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Mom loses Two Sons, Helps Save Lives of Others.


mothers-love

By Bob Aronson

This is a story about a remarkable woman, her family and her incredible spirit. It is a story that has no ending because it is still unfolding. It is a story that is guaranteed to make you

claire-selfie

Claire

experience every possible emotion. It is the story of Claire Connelly of San Diego, California. A divorced mom of three — Sara, Pete and Paul Neves. Even her name has a story. When she was divorced she took her original name Connelly back because so many who held the name had died and she wanted to extend its life. That’s Claire, she is all about life and living.

My first contact with her was by email where she goes by the name “Pete’s mom RIP.” That alone tells you a little about her and about a son who is no longer with us. But that’s only a fraction of the full story, a story that is bound to make you smile, cry and then smile again. It was a difficult story to write because there is so much to tell and so little space in which to do it.

“The Agony and the Ecstasy” was a 1965 film about the great artist Michelangelo. That title came immediately to mind after speaking with Claire for the first time. She has gone through incredible agony and it lives on, but her actions have also allowed her and others some ecstasy, much of which is still to be experienced.

I’ve only had email, text and phone contact with Claire, but it is easy to see that she is a vibrant, fun, upbeat woman who loves life, but has suffered losses few could survive and maintain their sanity. Most importantly, Claire Connelly has given life in more ways than one. She is an absolutely remarkable woman who willingly shares her story so that others may benefit. Prior to our interview Claire warned me, “I’m a crier,” she said. After the interview my tears flowed with hers.

Pete was Claire’s middle child. She speaks of him with intense love and pride. He was a model child, neat, organized and truly gifted. When we talked

claire-and-her-bosys-high-quality

Pete & Claire. Paul in back.

she described the young boy who would select what he wanted to wear to school before he went to bed at night. As he grew up he decided that his life’s goal was to become a U.S. Army Ranger.

The U.S. Army Rangers are a very tough outfit. Few who apply for Ranger

framed-picture-of-pete

Ranger Pete

training make it through the program that’s been called the “toughest combat course in the United States.” Pete made it through with flying colors and got into Special Forces, but a back injury ended his career. Disappointed, but still wanting to stay in the Army Ranger Family and connect with other Rangers he returned home and started a U.S. Army Ranger website where he sold Ranger T-shirts, caps and other items.

When the second Iraq War started Pete signed up as a contract soldier, his Ranger instincts were still alive and he wanted to help, but despite his excellent physical condition he found himself weakening. He could no longer make long marches or sustain extended

pete-very-thin

Pete fighting cancer

periods of physical activity. Something was wrong. He returned to the U.S. and was diagnosed with fourth-stage Medullary thyroid cancer. Pete was treated at the M.D. Anderson cancer center, but without success and his condition slowly worsened.  Claire, in tears when she talks about his hospitalization and upbeat attitude said, “The worst thing he could say was, “Mom, I’m not having a good day.” He never complained, he soldiered on. He was in the battle of and for his life, but the odds were just too great and Pete succumbed on October 13, 2008 at the age of 46 leaving a wife and daughter behind. Claire remembers Pete every minute of every day. Thoughout her home she has Pete memorabilia and each year on the anniversary of his death she finds a new way to honor him, like going to the beach and tossing something into the ocean for him.

Needless to say Pete’s passing was a devastating blow for Claire, but she’s a strong woman
and let her memories of Pete sustain her. Claire went on with her life, but never forgetting October 13. As the years passed she mourned, but enjoyed contact with her peteremaining children Paul and Sara. Then on an otherwise happy day, Claire got the phone call no parent ever wants to receive. “Come to Sacramento right away,” said a hospital nurse who explained that Paul had suffered a massive stroke. He was found on the sidewalk by his house unconscious. It was estimated he had been there for three hours or more before he was discovered and now a web of wires and tubing connected him to the technology that kept his heart beating and his lungs working. Claire remembers that phone conversation as though it took place an hour ago, “When I got the call that my other son, Paul, was on life support and could I please come up to Sacramento to sign the necessary papers for his organ donations, I put the phone down and let out screams I didn’t know I had inside of me.”

While he was rushed to the hospital there was nothing that could be done; the time between the stroke and his being found was just too long.  Claire hurried to be near her son, her “Baby” as she called him.

When Claire arrived at the hospital she was told that Paul showed no brain activity. He was what is commonly known as “brain dead.” Shortly after she was approached by the Organ paul-on-life-supportProcurement Organization and told that Paul’s driver’s license indicated he was an organ donor. Claire, also an organ donor, immediately agreed to honor Paul’s wishes. She was informed that he was in such good physical condition that all organs that were transplantable could be donated, but first they had to find recipients. That meant Paul would be kept on life support for several more days. Days in which Claire sat and stared at her immobilized son, tubes and wires still attached still breathing and warm to the touch of a mother’s hand.

Finally she was told that recipients had been found and it was time to take Paul off of life support. There cannot be a more terrifying moment for a parent, than to be called upon to end the life of an offspring. What pained her most is that they never got to say goodbye. “When Pete died,” she said, “it was terribly sad but we had a lot of time to talk and say goodbye. With Paul it was so sudden, “I never got to say goodbye,” she sobbed. But the worst part of the story is that Paul’s passing on October 13, 2013 was exactly five years to the day after Pete who died October 13, 2008.

Claire is still stunned by the fact that her two boys died exactly five years apart and she still grieves. Parents are not supposed to outlive their children, but there is a bright spot in this story and it is the lives saved by the donation of Paul’s heart, liver, lungs and kidneys.

For a while after Paul’s passing Claire waited to see if she would be contacted by recipients of Paul’s organs, but nothing came so Claire being Claire, decided to write to them. Her letters were passed on by the local Organ Procurement Organization (OPO). Here’s what she wrote.

October 16, 2013

“Dear Recipient,

Please know that your recent gift of an organ came from my son who died suddenly, leaving all of Man in dark night, face lit by blank white LCD laptop display lightus bereft, were it not for his generosity in wanting to be an organ donor at the end of his life, which we all hoped would be many years down the road, at least well after mine.  The last thing he wanted was to be hooked up to any machine, but that is exactly what happened.  We feel that because that was necessary to keep his organs going to fulfill his wish of organ donation, he would have approved being monitored by banks of machines, and being poked and prodded endlessly for three days in order for that to happen.

He was a give-you-the-shirt-off-his-back kind of guy who loved the great outdoors, loved to fish, camp and ride his wave runner, and was thrilled at the sight of any wildlife, be it raccoon, elk, mountain lion or bear.  He loved Yellowstone National Park best of all.  He cherished life and we are comforted by the fact that parts of him will live on and our prayer is that you take good care of and appreciate what you have been given – a central piece of him – his ultimate gift.  The fact that he was able to donate so many of his organs speaks to the fact that our family is blessed with good genes and we hope and pray that your new organ will serve you well, with every beat of his heart and every breath that you take, and that you think kindly of him from time to time.  I can assure you that he, as well as you, are in our thoughts and prayers every day.

Perhaps one day we can share our thoughts in person, if you are willing.  Our family is hoping for that possibility and look forward to the day when that can happen.

The mother of the donor.

Again she waited. Months went by and then one day, a letter arrived (edited to protect the identity of the recipient).

Dear Mother of the donor,

Your heartfelt letter was received at a perfect time of my life.  Before I continue any further allow me express my sincere thank you to the mother and family of my heart donor. I would also like to thank the young man who is responsible for my being alive today. 

thaank-youIt is because of you and of course your loving son that I am alive. Please know that each time I feel my heart beat I think of your son. It is amazing to me that your son (my donor) and I have so much in common. I was blessed with receiving a new heart. I will never take that for granted.  Please be assured that I am taking very good care of myself and that I am getting emotionally and physically stronger and stronger as each day passes. I look forward to meeting with you one day and am overwhelmed with the thought of that meeting.

God bless you and I’m looking forward to talking with you soon.”  

The recipient has asked that his identity not be revealed.

Claire is excited as well because the meeting date has been set for December 12, not long from now. While it is not unusual for donor families to go public with their stories, it is also not common, but Claire Connelly is not your average person. I asked her why shedonor-certificateagreed to an interview and to have me publish a blog. Here’s what she said.

“My purpose in telling my story, and I believe I am speaking not only for myself but for other donor families as well, is to convince even one organ recipient to take a moment out of their busy day to send a word of thanks to the donor family.  If I can do that, then this effort would have been worthwhile.

For the organ recipients who feel they don’t want to remind the donor families of their loss, my wish is that they begin thinking of it in a new way.  Most donor families are ALREADY still feeling that loss, and it might give them some comfort to know that their loved ones hearts are still beating, or their eyes are still taking in the wonders of this world, or their lungs are being appreciated with every breath you take.

From this donor mother’s perspective, perhaps they are wondering why the gift of life that their family member provided has not moved the recipient enough to say thank you and to let that donor family know that you appreciate the generosity it took for their loved one to sign that donor card to leave their organs in such a profound way to total strangers.  They are left to wonder if you truly appreciate the generosity it took for that family to agree to a procedure with which they may not depositphotos_27524217-lovely-retired-elderly-couple-havingtotally agree, and to go to the hospital every day to keep a vigil for the brain-dead body of their family member, while potential organ recipients are researched, measured, weighed, matched up, scrutinized and finally, all scheduled to be prepped for the exact same moment.  While it was heart-wrenching to see my son for the last time as he was wheeled out of his room to the O.R. just down the hall for the recovery of his organs, it was so rewarding to hear directly from his heart recipient how much he appreciated the gift and to hear to what lengths he goes to protect it, to take care of it, to monitor it, to faithfully keep his checkup appointments, etc.  I can only say it did this mother’s heart good to KNOW FOR SURE that Paul’s heart beats on, is appreciated, and cared for.

Paul’s heart recipient and I have agreed and are looking forward to meeting in person on December 12 when he can thank me in person and I can feel and hear Paul’s heart beating within his recipient’s chest.  We have already shared photos and he calls me, “Mom.” I don’t want him to think of Paul as “some dead guy”, but as the generous fabulous person he was.  Toward that end, there are things of Paul’s that I want to give to him, and things about Paul that I want to tell him.  Nobody, except another donor family member, could even begin to imagine what this experience will be like.  Will it be emotional?  Certainly.  Would I miss it for the world?  Not a chance.  The willingness of his heart recipient to contact me is what will make this possible.  While it won’t bring Paul back, it will go a LONG LONG WAY to give me the peace of mind in knowing what a difference he has been able to make in this man’s life and that he appreciates it each and every day and that he is taking every measure and precaution with Paul’s heart.  And THAT does this mother’s heart good

While I have not heard from the recipients of Paul’s two lungs, two kidneys, nor liver, I still wonder about them, but that is outweighed by knowing, at least, that his heart is still beating within this kind man’s chest and who cared enough to write a thank you letter.”

Claire Connelly is a unique person who told this story to help others. I know she’d like to hear your thoughts and you can send them to her through my email address bob@baronson.org and I will pass them on.

And one more thing. If you are an organ donor, that’s great. If you aren’t, register at donatelife dot net and get your family and friends to do the same.

Dr. Seuss said it best, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Thank you Claire and most of all, thank you Paul for your gifts of life.

bob 2*Note. Bob Aronson the author of this blog is a 2007 heart transplant recipient. He is the founder of Facebook’s Organ Transplant Initiative a donor/recipient/caregiver/donor family and friends support group of well over 4,000 members.

