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The Growing Case Against Red Meat

March 25, 2009 Leave a comment

From Time.com In more news that has steak-lovers feeling deflated, a study published in this week’s issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine finds that people who indulge in high amounts of red meat and processed meats, including steak, bacon, sausage and cold cuts, have an increased risk of death from cancer and heart disease. The findings add power to the growing push – by health officials, environmentalists and even some chefs – to cool America’s love affair with meat.

The analysis of more than half a million Americans between the ages of 50 and 71 found that men in the highest quintile of red-meat consumption – those who ate about 5 ounces of red meat a day, or roughly the equivalent of a small steak, according to lead author Rashmi Sinha – had a 31% higher risk of death over a 10-year period than men in the lowest consumption quintile, who ate less than 1 ounce of red meat per day, or approximately three slices of ham. Men in the top fifth also had a 22% higher risk of dying of cancer and a 27% higher risk of dying of heart disease. In women, the figures were starker: women in the highest quintile of consumption had a 36% increased 10-year risk of death compared with women who ate little red meat; eating lots of meat was also associated with a 20% higher risk of dying of cancer and a 50% higher risk of dying of heart disease. (Read “A History of Beef, Times Two”.)….”

I’m definitly part carnivore.. maybe this was my problem.. πŸ™‚

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Categories: In the News, Interest Tags: , , ,

God in our Brains….

March 11, 2009 1 comment

From today’s NZ Herald, an interesting article on whether or not we are hard wired to have a belief system that manifests itself in the form of religious beliefs. Of course, this then raises a chicken/egg scenario, depending on any apriori assumptions you have before considering this. Those who believe in God might say that God created us with this hard-wired ability so that we might know who God is, and facilitate this belief. Those that don’t believe in God will inevitably argue that this is an evolved function in order to facilitate survival. Both arguments are self-fulfilling, in that each position provides its own evidence to support itself and exclude the other. It comes down again to the apriori assumption made prior to the assimilation of this information.

From a strictly evidence based perspective, i.e. assume nothing until there is evidence for it (which is still an apriori assumption) and is the foundation of modern day science and research, then you would have to assume that it is an evolved feature of our brains. However, if you ask a person of faith about evidence based conclusions, they will gladly point to many areas in their life where there is evidence of God at work.

So, to quote Brett from FOTC… “its a chicken egg situation really..”

Click the heading below to read the full article.

‘God-spot’ research finds faith hard-wired in the brain

“A belief in God is deeply embedded in the human brain, which is programmed for religious experiences, according to a United States study.

Scientists searching for the neural “God spot”, which is supposed to control religious belief, believe several areas of the brain form the biological foundations of religious belief.

The researchers said their findings supported the idea that the brain had evolved to be sensitive to any form of belief that improved the chances of survival, which could explain why a belief in God and the supernatural became so widespread in human evolutionary history.

“Religious belief and behaviour are a hallmark of human life, with no accepted animal equivalent, and found in all cultures,” said Professor Jordan Grafman, from the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, near Washington.

“Our results are unique in demonstrating that specific components of religious belief are mediated by well-known brain networks and they support contemporary psychological theories that ground religious belief within evolutionary-adaptive cognitive functions….”

What is The Internal Jugular Vein?

February 17, 2009 2 comments

I thought I would briefly explain what exactly the Internal Jugular vein is, and why I had problems with it.

Anatomy of the Neck with the IJV highlighted

Anatomy of the Neck with the IJV highlighted

The Internal Jugular Vein (IJV) is one of two major veins that drain the deoxygenated blood from the brain and head back down to the heart so that it can be sent to the lungs for oxygenation again. Each person has two IJV’s as well as two External Jugular Veins (EJV’s), and these are the main tributaries for blood to return to the heart from the neck upwards.

