Sunday, December 23, 2007

7 Medical Myths Even Doctors Believe

Popular culture is loaded with myths and half-truths. Most are harmless. But when doctors start believing medical myths, perhaps it's time to worry.

In the British Medical Journal this week, researchers looked into several common misconceptions, from the belief that a person should drink eight glasses of water per day to the notion that reading in low light ruins your eyesight.

"We got fired up about this because we knew that physicians accepted these beliefs and were passing this information along to their patients," said Dr. Aaron Carroll, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine. "And these beliefs are frequently cited in the popular media."

And so here they are, so that you can inform your doctor:

Myth: We use only 10 percent of our brains.

Fact: Physicians and comedians alike, including Jerry Seinfeld, love to cite this one. It's sometimes erroneously credited to Albert Einstein. But MRI scans, PET scans and other imaging studies show no dormant areas of the brain, and even viewing individual neurons or cells reveals no inactive areas, the new paper points out. Metabolic studies of how brain cells process chemicals show no nonfunctioning areas. The myth probably originated with self-improvement hucksters in the early 1900s who wanted to convince people that they had yet not reached their full potential, Carroll figures. It also doesn't jibe with the fact that our other organs run at full tilt.

Myth: You should drink at least eight glasses of water a day.

Fact: "There is no medical evidence to suggest that you need that much water," said Dr. Rachel Vreeman, a pediatrics research fellow at the university and co-author of the journal article. Vreeman thinks this myth can be traced back to a 1945 recommendation from the Nutrition Council that a person consume the equivalent of 8 glasses (64 ounces) of fluid a day. Over the years, "fluid" turned to water. But fruits and vegetables, plus coffee and other liquids, count.

Myth: Fingernails and hair grow after death.

Fact: Most physicians queried on this one initially thought it was true. Upon further reflection, they realized it's impossible. Here's what happens: "As the body’s skin is drying out, soft tissue, especially skin, is retracting," Vreeman said. "The nails appear much more prominent as the skin dries out. The same is true, but less obvious, with hair. As the skin is shrinking back, the hair looks more prominent or sticks up a bit."

Myth: Shaved hair grows back faster, coarser and darker.

Fact: A 1928 clinical trial compared hair growth in shaved patches to growth in non-shaved patches. The hair which replaced the shaved hair was no darker or thicker, and did not grow in faster. More recent studies have confirmed that one. Here's the deal: When hair first comes in after being shaved, it grows with a blunt edge on top, Carroll and Vreeman explain. Over time, the blunt edge gets worn so it may seem thicker than it actually is. Hair that's just emerging can be darker too, because it hasn't been bleached by the sun.

Myth: Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight.

Fact: The researchers found no evidence that reading in dim light causes permanent eye damage. It can cause eye strain and temporarily decreased acuity, which subsides after rest.

Myth: Eating turkey makes you drowsy.

Fact: Even Carroll and Vreeman believed this one until they researched it. The thing is, a chemical in turkey called tryptophan is known to cause drowsiness. But turkey doesn't contain any more of it than does chicken or beef. This myth is fueled by the fact that turkey is often eaten with a colossal holiday meal, often accompanied by alcohol — both things that will make you sleepy.

Myth: Mobile phones are dangerous in hospitals.

Fact: There are no known cases of death related to this one. Cases of less-serious interference with hospital devices seem to be largely anecdotal, the researchers found. In one real study, mobile phones were found to interfere with 4 percent of devices, but only when the phone was within 3 feet of the device. A more recent study, this year, found no interference in 300 tests in 75 treatment rooms. To the contrary, when doctors use mobile phones, the improved communication means they make fewer mistakes.

"Whenever we talk about this work, doctors at first express disbelief that these things are not true," said Vreeman said. "But after we carefully lay out medical evidence, they are very willing to accept that these beliefs are actually false."


One beautiful December evening Pedro and his girlfriend Rosita were sitting on the
beach by the side of the ocean.

It was a romantic full moon, when Pedro said, "Hey, mamacita, let's do Weeweechu."

Oh no, not now, let's look at the moon!" said Rosita.

Oh, c'mon baby, let's you and I do Weeweechu.

