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Thursday, November 27, 2008

CANADA, STRONG AND FREE

Well, we keep headed in interesting directions in the international community, the investment, commodity and banking businesses and the transition to the Obama Presidency. It is very hard to understand the right things to be doing in any one area, let alone all of them that impact personal life.

I have grown very tired of watching our investments shrink in comparison to what we had understood was the safe level to have at retirement... while still safe, I sense that we understand better today, just how tenuous life would be in a world without stable markets for our goods, and invesetments. I have never been known as a conservative... of this I am sure... but I can assure my friends that I am one conservative dude with our lifestyle today. I strongly support the need for everyone to reduce consumption; be mindful that no matter what an individual has, if we don't have enough to go around, none of us will have anything.

The stock markets are down, the commodity prices (including the most obvious one, oil) are down, and all of this is hitting the Canadian Loonie hard. It is a double whammy for anyone living in the USA, but invested in Canada... I used my Canadian Mastercard in error last week for a $103.00 charge; the bill came through on Mastercard as $135.55! If you are coming south this year, bring cash and travellers cheques!

Based on the valuation of the Loonie, I can't figure out is why Canada is not getting any credit for its financial stability over the past fifteen years. The country has not had a deficit in all that time, including 2008. The USA on the other hand will be over a Trillion Dollars in the hole at the end of the year! A Trillion!!! Yet the Loonie is below $0.79US as I write this. Further, there have been no bank failures in Canada. None of the USA businesses and banks that are owned by these Canadian banks... TDBank, Scotia Bank, BMO Harris Bank, RBC Dain Rauscher and the CIBC holdings... have had any failures. They are not standing on Wall Street with their collective hands out.

Add to that, there are no sub-prime Canadian mortgages coming home to roost. In fact, the real estate industry is doing quite well, across the country. There will be a slow-down in housing, partly because of the USA's problems causing lay-offs in the auto industry in Canada, and a reduction in metal commodity orders. It makes no sense to me that Canada is being brushed with the same ink as the USA... red! Successive liberal and conservative political parties have lead the country very well, and it is the only G8 country not begging forgiveness from its population for poor financial regulations, and general mis-management of its economy.

I would like to say "good on ya, Canada!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cancer... Considering Prevention


Lynnda and I have long been active bird watchers, albeit just around our homes. We haven't been binocular toting 'birders' out in the wild looking for the long lost Oicle... naaaa, that's not really a bird, but I can't remember any long lost bird names... In South Florida, where it is essentially tropical or a growing zone of 10 for those of you used to measuring weather by what type of plants will grow, we can be used to seeing Great Egrets. But here, instead of seeing a sparrow, or robin out the window, we can literally see Great Egrets hunting, out our window.

The photo above, I took after noticing out the kitchen window, this big guy standing on one of our hedges, hunting Geckos. I watched as he harpooned one that ultimately wriggled free when I took these pictures above and below. The bird stayed until he finally realized that he had frightened off all the Geckos that live in that particular hedge...




I have on several occasions posted on cancer prevention and why we don't take precautions to reduce our personal potential for getting one of the 215 types of the disease. In the blog that I posted earlier today, that will be found after this one, I spent time trying to give readers a sense that this disease in omnipresent and if we don't at least 'try' to avoid it, we will end up dead, or at a minimum badly scarred... like me!

It is 'for sure' that we can't avoid all cancers. Many of us are born with a predisposition to cancer through our genetic make-up. But even people with a genetic code for a cancer can reduce his/her chances of contracting the disease. It is a matter of not only being aware of methods of avoiding it... but of participating in activities designed to reduce the risky activities that can contribute to cancer.

Among these factors are smoking cigarettes; long term, excessive imbibing of alcohol; obesity; exposure to known carcinogens; and not getting asymptomatic diagnostic testing done when there is a known predisposition to certain cancers. These are all well documented and well communicated... but clearly not well understood and/or reacted to by the general public.

But today, there are nearly 2 billion people using the internet and things are capable of changing, if we re-communicate, using the internet to accomplish what we have not done in the past. And it is time that not only the highly educated population get the message, so we have to do it using layman's terms.