Check the index on this blog for other posts that may be of interest to you, there are nearly 300 of them on almost as many topics related to transplantation/donation issues.

 

Do You Believe In Miracles — Medical Miracles?


 Introduction by Bob Aronson

blackboard cartoon

Since Bob’s Newheart began publishing on WordPress over seven years ago, we have tried to offer encouragement, sound medical information, choices for healthy living,  news of what’s to come and  as much inspiration as possible for those who suffer from debilitating diseases.   As a heart transplant recipient I know what its like to feel desperate and without hope.  I also know there is always hope,  always.

Dr. Priscilla Diffie-Couch and her sister Dawn Anita Plumlee have been contributors to our inspiration series in the past.  Today Dr. Diffie-Couch returns with the amazing story of how she suvived what could have been — what should have been–
a deadly cancer. 

MY PERSONAL MEDICAL MIRACLE

Priscilla Diffie-Couch ED.D.

Friday morning I awake relieved.  My doctor has pronounced my ulcer completely healed.  I return from my errands humming happily and stop to check my message machine.  Why has my doctor’s office tried three times to reach me?  I already know the good news.  Now I have my doctor on the phone and listen to his strange tight voice. phone answering machine

“We need to repeat your biopsy.  I’m afraid it looks suspicious.”

“Suspicious?”  Characters in murder mysteries look suspicious.  People lurking in dark alleys look suspicious.  My biopsy looks suspicious?

“How suspicious?” I ask cautiously.

“Highly suspicious?”

“You mean, as in malignant?”

“Well…yes.”

“So are we talking cancer in my stomach?”

“Yes.  I’m afraid so.”

“The prognosis if that’s true?”

“Not very good, I’m afraid.”

He’s afraid?  I’m trembling with fear.  We settle the details for another more extensive biopsy.  I call my husband Mickey.  Probably a mix-up, we agree–someone else’s tissue.  My friend Donna, who happens to be a pathologist calls.  Her voice too is strained.  Having reviewed my biopsy, she and her pathologist husband Dee appear after work with two bottles of their best wine.  We toast to a “mistake in the lab.”  And feel for the real owner of the suspicious biopsy tissue because the samples they both examined were literally cluttered with countless cancer cells.

stomach cancer factsSaturday begins with a long close silent hug.  If the biopsy tissue truly is mine and I have cancer, we need to be informed.  We head for the medical books in the huge used book store.  We go from there to the library.  We read in silence–page after page of gloom and doom. It is a deadly disease.  Statistics point to a 10% survival rate for victims of stomach cancer. Pictures of my grieving family flash through my mind as the tears well up in my eyes.

Another sustained quiet hug when we get home.  I break away suddenly and declare that the statistics are on our side. If ten percent of the people beat this cancer, that will include me, so my chances then become one hundred percent.  That is how we will present the news to family.  That is optimistic but believable, given my general good health and fighting spirit.

Sunday Mickey calls family members.  My son Jeff and his wife Diana arrive shortly to share our outlook of a hundred percent chance of survival.  My sister tells me to get a copy of Bernie Siegel’s Love, Medicine and Miracles, which I vow to do immediately.  Later that evening Mickey and easily win our mixed doubles tennis match.  I begin reading the book my sister suggested.  The seeds for positive thinking are being planted as I do.

On Monday I undergo what is called a D & C for a feminine bleeding problem also related to cancer and set a tentative schedule for full removal of my stomach on Thursday, should these suspicious cancer cells truly be mine.  They are.  Donna and Dee deliver that dreaded news.  They know the grim outlook for stomach cancer.  Shattering silence.  I say something funny.  I must have.  We all burst out laughing.  I can feel a change in the climate.  I can see they are now on board as believers in my chances of survival.

On Tuesday I spell out my situation to my friend Sharon, who recently sold her share in Sound Warehouse for $46 million dollars.  Upon arrival at my doorstep, she declares with authority that she is “here to insure that I have the best medical care that money can buy.”  The doorbell rings again.  Cissy. Nancy.  Charlene.  Margie.  All bearing gifts–elegant gowns.  I may end up without a stomach but I will be the most beautifully dressed patient in the cancer ward.  We laugh at my concern about bleeding all over the operating table since the D & C didn’t arrest my flow.  We women are commonly such vain creatures.  But good friends like these are rare indeed.

The healing process begins the moment the diagnosis is confirmed with a third biopsy.  As I look at Mickey, his shoulders shaking with stifled sobs—a weak moment of looking ahead at life without me—he apologies.  Suddenly my role in this ordeal becomes clear.

When faced with your own mortality, your primary concern becomes protecting those who love you from all possible pain.  It is not a matter of bravery.  It is just a matter of loving that deeply.  Mickey and I share an uncommon love.  We have overcome enormous obstacles and built a history oIllness and the mind 1f disproving fatalistic predictions.  I have developed an extraordinary closeness with his family.  My own family fills my life with indescribably intense feelings.  They have known the never-ending anguish of losing Mom to a drunk driver.  They don’t deserve to deal with another untimely death.  I cannot let any of them suffer.  So the smile on my face is not an act.  It is an act of love prompted by a genuinely selfish need to be there with them to share whatever memorable moments await us all.

Donna and Dee have already made certain that I will have the best cancer surgeon in the area.  The chairman of Fina Oil, where Mickey works as a VP, vows to see that I receive VIP treat at the best cancer treatment center available.  I have too many people determined that I will be among the survivors.  I cannot let them down.

I arrange for pictures of all my family to surround me when I come out of surgery.  Sitting up on my knees on the gurney, wondering why I can’t trot down the hall to the OR, I smile at my family’s faces and remind them not to have too much fun for the next five hours.  The last thing I remember is Mickey’s hand holding mine as I am wheeled away.  I am still smiling.

Sometime during those next five hours, I lose my sense of humor.  I am groggy but aware and can hear my plaintive plea:  “Pain.  Pain.  Pain.”  I can faintly make out the images above me—my ICUhusband, son, daughter-in-law.  They watch as I am transported to ICU.  The next morning I am sure my scream shatters the glass window when two huge orderlies toss me onto the waiting gurney.  “Don’t—you—touch—me—again—without—a—member—of—my–family—present.”  They step back and are surprised when I pull myself from the gurney to the bed in my room.  My daughter, worlds away from me in lifestyle and philosophy—will stay with me the next ten days.  I watch with wonder as she handpicks the most attentive and caring staff of nurses anyone could hope for and begins to line out the plan for my care.

My gastroenterologist drops by and asks if I mind being a “teaching subject” since mine is such an unusual case.  I eagerly agree, glad to be a part of advancing medical science.  He is joined by my pathologist friend Donna, who announces that my stomach was totally clear of cancer save a tiny millimeter located at the top.  Leaving even a small part of my stomach will be too risky I am told.  “Yours must be the earliest case of stomach cancer ever diagnosed,” she declares.  How could my stomach, so full of cancer five days ago, be almost totally free of it now?  No one tries to explain that but I would later discover other equally rare and miraculous instances of spontaneous remission.SPONTANEOUS REMISSION  My body was eradicating the cancer by itself.

My cancer surgeon tells me he will construct a pouch from a piece of my large intestine that will serve as my stomach.  (I am eating a small portion of sugar-free Jello as he describes this phenomenal feat.  I smile as I recall a passage from humorist Dave Berry’s delightful book Stay Fit and Healthy Until You Are Dead in which he claims that our skin is the most important of our vital organs, because without it, all the disgusting hideous inner parts of us would fall out onto the sidewalk for all manner of people to trip over.

“Ok, Mother,” my daughter beams brightly at 7:00am (she who has never knowingly arisen before noon any day in her life since she ran away from home).  “Up we go now.  We have our goals for the day.”  First, soap bubbles so thick I have little peep holes for eyes, the triple scrub, a quick shave under the arms, a little talcum powder here and there, and lots of lotion everywhere.  Maneuvering seamlessly around all the wires and tubes, she is making sure every inch of me will be supremely soft and supple.

In and out of my morphine mind, I make a list of questions for her to ask my cancer surgeon, should I be asleep when he drops in.  I can hear him now whistling cheerfully down the hallway.  I emulate his demeanor as I am trying for the perfect-patient-of-the-ward award.  That shouldn’t be difficult since I am surrounded by the most efficient medical staff in America.

I feel for those people who hear the word cancer and drop into a deep and unalterable depression.  With the constant arrival of guests, flowers, gifts and cards, I am not likely to let my spirits sag. I am already writing thank you notes in my mind.  And they seem so inadequate when I think of the how everyone continues to buoy my spirits in so many countless ways.

Flitting around my hospital room, I accidentally pull out the feeding tube that was implanted in my side to insure my nourishment should my new “stomach” fail in some way.  I will be fine, I tell myself.  (I later learn that this little set-back will have a serious impact on my recovery.)

Following the highly regimented eating plan the first few weeks at home is not working.  Revulsion and nausea are my constant companions.  One day, as I step out of the bath tub, I glance up at the bank of mirrors I have so carefully avoided.  I gasp.  Looking back at me is the image of a captive in a concentration camp.  My skin clings to my bones.  My eyes are buried deep in their sockets.  I have gone too long without sufficient nourishment.

I call a friend who listens to my plight and reports that she knows someone who stopped his weight loss with Ensure, a repulsive high-calorie sickeningly sweet shake.  I have no choice.  Slowly, I begin to restore my lost pounds.ENSURE

This morning I am awakened by my loving husband who has been sleeping elsewhere, partly because of his cold and partly because I have to sleep upright to keep bile from coming into my throat.  “It’s time to get out and see what’s happening in the rest of the world.  We are going to Jeff’s  weightlifting meet.”  I smile.  Life is full.  Life is good.  I’m still in it.

A quarter of a century later, I am still in it.  I beat the odds and way beyond.  In 2005 two doctors from Australia were awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for their discovery that the bacteria H-Pylori causes almost 90% of gastric ulcers and these can lead to stomach cancer.  The actual date of their discovery was three years before my ulcer appeared in 1988.  But one study shows that it can take as many as seventeen years before American doctors adapt new medical discoveries into their practice.  That means that we must all do diligent research on the nature of and treatment for our own medical conditions.  As late as 1999, still at risk for a new cancer in my intestine, I could not find a gastroenterologist who would test me for H-Pylori.  It was my family doctor, an osteopath, who did so and prescribed the two-week treatment of triple antibiotics that could have saved my stomach in 1989.

I still face challenges associated with having no stomach.  Battling the bile that comes up from my liver makes getting good sleep an elusive dream.  Ballooning up when my colon locks up brings on birthing-like pain.  Staying hydrated to avoid arrhythmia remains a struggle.  But trips to the ER are increasingly rare and sublingual B-12 has replaced those dreaded self-administered shots. I can, I can I can now say with conviction that I am an active healthy survivor who has much to be thankful for.  I credit my friends for their devotion and for referring me to the gastroenterologist who was thorough enough to biopsy my healed ulcer.  I credit him and the talented surgeon who constructed a replacement “stomach” that has worked so flawlessly all these years.  When diagnosed with stomach cancer, most people are dead within five years.  So, many call my case a medical miracle.

I remain dubious about a beneficent god who would opt to save me while letting more deserving people die.  I am more open to the possibility that having a positive spirit causes the body to pump out protective agents yet to be identified.  I don’t pretend to be able to explain medical miracles but I am deeply thankful–for the sake of those who care–that one happened to me.

