1. Fat chance

    Fat chance

    Go to sleep, Fatso!

    Dear Friend,

    It's a sad and undeniable fact: we are a nation of fat people. And the most disturbing trend in our rapidly waist-expanding nation is the growing problem of childhood obesity. But are today's kids fat because they're lazy, or because they're exhausted?

    According to new research in the Journal of Pediatrics, the less sleep third graders get, the more likely they are to be obese by the time they reach sixth grade. And for each additional hour these third graders sleep, those chances are reduced by 40 percent.

    Turns out, getting those grandkids in bed early isn't just good for your sanity - it's good for the kids, too.

    The truth is, we're not just a fat country - we're an overtired country, too. In today's do- everything, go-go-go, multitasking culture, this study shows that there's a real danger of passing the harmful adult habit of sleep depravation on to our kids. And this could be turning our children into pudgy little dough balls.

    Lack of sleep doesn't just run your body down, it confuses the delivery of the hormones that regulate appetite. It's been proven that sleep-deprived adults produce more of the hormone that promotes hunger, and less of the hormone that gives the feeling of fullness. Now we all know that no self-respecting third grader will reach for a handful of almonds when his tummy is growling. So when those little folks get their hormones jumbled, it's no wonder they're at risk for becoming tubby.

    Of course, blaming hormones could be a classic case of a clinical study overcomplicating the issue with a lot of high-falutin' medical mumbo jumbo. What they're saying may be true, but let's cut through the blubber and get to the real issue: Kids don't sit inside watching TV and playing video games because they're tired - they're tired (and fat) because they sit inside watching TV and playing video games. They stay up late with their eyes glued to the boob tube with their chubby fists in a bag of chips. Add the hormone connection to the mix, and you have a recipe for fatness.

    Still, kids need their sleep. And for third graders, it seems that the optimal amount of sleep is nine hours and forty-five minutes. But the researchers behind this study have had the good sense to point out that a good night's sleep is just one part of the fitness puzzle.

    No matter what your age - and no matter what study you read - there's no magic formula to staying fit. Eat less. Move around more. Whether you're three or three hundred.

    So the next time the grandkids go to bed, make sure you tuck 'em in early. It's just as important for keeping them fit as throwing out the Twinkies.

    Mom gets burned in false cremation case

    Here's a little item that I wish we'd gotten in time for the Halloween edition of The Daily Dose: a mother in England cremated the body of her son only to have him turn up alive later that week!

    Imagine that - "Hey mom, what's for dinner?"

    Naturally, there's a logical explanation - it was a case of mistaken identity. The mother had reported her 37-year-old son missing, and then three days later a body was found in a nearby town. Strangely, the mother formally identified the body as her missing son - though it's hard to say how she made such an egregious mistake.

    After an autopsy, the body was cremated. But unbeknownst to the woman, police had actually found her real son - very much alive - living on the streets of another nearby city.

    Which of course begs the question: who did they cremate? Well, the local police claim they know who this unfortunate individual is. The mystery that the bungling police haven't solved is why the poor mother wasn't spared the mental anguish of attending her supposed "son's" funeral and cremation when the police department knew the whereabouts (and healthy condition) of her actual son.

    To this, the police have only said, "This set of circumstances is clearly distressing and urgent inquiries are ongoing to establish how this happened."

    Meanwhile, I'm sure the police department in question is readying itself for a lawsuit from the once aggrieved mother seeking financial damages for pain and suffering - and probably the cost of the funeral!

  2. Coroners Cutting Corners

    Coroners Cutting Corners

    Remember a prime-time TV show called Quincy from back in the late 1970s?

    It starred Jack Klugman, and was about a medical examiner who solved crimes using medical evidence obtained from autopsies of the victims. It was the original made-for-TV forensics show, the forgotten precursor of the ultra-successful CSI series that's all the rage these days. My point in mentioning this program is to focus your attention on a fundamental (and indispensable) tool of medicine that's rapidly going the way of the dinosaur: The autopsy.

    Why should you be MORE aware of such an unpleasant thing as slicing up a corpse?

    Because autopsies are one of the most important ways in which doctors learn things about medicine and health - whether it be a green med student learning basic anatomy in medical school or a veteran medical examiner detecting the earliest warnings of a possible outbreak of a bacterial epidemic. In truth, without autopsies, we wouldn't be anywhere near as far along medically as we are today.

    But where autopsies were once a matter of routine in the majority of deaths - especially those occurring outside the four walls of a hospital - nowadays they're the exception, not the rule. According to a New York Times report, it's likely that less than 5% of all deaths are followed by an autopsy in this day and age. That means an awful lot of assumptions are being made about what's causing the remaining 95% of people to die - and in many cases, they're DEAD WRONG

    Case in point: A recent "heart attack" victim (as determined by a coroner) was found to have actually died of BACTERIAL MENENGITIS, a severely contagious infection that could have spread to others before the man's death. Without the autopsy a curious forensic pathologist performed on the body, these potential victims might never have known they'd come into contact with a carrier of the disease - and could have started an epidemic, had one or more of them been infected! Luckily, they weren't.

    Some doctors may argue that MRIs and other high-tech imaging technologies eliminate the need for formal autopsies in many cases. But that's an illusion, in my opinion - and research agrees with me. According to some studies, autopsies reveal missed or incorrect diagnoses in ONE OUT OF FOUR hospital deaths.

    By now, you're probably asking: WHY aren't autopsies routinely performed anymore? Well, the sinister answer won't surprise you, if you've been a reader of mine for any length of time.

    "Don't ask, don't tell" coroner's reporting

    What's the biggest reason autopsies are rarely performed nowadays? Liability.

    You see, were autopsies routine, their findings would call into glaring relief the frequency of misdiagnoses (or mistreatment) on the part of hospitals and emergency medicine providers. In other words, they'd definitively expose the mistakes modern medicine makes which sometimes end up harming or killing us. What does skipping the autopsies really mean to hospitals?

    Avoiding expensive malpractice lawsuits.

    That's right - by forgoing autopsies in all but a select few cases, they're able to get away with sweeping their mistakes right under the rug. Once again, it's dollars versus sense in mainstream medicine! Don't the relatives of the deceased have the right to know exactly WHY their loved ones have died? And shouldn't hospitals be held accountable for those deaths in which they're truly culpable?

    Don't get me wrong, here - I'm not for more lawsuits by any means. God knows there are already too many frivolous malpractice suits on the court dockets right now. I'm just saying that medical care for everyone will improve if hospitals are forced to contend with (and learn from) their diagnostic and treatment mistakes

    So they won't repeat them on you or someone you love.

  3. The Autopsy: Tool of Medicine Going the Way of the Dinosaur

    Remember a prime-time TV show called Quincy from back in the late 1970s?
  4. The Importance of Autopsies

    Because autopsies are one of the most important ways in which doctors learn things about medicine and health…the earliest warnings of a possible outbreak of a bacterial epidemic.

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