Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, you should be outraged by N.C. Senate Bill 4 .
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Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, you should be outraged by N.C. Senate Bill 4 .
As you’re planning a night out with friends, you start to feel strange. Your throat is sore, your muscles are achy, and you start feeling so bad that you call the night off.
Most college students are less worried about heart disease than looking good enough to break hearts. But there is one key factor that long-term health and attractiveness have in common: maintaining a healthy weight.
In November 2010, a clinical trial reported that yearly CT scans in current and former heavy smokers can reduce the risk of death from lung cancer by 20 percent.
If Vegas took bets on the next worldwide pandemic, the safe money might be on H5N1, better known as the bird flu. Since 2003, the H5N1 virus has killed 340 of the 578 people with confirmed infections. The 1 percent mortality from seasonal flu pales in comparison to H5N1’s deadliness.
Agiddy Tim Tebow decided to celebrate after his unlikely playoff win last weekend. But his night spent with Mike’s Hard Lemonade and his favorite movie “Rudy” left the superhero quarterback with a pounding headache the next day.
CORRECTION: The original version of this article misstated that Sen. Richard Burr voted for a House budget bill that contained a provision without updated rules on school lunches. The original bill changed the rules on school lunches, but an amendment blocked these new rules on school lunches. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.
The President of the United States is not well. His serious medical problems require steroid treatments, narcotic pain medications and potent amphetamines.
A camel with black sunglasses walks into a bar. Sitting down, he sees a clown with a yellow jumpsuit, white face paint and red hair, drinking an appletini.
For some, the color pink is just plain terrifying.
On a stage in Tampa, Fla., last month, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn, took a swipe at Texas Gov. Rick Perry that made the medical community cringe. She vilified Perry, a rival in the GOP primaries, for a 2007 executive order which mandated that sixth grade girls be vaccinated for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the virus accountable for cervical cancer. She described the order as pumping a “potentially dangerous” injection into the arms of 11- and 12-year old girls.
Ronald McDonald has America’s pudgy neck in a headlock. He continues to stymie public health efforts by helping America keep its heavyweight crown of being heavy.
Next time you’re walking around campus, take a look at the people wearing headphones. They might appear particularly confident and carefree.
I have a hypothetical situation for you to consider. You are leaving a party and are faced with the option of riding shotgun with a buddy who’s knocked back a few gin and tonics or a friend who is constantly on the cell phone. Surprisingly, this is not a no-brainer.A study out of the University of Utah reports that impairment to driving in a simulated situation while talking on a cell phone is as profound as driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent — the national legal limit.But before you grab your phone to call a cab, your friend confidently whips out his fancy Bluetooth. This should not change your mind. Research has shown that hands-free calls while driving are no safer than handheld phones. Plus, they look incredibly lame.It turns out that the mental concentration required for a phone conversation and not the challenge of driving with one hand is responsible for impaired reaction time and the accidents that ensue. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that car crashes involving driver distraction claimed 5,870 lives and injured more than half a million people in 2009.But if it is the talking itself that impairs reaction time, wouldn’t a conversation between the driver and a passenger be equally dangerous? Not necessarily. Someone sitting shotgun is more understanding if you stop mid-conversation to swerve away from a merging 18-wheeler.In fact, studies confirm that passengers and the driver suppress conversation in times when concentration is needed (e.g. on campus where there is a crosswalk every three feet).On the other hand, zoning out during a phone conversation may be interpreted as rude and elicit the standard snippy reaction: “Clearly you are not paying attention to me, so I’m going to go.” Many are willing to risk the dangers of multitasking in order to avoid drama on the home front.The N.C. legislature has finally responded to the