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priscilla pictureAn award winning high school speech and English teacher, Priscilla Diffie-Couch went on to get her ED.D. from Oklahoma State University, where she taught speech followed by two years with the faculty of communication at the University of Tulsa.  In her consulting business later in Dallas, she designed and conducted seminars in organizational and group communication.

An avid tennis player, she has spent the last twenty years researching and reporting on health for family and friends.  She has two children, four grandchildren and lives with her husband Mickey in The Woodlands, Texas.

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 Bob Aronson  has worked as a broadcast journalist, Minnesota Governor’s Communications Director and for 25 years led his own company as an international communication consultant GIF shot bob by TVspecializing in health care.

In  2007 he had a heart transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is the Bob of Bob’s Newheart and the author of most of the nearly 250 posts on this site.  He is also the founder of Facebook’s nearly 4,000 member Organ Transplant Initiative (OTI) support group.

You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to him at bob@baronson.org.  And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.

Vitamin Supplements — May Not Be Necessary and They Could Harm You


By Bob Aronson

vitamin b from bagelsThe National Institutes of Health (NIH) says Americans have been taking multivitamin/mineral (MVM) supplements since the early 1940s, when the first such products became available. MVMs are still popular dietary supplements and, according to estimates, more than one-third of all Americans take them. MVMs account for almost one-fifth of all purchases of dietary supplements.

“You have to get your vitamins.”  I’ve heard that phrase since I was a child, but why?  What are Vitamins and are vitamin pills or supplements the same as the vitamins found naturally in what we eat and in sunshine?  Vitamins are not all the same.  There can be a huge difference between those that are naturally contained in our food and the sometimes “smelly” things that come in a bottle from your Pharmacy.

Over the past several years there have been a number of news reports about vitamins. Some experts support their use, some say the supplements are worthless and others say they can actually cause harm.  What’s true?  All of the above!  We’ll try to shed some light on the subject so let’s start with their importance to our health.

Vitamin deficiencies lead to a wide range of problems spanning from anorexia to obesity, organ malfunction, confusion, depression and fatigue.  We need vitamins.  The question that must be answered is; how do you know which ones?  We’ll provide an answer.

Tough question when you consider the fact that the NIH says, “No standard or regulatory definition is available for an MVM supplement—NIH LOGOsuch as what nutrients it must contain and at what levels. Therefore, the term can refer to products of widely varied compositions and characteristics. These products go by various names, including multis, multiples, and MVMs. Manufacturers determine the types and levels of vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients in their MVMs. As a result, many types of MVMs are available in the marketplace.”

It is entirely possible that there are no standards because the vitamin industry is huge and can afford heavy lobbying to ensure that they remain free of government regulation.  The NIH says that sales of all dietary supplements in the United States totaled an estimated $30.0 billion in 2011. This amount included $12.4 billion for all vitamin- and mineral-containing supplements, of which $5.2 billion was for MVMs.  If the government set standards, every single manufacturer would have to reformulate their products to meet them.  Doing so would be costly so there is no wonder that the industry would rather not rock their very profitable boat.

vitaminsWhether your vitamins are hurting you is another story. What people are not aware of is that all vitamins are not created equal, and most are actually synthetic and the synthetic vitamins are rarely like the real thing.

The type of vitamins that benefit us most is murky but there are some.  However, a healthy diet should provide most of the nutrients our bodies need.  Sometimes, though, supplements can help. The problem is, which ones?  How do you know what to buy?

For the most part, medical science has made it clear that most vitamin supplements are either useless or cause harm and we’ll elaborate on those claims shortly.  First, though, you ought to know what’s good for you and what seems to work for some conditions.

This article in Smithsonian.com lists five supplements that can be helpful. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/five-vitamins-and-smithsonian.com2supplements-are-actually-worth-taking-180949735/#VsZOfYrBAkvtVYvY.99

Of all the “classic” vitamins—the vital organic compounds discovered between 1913 and 1941 and termed vitamin A, B, C, etc.—vitamin D is by far the most beneficial to take in supplement form. Researchers found that adults who took vitamin D supplements daily lived longer than those who didn’t.

Other research has found that in kids, taking vitamin D supplements can reduce the chance of catching the flu, and that in older adults, it can improve bone health and reduce the incidence of fractures.

Probiotics

A mounting pile of research is showing how crucial the trillions of bacterial cells that live inside us are in regulating our health, and how harmful it can be to suddenly wipe them out with an antibiotic. Thus, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that if you do go through a course of antibiotics, taking a probiotic (either a supplement or a food naturally rich in bacteria, such as yogurt) to replace the bacteria colonies in your gut is a good idea.

In 2012, a meta-analysis of 82 randomized controlled trials found that use of probiotics significantly reduced the incidence of diarrhea after a course of antibiotics.

All the same, probiotics aren’t a digestive cure-all: they haven’t been found to be effective in treating irritable bowel syndrome, among other chronic ailments. Like most other supplements that are actually effective, they’re useful in very specific circumstances, but it’s not necessary to continually take them on a daily basis.

Zinc

Vitamin C might not do anything to prevent or treat the common cold, but the other widely-used cold supplement, zinc, is actually worth taking. A mineral that’s involved in many different aspects of your cellular metabolism, zinc appears to interfere with the replication of rhinoviruses, the microbes that cause the common cold.

This has been borne out in a number of studies

Niacin

Also known as vitamin B3, niacin is talked up as a cure for all sorts of conditions (including high cholesterol, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and headaches) but in most of these cases, a prescription-strength dose of niacin has been needed to show a clear result.

At over-the-counter strength, niacin supplements have only been proven to be effective in helping one group of people: those who have heart disease. A 2010 review found that taking the supplement daily reduced the chance of a stroke or heart attack in people with heart disease, thereby reducing their overall risk of death due to a cardiac

​Garlic

Garlic, of course, is a pungent herb. It also turns out to be an effective treatment for high blood pressure when taken as a concentrated supplement.

A 2008 meta-analysis of 11 randomized controlled trials (in which similar groups of participants were given either a garlic supplement or placebo, and the results were compared) found that, on the whole, taking garlic daily reduced blood pressure, with the most significant results coming in adults who had high blood pressure at the start of the trials.

On the other hand, there have also been claims that garlic supplements can prevent cancer, but the evidence is mixed.

Vitamin Supplements are unnecessary and may cause harm.

In December of last year, the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that, “Not only are the pills mostly unnecessary, but they could actually doAnnals of internal medicine logo harm those taking them. We believe that the case is closed—supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with (most) mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful.  These vitamins should not be used for chronic disease prevention. Enough is enough.”  http://www.cbsnews.com/news/multivitamin-researchers-say-case-is-closed-supplements-dont-boost-health/

Based on three studies examining multivitamins’ links to cancer prevention, heart health, and cognitive function, the research is a blow to the multi-billion dollar industry that produces them and to the millions of Americans who religiously shell out their dollars for false hope.

The doubts about vitamin supplements are not new.  In his 2013 book Do You Believe in Magic, Dr. Paul Offit pointed to a handful of major studies over the past five years that showed vitamins have made people less healthy. “In 2008, a review of all existing studies involving more than 230,000 people who did or did not receive supplemental antioxidants found that vitamins increased the risk of cancer and heart disease.”

Last year, researchers published new findings from the Women’s Health Initiative, a long-term study of more than 160,000 midlife women. The data showed that multivitamin-takers are no healthier than those who don’t pop the pills, at least when it comes to the big diseases—cancer, heart disease, stroke. “Even women with poor diets weren’t helped by taking a multivitamin,” says study author Marian Neuhouser, PhD, in the cancer prevention program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle.

That said, there is one group that probably ought to keep taking a multi-vitamin: women of reproductive age. The supplement is insurance in case of pregnancy. A woman who gets adequate amounts of the B vitamin folate is much less likely to have a baby with a birth defect affecting the spinal cord.

The problem is that many vitamin and mineral supplements are manufactured synthetically. Some estimates place the amount at 90 percent and higher and while they are made to mimic natural vitamins they are not the same. Natural vitamins come directly from plants and animals, they are not produced in a lab and — most synthetic vitamins lack co-factors associated with naturally-occurring vitamins because they have been “isolated.”

Isolated vitamins can’t always be used by the body, and are either stored or excreted. Most synthetic vitamins don’t have the necessary trace minerals either and must use the body’s own mineral reserves which can then cause mineral deficiencies.

Most synthetic supplements contain chemicals that do not occur in nature. The history of the human race is such that our bodies have grown accustomed to consuming the food we grow and gather naturally, from the earth, not food that is synthesized in a lab.

web md logoWeb MD offers this assessment.

What Vitamin and Mineral Supplements Can and Can’t Do

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrition-vitamins-11/help-vitamin-supplement 

 By Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

Reviewed By Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD

Experts say there is definitely a place for vitamin or mineral supplements in our diets, but their primary function is to fill in small nutrient gaps.  They are “supplements” intended to add to your diet, not take the place of real food or a healthy meal plan.

 WebMD takes a closer look at what vitamin and mineral supplements can and cannot do for your health.

Food First, Then Supplements

Vitamins and other dietary supplements are not intended to be a food substitute. They cannot replace all of the nutrients and fruits and veggiesbenefits of whole foods. 

 “They can plug nutrition gaps in your diet, but it is short-sighted to think your vitamin or mineral is the ticket to good health — the big power is on the plate, not in a pill,” explains Roberta Anding, MS, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and director of sports nutrition at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. 

 It is always better to get your nutrients from food, agrees registered dietitian Karen Ansel.  “Food contains thousands of phytochemicals, fiber, and more that work together to promote good health that cannot be duplicated with a pill or a cocktail of supplements.”

 What Can Vitamin and Mineral Supplements Do for Your Health?

 When the food on the plate falls short and doesn’t include essential nutrients like calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12, some of the nutrients many Americans don’t get enough of, a supplement can help take up the nutritional slack. Vitamin and mineral supplements can help prevent deficiencies that can contribute to chronic conditions.

 Numerous studies have shown the health benefits and effectiveness of supplementing missing nutrients in the diet.  A National Institutes of Health (NIH) study found increased bone density and reduced fractures in postmenopausal women who took calcium and vitamin D.

  Beyond filling in gaps, other studies have demonstrated that supplemental vitamins and minerals can be advantageous. However, the exact benefits are still unclear as researchers continue to unravel the potential health benefits of vitamins and supplements. 

