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Smelling the flowers

There are cherry trees just outside my patio and 2 days ago
they decided to drop the majority of their pink petals on the ground.  It created a luxurious, 2 inch deep floral
carpet that surrounded my home.  It was so
beautiful and soft in appearance that I couldn’t resist scooping up fist fulls
of the flower bits and holding them out to my husband.  It was a sunny blue day and I giggled as I
asked him to join me in my child like glee.

“I’m not touching them,” he said, “It will make my nose

“Aw, come on honey,” I cajoled him, “these petals won’t be
here like this again for another year!
Touch them, they’re so soft!”

He glanced at me sideways.
“No, I don’t want to touch them.
They’re dirty.”

I was crest fallen at first, but then I started thinking
about how something so beautiful to one person, can look entirely different to
someone with allergies.  What a sad thing
to have taken away – the ability to truly stop and smell the flowers.  I count my blessings that I have no allergies
to anything.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

Thin workers woo investors?

I had an eye-opening conversation with Dr. Jim Hill
today.  He told me that Denver’s
Metro Mayors (Denver’s
metropolitan area is actually composed of 37 cities and towns!) are competing
with one another to see who can get their inhabitants the most fit and thin.

Why would they be so aggressive about fitness and good
health?  Because they say that large
corporations considering investing in Denver
(where they’d build factories or large office buildings) know that setting up
shop in areas where the population has a lower BMI means that health insurance
costs will be lower.

That’s right my friends.
Being thin can lure investors!  It
makes sense that a corporation seeking to avoid the skyrocketing costs of health
care would want to create facilities where new employees are likely to have
fewer medical issues.  And BMI is a good
surrogate marker for health… so there you have it.

Do you see this approach to wooing investors as a form of discrimination
or just good business sense?

Either way, I’m going to get on the treadmill later.

This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

A little medical humor

I got a good laugh from a few sarcastic posts lately.  This first one (via Graham) is about the
medicalization of modern life (where every symptom must have a diagnosis):

Consumer: I get
very moody if I don’t eat in the morning. If I don’t eat until 3-4pm I get
headaches, drowsiness and feel nauseous… I think I’ve always had this. Since
I usually eat enough it doesn’t really bother me. I’m 21, male, and a
vegetarian. What do I have?

Physician: You have a condition
known as hunger.

The good news: it is easily treatable

The bad news: there is no permanent cure

This condition can be treated at a specialized clinic, the one you want is
known as a restaurant. This condition can also be treated at home, but you will
need specialized supplies from a grocery store. Most sufferers find that
several treatments per day are necessary.


And this conversation was pretty funny (though I can’t for
the life of me find where I read it – sorry I would certainly love to give
attribution here):

Physician: we’re
going to need to get an MRI of your teenager’s head since he had a seizure.

Mom: why are you
going to get an MRI of his head, it was his body that had the seizure!

Have you heard any good jokes lately?

This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

The great unveiling

A psychiatric nurse once relayed an observation to me that I
have been pondering for the last decade.
We were working together in an inner city “dementia unit,” populated
with patients with end stage Alzheimer’s, vascular dementias, and brain
disorders of unclear etiology.
Individuals were parked in geri-chairs in institutional hallways, others
were in bed in 4 point restraints for their own protection, still others were
muttering to themselves in wheelchairs.

We were discussing the case of a particularly unpleasant
– he would swing at people as they got near him, trying to hurt them –
scratching, punching, even biting if you got close enough.  His favorite thing was to grab nurses’, or
other female staff’s, breasts or crotches.  He rarely succeeded at this, since most staff
were aware of his tactics, though he sat in his chair nearly motionless, like a
Moray eel in a reef cave, small eyes and snaggle teeth, mouth open slightly at
all times, taking slow deliberate breaths as he waited for an unsuspecting ocean
dweller to wander inadvertently into his reach.

I asked the nurse how she thought he had gotten to be so
rotten.  She replied simply, “When people
get older they become more like themselves.”

That one sentence has fascinated me ever since.  Could it be that as we age (and our minds
lose their ability to maintain the social graces we were taught), we slip into saying
things in an uncensored manner, and behaving the way we truly want to?  Or is the difference between “sweet little
old ladies
” and “mean old biddies” a matter of how much damage there has been
to their frontal lobes?

The scientist in me would like to explain away all agitation
as an organic brain disorder.  But I just
don’t think we can reduce human behavior to neuroanatomy.  The complexity of a lifetime of circumstances
and individual choices – and their interaction with personality – are soul-defining.

Perhaps age brings wisdom and life experience… or maybe it
unveils the truth about who we’ve been all along.  Either way I have a feeling that when the time
draws near for our bodies to give up our souls, we can catch a glimpse of what people
are “made of” in their final words and deeds.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

Nutrition standards for foods in schools

Congress recently directed the Centers for Disease Control
(CDC) to undertake a study in partnership with the Institute of Medicine (IOM).  The goal was to establish nutrition guidelines
for government-subsidized nutrition programs in schools nation-wide.  These guidelines are meant to help combat the
growing rates of overweight and obesity in US children.

The standards may surprise you in their restrictiveness – no
beverages with more than 5 calories/serving are permitted (excluding milk or
soy milk) unless the child is involved in rigorous physical activity for more
than 1 hour in duration (then they can have a sports drink such as Gatorade).  No items with more than 35% of calories from
total sugars are permitted, and all bread and cereal items must be whole grain.  There are also restrictions on fat and salt
levels in the food.  Artificially
sweetened drinks and caffeinated beverages are not recommended.  The IOM also calls for removal of all junk
food and soda machines, and replacement with fruit, milk, and healthy snack options.

Reading these guidelines I thought, “Wow, if kids really ate
this way we probably would make a big difference in obesity rates.”

And then I wondered… “But will these kids just go home and
eat a box of oreos and a liter of coke at the end of the school day?  Is it enough to have a healthy food
environment at school, but not at home?
What is the role of parents in this?”

What do you think?
Are the IOM’s recommendations likely to 1) be followed by all schools 2)
make a difference in childrens’ weights?
Is there anything else you’d recommend?This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

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