overwhelming evidence about the dangers of dialing and driving, but it does not appear to be working.The state enacted a complete ban on text messaging while driving (a practice about as safe as letting a sleep-deprived 3-year-old behind the wheel), but only banned the use of both hands-free and handheld cell phones for bus drivers and those younger than 18.Now all the police department needs to do is throw together a team of age-guessing carnies from the State Fair with good enough vision to spot a tiny headset in someone’s ear.But enforcement of cell phone bans even appears to be a problem in states where the law applies to everyone. The Highway Loss Data Institute found no significant reduction in traffic crashes in states enacting a ban compared to states with no law.But let’s be serious. Small fines and research showing the dangers of talking while driving will do little to dissuade people from picking up an important call. The hope is that drivers will be aware of these issues and either pick up to say that they will call back or keep the chat short.So next time you think of taking a call or texting a friend, ask yourself whether you would take a few swigs from a bottle of Johnny Walker at the red light. If the answer is no, you might want to let it go to voicemail.Andrew Moon is a second-year medical student from Durham. E-mail him at email@example.com
Proponents of health care reform everywhere have reason to celebrate like Kool and the Gang for finally triumphing in a struggle that predates that pop culture reference.On Tuesday, President Obama signed into law the first sweeping health insurance reform bill since 1965, effectively providing coverage to 32 million uninsured citizens by expanding Medicaid and providing tax subsidies for those who cannot afford insurance.Even with Democratic control of the legislature, it took a parting the Red Sea and beating up a gang of Goliaths to finally pass health care reform. It is truly a miraculous accomplishment.Unfortunately, that was the easy part. Of the two crippling deficiencies in America’s health care system — millions of uninsured and unsustainable rising costs — the bill only truly tackles the first. It does little to control costs of a health care system that is projected to gobble up one out of every four GDP dollars by 2025.But wait, didn’t the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office report that, despite costing $950 billion, the bill would actually reduce the deficit? Yes, but this is because the CBO takes the bill’s claims at face value, ignoring the fact that politicians’ promises are as slippery as two eels having a K-Y Jelly wrestling match.There is a lot of tricky arithmetic in this legislation, including a claim that $463 billion in Medicare spending will be trimmed. The bill contains no reforms to reduce Medicare’s operating costs, meaning that this money would come from cutting doctors’ Medicare payments.If the past decade is any indication, these cuts will be deferred year after year. This makes the bill’s bottom line look a lot better on paper than it really will be.Even if Congress bucked the trend and payment cuts did go through, doctors could only stay financially afloat by dropping Medicare patients or shifting costs to those with private insurance. This would either reduce health care access for elderly citizens or force the government to foot the bill for those who cannot afford rising premiums.No matter how you slice it, these “savings” are bogus. Even the legislation’s legitimate provisions for revenue generation, like a tax on high-cost employer-provided “Cadillac” insurance plans, have been stripped down to appease labor unions.Former Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Holtz-Eakin estimates that instead of cutting the country’s annual financial shortfalls, the health reform bill will actually raise federal deficits by $562 billion.Despite its problems, this bill was still worth passing because it might have been the best chance in decades to try to right one of society’s biggest wrongs. And with almost everybody in the system, it might be easier to cut costs across the board.But, in its current form, this bill threatens to deepen a national debt that now tops $12 trillion (more than $40,000 per U.S. citizen.) Eventually, we will need to dig ourselves out by slashing government funding for programs like education or levying hefty taxes.So this is my plea to Congress: Now that you have taken the vital step of improving health care access with this bill, take pity on younger citizens and chip into our national debt by enacting real cost reforms.I realize that I am no longer a teenager and am too old to be asking for money, but I swear this is the last time.