 Web MD offers these tips to guide your vitamin and mineral selection:

  • Think nutritious food first, and then supplement the gaps.  Start by filling your grocery cart with a variety of nourishing, nutrient-rich foods.  Use the federal government’s My Plate nutrition guide to help make sure your meals and snacks include all the parts of a healthy meal.
  •  Take stock of your diet habits. Evaluate what is missing in your diet. Are there entire food groups you avoid? Is iceberg lettuce the only vegetable you eat? If so, learn about the key nutrients in the missing food groups, and choose a supplement to help meet those needs. As an example, it makes sense for anyone who does not or is not able to get the recommended three servings of dairy every day to take a calcium and vitamin D supplement for these shortfall nutrients.
  • When in doubt, a daily multivitamin is a safer bet than a cocktail of individual supplements that can exceed the safe upper limits of the recommended intake for any nutrient.  Choose a multivitamin that provides 100% or less of the Daily Value (DV) as a backup to plug the small nutrient holes in your diet.
  •  Are you a fast food junkie?  If your diet pretty much consists of sweetened and other low-nutrient drinks, fries, and burgers, then supplements are not the answer.  A healthy diet makeover is in order. Consult a registered dietitian.
  •  Respect the limits. Supplements can fill in where your diet leaves off, but they can also build up and potentially cause toxicities if you take more than 100% of the DV.
  •  Most adults and children don’t get enough calcium, vitamin D, or potassium according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines.  Potassium-rich foods, including fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meat are the best ways to fill in potassium gaps. Choose an individual or a multivitamin supplement that contains these calcium and vitamin D as a safeguard.
  •  The best way to judge any supplement or medication is by reviewing clinical trials. There aren’t a lot of them done on vitamins, vitamin clinical trialbut those that have been conducted are quite revealing.  The NIH concluded that most supplements not only don’t work as intended, they actually make things worse. They examined the efficacy of 13 vitamins and 15 essential minerals as reported in long-term, randomized clinical trials and there were some positive results like:
  • A combination of calcium and vitamin D was shown to increase bone mineral density and reduce fracture risk in postmenopausal women.
  • There was some evidence that selenium reduces risk of certain cancers.
  • Vitamin E maydecrease cardiovascular deaths in women and prostate cancer deaths in male smokers.
  • Vitamin D showed some cardiovascular benefit.

Those few positives are overwhelmed by the negative findings.

  • Trials of niacin (B3), folate, riboflavin (B2), and vitamins B6 and B12 showed no positive effect on chronic disease occurrence in the general population
  • There was no evidence to recommend beta-carotene and some evidence that it may cause harm in smokers.
  • High-dose vitamin E supplementation increased the risk of death from all causes.

So what’s the bottom line?  Our research indicates that most medical authorities pretty much dismiss the usefulness of most vitamin supplements. Most revealing, though, and also dangerous is the fact that there are no standards for vitamin supplements.  The companies that make them can each have their own formulations and there is no approval process so the consumer may be at great risk.  Buyer beware.  Don’t believe the advertising.  If you are determined to take these supplements, though, google them and look for clinical trials.  If there are none, don’t buy.  If there are, read them carefully.  For the most part the best advice is, save your money because most of us don’t have a clue as to what we are buying.

Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s nearly 4,000 member Organ Transplant
My new hat April 10 2014Initiative (OTI) and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs. You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.

Tobacco — The Number One Organ Killer


stop smoking cartoon

injured football playerAmericans are outraged when they hear that 12 high school and college football players die each year due to this brutal sport and we demand that something be done about it.

We demand greater regulation and protection for our youngsters upon learning the injured cheerleaderdangers of being a cheerleader and that five die in practice every year.

injured boxer70 fighters have died in the boxing ring since 1998 and the American public demands an end to the sport.

man hand with cig

443,000 die as a result of tobacco use every year and we hear not even a whimper from thought leaders, politicians or even the public.  And…we just accept the fact that our government makes billions of dollars in tax revenue on products that do not offer a single benefit but can kill or seriously injure those who use it

We almost totally ignore the fact that nearly 20 million (18,800,000) Americans have died as a result of tobacco products since the first warnings were put on cigarette packs in 1966. That is equivalent to wiping out the entire New York City metropolitan area and then some.

airbus a380-800Let me take the scenario a step farther. The Airbus A380-800 is the biggest airplane in the sky.  It can carry 555 people, maybe more depending on how the seats are configured.  What would you think, how would you react if two of these monstrous planes crashed every day, year after year after year?  I imagine the public outrage would be monumental.  Certainly the planes would be grounded wouldn’t they?

“But wait,” as the commercial says, “There’s more.”  What if these disasters were totally preventable?  What if the planes were crashing because of a faulty switch that everyone knew about but ignored — and the planes just kept on crashing killing 438,000 Americans a year — year after year.  Would there be outrage?  Would congress act?  Would there be demonstrations in the streets?  Count on it!

Why then is there no public outrage, no congressional investigation, and no mass media attention to that same number of people dying from totally preventable diseases caused by Cigarette smoke or other uses of tobacco products?

Are football players, cheerleaders and boxers lives important? Of course they are but how can we ignore nearly a half million deaths a year?  How?  Someone you know is going to die from the use of tobacco, it may have already happened.  We must, out of concern for one another rise up in protest and do whatever is possible to get people to quit smoking.

no smoking signI refuse to accept the “I’ve tried to quit smoking but I can’t” response because I tried and I did quit.  It took a lot of tries but I kept on quitting until I quit and that was 23 years ago.  Yes there is some discomfort hell there’s a whole lot of discomfort, but it pales in comparison to the discomfort of cancer, emphysema, and a host of other diseases.

I can give you a gazillion facts about cigarette smoke and how it can harm you, I can provide you with tons of scientific research that proves how deadly tobacco products can be and I can show you what it costs in terms of dollars and none of those things will convince a smoker to quit.  So I’m going to tell you about me.

I am almost 75 years old. I have already had a heart transplant, gastric surgery for ulcers; I have osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).  Tobacco is likely the primary contributor to all of them.

Now you might ask, “What are you complaining about, you are 75?”  Well, let me put my health in perspective.  My father in law is 88 and in better shape than I am.  He has never had a cigarette.

Yes, I’m glad I’m alive but had I never smoked my quality of life would be a whole lot better.  My personal experience with the perils of smoking could fill several medical books but I’ll spare you that and give you the executive summary.

When I started smoking in 1954 it was not only acceptable it was recommended behavior.  This ad says it all. camels ad from 40s

I smoked for 37 years and often consumed up to four packs a day.  I quit smoking in 1991 after watching my father die of coronary artery disease and chronic bronchitis. He had been a heavy smoker.  He was 76 when he passed and so debilitated by lung and coronary artery disease he could not walk 50 feet without almost turning blue from lack of air.  He died gasping for air and nothing could be done for him.  I was there, I saw it first-hand.

I was there, too, when In November of 1998 I lost my wife of 35 years to lung cancer.  She, too, had been a heavy smoker.  She was diagnosed with the disease in 1996 when they found it in her legs.  It had already spread.  She went through both chemotherapy and radiation therapy — treatments that leave patients wishing they were dead.  So toxic are these treatments they nearly destroy the will to live but for a short time perhaps 14 months she got better and then in October of 1998 the cancer returned in a massive assault on her entire body from limbs to brain.

She died a horrible death and I watched every second of it.  I was holding her hand when I felt her body shudder for the last time and while saddened it was also a great relief that she had to suffer no more.  I could go on but suffice it to say that if you smoke, you could experience the same terrible ending. Smoking will kill you.  The only questions to be answered are when and how.

Now let me tell you about me and what cigarettes have done to the quality of my life and to my psyche.

When I quit smoking in 1991 I had already been diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) a progressive lung affliction that slowly takes away your ability to function normally because you cannot breathe like a normal person.  I’m not going to give you a medical explanation of COPD I’m going to let you experience it.

I could tell you about difficult breathing till the cows come home and you’ll say, “Yeah that sounds tough,” as you light another smoke — so try this.  Read the following instructions then bookmark this page and do what they say.

clothespin in nose 2Find a spring loaded clothespin if you can and pinch your nostrils shut.  Then find a drinking straw and place it between your lips as you would to  man with drinking straw in mouth 2drink a soda or a shake but instead of drinking anything breathe through the straw.

With it still in your mouth run around the room and continue to breathe through the little tube. It’s a bit of a struggle isn’t it?  Now crimp it somewhere so that it is only about half its normal size and continue to breathe through it.  Get used to that feeling because if you are a smoker that’s what you are headed for.

With normal lungs when you exert yourself you can open your mouth and breathe more deeply to get more air.  With COPD the crimped straw is all the capacity you have and as time goes on that very narrow passageway closes even more until you suffocate.  Fun way to die, huh?

Here’s what COPD has done to me.  And please, I do not want expressions of sympathy or of concern or support.  I got myself into this mess and I’m dealing with it.  I am telling this story because I want people to know what smoking will do to them.

When I emerge from the shower I have to sit to catch my breath, showering is too strenuous an activity.  The same is true when I get dressed — pulling my pants on and putting on a shirt leave me breathless.  If I have to bend over for any reason I am in major trouble because the action affects my diaphragm and further restricts my breathing so when I straighten up I am gasping for air.  There have been days when Robin has to put my socks on and tie my tennis shoes.

My COPD limits me to very little activity.  I have a disability parking permit but often the few spaces assigned are full (sometimes occupied by people who don’t belong there…”I just needed to go to the ATM”).  But tobacco has done other things to my body as well.  Just getting out of the car is sometimes an exhausting experience.

The Osteoporosis and osteoarthritis have left me unable to stand straight anymore because of extreme, chronic pain. I now must always use a cane when I walk and when I walk I don’t go very far or very fast.  I can hardly turn my head from side to side and nodding it up and down is just as difficult.  I cannot bold my head up anymore because of stiffness and pain.  It is tilted forward and looking down. My shoulders and neck always hurt and I am on narcotic pain killers because there is no other relief for me, I’ve tried everything.

The worst part of all of this is what it does to your self-respect and self-worth. another booth shot Call me a chauvinist if you like but when we go to Art Shows, Robin has to set up a tent and everything in it.  She has to carry heavy loads from our truck to the tent site and all I can do is watch.  I cannot even carry a small box any distance because the chevy express vanwalk tires me out.  Here I am a big strapping guy sitting in a van while my wife does all the work. I  often get looks of disgust from other artists who see Robin doing all the work as I sit in the truck reading.  I’ve been asked more than once why I’m not helping her. God knows I would give anything to be able to do so. Cigarettes have taken my health and even my dignity.

You might be asking yourself what all this has to do with organ donation/transplantation and related issues.  Well, let me tell you that if it weren’t for tobacco we might not have an organ shortage.  Tobacco has done two things to contribute to the ever widening gap between supply and demand.  First it destroys organs so people need transplants and secondly it can render your organs unfit for transplantation. So those who smoke are likely to need transplants but may be unsuitable donors (sign a donor card anyway…let the doctors decide).

I started this post by pointing out that tobacco (cigarette smoking and second hand smoke) kills 443,000 Americans a year.  Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the world. Economic losses are also staggering. Smoking-caused diseases result in $96 billion in health care costs annually but that’s just the U.S.

The World Health Organization (WHO) takes the issue to another level.  Here’s what they say, “Tobacco use kills more than 5 million people per year worldwide. It is responsible for 1 in 10 adult deaths. Among the five greatest risk factors for mortality, it is the single most preventable cause of death.

  • Eleven per cent of deaths from ischemic heart disease, the world’s leading killer, are attributable to tobacco use.
  • More than 70% of deaths from lung, trachea and bronchus cancers are attributable to tobacco use.
  • If current patterns continue, tobacco use will kill more than 8 million people per year by 2030.
  • Up to half of the world’s more than 1 billion smokers will die prematurely of a tobacco-related disease

effects of smoking graphicFor roughly half of adult smokers it isn’t a question of if smoking will kill them but how — and most smokers erroneously think lung cancer is the biggest threat.  It’s a big one but the real threat is circulatory or cardiovascular disease.

It is a well-established fact that damage to normal blood flow is substantially worse than what is happening in your lungs.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, lung cancer is responsible for 28% of smoking related deaths while 43% are attributable to cardiovascular disease – primarily heart disease and strokes.