It is amazing to me that we know how to avoid some cancers, but we don't... if fact, sometimes we legislate activities that can contribute directly to people getting cancer. For example... when we fill our cars with fuel, some states, like California, require the fuel delivery system to be a closed system... the fuel is delivered through a nozzle that lets little or no fumes escape into the atmosphere. California recognizes that automobile fuel is a carcinogen, which causes increases in healthcare costs... and requires 100% of the fuel nozzles to comply with a law that reduces the potential hazard. Why then do not the rest of the states and provinces do the same?

In fact, several states, and certainly Nova Scotia legislate that there is not a need for a closed system and the person fueling the car "must have their hand on the nozzle while fueling takes place"... there is no clip on the nozzle to keep it open while fueling. This causes the person to be in close proximity to a carcinogen for protracted periods! WHY? Can the government not see that the cost of cancer in Nova Scotia is 'killing the province's budget' as well as it's population? Perhaps it will some day do the right thing, and put this simple legislation in place, and give the gasoline dealers several years to also comply with a requirement to have a closed system on the fumes.

Let's look at smoking as another example of how cancer can be eradicated through disciplined legislation. Smoking causes cancer! Smoking causes heart and cerebral diseases! Smoking is a plague on the planet that can be eradicated. Certainly if cigarettes were to be introduced today as a new dietary supplement, no government would approve it. So why don't we treat it like what it is... a killer, and legislate against it.

We could put the legislation into place that says... if you smoke, you will not be treated for cancer or other disease caused by smoking! Further, legislation could be put in that a person wanting to quit, but can't afford the drugs can get the drugs on the dole... but if caught smoking, they will lose their right to health care. This would render smoking to being a bad habit, not an addiction, and therefore reduce the rate of death by cigarette dramatically... allowing the healthcare system to stay viable financially.

The graph below shows how forty-three years ago, 52% of men smoked. That has reduced to around 30%. Why should we accept the remaining 30% as a drag on our financial viability, particularly in Canada where all healthcare costs are born by the taxes we pay... in the USA it is an issue, since many of the sufferers are over age 65 and therefore on Medicare... or are poor and on Medicaid.


My position on this issue would be humorous if the data were not so pervasive and sad. To think that someone who favors Barack Obama and liberal human policies could be arguing healthcare based on the financial security of our countries is ridiculous. Except that, if we can't keep our Medicare systems financially stable, people of all ilks will die from all causes, at a much higher rate!

Perhaps if I switch to a subject closer to the North American public's awareness... OIL. A few months ago, speculators drove the price of foreign oil (and domestic) to over $147.50 per barrel. We have to do something to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, I agree... but I will also argue that it is even as, or more important to reduce our dependence on domestic tobacco! Think about it... health care in America costs $1.4 trillion a year... quit smoking and we could cut the costs by as much as $300 billion soon, and over ten years by several trillion dollars! That's a hell of a lot easier than Drill, Drill, Drill!

The American Cancer Society, from whom I garnered these slides on a web site where you too can visit... here is the link which is from their presentation of 2007 data:

http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PRO/content/PRO_1_1_Cancer_Statistics_2007_Presentation.asp

has for years promoted data that proved that a person could reduce their chances of getting certain cancers by simply eating certain foods. It is clear to me that this is an easy thing, at least for those who can afford it. But I can 't believe the number of people with whom I come into contact that are 'meat and potato' people... or worse! The graphic below shows how we have not adhered to the recommendations of the ACS... BTW, the Canadian Cancer Society have posted similar recommendations to all of this...



In this day and age, if we can't get more than 24.4% of our population to eat five servings of vegetables a day in order to reduce the chances of cancer, we are pathetic. Think of the impact on our farmers if suddenly 258,750,000 people started eating five vegetables a day... up from a measly 86,250,000. We would have less cancer and less obesity! Why can't we get to this, or at least to 150,000,000? Because we don't really want to...

So let's look at that obesity issue that the cancer societies also say in-and-of-itself is a cause of cancer... from 1962 we have gone from 13% of the adult population being obese to a 'whopping' 33%. Not only is this causing cancer, but we are having to live with huge increases in diabetes, weight related injuries, breathing problems, and chronic joint damage requiring prosthesis in knees and hips. And all because we are 'accepting' one another getting over-weight... horribly over-weight. Collectively it is a tragedy for the countries...individually it is a tragedy for the individuals. So there, I have done what I have been told is not PC... I didn't vote that way either!



