Janet needed a chest x-ray as part of a pre-employment physical. Having been advised that insurance would not cover the procedure, she attempted to find out what it would cost. That was much easier said than done, and more than once in her quest she received the following encouragement:

You don't have to pay anything now, you'll get a bill later.

As if that had any effect on the cost! Have we become so inured to debt—home mortages, car financing, credit cards, college loans—that the only price tag we care about is what we must pay right now, the copay, the down payment, the minimum monthly charge?

And what are we to think of a health care system that buries the price of its procedures under so many layers of bureaucracy that no one knows the true cost?
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, April 28, 2005 at 1:16 pm | Edit
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Studies have already confirmed the traditional wisdom that drinking cranberry juice contributes to a healthy urinary tract. Now researchers at the University of Wisconsin have discovered potential benefit to our arteries as well, causing clogged arteries to relax and function more like normal ones. I'm off to have a glass of Bay Punch!

Bay Punch, a primary ingredient of which is cranberry juice, was developed at the University of Rochester Computing Center in the 1970's. It is one of the greatest drinks in the world, and absolutely the best thing to drink with pizza. The "Bay" in the name comes from Bay and Goodman Pizza, the original source for our Tuesday night feasts. I'll post a recipe if I can get permission from the only one of the Bay Punch creators with whom I've kept in touch.

UPDATE: I did get permission, and the recipe is here.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, April 4, 2005 at 7:17 am | Edit
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When Terri Schiavo dies, there's going to be cheering, and I don't understand why. I know there will be cries of exultation because of the commentary I've heard, and the rude jesting, even from as mainstream a production as National Public Radio's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. Perhaps people make light of tragedy in self-defense; I know my family was able to find humor even as our father lay dying. There was, however, an enormous difference: our humor was suffused with an undeniable love for the man and a determination to do all we could for him. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, March 30, 2005 at 8:21 am | Edit
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Once again, Florida is making national headlines, this time because of the mysterious outbreak of serious kidney disease, hemolytic uremic syndrome. Most, although not all, of the sufferers had attended either the Plant City Strawberry Festival or Orlando's Central Florida Fair. What else did they have in common? High on the list of suspects is the petting zoos, and the e. coli bacteria often found in animal feces. This is by no means the only source being considered, but it has been jumped on by the media and parents seeking answers. Panicked parents and teachers have cancelled planned zoo trips, and it's not hard to understand why. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 29, 2005 at 1:27 pm | Edit
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The whole world is now following what once was just a Florida story: the tragedy of Terri Schiavo, the woman who collapsed 15 years ago and suffered severe brain injury due to lack of oxygen to her brain. She continues to survive—it's hard to call this "living"—in a nursing home, breathing on her own, but dependant on a feeding tube. Doctors say she is completely brain dead, her brain has atrophied, and what looks like reaction to stimulus is really only reflexive movement. Terri has no living will nor other end-of-life directive. Her husband insists that she would not wish to linger in this state, and is trying to have her feeding tube removed. Terri's parents, on the other hand, believe there is hope, and are fighting for their daughter's life. I do not presume to be able to judge either Terri's neurological state nor her desires, but wish to emphasize an aspect of this mess that has always seemed of primary importance, but which has been generally ignored. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, February 25, 2005 at 9:10 am | Edit
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It's not news that tea (Camellia sinensis) can be good for our health, offering benefits related to heart disease, cancer, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, dental health, and even weight loss. However, good things in excess do not always remain good, as in the case of the woman who drank one to two gallons of double-strength iced tea per day. Tea contains naturally elevated levels of fluoride, which is part of its contribution to good dental health. Too much fluoride in the diet can cause skeletal fluorosis, a painful condition in which bones become both more dense and more brittle. Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis tested regular strength preparations, in fluoride-free water, of several commercially available instant teas. Fluoride concentrations ranged from 1.0 to 6.5 parts per million. The maximum level allowed in drinking water is 4 ppm (Environmental Protection Agency), in bottled water and beverages the limit is 2.4 ppm (U. S. Food and Drug Administration), and the U.S. Public Health Service recommends a concentration in drinking water of no more than 1.2 ppm. Brewed and bottled teas were not included in this study.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 23, 2005 at 11:13 am | Edit
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The Virus and the Vaccine: The True Story of a Cancer-Causing Monkey Virus, Contaminated Polio Vaccine, and the Millions of Americans Exposed, by Debbie Bookchin & Jim Schumacher (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2004)

Let me state at the outset that I am in favor of vaccinations. I’m very grateful to all those folks whose work has given us some measure of victory over so many horrible diseases. (And to the animals involved, whose sacrifices are usually even greater.) That said, it needs to be more clear that those little jabs to which we subject ourselves, our babies, and our soldiers, are neither miracle nor magic. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, February 22, 2005 at 7:30 am | Edit
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Government got it wrong on advice to pregnant women

Folic acid advice has had little impact on birth defects

Recommendations for women planning a pregnancy to take folic acid supplements have had no impact on the number of babies born with neural tube defects, says an international team of researchers.