  • It’s easy to appreciate that the 43 cancer causing chemicals in each and every puff are slowly building an internal time bomb. What few comprehend is that it’s far more likely that smoking will cause some portion of their body’s blood piping to completely clog, with downstream oxygen deprived tissues suffocating and dying.
  • Picture the inside of once smooth coronary arteries whose job it was to feed our heart muscle oxygen instead gradually becoming narrower and narrower as they slowly fill with fats and cholesterols. Picture the same process occurring in blood pathways to the brain.
  • Eventually it happens. Complete blockage occurs. All downstream tissues serviced with oxygen by the blood vessel immediately begin to suffocate and die. By far the most common site of smoker circulatory tissue death is the heart muscle (a heart attack) followed by the brain (a stroke).

If you don’t care about yourself think about what your habit can do to others.  Second hand smoke is a killer, that’s no myth it is a fact smokers should consider before they light up near anyone.

A short summary of the effects of second hand smoke

From the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Health Effects: Childrencute kids

In children, secondhand smoke causes the following:

  • Ear infections
  • More frequent and severe asthma attacks
  • Respiratory symptoms (e.g., coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath)
  • Respiratory infections (i.e., bronchitis, pneumonia)
  • A greater risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

In children aged 18 months or younger, secondhand smoke exposure is responsible for—

  • an estimated 150,000–300,000 new cases of bronchitis and pneumonia annually, and
  • approximately 7,500–15,000 hospitalizations annually in the United States.4

Health Effects: Adults

In adults who have never smoked, secondhand smoke can cause heart disease and/or lung cancer.3

Heart Disease

  • For nonsmokers, breathing secondhand smoke has immediate harmful effects on the cardiovascular system that can increase the risk for heart attack. People who already have heart disease are at especially high risk.3,5
  • Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their heart disease risk by 25–30%.3
  • Secondhand smoke exposure causes an estimated 46,000 heart disease deaths annually among adult nonsmokers in the United States.6

Lung Cancer

  • cancerous lungsNonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their lung cancer risk by 20–30%.3
  • Secondhand smoke exposure causes an estimated 3,400 lung cancer deaths annually among adult nonsmokers in the United States.6

There is no risk-free level of contact with secondhand smoke; even brief exposure can be harmful to health.

Our furry friends

It is bad enough that we are killing our friends, neighbors and children with smoke but innocent dogs, cats, puppy and kittenhamsters and birds are also victims. http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2009/09/17/how-cigarettes-and-smoking-impact-your-pets-health.aspx

  • A 2002 Tufts University study linked second-hand smoke to cancer in cats. The study found that cats living with smokers are twice as likely to develop malignant lymphoma—the most common feline cancer–as those in non-smoking households. Lymphoma kills 3 out of 4 afflicted cats within 12 months.

One reason cats are so vulnerable to the carcinogens in tobacco smoke is they are meticulous groomers. Daily grooming over a long period of time can expose their delicate oral tissues to hazardous amounts of carcinogens.

  • A 2007 University of Minnesota study showed that cats who live with smokers have nicotine and other toxins in their urine.
  • A 2007 Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine study linked second-hand smoke to oral cancer in cats (squamous cell carcinoma.) Cats living with more than one smoker and cats exposed to environmental tobacco smoke for longer than five years had even higher rates of this cancer.
  • A 1998 Colorado State University study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found a higher incidence of nasal tumors and cancer of the sinus in dogs living in a home with smokers, compared to those living in a smoke-free environment. The nasal/sinus tumors were specifically found among the long-nosed breeds such as retrievers and German shepherds. Unfortunately, dogs with nasal cancer do not usually survive more than one year.
  • The same study showed higher lung cancer rates in short to medium nosed dogs who live with smokers, such as boxers and bulldogs. Their shorter nasal passages made it easier for cancer-causing particles to reach the lungs.
  • Another study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that dogs in smoking households have a 60 percent greater risk of lung cancer.

How to Quit Smoking

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/nicotine-craving/SK00057

Tobacco cravings can wear you down when you’re trying to quit smoking or chewing tobacco. Delaying, internet alertavoiding triggers, yoga and nicotine replacement are among the ways to resist cravings.

By Mayo Clinic staff

For most tobacco users, tobacco cravings or urges to smoke can be powerful. But you’re not at the mercy of these tobacco cravings. When an urge to use tobacco strikes, remember that although it may be intense, it will be short-lived, and it probably will pass within a few minutes whether or not you smoke a cigarette or take a dip of chewing tobacco. Each time you resist a tobacco craving, you’re one step closer to stopping smoking or other tobacco use for good. But it can be difficult.

So here are 10 ways to help you resist the urge to smoke or use tobacco when a tobacco craving strikes, no matter where you are:

  1. Delay. If you feel like you’re going to give in to your tobacco craving, tell yourself that you must first wait 10 more minutes and then do something to distract yourself for that period of time. This simple trick may be enough to derail your tobacco craving. Repeat as often as needed.
  2. Don’t have ‘just one.’ You might be tempted to have just one cigarette to satisfy a tobacco craving. But don’t fool yourself into believing that you can stop at just one. More often than not, having just one leads to another, then another — and you may wind up using tobacco again.
  3. Avoid triggers. Urges for tobacco are likely to be strongest in the situations where you smoked or chewed tobacco most often, such as at parties or bars, in the car or while watching television. Identify your trigger situations and have a plan in place so that you can avoid them entirely or get through them without using tobacco. Don’t set yourself up for a smoking relapse. If you usually smoked while you talked on the phone, for instance, keep a pen and paper nearby to occupy yourself with doodling rather than smoking.
  4. Get physical. Physical activity can help distract you from tobacco cravings and reduce the intensity of cravings. Just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity can make a tobacco craving go away. Get out for a walk or jog. If you’re stuck at home or the office, try squats, deep knee bends, push-ups, running in place, or walking up and down a set of stairs a few times. If physical activity doesn’t interest you, try prayer, needlework, woodwork or journaling. Or do chores for distraction, such as vacuuming or filing paperwork.
  5. Practice relaxation techniques. In the past, smoking may have been your way to deal with stress. Trying to resist a tobacco craving can itself be stressful. Take the edge off stress by practicing relaxation techniques. These include deep-breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, yoga, visualization, hypnosis and massage.
  6. Call reinforcements. Touch base with a family member, friend or support group member for moral support as you struggle to resist a tobacco craving. Chat on the phone, go for a walk together or simply share a few laughs — or get together to commiserate about your cravings.
  7. Remember the benefits of quitting. Write down or say out loud the reasons you want to stop smoking and resist tobacco cravings. These might include feeling better, getting healthier, sparing your loved ones from secondhand smoke or saving money. And if you’re a closet smoker, you may save hours of time since you no longer have to spend time trying to conceal your habit.
  8. Go online. Join an online stop-smoking program. Or read a quitter’s blog and post encouraging thoughts for someone else who might be struggling with tobacco cravings. Learn from how others have handled their tobacco cravings.
  9. Try nicotine replacements. Try a nicotine replacement product instead of a cigarette. Some types of nicotine replacement therapy, including patches, gums and lozenges, are available over-the-counter. Nicotine nasal spray and the nicotine inhaler are available by prescription, as are the stop-smoking medications bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix).
  10. Chew on it. Give your mouth something to do to fight a tobacco craving. Chew on sugarless gum or hard candy. Or munch on raw carrots, celery, nuts or sunflower seeds — something crunchy and satisfying.

Remember, trying something to beat the urge is always better than doing nothing. And each time you resist a tobacco craving, you’re one step closer to being totally tobacco-free.

Electronic cigarettes

Electronic cigaretteThe jury is out but so far no evidence of harm from them. From what little research I’ve done, though, they may be a good alternative (that’s not smoke…it is a vapor that quickly dissipates). The cost is comparable to real cigarettes if not a little cheaper and those who have tried them say the effect is the same.  The difference is that you don’t get the carcinogens and other chemicals that are so deadly.  Follow this link for more information.  http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/smoking-cessation/e-cigarettes-help-stop-smoking.htm

Conclusion

You can quit smoking.  You must or it is quite likely you will die from it and your death will be less than pleasant.  There is plenty of help available.  Talk to your doctor, Google “How to quit smoking” you will find something that works for you.  Not every method works for everyone.

When I quit smoking in 1991 it was after several maybe scores of attempts, I lost track of how many.  I wish I had the money for every time I threw my cigarette lighter and cigarettes out the window of my car, only to buy more at the next stop. Finally, though, with the help of Nicotine gum I was successful.  I chewed that damned gum for two years after I quit and then switched to lemon drops for another two years but I am smoke free and loving it.  You can do it but you have to try and try and keep on trying until you quit for good.

smaller stillBob Aronson is a 2007 heart transplant recipient.  He is the founder of Facebook’s 3000 plus member Organ Transplant Initiative (OTI) and the author of most of these Bob’s Newheart Blogs.  All that’s required to join OTI is that you support our mission and follow the rules for the group.  You can read about both in the “About” section on the right side of the OTI group page.

Mayo Clinic Preventing the Top Threats to Men’s and Women’s Health


Preventing the Top Threats to WOMEN’S Health

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/womens-health/WO00014

At first glance one might suspect that men and women are threatened by the same health problems; cancer, heart disease, stroke and many morel  And while there is some truth to that supposition there are also great differences.  The Mayo Clinic, using information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) nicely summarized the threats and preventive steps that can and should be taken.

These tips are great reminders for everyone.

Many of the leading threats to women’s health can be prevented — if you know how. Consider this top seven list of women’s health threats, compiled from statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other leading organizations. Then get serious about reducing your risks.

No. 1: Heart disease

Heart disease isn’t just a man’s disease — it’s also a major women’s health threat. Take charge of heart health by making healthier lifestyle choices. For example:

  • Don’t smoke. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, ask your doctor to help you quit. It’s also important to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods and lean sources of protein, such as fish. Limit foods high in saturated fat and sodium.
  • Manage chronic conditions. If you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations. If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control.
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine. Choose sports or other activities you enjoy, from brisk walking to ballroom dancing.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Extra pounds increase the risk of heart disease.
  • Limit alcohol. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation. Too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure.
  • Manage stress. If you feel constantly on edge or under assault, your lifestyle habits may suffer. Take steps to reduce stress — or learn to deal with stress in healthy ways.

No. 2: Cancer

Various types of cancer are of particular concern to women, including breast cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer and colorectal cancer. To reduce the risk of cancer, consider these general tips:

  • Don’t smoke. Using any type of tobacco puts you on a collision course with cancer. Avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke counts, too.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Losing excess pounds — and keeping them off — may lower the risk of various types of cancer.
  • Get moving. In addition to helping you control your weight, physical activity on its own may lower the risk of certain types of cancer.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Although making healthy selections at the grocery store and at mealtime can’t guarantee cancer prevention, it may help reduce your risk.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. When you’re outdoors, cover up and use plenty of sunscreen.
  • Limit alcohol. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation. The risk of various types of cancer — including cancer of the breast, colon, lung, kidney and liver — increases with the amount of alcohol you drink and the length of time you’ve been drinking regularly.
  • Breast-feed, if you can. Breast-feeding may help reduce the risk of breast cancer.
  • Take early detection seriously. Consult your doctor for regular mammograms and other cancer screenings.

