Delia Ephron | How to Save a Life – The New York Times

Ms. Ephron is a writer and a bone-marrow transplant recipient.

“It’s not yet Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, and Eid al-Fitr is past. But three of those holidays are looming, waiting to cheer you, stress you out or otherwise consume your life. I have no idea what you want to give or receive next month, but I have a good suggestion, and it will cost nothing.

A little background: In 2018 I had a fatal disease, acute myeloid leukemia, or A.M.L., and the only thing that could save my life was a bone-marrow transplant. Leukemia is a blood cancer, a disease of the marrow. Your marrow produces your body’s blood supply.

I was given four months to live unless I had a transplant. A bone-marrow transplant, for the patient, is a grueling procedure that involves wiping the diseased marrow clean with powerful chemotherapy and transfusing stem cells from a healthy person who is genetically matched. But for the person who makes the donation, it is not difficult.

Bone marrow transplants, also known as blood stem cell transplants, help save the lives of about 8,000 people a year in the United States with blood cancers — from children only a few months old to adults in their 70s, according to Be the Match, the national registry of donors. I was 72, and I could not have a match from a relative because doctors were concerned that leukemia might run in my family. My sister Nora died of the very same disease in 2012, at 71. I needed a donor from the national registry.”

Dr. Herbert Benson, Who Saw the Mind as Medicinal, Dies at 86 – The New York Times

“Herbert Benson, a Harvard-trained cardiologist whose research showing the power of mind over body helped move meditation into the mainstream, died on Feb. 3 at a hospital in Boston. He was 86.

His wife, Marilyn Benson, said the cause was heart disease and kidney failure.

Dr. Benson did not set out to champion meditation; in fact, even after his first pioneering studies, he remained a skeptic, picking up the practice himself only decades later.

He was, however, open to the possibility that state of mind could affect a person’s health — common sense today, but a radical, even heretical idea when he began researching it in the mid-1960s.

During a stint working for the U.S. Public Health Service in Puerto Rico, he noticed that island residents often had significantly lower blood pressure than their mainland counterparts, all else being equal. He began to wonder if part of the cause lay outside the usual explanations of diet and exercise — a question he took up when he returned to Harvard as a researcher in 1965.”

Doctor Visit Guide – Well Guides – The New York Times

“If you are looking for a specialist to do a particular procedure (like hip replacement, cataract surgery, a CT-guided biopsy or heart valve surgery), look for a physician who does lots of them. When it comes to complex medical procedures, more is better. A doctor’s experience correlates with fewer complications for his or her patients. Propublica has created a website that publishes the complication rate (and the death rate) for surgeons in the United States doing eight common elective surgical procedures. Medicare also has a website (Physician Compare) that publishes physician performance scores on various self-reported quality metrics. However, this, too, needs to be taken with a grain of salt.”

Aspirin Use to Prevent 1st Heart Attack or Stroke Should Be Curtailed, U.S. Panel Says – The New York Times

“Doctors should no longer routinely begin prescribing a daily regimen of low-dose aspirin to most people at high risk of a first heart attack or stroke, according to new draft guidelines by a U.S. panel of experts. The proposed recommendation is based on mounting evidence that the risk of serious side effects far outweighs the benefit of what was once considered a remarkably cheap weapon in the fight against heart disease.

The U.S. panel also plans to retreat from its 2016 recommendation to take baby aspirin for the prevention of colorectal cancer, guidance that was groundbreaking at the time. The panel said more recent data had raised questions about the putative benefits for cancer, and that more research was needed.”

Think You Have ‘Normal’ Blood Pressure? Think Again – By Jane E. Brody – The New York Times

“So you think your blood pressure is normal? Think again.

The latest iteration of an “ideal” blood pressure — a level of 120 millimeters of mercury for systolic pressure, the top number — that Americans are urged to achieve and maintain has been called into question by a long-term multiethnic study of otherwise healthy adults.

The study, published in June in JAMA Cardiology, found that as systolic blood pressure rose above 90 mm, the risk of damage to coronary arteries rose along with it. Systolic blood pressure represents the pressure within arteries when the heart pumps (as opposed to diastolic blood pressure, the lower smaller number, when the heart rests).

The new findings suggest a need to look more carefully at why, despite considerable overall improvements in risk factors for heart disease in recent decades, it remains the nation’s leading killer.