What happened with me was that my portacath, a tube that ran from my chest to the heart, makes it’s way to the heart by inserting in the IJV, then follows the IJV down where it joins the brachiocephallic (this vein drains the arm), which then joins the Superior Vena Cava, which then drains in the Right Atrium of the Heart. At the point of insertion into the IJV, this is where a clot started to build up. Clots generally can be caused by a number of things, but having foreign body in your blood vessel can be a cause, also, in my case, having cancer is also referred to a ‘pro thrombotic state’, as well as the chemo drugs I’m on [For the medical students: Capecitabine is pro-thrombotic, yet its dose-limiting side effect is thrombocytopenia.. any ideas?]. This all added up to a reasonable risk, one doctors and myself were willing toΒ  take, to causing a clot.

So the clot started, and once it starts, unless you take away the source of the clot, it will continue to grow. The major risks of having a clot there are mainly that fragments could break off, flow downstream and into the lungs, block off the lungs, which then stops me from oxygenating my blood and causing me to die from oxygen starvation. This is called a pulmonary embolism.

The portacath was removed with surgery to prevent the clot growing, and I was also placed on regular clexane injections in order to assist the prevention of further clot formation. The body will do the breaking down of the clot in its own good time.

And THAT is what last weeks drama was about! πŸ™‚

An Interesting Article From Time.com

February 13, 2009 Leave a comment

The Biology of Belief

Most folks probably couldn’t locate their parietal lobe with a map and a compass. For the record, it’s at the top of your head – aft of the frontal lobe, fore of the occipital lobe, north of the temporal lobe. What makes the parietal lobe special is not where it lives but what it does – particularly concerning matters of faith.

If you’ve ever prayed so hard that you’ve lost all sense of a larger world outside yourself, that’s your parietal lobe at work. If you’ve ever meditated so deeply that you’d swear the very boundaries of your body had dissolved, that’s your parietal too. There are other regions responsible for making your brain the spiritual amusement park it can be: your thalamus plays a role, as do your frontal lobes. But it’s your parietal lobe – a central mass of tissue that processes sensory input – that may have the most transporting effect. (Read “Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs”.)

Needy creatures that we are, we put the brain’s spiritual centers to use all the time. We pray for peace; we meditate for serenity; we chant for wealth. We travel to Lourdes in search of a miracle; we go to Mecca to show our devotion; we eat hallucinogenic mushrooms to attain transcendent vision and gather in church basements to achieve its sober opposite. But there is nothing we pray – or chant or meditate – for more than health.

Health, by definition, is the sine qua non of everything else. If you’re dead, serenity is academic. So we convince ourselves that while our medicine is strong and our doctors are wise, our prayers may heal us too.

Here’s what’s surprising: a growing body of scientific evidence suggests that faith may indeed bring us health. People who attend religious services do have a lower risk of dying in any one year than people who don’t attend. People who believe in a loving God fare better after a diagnosis of illness than people who believe in a punitive God. No less a killer than AIDS will back off at least a bit when it’s hit with a double-barreled blast of belief. “Even accounting for medications,” says Dr. Gail Ironson, a professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Miami who studies HIV and religious belief, “spirituality predicts for better disease control.” (Read “Finding God on YouTube.”) Read more…

Injecting Myself with Clexane

February 13, 2009 3 comments

Subsequent to thrombosing up my Internal Jugular Vein, I now have to go through this routine twice a day for 2 weeks, and the daily for an indefinite period afterwards, mostly likely about 4 months. The clexane is a low molecular weight heparin that will help the clot to not get bigger while the body slowly dissolves it.

WARNING – contains needles, bruises, scars, and fat, fat belly…. (all the better for injecting of course)..

Chemo 2.7

February 11, 2009 1 comment

So, I had the surgery last night, finally!!.. and this means no more nil by mouth dieting regime, which I am happy about. As of this stage, I’m yet to be discharged, but am currently at home because I manipulated the system to give me leave. I’ll be going back in to the hospital in an hour or so.