No. 3: Stroke

You can’t control some stroke risk factors, such as family history, age and race. But you can control other contributing factors. For example:

  • Manage chronic conditions. If you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations. If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control.
  • Don’t smoke. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, ask your doctor to help you quit.
  • Make healthy lifestyle choices. Eat a healthy diet, being especially careful to limit foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Include physical activity in your daily routine. If you’re overweight, lose excess pounds.
  • Limit alcohol. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation — for women, no more than one drink a day.

No. 4: Chronic lower respiratory diseases

Chronic lung conditions — which include bronchitis and emphysema — also are a concern for women. To protect your respiratory health:

  • Don’t smoke. If you smoke, ask your doctor to help you quit. Also avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Steer clear of pollutants. Minimize exposure to chemicals and outdoor air pollution.
  • Prevent respiratory infections. Wash your hands often and get a yearly flu vaccine. Ask your doctor whether you need a pneumonia vaccine as well.

o. 5: Alzheimer’s disease

There’s no proven way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, but consider taking these steps:

  • Manage chronic conditions. Conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke and diabetes may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
  • Don’t smoke. Some research suggests a link between smoking and Alzheimer’s.
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine. Any movement counts.
  • Maintain social and mental fitness. Stay socially active. Practice mental exercises. Take steps to learn new things.

No. 6: Accidents

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of fatal accidents among women. To stay safe on the road, use common sense. Wear your seat belt. Follow the speed limit. Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol or any other substances, and don’t drive while sleepy.

No. 7: Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes — the most common type of diabetes — affects the way your body uses blood sugar (glucose). Poorly controlled diabetes can lead to heart disease, eye problems, nerve damage and other complications. To prevent type 2 diabetes, get serious about your lifestyle choices. Eat a healthy diet. Include physical activity in your daily routine. If you’re overweight, lose excess pounds.

The bottom line

It’s important to understand common women’s health risks, but don’t feel intimidated. Instead, do whatever you can to lead a healthy lifestyle — including eating a healthy diet, staying physically active, quitting smoking and getting regular checkups. Simple preventive measures can go a long way toward reducing your health risks.

Preventing the Top Threats to MEN’S health

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mens-health/MC00013

The biggest threats to men’s health can often be prevented. Here’s what you need to know to live a longer, healthier life.

By Mayo Clinic staff

Do you know the greatest threats to men’s health? The list is surprisingly short — and prevention pays off. Consider this top seven list of men’s health threats, compiled from statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other leading organizations to reflect men’s health risks in the United States. Then get serious about reducing your risks.

No. 1: Heart disease

Heart disease is a leading men’s health threat. Take charge of heart health by making healthier lifestyle choices. For example:

  • Don’t smoke. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, ask your doctor to help you quit. It’s also important to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods and lean sources of protein, such as fish. Limit foods high in saturated fat and sodium.
  • Manage chronic conditions. If you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations. If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control.
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine. Choose sports or other activities you enjoy, from basketball to brisk walking.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Extra pounds increase the risk of heart disease.
  • Limit alcohol. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation. Too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure.
  • Manage stress. If you feel constantly on edge or under assault, your lifestyle habits may suffer. Take steps to reduce stress — or learn to deal with stress in healthy ways.

No. 2: Cancer

Various types of cancer are of particular concern to men, including lung cancer, skin cancer, prostate cancer and colorectal cancer. To reduce the risk of cancer, consider these general tips:

  • Don’t smoke. Using any type of tobacco puts you on a collision course with cancer. Avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke counts, too.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Losing excess pounds — and keeping them off — may lower the risk of various types of cancer.
  • Get moving. In addition to helping you control your weight, physical activity on its own may lower the risk of certain types of cancer.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Although making healthy selections at the grocery store and at mealtime can’t guarantee cancer prevention, it may help reduce your risk.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. When you’re outdoors, cover up and use plenty of sunscreen.
  • Limit alcohol. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation. The risk of various types of cancer — including cancer of the colon, lung, kidney and liver — increases with the amount of alcohol you drink and the length of time you’ve been drinking regularly.
  • Take early detection seriously. Consult your doctor for regular cancer screenings.

No. 3: Accidents

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of fatal accidents among men. To stay safe on the road, use common sense. Wear your seat belt. Follow the speed limit. Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol or any other substances, and don’t drive while sleepy.

No. 4: Chronic lower respiratory diseases

Chronic lung conditions — which include bronchitis and emphysema — also are a concern for men. To protect your respiratory health:

  • Don’t smoke. If you smoke, ask your doctor to help you quit. Also avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Steer clear of pollutants. Minimize exposure to chemicals and outdoor air pollution.
  • Prevent respiratory infections. Wash your hands often and get a yearly flu vaccine. Ask your doctor whether you need a pneumonia vaccine as well.

No. 5: Stroke

You can’t control some stroke risk factors — such as family history, age and race — but you can control other contributing factors. For example:

  • Manage chronic conditions. If you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations. If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control.
  • Don’t smoke. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, ask your doctor to help you quit.
  • Make healthy lifestyle choices. Eat a healthy diet, being especially careful to limit foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Include physical activity in your daily routine. If you’re overweight, lose excess pounds.
  • Limit alcohol. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation.

No. 6: Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes — the most common type of diabetes — affects the way your body uses blood sugar (glucose). Poorly controlled diabetes can lead to heart disease, eye problems, nerve damage and other complications. To prevent type 2 diabetes, get serious about your lifestyle choices. Eat a healthy diet. Include physical activity in your daily routine. If you’re overweight, lose excess pounds.

No. 7: Suicide

Suicide is another leading men’s health risk. An important risk factor for suicide among men is depression. If you have signs and symptoms of depression — such as feelings of sadness or unhappiness and loss of interest in normal activities — consult your doctor. Treatment is available. If you’re contemplating suicide, call for emergency medical help or go the nearest emergency room.

The bottom line

Understanding health risks is one thing. Taking action to reduce your risks is another. Start with healthy lifestyle choices — eating a healthy diet, staying physically active, quitting smoking, getting regular checkups and taking precautions in your daily activities. The impact may be greater than you’ll ever know.

Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s nearly 2,500 member Organ Transplant Initiative and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs.

You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.

Please view our video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on http://www.organti.org This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for its use.

If you want to spread the word personally about organ donation, we have another PowerPoint slide show for your use free and without permission. Just go to http://www.organti.org and click on “Life Pass It On” on the left side of the screen and then just follow the directions. This is NOT a stand-alone show; it needs a presenter but is professionally produced and factually sound. If you decide to use the show I will send you a free copy of my e-book, “How to Get a Standing “O” that will help you with presentation skills. Just write to bob@baronson.org and usually you will get a copy the same day.

Also…there is more information on this blog site about other donation/transplantation issues. Additionally we would love to have you join our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative The more members we get the greater our clout with decision makers.

 Espanol

Bob Aronson Newheart de Bob es un receptor de trasplante cardiaco 2007, el fundador de Facebook, casi 2.500 Iniciativa miembro de Trasplante de Órganos y el autor de la mayoría de los blogs de donación / trasplante.

Puede comentar en el espacio proporcionado o por correo electrónico sus pensamientos a mí en bob@baronson.org. Y – por favor, difundir la palabra acerca de la necesidad inmediata de más donantes de órganos. No hay nada que puedas hacer lo que es de mayor importancia. Si usted convence a una persona de ser donante de órganos y tejidos puede salvar o afectar positivamente a más de 60 vidas. Algunas de esas vidas pueden ser personas que conoces y amas.

Por favor vea nuestro video “Gracias desde el fondo de mi corazón Donante” en http://www.organti.org Este video fue producido para promover la donación de órganos por lo que es libre y no se necesita permiso para su uso.

Si quieres correr la voz acerca de la donación de órganos personalmente, tenemos otra presentación de PowerPoint para su uso libre y sin permiso. Sólo tienes que ir a http://www.organti.org y haga clic en “Life Pass It On” en el lado izquierdo de la pantalla y luego sólo tienes que seguir las instrucciones. Esto no es un espectáculo independiente, sino que necesita un presentador pero es profesionalmente producida y sonido hechos. Si usted decide usar el programa le enviaré una copia gratuita de mi libro electrónico, “Cómo obtener un pie” O “que le ayudará con habilidades de presentación. Sólo tiene que escribir a bob@baronson.org y por lo general usted recibirá una copia del mismo día.

Además … hay más información sobre este sitio de blogs sobre otros donación / trasplante temas. Además nos encantaría que te unas a nuestro grupo de Facebook, la Iniciativa de Trasplante de Órganos Cuantos más miembros que obtenemos mayor será nuestra influencia con los tomadores de decisiones.

The Ultimate Hypocrisy — Government Profiting on Killer Tobacco


Bob’s Newheart and our Facebook group Organ Transplant Initiative (OTI) support and encourage organ donation and potential biological and mechanical alternatives we also believe that the best solution for the organ shortage is to reduce the demand.

Tobacco products along with alcohol are two of the greatest contributors to organ damage and the need for transplants.  If we could get people to stop using those substances the demand for transplants would diminish significantly and that could mean that the supply of organs just might catch up to the reduced demand.

The affect of tobacco products on human organs is devastating.  There is almost no part of our bodies that the thousands of chemicals in tobacco and cigarette smoke can’t invade and ultimately destroy.  If you smoke, it likely will kill you!  If you quit your body will begin to recover and the cancers and other diseases will have to find a different host.

Our governments (city, county, state and federal) all tax tobacco often with the intention of using the revenue to finance stop smoking campaigns and most often some of the money collected is used for that purpose but not always.  As is usually the case when there is a pot of money available, lots of good causes want some of it, sometimes not so good causes get it so less than 3% of tobacco tax dollars go into anti smoking or smoking cessation programs.  Furthermore, settlements in and out of court in the 1990s mean that the tobacco industry is paying states nearly $250 billion over 25 years. Under the agreement, those payments to states will continue flowing even beyond 25 years as long as the tobacco industry is healthy. But the payments would phase out as cigarette company profits decline and would ultimately disappear if people stop smoking.  So while government must try to get people to quit smoking, they really don’t want to try too hard.

So, having given you some critical information about smoking  I’m hoping you will do two things,  1) if you smoke…quit.  2) tell your elected officials to get really serious about helping people who use tobacco products to quit using them, I submit this post for your consideration and comment.

There’s an adage that goes, ”If you borrow a hundred dollars from the bank, you owe the bank.  If you borrow a million you own the bank.”  That simply means the bank can’t be too hard on you if they want to get their money back.  That’s the situation governments find themselves in with tobacco.  In a strange twist, tobacco companies own the government.  Let me explain.

Tobacco Kills.  Cigarettes alone kill nearly a half million Americans every year.  That’s just a cold hard fact.  You probably don’t need reminding but I will anyway via the enters for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia.  They list these facts: http://tinyurl.com/lblldw

  • The adverse health effects from cigarette smoking account for an estimated 443,000 deaths, or nearly one of every five deaths, each year in the United States.
  • More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.
  • Smoking causes an estimated 90% of all lung cancer deaths in men and 80% of all lung cancer deaths in women.
  • An estimated 90% of all deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease are caused by smoking.

Smoking and Increased Health Risks

Compared with nonsmokers, smoking is estimated to increase the risk of—

  • coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times,
  • stroke by 2 to 4 times,
  • men developing lung cancer by 23 times,
  • women developing lung cancer by 13 times, and
  • dying from chronic obstructive lung diseases (such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema) by 12 to 13 times.