Recommendations on use of folic acid consumption have had no detectable impact on the incidence of neural tube defects, according to an international study.

Upon reading these headlines and summaries, wouldn't you, as a pregnant woman taking folic acid supplements on the recommendation of your doctor, begin to think that you had been misled and might as well throw away your remaining pills? Doesn't it sound as if the relationship between folic acid deficiency and birth defects has been disproved? Not so! (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, February 18, 2005 at 9:02 am | Edit
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The Virus Within: A Coming Epidemic, by Nicholas Regush (Dutton, 2000)

I know that my brother had roseola when he was 14 months old, because I found mention of the episode in one of my father’s journals. Although it was not documented, I assume the rest of us also contracted the disease. Most children do, before they are two years old, often with symptoms so mild they evade diagnosis.

Although roseola was officially described in 1910, and studies in the early 1950’s led scientists to believe that it was caused by a virus, it was not until the 1980’s that the virus was isolated and named: Human Herpes Virus-6 (HHV-6). What was being discovered about this virus would have roused great concern, had not the attention of the scientific and medical communities, and the media, been overwhelmed by the more obvious medical problem of the time: AIDS. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, January 30, 2005 at 9:35 pm | Edit
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Don't you just love it when things you like to eat turn out to be good for you? Turmeric is a spice commonly found in Indian curries and other Asian dishes, as well as good old American French's mustard. Curcumin, the component responsible for turmeric's yellow color, apparently provides numerous health benefits. Most recently, a study at UCLA has shown that curcumin may be efffective in treating and preventing Alzheimer's disease. In those tests, curcumin succeeded in preventing the formation and growth in the brain of the amyloid plaques that are the hallmark of the disease.

Since amyloid plaques are also present in the brains of people afflicted with the human form of mad cow disease and other spongiform encephalopathies, this finding may be of even wider importance.

Hmmm...perhaps we'll have curry for dinner...or maybe something Thai....
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, January 5, 2005 at 7:07 am | Edit
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We have a friend who just delivered her third child after two previous Caesarean sections that followed non-progressive labors. According to a recent report in the New York Times, that blessing would not have been possible with many doctors and hospitals. For a number of reasons, many hospitals are refusing to allow patients to attempt VBAC's (vaginal births after Caesarean). (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, November 30, 2004 at 1:58 pm | Edit
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A study in London showed that chocolate is a more effective cough medicine than those terrible-tasting syrups, and has fewer side effects. Patients in the study were given theobromine in amounts equivalent to two cups of cocoa, or codeine, or a placebo. Codeine, traditionally used to suppress persistent coughs, was only slightly more effective than the placebo, but the theobromine excelled. The next questions: Is more better? Is less just as effective? Since milk chocolate contains less theobromine than dark chocolate, do I need to eat more M&M's than chocolate chips for the same result? <Ahem>, <ahem>, excuse me while I go nip this cough in the bud....
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, November 24, 2004 at 1:41 pm | Edit
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Worried about putting on extra pounds with upcoming holiday feasting? Remember what your mom always told you, and be sure to get enough sleep! A study by Columbia University researchers shows a strong inverse correlation between the amount of sleep people receive and their tendency toward obesity. Compared with those who slept seven to nine hours per night, people who slept less than four hours a night were 73% more likely to be obese; those who got five hours of sleep were 50% more likely, and those who averaged six hours were 23% more likely.

Sleep—the new weight loss program!
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, November 22, 2004 at 8:31 am | Edit
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A technique for protecting premature infants, developed in Colombia because of a shortage of incubators, is proving so effective that Colombian doctors are urging more affluent nations to adopt it as well. Called "kangaroo mother care," the therapy begins when the child no longer needs special medical support, and ends when he is able to regulate his own temperature, typically at the time he would normally have been born. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, November 13, 2004 at 12:43 pm | Edit
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An Austrian study of the benefits of walking is both encouraging and perplexing. During the four-month study, 45 healthy adults walked 600 meters, three to five times per week. Each participant walked uphill for half of the study, and downhill for the other half, taking a cable car for the opposite trip.

It's not surprising that the walkers benefitted from their exercise; what is peculiar is the distribution of their improvements. Both uphill and downhill walkers experienced a decrease in their LDL ("bad") cholesterol. Uphill walking also lowered triglyceride levels and increased the body's ability to handle fat. Downhill walking significantly increased the body's ability to handle sugar. Walking uphill did not help with sugar, nor downhill with fats. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, November 10, 2004 at 8:28 am | Edit
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