Starting in the 1940s, cardiovascular researchers have unveiled evidence that Americans live in a society that all but guarantees a disproportionately high risk of developing and dying of heart disease. Since my first weeks writing for this newspaper in the early 1960s, I’ve publicized their advice urging people to curb preventable risks to their hearts and blood vessels.”

Petroleum Jelly May Not Be As Harmless As You Think | HuffPost

What Is Petroleum Jelly?

Petroleum jelly, commonly known by the most popular brandname Vaseline, is a derivative of oil refining. Originally found coating the bottom of oil rigs in the mid-1800s, it’s a byproduct of the oil industry and therefore an unsustainable resource (read: not eco-friendly). It’s commonly used topically to cure everything from dehydrated, flakey skin to diaper rash.

Why Is It Potentially Harmful?

Though generally regarded as safe, the components that are removed from the oil during the refining process of petroleum jelly are carcinogenic in some cases. “Vaseline supposedly has all of these [components] removed,” Dr. Dattner says. “But there are probably plenty of petroleum jelly imitators, and one doesn’t always know the extent that they’re removed.” Denno also points out that, since petroleum jelly can be found in “different grades of purity,” you don’t always know how non-toxic your petroleum jelly-based beauty products really are. (For the record, Vaseline is highly-refined, triple-purified and regarded as non-carcinogenic.)

As for your skin? According to Denno, Petroleum jelly can create the illusion of moisturized, hydrated skin, all the while suffocating your pores. It’s water-repellant and not water-soluble, meaning it merely seals the barrier so that moisture does not leave the skin. So while you might feel the instant gratification of a softened surface, you’re actually drying out your pores by keeping out air and moisture. What’s more, the thick texture makes it difficult to cleanse from the skin, so never slather Vaseline on an unwashed face if you want to avoid breakouts. “It essentially seals in the dirt,” he said. (Vaseline says on its website that its product is non-comedogenic, which means that the product does not itself block pores.)

via Petroleum Jelly May Not Be As Harmless As You Think | HuffPost

Best Natural Moisturizer For Chapped Lips | Rodale’s Organic Life

CHAPSTICK
Pros: The classic tube gets props for combining both protective and moisturizing ingredients, with aloe and vitamin E for hydration and white petrolatum (petroleum) to keep out the elements. It also scores points for convenience (no finger dipping) and portability. Plus the SPF versions protect against sun damage.

Cons: “Many of the ingredients are considered potentially toxic,” warns Shillington, including propylparaben, a preservative linked to fertility problems and breast cancer. “It also contains mineral oil, which can block the absorption and limit the efficacy of the moisturizing ingredients.” Fun flavors like cherry and pumpkin pie may smell good, but they can encourage lip licking, which irritates and dries out lips, Carroll notes. (Here’s the most toxic stuff in your drugstore makeup—and 8 natural brands to try instead.)

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THE WINNER?
Coconut oil wins for its one-two punch: It both moisturizes and protects. While it can be high-maintenance to divvy up and cart around, it’s certainly the most natural option and feels the best on your lips. Opt for virgin coconut oil, which has not been chemically treated, and contains more antioxidants than the refined stuff.

via Best Natural Moisturizer For Chapped Lips | Rodale’s Organic Life

Now Is the Time to Talk About the Power of Touch – by David Brooks – NYT

In 1945, the Austrian physician René Spitz investigated an orphanage that took extra care to make sure its infants were not infected with disease. The children received first-class nutrition and medical care, but they were barely touched, to minimize their contact with germs. The approach was a catastrophe. Thirty-seven percent of the babies died before reaching age 2.

It turns out that empathetic physical contact is essential for life. Intimate touch engages the emotions and wires the fibers of the brain together.

The power of this kind of loving touch is long lasting. The famous Grant Study investigated a set of men who had gone to Harvard in the 1940s. The men who grew up in loving homes earned 50 percent more over the course of their careers than those from loveless ones. They suffered from far less chronic illness and much lower rates of dementia in old age. A loving home was the best predictor of life outcomes.

If the power of loving touch is astounding, the power of invasive touch is horrific. Christie Kim of N.Y.U. surveyed the research literature on victims of child sexual abuse. The victims experience higher levels of anxiety throughout their lifetimes. They report higher levels of depression across the decades and higher levels of self-blame. They are more than twice as likely to experience sexual victimization again.

via Now Is the Time to Talk About the Power of Touch – The New York Times