If trends continue, one billion people will die from tobacco use and exposure during the 21st century – one person every six seconds. Globally, tobacco-related deaths have nearly tripled in the past decade, and tobacco is responsible for more than 15% of all male deaths and 7% of female deaths. Tobacco is also a risk factor for the four leading noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) – cancer, heart disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases – which account for more than 63% of global deaths according to the World Health Organization.

Tobacco use is the number one killer in China, causing 1.2 million deaths annually; this is expected to rise to 3.5 million deaths annually by the year 2030. Tobacco is also responsible for the greatest proportion of male deaths in Turkey (38%) and Kazakhstan (35%), and the greatest proportion of female deaths in the Maldives (25%) and the United States (23%).

Uniquely among cancer-causing agents, however, tobacco is a man-made problem that is completely preventable through proven public policies. Effective measures include tobacco taxes, advertising bans, smoke-free public places, mass media campaigns and effective health warnings. These cost-effective policies are among those included in the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), a global treaty endorsed by more than 174 countries, and recommended by the World Health Organization in its MPOWER policy package.  http://tinyurl.com/bor7897

Our government knows all of this.  All of our elected officials know this and they all publicly support anti-smoking efforts.  They go to great extremes to condemn the use of tobacco while explaining the public health consequences.   Almost no one is pro smoking and yet everyone is pro smoking because we have come to depend on the billions of tax dollars generated by the sale of tobacco products.  It should be pointed out that at least the U.S,. Government no longer subsidizes tobacco farmers.  That program ended several years ago.

As usual the poor are hit the hardest by the addictive nature of tobacco.  In a study conducted on behalf of the New York State Department of Health, it revealed that low-income smokers (those in households making under $30,000), spent an average of 23.6% of their annual household income on cigarettes, compared to 2.2% for smokers in households making over $60,000.

Taxes on tobacco products total billions of dollars a year.  An example — in New York state the federal tax on a package of 20 cigarettes is $1.01, the state tax is $4.35. New York City adds a local tax of $1.50 to the state levy. That brings the combined tax rate on a package of 20 cigarettes in New York City to $6.36.  Tobacco manufacturers add their profit on top of that so depending on where you buy your cigarettes in the city you could pay as much as $12 a pack…twelve dollars for a pack of cigarettes.  By comparison, when I started smoking in 1954 you could buy a pack of “Wings” cigarettes for Ten cents. Major brands like Lucky Strikes or Camels were a quarter (quit smoking in 1991).

Tobacco Industry Profits Greater Than Ever
According to The Tobacco Atlas, estimates of revenues from the global tobacco industry likely approach a half trillion U.S. dollars annually. In 2010, the combined profits of the six leading tobacco companies was U.S. $35.1 billion, equal to the combined profits of Coca-Cola, Microsoft, and McDonald’s in the same year. If Big Tobacco were a country, it would have a gross domestic product (GDP) of countries like Poland, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and Venezuela.

In the meantime, tobacco companies are fighting laws with every weapon in their arsenal because just as their product kills people, restrictive smoking laws can kill the industry, a killing some say, is necessary and justified homicide.

As countries around the world ramp up their campaigns against smoking with tough restrictions on tobacco advertising, the industry is fighting back by invoking international trade agreements to thwart the most stringent rules.

A key battlefront is Australia, which is trying to repel a legal assault on its groundbreaking law requiring cigarettes to be sold in plain packs without distinctive brand logos or colors. Contesting the law, which takes effect Dec. 1, are the top multinational cigarette makers and three countries — Ukraine, Honduras and Dominican Republic — whose legal fees are being paid by the industry.  http://tinyurl.com/chypao4

Tobacco use has diminished considerably in most of the developed countries but not all of them.  The leafy crop is gaining new popularity among U.S. farmers. Cheaper U.S. tobacco has become competitive as an export, and China, Russia and Mexico, where cigarette sales continue to grow, are eager to buy. Since 2005, U.S. tobacco acreage has risen 20 percent. Fields are now filled with it in places like southern Illinois, which hasn’t grown any substantial amounts since the end of World War I.  http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1899911/posts

While the price of cigarettes has continuously increased since 1965, the percentage of that price going towards taxes is now half of what it was then. ]While tobacco companies complain about the $1.01 cigarette tax, Phillip Morris, Reynolds American, and Lorillard have all increased their prices by almost $1.00 per pack on their own. Phillip Morris currently lists all taxes, including federal, state, local, and sales taxes, as 56.6% of the total cost of a pack of cigarettes.

One of the reasons for the support of increased cigarette taxes among public health officials is that many studies show that this leads to a decrease in smoking rates. The relationship between smoking rates and cigarette taxes is in fact very elastic; the greater the amount of the tax increase, the greater the proportion of smokers who stop smoking. This is especially prevalent amongst teenagers. For every ten percent increase in the price of a pack of cigarettes, youth smoking rates overall drop about seven percent. This rate is also true amongst minorities and low income population smokers.  The rates of calls to quitting hot-lines are directly related to cigarette tax hikes. When Wisconsin raised its state cigarette tax to $1.00 per pack, the hot-line received a record of 20,000 calls in a two month time period versus its typical 9,000 calls annually.

According to the New York Times taxes are not the only government revenue from cigarettes. Settlements in the late 1990s to end state lawsuits against tobacco companies mean that the cigarette industry is paying states nearly $250 billion over 25 years. Under the agreement, those payments to states will continue flowing even beyond 25 years as long as the tobacco industry is healthy. But the payments would phase out as cigarette company profits decline and would ultimately disappear if people stop smoking.

So the government has become a financial stakeholder in smoking, some would argue, even as public health officials warn people about its deadly consequences. Smoking declines as cigarette taxes increase, but a core group of smokers hang on to the habit.  http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/31/weekinreview/31saul.html

Will the government or governments ever really crack down on smoking?  Doubtful, there is too much money in it for them so the tobacco companies and the politicians who seek to eradicate them have come to be bedfellows.  What many politicians fail to see is the savings that could be had if people didn’t smoke.  According to the CDC again, “Smoking is also a major contributor to many chronic diseases that are driving up the nation’s health care costs. Each year, diseases caused by cigarette smoking result in $96 billion in health care costs, much of which is paid by taxpayers through publicly-funded health programs.” http://www.cdc.gov/features/TobaccoControlData/ but the savings go beyond that when you consider the costs to employers and employees in higher premiums and lost work time due to tobacco caused illnesses.

If we truly wanted to wipe out smoking, taxes could be raised even higher than they are and the dollars generated could go a long way toward helping to solve our budget problems.  Unfortunately if everyone quit smoking, the tax revenue would disappear, too and therein lies the dilemma, but it does prove that you can be both for and against something at the same time.

Are Profits More Important Than Cures?


By Bob Aronson

A Treatment for Almost Everything but Few Vaccines & Even Fewer Cures — Why?

Fair and balanced journalism is a very nice catch phrase but the stated goal is more than illusive, it is almost non-existent and that’s because there are never just two sides to a story.  There are often several sides so no matter how hard a reporter might try to be objective, there is no way you can cover every angle.  I do not pretend that this post is the endeavor of an investigative journalist, nor do I contend that this is an objective report.  What I offer here represents some observations and a few links to help illuminate the information.  I hope you find it useful.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average life expectancy at the beginning of the 20th century was just over 47 years. A century later, that number had increased to nearly 78 years, due largely to the development of vaccinations and other treatments for deadly diseases.  We are living longer because medical science has provided us with treatments, medications, devices and surgeries that cure little but keep most threatening diseases at bay…and often at a phenomenal cost.

As a communications consultant specializing in healthcare I have worked with several pharmaceutical companies.  I know many researchers and I am aware of the dedication they bring to their jobs and to providing help to patients.  I know, too, how expensive it is to develop new drugs and all too often I have seen those efforts fail resulting in the loss of millions of hard-earned investor dollars.  In short, I have at least a passing acquaintance with the pharmaceutical industry and the financial risks they take to bring new drugs, treatments, procedures and devices to the marketplace.

At the same time I also understand the desire and the necessity to be profitable.  Without profitability no business can survive.  It is only fair to point out that the pharmaceutical industry (Big Pharma) has been incredibly profitable, despite the investments and even the losses.

Here is the list of the five biggest pharmaceutical companies based on 2010 revenues, in billions of dollars.

1.Pfizer                                                        $58,523,
Read the rest of this entry

You Could Die Today! Will You Bury Your Organs Or Donate Them?


What if tomorrow or even today was your last day to be alive?  It’s possible.  No one knows when their time will come.  We start dying upon birth and could die young from a variety of medical or accidental causes. That’s why it is so important to become an organ donor now, right now.  Just go to www.donatelife.net and do it. 

There are three reasons you should become an organ donor right now:

  1. You could die today or tomorrow and if you are not a donor your organs could be buried with you.  It happens 20,000 times a year in the U.S. 
  2. You could find out that you or a loved one needs a transplant
  3. You are a compassionate human being who wants to save lives and you understand the urgency.

My blogs are about living, about saving lives and about how the living can help do that but sometimes a writer has to provide some shock value in order to get people’s attention.  So here’s the shock.  You should become an organ donor soon because you could die soon, very soon. Stand by…there’s more shock to come.

You’ve all heard the numbers 114,000 people on the organ transplant waiting list with only 28,000 transplants done each year. Estimates indicate about 20 people die every day while waiting for organs.  Becoming an organ donor is an urgent issue but for most potential donors it is only urgent for the would-be recipient but consider this… you or a loved one could be the next patient in line waiting for an organ transplant. 

While 9 out of 10 Americans support organ donation, only 38% of US driver’s license or ID card holders are registered as organ donors, according to the 2009 Organ Donor Report Card. Overall, only 1 in 3.75 people in the US are registered organ donors. And in 2008, for the first time in at least 20 years, the number of both living and deceased donors declined over the previous year, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN).

None of us expect to die any time soon so we approach organ donation with a, “What’s the rush” attitude.  “They can’t take my organs until I die and I’m going to be around for a while so I’ll become a donor when I get around to it.”  But…what if you die before you get around to it?  Here are some startling odds.

All figures below are for U.S. residents.as of 2005, the latest year this data was available.

Your chance of dying of any of the following                                                   Lifetime Odds

Heart Disease                                                                                                        1-in-5

Cancer                                                                                                                    1-in-7

Stroke                                                                                                                     1-in-23

Accidental Injury                                                                                                   1-in-36

Motor Vehicle Accident*                                                                                      1-in-100

Intentional Self-harm (suicide)                                                                            1-in-121

Falling Down                                                                                                         1-in-246

Assault by Firearm                                                                                               1-in-325

Fire or Smoke                                                                                                        1-in-1,116

Natural Forces (heat, cold, storms, quakes, etc.)                                             1-in-3,357

Electrocution*                                                                                                       1-in-5,000

Drowning                                                                                                               1-in-8,942

Air Travel Accident*                                                                                           1-in-20,000

 SOURCES: National Center for Health Statistics, CDC; American Cancer Society; National Safety Council; International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; World Health Organization; USGS; Clark Chapman, SwRI; David Morrison, NASA; Michael Paine, Planetary Society Australian Volunteers

 Heart disease, Cancer, Stroke and Accidents claim the most people every year.  If you really believe in organ donation becoming a donor right now is the only logical thing to do.                                                                                                              

I hope everyone who reads this blog lives for a very, very long time but I also hope you recognize that there is no time to spare in becoming an organ donor.  My donor was only 30 years old when he died.  I’m sure he expected to live a lot longer than that but fate is unpredictable so why not arrange now to save some lives.  If you wait you could not only lose your own life but cause others to die because your organs were buried with You.                                                                                               

It is so easy to become a donor.  You can do it by going to www.donatelife.net , on Facebook or you can get free organ donation Apps for your cell phone, pads and computers too.  One is http://www.appbrain.com/app/donor-register/com.sam.donorregister  I understand that Blackberry and I-phone have similar apps.