I love you and it's the perfect time," Pedro begged.

"But I wanna just hold your hand and watch the moon." replied Rosita.

Please, corazoncito, just once, do Weeweechu with me."

Rosita looked at Pedro and said, "OK, one time, we'll do Weeweechu."

Pedro grabbed his guitar and they both sang....."

Weeweechu a Merry Christmas, Weeweechu a Merry Christmas, Weeweechu a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year."



Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pocket Taser Stun Gun - Is it a Great Gift for the Wife?

Last weekend I saw something at the Pawn Shop that sparked my interest. The occasion was our 22nd anniversary, and I was looking for a little something extra for my wife. What I came across was a 100,000-volt, pocket/purse-sized Taser. The consequences of the Taser were supposed to be short lived, with no long-term adverse effects on her assailant, allowing her adequate time to retreat to safety.... WAY TOO COOL!

Long story short, I bought the device and brought it home. I loaded two triple-A batteries in the darn thing and pushed the button. Nothing! I was disappointed. I learned, however, that if I pushed the button AND pressed it against a metal surface at the same time, I'd get the blue arch of electricity darting back and forth between the prongs. Awesome!!!

Unfortunately, I have yet to explain to wife what that burn spot is on the face of her microwave.

Ok, so I was home alone with this new toy, thinking to myself that it couldn't be all that bad with only two triple-A batteries, right?!!!

There I sat in my recliner, my cat Gracie looking on intently (trusting little soul) while I was reading the directions and thinking that I really needed to try this thing out on a flesh & blood moving target. I must admit I thought about zapping Gracie (for a fraction of a second) and thought better of it. She is such a sweet cat. But, if I was going to give this thing to my wife to protect herself against a mugger, I did want some assurance that it would work as advertised. Am I wrong?

So, there I sat in a pair of shorts and a tank top with my reading glasses perched delicately on the bridge of my nose, directions in one hand, Taser in another. The directions said that a one-second burst would shock and disorient your assailant; a two-second burst was supposed to cause muscle spasms and a major loss of bodily control; a three-second burst would purportedly make your assailant flop on the ground like a fish out of water.

Any burst longer than three seconds would be wasting the batteries.

All the while I'm looking at this little device measuring about 5 inches long, less than 3/4 inch in circumference -- pretty cute, really -- and loaded with two itsy, bitsy triple-A batteries, thinking to myself, "No possible way!"

What happened next is almost beyond description, but I'll do my best.....

I'm sitting there alone, Gracie looking on with her head cocked to one side as if to say, "Don't do it, master," reasoning that a one-second burst from such a tiny little ole thing couldn't hurt all that bad.... I decided to give myself a one-second burst just for the heck of it. I touched the prongs to my naked thigh, pushed the button, and HOLY WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION!!!

I'm pretty sure Jessie Ventura ran in through the side door, picked me up in the recliner, and then body slammed us both on the carpet, over and over and over again. I vaguely recall waking up on my side in the fetal position, with tears in my eyes, body soaking wet, both nipples on fire, my left arm tucked under my body in the oddest position, and tingling in my legs. The cat was standing over me making meowing sounds I had never heard before, licking my face.

Note: If you ever feel compelled to "mug" yourself with a Taser, one note of caution: there is no such thing as a one-second burst when you zap yourself. You will not let go of that thing until it is dislodged from your hand by a violent thrashing about on the floor. A three-second burst would be considered conservative.

A minute or so later (I can't be sure, as time was a relative thing at that point), I collected my wits (what little I had left), sat up, and surveyed the landscape. My bent reading glasses were on the mantel of the fireplace. How did they get up there???

My triceps, right thigh, were still burning and twitching. My face felt as if it had been shot up with Novocain and my bottom lip weighed 88 lbs.

Still in shock


For those of you who have lived in Texas, you know how true this is!

They actually have a chili cook-off about the time the rodeo comes to town. It takes up a major portion of the parking lot at the Astrodome! You will likely want to read this behind closed doors because, if you are like me, you will be howling out loud.


Notes from An Inexperienced Chili Tester Named FRANK, who was visiting Texas from the East Coast: "Recently, I was honored to be selected as a judge at a chili cook-off.

