July 24, 2014

Preaching to the Choir: Rudi Tanzi and Deepak Chopra Explain Why Meditation Works

This video is basically a promotion by Drs. Tanzi and Chopra for their best-selling book. But the clip explains -- simply and briefly -- why meditation works.

Tanzi has made several recent appearances on this blog. The Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy professor of Neurology at Harvard University, he also directs the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. With popular author and physician Deepak Chopra, Tanzi wrote Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-Being.

The authors assert that the brain is capable of incredible healing and reshaping. Developing a new relationship with your brain can transform your life. The authors explain how using the brain -- instead of letting it use you -- can bring a host of positive reward, like:

  • Reduce the risks of aging. 
  • Promote happiness and well-being through the mind-body connection.
  • Access the enlightened brain, the gateway to freedom and bliss.
  • Overcome common challenges like memory loss, depression, anxiety, and obesity.

Yes, this line-up of benefits resembles the hype you hear from Dr. Oz and other TV hucksters, whose unscientific noise I usually ignore (and abhor). But Dr. Tanzi's credentials -- and his work -- are impressive.

I'm also sold on meditation.

Meditation and Me: The Latest
My own variety of meditation has become a treasured and important part of my days, clearly enhancing my sense of well-being. Here's the most recent "discovery."

July 23, 2014

Doctors’ Misdiagnoses: Why They Happen, How You Can Help Prevent Them

Estimates suggest that doctors make the wrong diagnosis during 10-15 percent of their patients’ office visits for new problems. So, if you’ve seen your doctor for about eight different issues in your lifetime, the odds are he’s misdiagnosed your problem at least once.

As reported in a recent Consumer Reports article, those misdiagnoses don’t involve uncommon or rare conditions… which might be understandable. According to a March 2013 study of 68 different cases in which doctors’ analyses were wrong, the issues they most often mis-identified -- or overlooked, or diagnosed late -- were these five common problems:
  1. Cancer (metastatic, or leukemia, lung, or pancreatic)
  2. Pneumonia
  3. Congestive heart failure
  4. Kidney failure
  5. Urinary tract infection
Doctors make those mistakes twice as often in their offices than in hospitals. But incorrect verdicts carry more severe consequences in hospital settings, since patients are already sick enough to be there.

Doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore studied the problem of misdiagnoses, and their conclusions were published in the August 2013 issue of BMJ Quality and Safety in Health Care. Those doctors estimated that as many as 160,000 hospitalized patients die every year because healthcare professionals did one of these things:
  • Misdiagnosed a problem.
  • Made a late diagnosis.
  • Missed the problem altogether.
There are many reasons that contribute to faulty analyses by doctors, and those reasons typically occur in combination:

July 22, 2014

A Fabulous Fjord For Breakfast

Most likely, the highlight of the Norway cruise came as we headed for our first landing -- the village of Geiranger at the end of the Hellesylt-Geiranger fjord. The nine-mile waterway between these two towns is considered one of the world's most magnificent fjords.

How Fjords Are Formed
Fjords are waterway formed after glaciers ripped deep troughs into bedrock. Eventually, these glaciated valleys were filled by the incoming sea toward the end of the Ice Age.

Geiranger enjoys ice-free navigation year round, because the Gulf Stream carries its warm water north along the coast of Norway. Together, the warm water and cold air also create the region's typical cloudy mists, evident in these photos.

My Most Fabulous Breakfast Ever
As I stood in the ship's breakfast buffet line, the captain announced on the loudspeaker that we were entering part of the fjord where we could see the waterfalls named the "Seven Sisters" on the left and the "Bridal Veil" on the right.

I grabbed my cereal and coffee, and headed to the back deck. It was a cool, cloudy day with intermittent sprinkles, so not too many passengers joined me. I spent the next half hour saying to myself, "Life doesn't get any better than this."

July 21, 2014

Cinnamon for Parkinson's? A Promising Study, a Skeptical Review

The Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology recently reported an interesting study finding: eating cinnamon – yes, the common spice in apple pie and gooey Danish pastries – dramatically improved the health of mice with Parkinson’s disease by reversing changes – biochemical, cellular, and anatomical – that had been brought on by the disease.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the study was reported in the July 9 edition of the website of Science Daily, among other outlets.
OK, I don’t get too excited about rodent studies, since they certainly won’t translate into human treatments while I’m alive. But maybe they’ll lead to breakthroughs down the road for my younger fellow PWPs.

Cinnamon.... Like Curcumin, the Wonder Compound?
This study – with its simple spice component -- reminded me a little of the amazing findings for curcumin, the active ingredient in the Indian curry spice turmeric. About 500 studies studies have shown curcumin to be effective in treating a shockingly broad array of conditions and diseases, like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, MS, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and depression. It's no wonder curcumin is called “the holy powder” on the Indian subcontinent. 

Will cinnamon, in time, generate similar research-based enthusiasm? 

Kalipada Pahan, PhD -- study lead researcher and professor of neurology at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center -- touts cinnamon's promise: "Cinnamon has been used widely as a spice throughout the world for centuries. This could potentially be one of the safest approaches to halt disease progression in Parkinson’s patients."

July 18, 2014

"Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill"

I've loved Billie Holiday ("Lady Day") since I first heard her recordings decades ago. But my wife hated her singing. So I listened to my Lady Day albums after my wife went to bed.

Hearing Billie Holiday's music late at night -- while I was half drunk -- only enhanced my love affair with her.

Holiday's difficult career exacted a painful price. She is as well known now for the grim travails of her short life -- she died at the age of 44, her voice spent, her body destroyed by addiction to alcohol and heroin -- as she is revered for the legacy of recordings she left behind.

Now Lady Day is being resurrected nightly at the Circle in the Square Theatre in New York City by five-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald. The show -- Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill -- is getting rave reviews.