I feel terrible for Tiger Woods. He has spent years married to a wife of average attractiveness, dealt with the disappointment of two toddlers who have not yet measured up to his early golfing aptitude and suffered through a hard-knock life of solitude on driving ranges.These factors have led to a crippling sex addiction through which he has battled to become the best golfer of his generation.And what does he get in return? Media coverage and a dismissive public minimizing his suffering by suggesting that his therapy is an attempt to shield blame. It makes me sick.Even the medical field has turned its back on Woods. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), the authoritative psychiatric manual, does not list sex addiction as a diagnosis.Instead, Tiger would fall somewhere in the realm of impulse control disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Get with it, American Psychiatric Association! These labels do not properly describe the seriousness of Woods’ affliction.Semantics aside, it is no wonder that Tiger Woods fell ill to a compulsive sexual disorder given his many risk factors.First, Woods has spent countless hours alone on driving ranges. A recent review on the subject reports a high prevalence of social isolation among those who engage in sexually compulsive behavior. A lifetime of seclusion has left Woods craving intimacy like a Victorian-era nymphomaniac.These issues are compounded by a spouse that does not measure up. Sure, Woods’ wife Elin Nordegren has decent looks and child psychology training that boosts her stay-at-home mom credentials, but that does not hold up to Tiger’s standards.Nordegren’s undistinguished modeling career left Woods desiring a more accomplished woman, something that is commonly seen in sexual compulsive disorders.Tom Brady courageously avoided falling prey to a sex addiction by ditching his pregnant girlfriend Bridget Moynahan, who also had a short-lived modeling career, to marry supermodel Gisele Bundchen.Help begins at home. Elin failed to alleviate Woods’ addiction by trying to make the cover of Vogue or allowing Tiger a mulligan, like Brady’s wife.His kids were not helping out much either. At age two, Tiger was on television putting against Bob Hope, a skill his pair of toddlers should be practicing every day. Instead Woods comes home to half-assed finger paintings and Play-Doh sculptures. Who can blame him for preferring the company of porn stars?The unjust reactions to Woods’ multiple affairs and resulting therapy might worry the undiagnosed sex addicts out there.But do not fret. You can avoid stigma by quietly shuffling off to Sexaholics Anonymous meetings on Friday nights or asking your doctor for a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, like Prozac, that treats compulsive sexual behavior with the potentially therapeutic side effects of profuse sweating, diarrhea and difficulty reaching an orgasm.Alternatively, for those blessed with self-control, pay heed to what will surely be the slogan for Tiger’s next Nike campaign: Just Don’t Do It.
The horrific earthquake that struck Haiti just over a month ago has left the island desecrated. Stories of the more than 200,000 dead, 300,000 injured and 1 million displaced have caused worldwide sadness and prompted incredible generosity.Aid has been showered upon Haiti and medical teams have arrived to mend trauma victims. Medical needs have begun to shift from surgery to treatment of chronic conditions and preparation for potential epidemics of infection during the rainy season.But what about the mental health of survivors who have witnessed family members die, lost limbs to amputation and now face an uncertain future?The Pan American Health Organization has created a mental health subgroup to address these issues. Such resources are surely needed but we must not forget that unlike broken bones or infections, mental health is influenced by culture and treatment must be handled carefully.It would be fair to assume that during such a traumatic time, many Haitians would need to talk to a psychiatrist, receive a diagnosis and either take a medication that corrects a chemical imbalance or receive counseling.But Sophia Delpe, a Haitian-American second-year medical student at UNC, says Haitians do not talk much about emotions and avoid labels like depression. “It’s taboo,” she said. “Mental health is not something that people talk about.”In fact, some of her family members have not had been afforded time to grieve. Her aunt, from Port-au-Prince, returned to work the day after the earthquake at the urging of her boss.It seems callous given the emotional turmoil she must have endured, but Delpe states that it has helped. “In a way it has been therapeutic,” Delpe says, “Life is going on and is moving forward.”Of course, this is just one example out of a huge population of people each with their own harrowing story. One might not see the same resilience from a mother who lost her entire family and had both legs amputated.Many foreign doctors have been faced with survivors who are visibly traumatized and appear unable to cope. In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Dr. Lynne Jones of the International Medical Corps said some doctors, desperate to help, can only give tranquilizers.Jones said this is not a suitable approach. But then how will Haitians deal with their grief?Delpe said getting Haitians together to share their stories could be beneficial.Visiting doctors can also offer to listen but should not be surprised if locals are hesitant to ask for help. More importantly, generous donations will help prevent Haitians from suffering further hardship, like trying to survive the rainy season without shelter.Through it all, there will be a number of Haitians who, like Delpe’s aunt, will soldier on bravely through this disaster. Dr. Astrid Desrosiers, a Haitian psychiatrist at Mass General Hospital in Boston, writes in the American Journal Psychotherapy, “For many Haitians the ability to forget is equated with strength.”To the outside observer, it might seem like too much to bear, but the capacity to maintain silent fortitude during such tragedy could be the most potent tool Haitians have to stave off despair.