The original person called in sick at the last moment and I happened to be standing there at the judge’s table asking directions to the beer wagon, when the call came.

I was assured by the other two judges (Native Texans) that the chili wouldn't be all that spicy, and besides, they told men I could have free beer during the tasting, so I accepted." Here are the scorecards from the event:


JUDGE ONE: A little too heavy on tomato. Amusing kick.

JUDGE TWO: Nice, smooth tomato flavor. Very mild.

FRANK: Holy shit, what the hell is this stuff? You could remove dried paint from your driveway. Took me two beers to put the flames out, I hope that's the worst one. These Texans are crazy.


JUDGE ONE: Smokey, with a hint of pork. Slight Jalapeno tang.

JUDGE TWO: Exciting BBQ flavor needs more peppers to be taken seriously.

FRANK: Keep this out of the reach of children. I'm not sure what I am supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich maneuver. They had to rush in more beer when they saw the look on my face.


JUDGE ONE: Excellent firehouse chili! Great kick. Needs more beans.

JUDGE TWO: A bean less chili, a bit salty, good use of peppers.

FRANK: Call the EPA; I've located a uranium spill. My nose feels like I have been snorting Drano. Everyone knows the routine by now get me more beer before I ignite. Barmaid pounded me on the back; now my backbone is in the front part of my chest. I'm getting shit-faced from all the beer.


JUDGE ONE: Black bean chili with almost no spice. Disappointing.

JUDGE TWO: Hint of lime in the black beans. Good side dish for fish or other mild foods, not much of a chili.

FRANK: I felt something scraping across my tongue, but was unable to taste it, is it possible to burnout taste buds? Sally, the barmaid, was standing behind me with fresh refills; that 300 lb. Bitch is starting to look HOT just like this nuclear waste I'm eating. Is chili an aphrodisiac?


JUDGE ONE: Meaty, strong chili. Cayenne peppers freshly ground, adding considerable kick. Very Impressive.

JUDGE TWO: Chili using shredded beef, could use more tomato. Must admit the cayenne peppers make a strong statement.

FRANK: My ears are ringing, sweat is pouring off my forehead and I can no longer focus my eyes. I farted and four people behind me needed paramedics.

The contestant seemed offended when I told her that her chili had given me brain damage, Sally saved my tongue from bleeding by pouring beer directly on it from a pitcher. I wonder if I'm burning my lips off.

It really pisses me off that the other judges asked me to stop screaming. Screw those rednecks!


JUDGE ONE: Thin yet bold vegetarian variety chili. Good balance of spice and peppers.

JUDGE TWO: The best yet. Aggressive use of peppers, onions, and garlic. Superb.

FRANK: My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous, sulfuric flames.

I shit myself when I farted and I'm worried it will eat through the chair.

No one seems inclined to stand behind me except that slut Sally; she must be kinkier than I thought.

Can't feel my lips anymore. I need to wipe my ass with a snow cone!


JUDGE ONE: A mediocre chili with too much reliance on canned peppers.

JUDGE TWO: Ho Hum, tastes as if the chef literally threw in a can of chili peppers at the last moment.

I should take note that I am worried about Judge Number 3, He appears to be in a bit of distress as he is cursing uncontrollably.

FRANK: You could put a grenade in my mouth, pull the pin, and I wouldn't feel a damn thing. I've lost sight in one eye, and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water.

My shirt is covered with chili which slid unnoticed out of my mouth. My pants are full of lava-like shit to match my damn shirt.

At least during the autopsy they'll know what killed me. I've decided to stop breathing, it's too painful. Screw it; I'm not getting any oxygen anyway. If I need air, I'll just suck it in through the 4-inch hole in my stomach.


JUDGE ONE: A perfect ending, this is a nice blend chili, safe for all, not too bold but spicy enough to declare it's existence.

JUDGE TWO: This final entry is a good, balanced chili. Neither mild nor hot.

Sorry to see that most of it was lost when Judge Number 3 passed out, fell over and pulled the chili pot down on top of himself.

Not sure if he's going to make it. Poor Yank, wonder how he'd have reacted to a really hot chili?