Saturday, April 18, 2015

The time has come to redefine “old age” – Quartz

In 1985, American Richard Bass accomplished an amazing feat. He had set for himself the task of climbing the world's highest mountains in all seven continents. In that year, at age 55, he completed the climb of the last of his seven mountains, Mount Everest and in doing so became the first person to climb all seven mountains and the oldest person ever to successfully climb Mount Everest.

But now Mr Bass's record has been eclipsed.

The oldest person to climb Mount Everest is Yuichiro Miura of Japan, who reached the summit of Mount Everest in 2013, at age 80. And the oldest person to have climbed all seven mountains in seven continents is Takao Arayama of Tanzania who climbed the last of those mountains at age 74 in 2010.


Can You Die From a Broken Heart? - Issue 23: Dominoes - Nautilus

Ruth and Harold "Doc" Knapke met in elementary school. They exchanged letters during the war, when Doc was stationed in Germany. After he returned their romance began in earnest. They married, raised six children and celebrated 65 anniversaries together. And then on a single day in August 2013, in the room they shared in an Ohio nursing home, they died.

"No relationship was ever perfect, but theirs was one of the better relationships I ever observed," says their daughter Margaret Knapke, 61, a somatic therapist. "They were always like Velcro. They couldn't stand to be separated."

For years, Knapke says, she and her siblings watched their father's health crumble. He suffered from longstanding heart problems and had begun showing signs of dementia. He lost interest in things he once enjoyed, and dozed nearly all the time. "We asked each other, why do you suppose he's still here? The only thing we could come up with was that he was here for Mom," she says. "He'd wake up from a long snooze and ask, 'How's your mother?' "

Then Ruth developed a rare infection. Lying unconscious in the nursing-home room she shared with Doc, it became clear she was in her final days. The Knapke children sat down to tell Doc that she wasn't going to wake up again. "He didn't go back to sleep. I could see he was processing it for hours," says Margaret. He died the next morning, and Ruth followed that evening.

Knapke sees her parents' same-day deaths as a conscious decision—two hearts shutting off together. "My feeling was that he was hanging around for her," she says. Knapke believes her father wanted to show her mother the way to the next realm. "He knew she needed something else from him, so he switched gears and let go," she says. "I feel he chose to go first so he could help her. It was definitely an act of love on his part."

More ...

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Report Questions Whether Health Apps Benefit Healthy People -

Consumers looking to use their mobile devices to improve their health — or at least maintain their well-being — have tens of thousands of choices.

But if those consumers are already healthy, the apps won't necessarily do them any good, according to a new report in The BMJ, a British medical journal.

On Tuesday afternoon, for instance, the top 10 free health and fitness apps for iPhones included MyFitnessPal, a calorie counterand diet tracker; the FitBit activity tracker; Pacer, a pedometer and blood pressure tracker; and Period Tracker Lite, a menstrual-cycle tracker, according to data compiled by App Annie, an analytics firm.

For consumers with concerns of a more medical nature, apps in the Google Play store, among others, offer all kinds of advice, self-diagnosis and treatment. One is marketed as an HIV risk calculator, another is a self-described self-test for erectile dysfunction, and a third purports to offer home remedies for cold sores, colitis, conjunctivitis and constipation.

An article published in The BMJ on Tuesday evening, however, questions whether such consumer health apps provide any real health value to already-healthy consumers – and whether the apps could even cause harm by stoking unneeded anxiety among the worried well.

Doctors don't yet have definitive answers to these questions, partly because smartphone apps are so new and partly because government health authorities regulate consumer health apps at their own discretion, depending on the possible risks to users. As a result, many health and fitness apps lack rigorous clinical evidence to demonstrate they can actually improve health outcomes.

The medical journal article, titled "Can Healthy People Benefit From Health Apps?," lays out arguments for and against the apps by juxtaposing the opposing views of two doctors.

Arguing in favor, Dr. Iltifat Husain, the editor in chief of, a review site for medical professionals, contended that some apps, by encouraging healthy behavior, could hold great potential to reduce the rate of illness and death.

"They can help people to correlate personal decisions with health outcomes," Dr. Husain wrote, "and they can help doctors to hold patients accountable for their behavior."

He recommended that doctors become more involved in educating the public on which health details to track and which apps to use. If doctors waited for scientific studies to prove the benefits of health apps, he added, they could lose their power to influence patients to "the industry dictating which tools people should use."

To provide a dissenting perspective, The BMJ enlisted Dr. Des Spence, a general practitioner in Glasgow. He argued that many health tracking apps encouraged healthy people to unnecessarily record their normal activities and vital signs — turning users into continuously self-monitoring "neurotics." He recommended people view these new technologies with skepticism.

"The truth is that these apps and devices are untested and unscientific, and they will open the door of uncertainty," Dr. Spence wrote. "Make no mistake: Diagnostic uncertainty ignites extreme anxiety in people."

Although both doctors agreed there was no evidence that health apps had caused harm, federal regulators in the United States have been cracking down on health apps that make deceptive claims — an issue with the potential to cause mistreatment or misdiagnosis of medical problems.