Please understand the urgency. Please go to your computer right now and sign up and then be sure to tell your family, your physician and your faith leader if you have one and…when you renew your driver’s license make sure you check the organ donor designation.

Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart  is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s 1800 member Organ Transplant Initiative and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs. 

You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.

Please view our video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on http://www.organti.org This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for its use.

If you want to spread the word personally about organ donation, we have another PowerPoint slide show for your use free and without permission. Just go to http://www.organti.org and click on “Life Pass It On” on the left side of the screen and then just follow the directions. This is NOT a stand-alone show, it needs a presenter but is professionally produced and factually sound.  If you decide to use the show I will send you a free copy of my e-book, “How to Get a Standing “O” that will help you with presentation skills.  Just write to bob@baronson.org and usually you will get a copy the same day.

Also…there is more information on this blog site about other donation/transplantation issues. Additionally we would love to have you join our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative The more members we get the greater our clout with decision makers.

Quit Smoking You Damn Fools!


This will be short.  I’ve already had a heart transplant and now because of 37 years of smoking I have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).  I can’t breathe very well, especially if I move around.  Do you have any idea what that’s like?  Do you know what its like to be exhausted and gasping for air after putting on your shoes?  Do you know what it’s like to have to drive a little electric cart around the supermarket because you can’t tolerate the walk?  Well, if you keep on smoking you are in for that and a hell of a lot more.  My case is mild compared to others, I don’t have to do breathing exercises every morning  just to get my day started like Cystic Fibrosis patients do.  I don’t have to use oxygen yet, I’m not in a wheelchair or confined to a bed or recliner at home but that could easily be my future and yours, too.

When you bend over to pick something off the floor you probably feel nothing.  Here’s what happens, though.  When you bend you compress your diaphragm which affects your breathing.  As your lung condition worsens that one simple move can leave you feeling as though you’ve run a mile at top speed.  I cannot bend over to pick up anything without having to sit down immediately to catch my breath.  That means I can’t pick up my shoes, I can’t check the air in my tires, I can’t even bend over to pet my dogs.

My transplant docs tell me I’m doing very well, that with the exception of my lungs I am in pretty darn good condition.  I know my mind is ok because I am more intellectually curious than I’ve ever been and I love to learn and write (some who have read my writing may think I’m a little loony but it’s a healthy loony :)).  When I am sitting down and at my computer I feel better than I have in 25 or 30 years but that bubble bursts as soon as I get up and walk across the room.

Smoking is killing me even after having quit two decades ago.  Smoking may also share some of the responsibility for my needing a heart transplant.  There isn’t one damn good thing about smoking.  People say, “It relaxes me.”  Sure it does, it relaxes you because you are addicted to nicotine and you were going into withdrawal.  Having a cigarette is a lot like the alcoholic (yes, I’m one of those too 30 years sober now) who has a drink to cure a hangover.  There isn’t any difference.  There isn’t one excuse (there are no reasons) you can give me for smoking that I cannot destroy in a second.

I have COPD, I lost my father to Chronic Bronchitis and a wife to lung cancer.  I know first hand what smoking does and it isn’t as though you are only hurting yourself.  Smoking not only will kill you it is killing those around you, your friends, your loved ones, your kids, even your pets.  All of them will suffer because of your selfish desire to satisfy a craving.  I smoked up to four packs a day for 37 years and quit.  It took a lot of tries but with the help of nicotine gum I quit in 1991.  If   I could do it you can, too.  I’m not tolerant like a lot of smoking cessation counselors are, I won’t accept the BS that you can’t quit.  You can!  You are just to much of a wimp to experience some temporary discomfort.

Get some guts, sure it’s hard to quit smoking but to give up by saying, “I can’t quit.”  BS!  Do you remember the story about the man who was caught alone in the wilderness with his arm pinned by some debris?  He cut off his own arm to avoid death and walked a great distance to get medical attention.  That’s experiencing real discomfort and showing a will to live.  Allowing yourself to die because of a simple “craving” is wimpish, gutless and suicidal.

If you don’t like my harsh comments that’s too damn bad.  I cannot sympathize with anyone who has the power to save their life and the lives around them but refuses to do so because its not “comfortable.”  Shame of you!

Oh yeah…one more thing.  Don’t count on getting a lung transplant to solve your problem.  There’s a long line ahead of you waiting for a new lung or lungs and they won’t all get them.  The best way to solve the organ shortage is to take care of yourself so you never need one.

Please view our brand new video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on You
Tube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifyRsh4qKF4  This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for it’s use.

Also…there  is more information on this blog site about other donation/transplantation issues.

We would love to have you join our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative The more members we get the greater  our clout with decision makers.

Please  comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or  positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.

60% of People Who Smoke Will Die From it — But You Can Quit!


Besides causing cancer and any one of a number of other health problems, smoking can destroy organs like the heart and lungs and can seriously damage or destroy others. 

There are about 110,000 people in the U.S. waiting for organ transplants and there are not enough donor organs, so each year thousands of our loved ones, friends and neighbors die waiting. The number of organ donors is not increasing fast enough to end the shortage any time soon so one way of dealing with the crisis is to prevent the need for organ transplants.  One way to do that is to quit damaging our organs by quitting smoking. 

From time to time I will be publishing blogs from guest writers.  The following post was written by Dr. Michael Burke, Ed.D, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine and Program Coordinator at the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center.  Dr. Burke is a highly respected expert in the field of tobacco addiction and smoking cessation. 

There is nothing that is healthier for a person who smokes than to stop. Within a short time after one stops smoking, lung function and circulation improve, risk of heart attack and stroke diminish, and the likelihood of acquiring 14 different cancers begins to drop. 

Symptoms from illnesses as different as diabetes, sleep apnea, and Crohn’s disease get better after a person stops smoking.  Stopping before surgery significantly improves surgical outcomes through less infection, better wound healing and bone mending.  Stopping smoking leads to less skin wrinkles and better erectile function, and the list goes on and on. Although people usually underestimate how dangerous smoking is, nearly everybody knows that it is unhealthy.  However, about 1 in 5 Americans continue to smoke, and each day in the US, as many people die from smoking as three fully loaded 747’s crashing.   Worldwide 100 million people died from smoking in the 20th century.  Predictions are that one billion people will die from smoking tobacco this century.  So why doesn’t everyone quit? 

One reason is that cigarettes are quite addicting.   A cigarette delivers nicotine to the brain more quickly than a hypodermic needle.  It is probably the best drug delivery device ever created by man.  It delivers volatile high dose nicotine that, for some people, causes physical changes to a part of the brain that is responsible for pleasure, attention and stress.  I say ‘for some people’.

Smoking affects people differently.  Stopping smoking is actually physically harder for some people than it is for others.  The differences are in large part due to genetics. To shed light on these genetic differences a group at the Mayo Clinic is, oddly enough, studying Zebra fish. http://discoverysedge.mayo.edu/zebrafish-genetics/ Dr. Steve Ekker’s group has discovered two genes that make the fish more reactive to nicotine.  If exposed to nicotine when in the larvae stage Zebra fish bred to have these two specific genes will become sensitized to the nicotine.   Later in life they will move and dart more quickly in the water when nicotine is added to the tank.  However, if these genes are ‘knocked out’ the fish won’t become sensitized to nicotine and then later will not react when exposed to nicotine.   It is wonderful to have a geneticist with a sense of humor.  Dr. Ekker’s group named the nicotine activating genes Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis after those two Hollywood stars whose style of smoking became iconic.

Although it is a more complex story in human beings, some people have Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis genes.  These people experience a heightened reward from cigarettes when they first start smoking and more intense craving and withdrawal when they try to stop.  Too often these people feel ashamed, think that they just have less willpower, or think that they just don’t want to stop badly enough. Instead these folks can stop, they just need more tools and ammunition.

I once treated a woman, a nurse, from Bayonne NJ.  She was clearly a strong lady.  My dad would have admirably described her as a ‘tough old broad’.  “People tell me I’m weak, that I should just quit smoking” she said “But, when I go half a day without a cigarette, I’m on my knees in tears I just feel so awful”.  “I’m not weak” she went on.  “I left a bad man, raised three kids, worked sometimes two jobs, bought my own home, and sent all three kids to college.  I’m not weak! What is it about this that is so hard?” she asked me.  She was most likely genetically set to have a more difficult time stopping, and she needed treatment to match that extra difficulty.   We provided treatment and one year later she was still tobacco free.

Many people try and stop ‘cold-turkey’.  That’s good if it works.  However, less than 5% of the people who use this method are successful at six months.  Counseling and medications have been proven to significantly increase the chances of successfully stopping smoking.  You can learn more about how counseling works by viewing the short video at this link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EDaA26unVw  

Your health care provider may provide counseling or they may have a Tobacco Treatment Specialist in the office or local area.  Professional help is also available through a telephone Quit line.  Every state in the US, and province in Canada have one that can be accessed through calling 1800 QUIT NOW.   One online resource that many people find helpful is www.becomeanex.org.  Mayo Clinic also has a Residential Treatment Program – an 8 day program that works for people who have ‘tried everything’.  http://ndc.mayo.edu

There are seven ‘first line’ medications that have been proven to be safe and effective for helping people stop smoking.  Five are nicotine replacement products and two are pills available by prescription: varenicline (Chantix) and bupropion (Zyban).  

There is too much confusion about nicotine replacement.  Nicotine replacement medications have saved many lives and can save many more. Nicotine is not the ingredient in cigarettes that causes health problems.  Smoking health problems are caused by 4,000 other chemicals that people ingest when they smoke.  Some of these chemicals are natural to tobacco others are added by the tobacco industry.  Nicotine replacement helps manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms safely, while eliminating exposure to the awful toxins in tobacco.  We encourage people to take enough of these medicines for long enough to stop smoking.

People who smoke can also talk to their health care provider about two other medications varenicline and bupropion.  These medications are proven to help people safely stop smoking.  Like most medications, there are some potential side effects and you should talk to your health care provider before taking these medications.   But remember, if the tobacco industry had to list the side effects from smoking, it would probably fill a telephone book.  Cigarettes are the only product that will kill over 60% of the people who use it in the way it is intended.   Stopping smoking, by any means necessary, is the healthy choice.

Please comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org.  And – spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors.  On-line registration can be done at http://www.donatelife.net/index.php  Whenever you can, help people formally register.  There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance.  If you convince one person to be a donor you may save or positively affect over 50 lives.  Some of those lives may be people you know and love.  

You are also invited to join Organ Transplantation Initiative (OTI) http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=152655364765710 a group dedicated to providing help and information to donors, donor families, transplant patients and families, caregivers and all other interested parties.  Your participation is important if we are to influence decision makers to support efforts to increase organ donation and support organ regeneration, replacement and research efforts.