You may know the tales of former National Football League players affected by too many hits to the head. Former Cowboys star Troy Aikman’s career was cut short by concussions — a small price to pay compared to the depression and suicide of 44-year-old Andre Waters, whose hard-hitting play transformed his brain tissue to that of an 85-year-old man with early Alzheimer’s disease.But hanging in the shadows of these famous cases are distressingly high numbers of young football players racking up brain injuries, which can contribute to lasting damage or, in a few high school players last year, death. The NFL has finally succumbed to pressure from the media and Congress and implemented an improved concussion policy, but such safety measures have not trickled down to the college and high school levels. Policy changes should be made swiftly to protect young athletes who at greater risk for severe damage. Kevin Guskiewicz, chairman of the department of exercise and sports science at UNC, said young brains are particularly vulnerable to head injuries from football. Teens might not show symptoms like headache, dizziness or short-term memory deficits, and they recover more slowly from brain injury than older athletes. Most frightening is the rare “second impact syndrome,” in which a second hit to the head, even a small one, can set off a metabolic cascade resulting in brain swelling and potentially coma and death. How do we prevent such tragedies? The new NFL policy to keep players on the sideline until they show no signs of concussion shows progress but has the potential to make things worse.Accurate diagnosis relies on honest answers from players who may lie about symptoms to stay in a game. A survey of high school football players in Wisconsin revealed that less than half of those sustaining a concussion reported their injury. “Asking a player whether they are having concussion symptoms is like asking a drunk driver whether they’ve been drinking,” Guskiewicz explains. The only difference is that police officers have Breathalyzers to detect alcohol use — unlike concussions, which are not visible on MRI or CAT scans.Schools can hire certified athletic trainers who can spot concussion symptoms and make return-to-play decisions, but many do not have this luxury. Only 42 percent of high schools in the United States have an athletic trainer on staff, and this number is even lower in North Carolina, although state legislation has been introduced to provide the money to make trainers mandatory.While such policy changes should be made promptly, they do not put the issue to bed.It is conceivable that football players taking countless, seemingly minor hits every day accumulate brain damage over time. Guskiewicz, who is researching these “subconcussive impacts,” said that keeping the game safe by studying new protective helmets and potential risk factors for long term damage is the next step. “We all bear the responsibility and burden for protecting the athlete and the sport of football,” Guskiewicz said. If it cannot be made safer, people will eventually demand a ban on football, he said. “I certainly don’t want it to get to that level,” Guskiewicz said. With matchups like Colts-Saints and classic Super Bowl ads on the line, he is surely not alone.