More ...

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Looking At Sick People Primes Your Immune System

If, on the way to your desk, you pass that one person in the office who absolutely won't go home, even though their face is exploding with mucus, don't count on a day off. Just looking at sick people can kick your immune system into gear.

You are not having a good day when you sit down to watch a slide show. Already, you've been poked in the arm by scientists so they could collect your blood. You don't even know why they did that. Now you're watching a bunch of pictures slowing click by, one by one, on a screen. A chair, a couch, a car, a pair of pants. Oh, it's fascinating.

Then you see a person sneezing. You see an old photograph of a person covered in pock marks from smallpox. You see someone with an unidentifiable rash. You see skin yellowed with jaundice and puffy with infection. 

Then the scientists come back and jab you in the arm again.

For you, the day is a wash. For the scientists, it turned up an interesting result. While you watched the slideshow, your immune system started pumping out things called cytokines. Cytokines, as a group, are so varied that doctors are not sure whether they really do belong in just one group. They can be proteins or peptides. Some are generated by any cell with a nucleus, and some by specialized cells. And, although they're all linked with the immune system they all have different functions.

More ...

Where Do You Go For Tech Support on a Bionic Hand? | MIT Technology Review

There are 250,000 people with spinal-cord injuries in the United States.

One night in 1982, John Mumford was working on an avalanche patrol on an icy Colorado mountain pass when the van carrying him and two other men slid off the road and plunged over a cliff. The other guys were able to walk away, but Mumford had broken his neck. The lower half of his body was paralyzed, and though he could bend his arms at the elbows, he could no longer grasp things in his hands.

Fifteen years later, however, he received a technological wonder that reactivated his left hand. It was known as the Freehand System. A surgeon placed a sensor on Mumford's right shoulder, implanted a pacemaker-size device known as a stimulator just below the skin on his upper chest, and threaded wires into the muscles of his left arm. On the outside of Mumford's body, a wire ran from the shoulder sensor to an external control unit; another wire ran from that control unit to a transmitting coil over the stimulator in his chest. Out of this kludge came something incredible: by maneuvering his right shoulder in certain ways, Mumford could send signals through the stimulator and down his left arm into the muscles of his hand. The device fell short of perfection—he wished he could throw darts with his buddies. But he could hold a key or a fork or a spoon or a glass. He could open the refrigerator, take out a sandwich, and eat it on his own. Mumford was so enthusiastic that he went to work for the manufacturer, a Cleveland-area company called NeuroControl, traveling the country to demonstrate the Freehand at assistive-technology trade shows.

Mumford was in Cleveland for a marketing meeting in 2001 when he got news that still baffles him: NeuroControl was getting out of the Freehand business. It would focus instead on a bigger potential market with a device that helped stroke victims. Before long, NeuroControl went out of business entirely, wiping out at least $26 million in investment. At first, Mumford remained an enthusiastic user of the Freehand, though one thing worried him: the wires running outside his body would sometimes fray or break after catching on clothing. Each time, he found someone who could reach into his supply of replacements and reconnect the system. But by 2010, the last wire was gone, and without the prospect of tech support from NeuroControl, the electrical equipment implanted in Mumford's body went dormant. He lost the independence that had come from having regained extensive use of one hand. "To all of a sudden have that taken away—it's incredibly frustrating," he says. "There's not a day where I don't miss it."

More ...

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Secret Language of Doctors | Dr. Brian Goldman

Have you ever wondered what doctors and nurses are really saying as they zip through the emergency room and onto elevators, throwing cryptic phrases at one another? Or why they do it? Do you guess at the codes broadcast over the loudspeaker, or the words doctors and nurses use when speaking right in front of patients?

In The Secret Language of Doctors, bestselling author Dr. Brian Goldman opens up the book on the clandestine phrases doctors use to describe patients, situations and even colleagues they detest. He tells us what it means for someone to suffer from incarceritis, what doctors mean when they block and turf, what the various codes mean, and why you never want to suffer a horrendoma. Highly accessible, biting, funny and entertaining, The Secret Language of Doctors reveals modern medical culture at its best and all too often at its worst.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A MS Patient Builds A Yelp For People With Disabilities

People living without disabilities can take for granted how much the built environment is suited for them. It's easy to walk into a space without noticing the couple of steps you took to reach the door or to forget that the tight spaces in your favorite cozy cafe might make it difficult for a blind person to navigate.

Jason Da Silva cannot take such things for granted. A filmmaker whose work has aired on HBO and PBS, Da Silva was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when he was 25. He now uses a power scooter to get around.

The loss of his mobility made Da Silva acutely aware of the difference between accessible and inaccessible spaces. Routines like taking the subway became impossible and favorite spots to meet with friends became unreachable. Da Silva made a documentary, When I Walk (available on Netflix), about his battle with MS and his gradual loss of mobility.

Wanting to do more than document the challenges he faced, Da Silva set out to take concrete action that would make it easier to get around with a disability. Together he and his wife, Alice Cook, created AXSmap, a crowdsourced map to rate businesses based on how accessible they are.

More ...