My portacath has been removed, and I still have a giant clot in my right internal jugular vein. The clot should hopefully slowly resolve over the next few weeks now that the source of it has been removed. This will be aided by the fact I have to inject myself twice a day for 2 weeks with clexane, also known as low-molecular-weight-heparin. After two weeks, the injections will continue once a day for about 3 or 4 months, or till the end of my chemo to help resolve the clot, and to prevent any further from occurring. The injection is just like an insulin injection, except way more stingy. The needle itself doesn’t hurt, its the stupid drug that causes local stinging for about 5 or 10 min after the injection.

So, at the moment, we are just waiting for the vascular team (again!!) to give me the all clear on the discharge. They weren’t projected to visit till sometime this afternoon, which is why we snuck home, so I could have a decent shower etc.Β  In the mean time, I’m gonna be a complete cripple until this clot resolves. My neck is REALLY sore, so much so that I took morphine this morning to make it a bit more functional. I cant even get dressed without help, any sneezing, coughing turning of the head etc causes pain. Anything that may cause an increase of pressure on the carotid sheath, or the surrounding structures is bad news.

Also, apologies on the previous posts being out of order… it has something to do with the fact that I was posting them from my iPhone, it re-arranged them for some reason.

Quick update – I have now been dishcarged, so don’t have to go back into the hospital!! – Still a cripple though.

Hemicolectomy – Instructions on how to do one.

January 29, 2009 5 comments

In case you wondered what a hemicolectomy was, i thought i would enlighten you. πŸ™‚

Firstly, it helps to know what exactly the colon is, and where it lies. The colon is the large part of the bowel, the final 5 – 6 feet of bowel that food travels through before it is excreted. The bowels primary function is to absorb fluid from its contents prior to excretion. Theoretically, all the digestion and absorption of nutrients have been done in the small intestine prior to the bowel. Figure 1 demonstrates the basic layout of the colon or large intestine. It omits the surrounding organs in order to get a clear view of the colon.

Fig. 1. Colon as it lies in the body (Courtesty of UpToDate Online)

Fig. 1. Colon as it lies in the body (Courtesy of UpToDate Online)

Note the Hepatic Flexure labeled in the diagram, this is where adenocarcinoma was located in myself. In my case, a right hemicolectomy was performed… so what is one? Essentially, its the removal of a section of colon that can be divided into three broad categories, Left Hemicolectomy, Right Hemicolectomy (what i had) and a sigmoid colectomy. Each term refers to the section of colon that is the excised. There are other types of colectomy that can be performed, but for the sake of simplification it helps to think in terms of these three categories. Figures 2 – 4 demonstrate which parts of the colon are removed for each procedure.

Right Hemicolectomy

Fig. 2. Right Hemicolectomy

Fig. 3. Sigmoid Colectomy

Fig. 3. Sigmoid Colectomy

Fig. 4. Left Hemicolectomy

Fig. 4. Left Hemicolectomy

In my situation, a right hemicolectomy was performed, because the location of the tumour, in the hepatic flexure, is in the region of the of the right ascending colon. The reason they remove that entire section, rather than just the section that contains the tumour is due to blood supply. Blood is supplied to the colon by the superior and inferior mesenteric arteries, which branch off the Aorta. These arteries then branch into smaller arteries, each supplying a segment of the colon. Often, a resection will be based on what parts of the colon are supplied by each of these arteries in order to prevent bleeding, and also to make the life the surgeon easier. It is easier to occlude one or two arteries upstream than to try to occlude many smaller arteries individually down stream. Think of it like a river than divides into many tributaries. Figure 5 shows a basic layout of mesenteric arteries.

Fig. 4. Blood supply to the colon

Fig. 4. Blood supply to the colon

The John Hopkins Colon Cancer Centre provides a good summary of how different resections work with the blood supplies and the location of the lesion to be removed.

Finally, comes the anastamosis of the now two ends of bowel after the resection. There are number of techniques in which anastomoses can be done, the specific one that was performed on me remains a mystery. But suffice it to say, the distal ilium and my transverse colon are joined and functioning well. πŸ™‚

That is a VERY simplified version on what a hemicolectomy is.