy their clothes at Gap Kids.

I’ve always thought that the movers and shakers in society were to blame for this. It was a vast conspiracy between the magazine publishers, the makers of beauty products, and anyone else who could get in on the scam that if they make women think they’re fat and thin is beautiful, they’ll do anything to be thin and money can be made. That always seemed to be the case, but I really hoped it wasn’t true. I really hoped their was a better explanation. Yesterday I was reading an article that described how pop singer Jessica Simpson’s record label forced her to get an image makeover before the release of her latest album. Although Jessica has never worn clothes larger than a size 6, the image makeover required her to lose 15 pounds. Lose 15 pounds to sell a CD. You’re already skinny, but it’s not enough. The average size in America is a 12, but half of that isn’t thin enough, isn’t beautiful enough.

And I wonder who told Jamie she was fat.

Jamie, you’re not fat. You’re beautiful. And you’re beautiful at 90 pounds, you’re beautiful at 100 pounds, you’re beautiful at 120 pounds, you’re beautiful at 180 pounds. You’d even be beautiful at 250 pounds. Your weight does not determine your beauty–unless of course you weigh 80 pounds and you’re dead. Death is not beautiful.