OK, so we can't do anything about our own weight... and we accept living with it... what about our responsibility to our children... I REPEAT... OBESITY CONTRIBUTES TO CANCER... add it up, we have gone from 14% overweight to 50% of our kids under 19 being above the 95 percentile for BMI (body mass index)

I lifted the following from the website from the Centers for Disease Control here in the USA


The Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity

Research has shown that as weight increases to reach the levels referred to as "overweight" and "obesity,"* the risks for the following conditions also increases:1

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides)
  • Stroke
  • Liver and Gallbladder disease
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint)
  • Gynecological problems (abnormal menses, infertility)

*Overweight is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher; obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or higher.


Their website is http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/index.htm

See, I wasn't kidding, with my short, off the top of my head listing a few paragraphs ago, when you wanted perhaps to argue my points.

Now, let's look at the numbers for those young people who we can give a healthy start to, even if we can't control our own situation. 50% of the kids are overweight... 14% of those under 5 years of age! That should be an example of parental abuse! Those kids will have to live with heart disease in their twenties! Diabetes in their teens! Do you accept responsibility for such things? If you do, what will we do about the situation?



Cancer may be hard to beat, but I don't think we as a population has really started fighting it. I think we are leaving it to the doctors to treat it; to the researchers to find the magic bullets to stop it or prevent it... but we need to look at the data below (in the posting below, there is a lot of data on prevalence) for the truth... we have to look at what we are doing.

Cancer... Start With Understanding Prevalence


During the period just prior to leaving the Oyster Pond to go to South Florida for the winter, we were blessed with some spectacular weather and sunsets. It gave us memories like this picture which has natures pallet of color... and the rays from the sun through the atmosphere give substance to its otherwise invisible energy.

While watching such brilliance from the deck, Lynnda and I often discuss ways that we can better manage our lives. Among issues that come up are our efforts to minimize our need for healthcare by better caring for ourselves. Because both of us have spent our lives in the healthcare industry (Lynnda was at the McMaster University Medical Center, heading the clinical lab in the Premature Children's Clinic when I met her), we have had opportunities to understand our health options that perhaps others don't have access to... at least until the internet made it available to practically everyone.

Knowing it is available, we also know that many of us don't avail ourselves to it. Many that do, don't live by the obvious options that are clearly open to us in the 21st century. As a result, many of our friends and the general population don't take the opportunities available to avoid many of the diseases that are prevalent in our lives. Among these are cardiovascular and cerebral-vascular diseases (heart and brain attacks), peripheral vascular diseases (PVD), and many cancers.

In the past I have posted on these, but I want now to really try and make the case for us taking personal responsibility and action toward preventing these diseases in ourselves. And, if we don't have the personal drive to do it for ourselves, we should at least make it part of our legacy to ensure that these insidious blights on our past, not remain part of our children's future. Perhaps if you read these posts, you will consider passing them to others, if you think they are beneficial.

First, let's look at what can be done when there is a focus on disease. I have decided to utilize data from the American Cancer Society... Cancer Statistics 2007. Here I will highlight only a few slides in a fantastic presentation that can be viewed at the following link (you can simply click on it)


http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PRO/content/PRO_1_1_Cancer_Statistics_2007_Presentation.asp


Years ago, people were dropping like flies from heart attacks and stroke. The American Heart Association and others took up the battle to find ways to save people from the devastation from what in the fifties was almost certain death... heart attacks and strokes. They went after them as separate diseases initially, but found recently that a two part attack could have a huge impact... prevention and intervention on both... and they were similar tactics. Since I want today to focus on cancer, and am only using heart disease and stroke as examples of what can be done with the right focus, I won't go into the tactics... but let's take a look at the results...




This chart shows us that based on the focus applied to heart disease and cerebral vascular disease, there has been a massive reduction in both in the American population (I have not found the offsetting data from Canada, but suffice to say that it is likely close to the same as the US data). There is a stark difference however in the data for cancer from 1950 to 2004... even though we have been throwing money at it at seemingly the same pace as with the heart and brain diseases.

There is little doubt that the 215 or so cancers (see earlier posting with a listing of the known cancers) are a more complex set of causes and cures. But given their costs to society in both money and human suffering, isn't it appropriate to try and change what we have been doing, to perhaps get a different outcome in the next fifty years.

