Checkout week 2 of The Ramble.  A quick rundown of some of the past week’s interesting health and wellness stories, anti-smoking silliness, breast feeding on the rise, fit and fat and Lasik Surgery.

In an effort to keep my verbosity in check, I’m limiting myself to a paragraph or so per topic, which keeps the word total down and the breadth of information up.  Smoking, breastfeeding, fit and fat and Lasik surgery were all in the health and wellness news this week so I’ll touch on each story while providing you with my take on the various subjects.

My position is that the anti-smoking forces and public health officials should drop all of these ridiculous piecemeal measures that try to punish tobacco companies or get them to pay for medical bills for smoking, and focus all of their efforts as banning or otherwise regulating tobacco.  Plain and simple, if your position is that smoking kills there is no action that you can take other than work to get it banned. Of course, this will never happen because the anti-smoking folks and politicians in their thrall are addicted to the riches that tobacco money brings.

Breast Feeding Is On the Rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention three-quarters of all new mothers are breast-feeding their infants, which is the highest level ever since the CDC started tracking this behavior.  Breast-feeding in the African-American segment of the population is also at an all-time high, which bodes well.

Authorities point to educational efforts and the changing of attitudes as the reasons for this newfound popularity of breast-feeding. Educational efforts have been aimed at getting new moms to understand that breast milk can offer some protection against disease and childhood obesity, better protection that that offered by formula.

No doubt, economics are part of the reason for breast-feeding’s resurgence, as formula costs much more than breast milk.  My wife breastfed our 3 boys – managing to handle twins! – and can attest to the overall easy of use and effectiveness of breast milk.  Cheers!

“Fit but Fat” Theory Under Assault From the Weight-Centric Forces.  New research has been published by a group of Harvard-affiliated researchers that purports to cast doubt on the “Fit but Fat” theory of health.  However, when you get past the slanted headlines and lead used in this Associated Press news story you will find that the focus of doubt should be on the methods used by the researchers.

The conclusions reached by researchers were based on the survey materials collected from 39,000 women over 11 years with regard to their exercise levels and the incidence of heart disease.  This study found that “normal weight” women (note that the AP story does not define what “normal weight” is) were less likely to suffer from heart disease than women who were overweight and active and obese and active.

There is a quote in the story from a doctor not involved with this study who says that exercise does reduce the risk of heart disease but “doesn’t take away the risk entirely.”  There is not a safety measure that’s even been enacted that entirely reduces the risk of whatever the goal of the measure is.  For instance, using a seatbelt doesn’t entirely reduce the risk of being injured or killed in a car accident and using the sidewalk and crossing at the green doesn’t take away the risk entirely of being hit by a car.

Obesity expert Professor Steven Blair of the University of South Carolina points out the limited nature of this data because the women self-reported their exercise behavior.  Blair points out that a simple treadmill test can be administered to see how heart rate responds to exercise, therefore determining if in fact a person has been exercising at the proper level.  Without this follow up testing, self-reported data is less than convincing in this case.  The forces of the “weight-centric” approach to health and fitness never rest.

Lasik Eye Surgery.  Despite what we’ve been led to believe, Lasik surgery is not a panacea, and is not for everyone.  A story on the AP’s Health and Wellness wire service points out that there are 6 alternatives to the Lasik procedure that in many cases can be as effective, if not better than, Lasik.

The most effective alternative to Lasik is something called surface ablation or wavefront-guided PRK, as precision-improving software has been developed that makes this laser technique more effect than it had been in the past.  In Lasik surgery a flap is cut in the cornea, which makes this procedure riskier than other options, and can lead to some of the common and uncommon side effects.

The bottom line is to realize that surgery doesn’t always totally fix anything, and that Lasik doesn’t guarantee clear sight, and that this procedure isn’t for everyone.  Physical features of the eye and the nature of what needs to be “fixed” mean that other procedures, or just good old glasses and contacts, are superior to Lasik and other surgical options.

Find a doctor who isn’t married to one specific procedure if you’re thinking about putting your eyes under the laser.


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