Monthly Archives: May, 2012

This Weight-Loss Program Will NEVER Work!

President Barack Obama puts his toe on the scale as Trip Director Marvin Nicholson tries to weigh himself during a hold in the volleyball locker room at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, Aug. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo)

The Bee Gees, Heart Attacks and Staying Alive

The Bee Gees – Robin, Barry and Maurice

The demise of Robin Gibb today means that of the famous trio the Bee Gees, only Barry Gibb is left to carry the flag. Considered by many to be the  most popular group next to the Beatles, songs released in Australia,then Britain and subsequently in the US (Saturday Night Fever) ensured their legacy in the world of pop music.

But not even they could have foretold that their hit song “Staying Alive” would be forever remembered in the unlikely world of healthcare, more specifically in the context of cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR. You see, the song goes at 102 beats per minute, which is close to the recommended 100 beats per minute that is recommended for chest compressions on patients who have collapsed suddenly. Now, this song-hit has sort of been adopted as an anthem in the medical world when it comes to CPR.

Under the new guidelines introduced in 2010, the time-honored sequence  of Airway, Breathing and  Circulation is now replaced with an emphasis on just Breathing alone while awaiting the arrival of the medics. For more details, see my earlier posting here. Not only that, the infamous kiss of life is now passe and the passing bystander need not be too concerned at all about mouth-to-mouth contact.

Here’s an interesting and funny demo to demonstrate how CPR is done:

When Washing Your Hands Often Is Itself A Disease

If you’re the type that needs to wash your hands every few minutes because of an irrational fear of dirt and germs, then you are not alone – about 1 in 50 adults have some form of a disease called  OCDobsessive-compulsive disorder. This is a condition where

  • you get recurrent awful thoughts coming into your mind, even when you try to keep them out.
  • you have to touch or count things or repeat the same action again and again –  like washing hands and checking that the electrical plugs are off,over and over again.

We can all worry excessively about real-life problems or be obsessive about certain things at times, but if this becomes too repetitive and causes distress, then it may be time to seek treatment.

OCD sufferer Megan Fox, star of Transformers, confessed to a horror of restaurant cutlery – “putting my mouth where a million other mouths have been”

Donald Trump refuses to shake hands, for fear of catching germs

David Beckham has to have the cans in the fridge in pairs and lined up

OCD is sometimes inherited, so can occasionally run in the family. Other times, it can be brought on by stress. Men and women are equally affected, usually first appearing in the teens and twenties. Diagnosis is established by a mental health professional, such as a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist, and can be often confirmed, in long-standing cases by a PET scan, a special form of CT scan.

A non-invasive PET scan can indicate differences in brain activity of OCD patients versus normals

Can OCD be treated? In short,yes. Depending on the severity, either one or both behaviour therapy or medications like SSRIs. Treatment is effective for OCD  with most people being cured.

The question remains that there is a fine line between excessive worry about real-life problems and repetitive worries in OCD.  Many do not seek help, but when it becomes debilitating or even deadly, it might be that bit too late; as in the case of the lady with OCD who slept for 3 years in a car and was found dead..see here.

Rare Earths – And Why the iPad is Made in China

Have you wondered what the iPad is made out of?  Beneath the sleek streamlined device, apart from the aluminium and glass, there are several reasons why the iPad has to be made in China. These include:

  • cheap labor – minimum wage in China is about a tenth that of the US
  • lax environmental regulations – when you consider that producing a  1.44-pound iPad results in over 285 times its own weight in greenhouse gas emissions, its no wonder China lies 116th of 132 countries in Yale’s Environmental Performance Index rankings.
  • the need for significant amounts of rare earth elements.

Oxides of rare earth elements. Clockwise from top center: praseodymium, cerium, lanthanum, neodymium, samarium, and gadolinium.

So what are rare earths? The term is a misnomer as they are not rare and they are not a kind of dirt. Rare because they are found widely dispersed on this planet but not in sufficient amounts at any one place. They comprise of 17 minerals found in the periodic table of elements that are important in the manufacture of a wide range of high-technology products, including flat-screens, smartphones and the iPad.

The crunch is that China virtually produces commercially almost all the  rare earth supply on this planet. Although Apple have not officially confirmed what kind of rare earths are used, many believe, for instance, that here may be lanthanum in the iPad’s lithium-ion polymer battery, as well as “a range of rare earths to produce the different colours” in the display. The magnets along the side of the iPad and in its cover are possibly a neodymium alloy.

The reason many countries, including the US and Australia, have not embarked on rare earth refining is largely environmental and anti-green, where toxic by-products are released into the environment, including hazardous radioactive substances which can pose a danger to health for surrounding residents, if inadequate safety measures are not in place.

A case in point is the Lynas refinery plant, the world’s largest, in Kuantan, Malaysia. Here, rare earth is imported by ship from Fremantle, Australia for refining and then re-exported to Australia. Permanent disposal of the roughly 20,000 tons a year of low-level radioactive waste that will be produced has been a big issue although the International Atomic Energy Commission has reportedly approved the safety of the plant. The progress toward opening the plant has been hampered by street demonstrations over radiation concerns, regulatory challenges and the withdrawal of a major equipment supplier worried about the safety of the refinery.

Environmental and health safety concerns have sparked street demos at the Lynas plant in Kuantan, Malaysia

Meanwhile, the price of rare earths has multiplied 30x in 2011, although it has since softened, largely because of the impending Lynas plant, which can meet 20% of the world’s needs.

Additional Reading

Rare Earths – the New York Times

Rare Earth Plant in Malaysia Ready To Go – Yahoo.


Have Viagra, Will Forget

There’s a joke making the rounds that the number of Alzheimer’s disease sufferers will soon outstrip older male patients with erectile dysfunction much so, elderly people will be taking Viagra and not remembering what to do with the erection afterwards!

But jokes aside, WHO, in its recent news release (11 April 2012) revealed that dementia cases are set to triple by 2050 worldwide and that the problem is still largely ignored. There are 35 million people in the world with dementia and this number is set to double by 2030 and triple by 2050.

Caring for people with Dementia imposes a strain as well on caregivers

Dementia is a syndrome, usually of a chronic or progressive nature, caused by a variety of brain illnesses that affect memory, thinking, behaviour and ability to perform everyday activities. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which afflicts people of any socio-economic status. Celebrities afflicted with this condition include Ronald Reagan, Rita Hayworth and Perry Como.

Former US President,Ronald Reagan, also had Alzheimers.

Treating and caring for people with dementia currently costs the world more than US$ 604 billion per year. This includes the cost of providing health and social care as well the reduction or loss of income of people with dementia and their caregivers. The important role of caregivers cannot be over-estimated because AD cannot be cured and is degenerative, so the sufferer increasingly relies on others for assistance. The role of the main caregiver is often taken by the spouse or a close relative, and is well-known to place a great burden on the care-givers.

Some facts about dementia:

  • Although dementia mainly affects older people, it is not a normal part of ageing.
  • 60% of people with dementia live in middle or low income countries.
  • Early diagnosis improves the quality of life of people with dementia and their caregivers.
  • Dementia is a public health priority which has long been ignored.

Cross-section of a brain belonging to an Alzheimers patient

The WHO report points to a general lack of information and understanding about dementia. This fuels stigma, which in turn contributes to the social isolation of both the person with dementia and their caregivers, and can lead to delays in seeking diagnosis, health assistance and social support. It also recommends involving existing caregivers in designing programmes to provide better support for people with dementia and those looking after them.

Public health authorities worldwide would do well to place more emphasis on undertaking programmes to raise the level of awareness of this disease as well as implementing programmes to strengthen care and support.


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