The next two slides demonstrate that (let's extend the US data to include North America for arguement's sake)
men in North America stand a 1 in 2 chance of getting a cancer of one form or another and women a 1 in 3 chance!



I note that these data do not include any simple skin cancers other than melanoma. It would boggle one's mind to add in Basel Cell Carcinoma data... and the costs in dollars and long term human suffering from these yet to be diagnosed and treated "minor cancers".



Following are data that describe the incidents and deaths from the non-skin cancers over the period from 1975 to 2003 separated male from female and the combined.We can see that there are slight decreases in the years after 2002 which was the first year in recorded cancer data that there were fewer deaths from cancer... in 2003 there were around 3,000 fewer deaths than in 2002. But the stark reality is that we are still far above the cancer rates from 1975 when the real comparative rates of cardiovascular disease started to free fall... why?



This next slide breaks the rates above into male and female over the same period, and breaks them into site specific cancer rates. So let's go back to the first two slides and look at the 1 in 2 and 1 in 3 male and female chances of getting cancer... here we can suggest which we are potentially going to get.



I like the graphics because we can easily see the changes over time in the prevalent cancers. For example, look at the data on Lung and Bronchus Cancer... it is going up in women! This after years of inference that smoking has a direct impact on the potential for getting lung cancer. We still allow our children to smoke, and young females are smoking at increasing rates! Why can't we get to them? We hear so much about breast cancer, yet if you look at the two slides blow you may note that while breast cancer will be 26% of the new cancer cases, it will be 'only' 15% of the total deaths... where as Lung Cancer will be 26% of the deaths. There is little we can do to prevent breast cancer... yet the Pink Ribbons are practically ubiquitous in our society. Yet cancer of the lung and bronchi kill far more people and we don't hear anything about it. Why?




Ok, enough about the data... how about the part about what can we do about it? It is the nature of this blogspot, that one has to upload graphics and pictures before writing. So, I am going to sign off on this posting and start the next, that will appear ahead of this. Some day I will figure this out...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pass This One On

I hope this is catching you on a great day...

I admit that in my sixty years I spent a lot of time avoiding the aging process. Sometimes I was more successful than others. One of the best things I did during the last five years was to join the AARP in the USA and CARP in Canada. Both have magazines that have incredibly informative articles on aging, and also on living better.

There must be something to these mags... the AARP issue is the world's largest subscription magazine. The current issue is one of the best I have read, and the main reason is an article that is appropriate for anyone reading this blog... especially people recovering from major health issues... or knowing someone who is trying to do the same.

I encourage you to click on this link below and read this article on SUPER HEALING. I wish I had it when I was sick... while I came close on several things, I wasn't on too many. Try it, and pass it on... please


http://www.aarpmagazine.org/health/super_healing.html

I hope you have a great week...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

SUCCESS NOURISHES HOPE


There were so many images last evening that were worth storing for the ages. I chose to try and tell the story with these. I really thought that these flags said it all... they just look happy, probably jubilant... this seemed to run across so many boundaries like race, age, political base and so on. Fun to watch, and it brought back credibility to the USA electorate that could look beyond ideology and history.




Barack Obama ran what has been described as a flawless campaign... from start to finish. It is now incumbent on him to run a flawless White House... and for the people to support him in the hard times that are sure to come; harder than the ones that are already here.




I really liked this picture of the Golden Mile in Chicago. It seemed to me that the whole country won, and the peaceful celebrations through the night was a tremendous boost to the win itself.


Here is a picture of the First Lady elect in full form... look at the excitement and happiness... spectacular!



The new leader, Barack Obama and his VP, Joe Biden. They worked together to make this a victory for all Americans. We can look forward to a well guided eight years. What a great win for HOPE in the world.

Blueknowser

My photo

Grad. Saint Mary's University, 1975, got into the medical device business initially in sales, then various management positions up to president, all in Medical Devices. I prefer therapy products over diagnostic, but they are all fun, and in a way have defined my life. I have now evolved, with help from my 35 year partner Lynnda with whom I now share every hour. I am into staying healthy, photography, kayaking, bicycling, gardening and two books a week. I wish I had gotten to this stage earlier!