Vaccines aren’t cool these days — at least that’s how many young people seem to feel. A recent ABC-Washington Post poll reports that only 28 percent of respondents ages 18 to 24 plan to get the H1N1 vaccine, a lower percentage than older age groups.This apparent generational gap might result from fact that only older individuals have lived in an America ravaged by smallpox and polio — diseases that have since been wiped out by vaccines.Vaccination is a victim of its own success. Without witnessing its remarkable impact first-hand, younger people are more receptive to anti-vaccine rhetoric. This may spark a resurgence in preventable diseases like measles and blunt our ability to tackle epidemics.Throughout the ongoing H1N1 flu epidemic, wing-nuts like Bill Maher and Glenn Beck have made erroneous claims that the vaccine can cause the flu and that the shot is deadly.Fears have been fueled by popular YouTube videos, including a purported “infectious disease expert” campaigning against the vaccine on Fox News and a shocking clip showing a former NFL cheerleader who developed a rare neurological disorder after getting the season flu vaccine.Unfortunately, many have not noticed that Dr. Kent Holtorf, the “expert” who spoke out against H1N1 vaccination on Glenn Beck’s show, actually practices controversial “natural bioidentical hormone replacement” therapy and has no infectious disease background to speak of.His assertion that vaccines might cause autism in some children should call his legitimacy into question, given that every validated study, including a comprehensive safety review published by the Institute of Medicine, report that there is no link whatsoever between vaccines and autism.As for Desiree Jennings, the aspiring cheerleader diagnosed with dystonia, the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation gathered opinions from neurologists who watched the clip, reporting that “this case does not appear to be dystonia,” and “there has never been a validated case of dystonia resulting from a flu shot.”The point is that, like other vaccines, the H1N1 shot is safe and effective. Granted, there is still a chance of adverse effects, but the risks are remarkably low.The most dreaded of these side effects is Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a form of descending paralysis that can be fatal but usually results in a near full recovery. An IOM review concluded that the 1976 swine flu vaccine slightly increased the risk of GBS, but such increased risks have not been seen with flu shots since.Eighty to 160 people are diagnosed with GBS per week, even during flu’s off-season, meaning the vaccine is wrongly blamed for cases that would have occurred anyway.More importantly, H1N1 has claimed an estimated 3,900 American lives, including many young, healthy victims. Compare that to the 13 reported deaths following vaccination, which may or may not be caused by the vaccine.Skeptics will correctly assert that most cases of H1N1 are mild. But the same is true of most car accidents and, even though there is a small chance that seat belts could seriously injure you, the risk is too low to dissuade sensible people from buckling up.The same logic should be used for getting the flu shot.
The creators of “The Jetsons” were geniuses. Foreseeing the trend of a health-obsessed population on the run, they created a technologically advanced utopia where people ate three course meals in pill form.Starry-eyed kids fantasized of a future filled with painless capsule-sized portions of broccoli and green beans. Companies of today have gone a step farther by making delicious, vitamin-enhanced foods that aim to prevent or treat disease — the aptly named nutraceuticals.It is terrific that manufacturers are striving to produce healthier foods, but these products’ advertised benefits must be taken with a grain of salt. Consumers might be tempted to use vitamin-enhanced snacks to justify eating KFC and avoiding exercise.If this became a trend, nutraceuticals could actually push America further down the road of fat butts and heart disease.Nutraceuticals have been around for ages and can play an important role in public health. Vitamin D-fortified milk and iodized salt have prevented countless cases of rickets and thyroid deficiency in the U.S.Due to blossoming numbers of health-conscious consumers, the nutraceutical sector’s growth has easily outpaced the rest of the food industry.But success has attracted charlatans. For instance, the Kellogg Company advertised Frosted Mini-Wheats as a breakfast food “clinically shown to improve kids’ attentiveness by nearly 20 percent.”The Federal Trade Commission punished the company, noting that the clinical study cited by Kellogg compared kids eating Mini-Wheats to peers who ate no breakfast at all. Even worse, the average difference in attentiveness between the children who ate the cereal and the starved group was just less than 11 percent, and only about half of the breakfast eaters showed any improvement at all.In light of irresponsible food marketing, the Food and Drug Administration has unveiled plans to monitor health claims made on product packaging.Oversight is badly needed but will not solve the problem.Vitaminwater will probably continue to masquerade as a health drink despite packing more sugar than a 12 ounce Coke, and potato chip makers might still slap “No trans fats” labels on products containing unhealthy saturated fats.In addition, questionable scientific claims about Echinacea for colds, ketchup for prostate cancer and green tea for heart disease will continue to be spread by anyone who is out to make a buck.This might seem unscrupulous, but a switch in teen preferences from soda to green tea, for whatever reason, would be a good thing. Plus, companies are working on tasty forms of substances with stronger scientific backing for their proposed benefits like EPA and DHA omega-3 acids.Just remember that no product can replace fruits and veggies as part of a balanced diet and regular exercise. And no matter how good a health food might sound, remember the wise proverb: Even an antidote becomes a poison at a high enough dose.So if you think twice before chugging a few gallons of water, definitely take pause before wolfing down a family-size bag of vitamin-enhanced gummy bears.