Diagnose Illness with a Smartphone

Is it possible to diagnose illness with a smartphone? In the very near future a smartphone will vastly improve your healthcare provider's ability to support your wellness.

Decades ago, some doctors worried that computers might replace our profession. Other doctors, the clever ones, knew that the digital age would be a boon to our patients. A brilliant American cardiologist, geneticist and researcher, Doctor Eric Topol, recently spoke with NBC (Rock Center – Brian Williams) about medicine's digital revolution. Here's the video interview titled, 'iDoctor Could a smartphone be the future of medicine?':

If this YouTube video disappears, here's a link to the original NBC version.

If you found the video tantalizing, check out Doctor Topol's most recent book, 'The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care':

History: In the early days of computers in the office, it was easy to impress. Other medical offices were often dismayed when my receptionist was able to immediately provide them with patient details. She used QuickDex running on an Apple Mac II. I would export baseline information from my FileMaker database to her QuickDex every morning before the office opened.

I recall the head nurse in the ER being overly impressed with how quickly I was able to give her full medical history details based only on the baseline information she had been given by the ambulance dispatcher. All I had to do was to search a few fields in my FileMaker database.

How far we've already travelled. Imagine what's yet to come!

Canada’s Tailings Ponds

What was once boreal forest and fresh water is now one of Canada’s tailings ponds. These tailings ‘ponds’ are so large, they can be seen from space.

Canada's tailings ponds
© Greenpeace / Eamon Mac Mahon

Q: What the heck is a tailings pond?
A: It’s the toxic wastewater, chemicals, sand and clay that’s left over after separating heavy crude oil (bitumen) from the soil in what are commonly referred to as Canada’s tar sands.

Wikipedia: "Tailings, also called mine dumps, slimes, tails, refuse, leach residue, or slickens,[1] are the materials left over after the process of separating the valuable fraction from the uneconomic fraction (gangue) of an ore."

I recently viewed a film titled Petropolis and was shocked by how little I knew about the actual size of this industrial misadventure. I had clearly been sucked in by the oil companies’ environmentally-concerned TV ads. I suspect it has required a massive public relations budget to keep the full scope of this pillage out of the news.

Have you watched or read ‘The Lord of the Rings’? Do you remember when Saruman the White ordered the destruction of the forests? Even the words of J. R. R. Tolkien and the images of Peter Jackson would have a very difficult time portraying the devastation clearly shown in Petropolis.

A few things that just don’t make sense to me:

  • it requires about three barrels of water to produce every barrel of bitumen, that’s apparently enough water to service a city with a population of two million
  • the tar sands daily consumption of natural gas is enough to heat four million homes
  • carbon dioxide emissions equal the total emissions of every car in Canada
  • we’re getting rid of trees that reduce pollution to produce oil that increases pollution

Q: Who is profiting from this devastation of Canada’s environment?
A: The oil and gas companies. According to The Toronto Sun 20120409 (VINCENT MCDERMOTT, QMI AGENCY), “In the University of Alberta’s Parkland Institute study, completed in mid-March (2012), the Edmonton-based think-tank concluded the oil and gas industry has raked in $260-billion in pre-tax profits since 1986, while the public received less than $25-billion — less than 6% of the total value.”

The oil companies would have us believe that the Canadian tar sands are a wonderful resource, after all it’s the second largest oil reserve in the world. I’m not so sure because there are clearly enormous environmental costs to this type of industrialization. When oil prices were lower, the tar sands had potential, but it was simply to expensive to separate the heavy crude from the sand and the clay. Today, high oil prices have made heavy crude oil extraction economically feasible, but it doesn’t appear to me that technology has progressed to the point where oil can be produced in an environmentally friendly manner. That plus, what about the environmental impact of the required, very controversial, pipelines.

Aren’t we trying to move away from carbon-based fuels? Wouldn’t it be far less expensive and far more friendly to our environment to build solar farms and wind farms? What about solar panels on every home and garage? There must be a clever way to use the tar sands, on a small scale, to help us fund Canada’s transition to green technologies.

Update (20120530): Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, referring to Canada’s tailing’s ponds stated, “…you’ll be able to drink from them and you’re gonna be able to fish from them…”. He was interviewed on CBC’s Power and Politics by Evan Solomon. My question to Mr. Oliver is, “When?” Perhaps hundreds or even thousands of years from now that may be possible. I suspect Mr. Oliver will issue a correction in the near future, because, bluntly, if he believes what he said, he’s been drinking far too much of Big Oil’s Kool Aid.

Food Chemicals

Food Chemicals Codex

What are food chemicals?

Food additives, mostly salt, smoke and various flavourings have been used for many hundreds, if not many thousands of years. About a hundred years ago, not much had changed on the additive front, most people purchased their vegetables, fruit, meat (including fish), dairy, grains, fats and oils, locally and only in season.

The food industry and food scientists have done a remarkable job of making most foods available year round. Unfortunately, convenience has resulted in a very long list of food chemicals. Did you know that there’s a book called the Food Chemicals Codex (FCC) that lists over a thousand chemicals (flavourings, colourants, preservatives, processing aids and nutrients) that are commonly added to our food?

Over 1,000 Food Chemicals

Would our health be better if we only consumed food that actually looked like food rather than most of the packaged stuff we see in the grocery store?

Canada’s Environmental Irresponsibility

I’m embarrassed by Canada’s environmental irresponsibility and specifically by Canada’s current conservative governance. The most recent embarrassment is Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol; making Canada the first country in the world to abandon this historic, international, environmental treaty on climate change.

Abandoning Kyoto was irresponsible. It’s also humiliating, Canada is better than this.

Fact: Over sixty percent of Canadian voters, who cast ballots in the last federal election, did not vote for the Conservative Party, the political party that just humiliated most Canadians.

Q: How could the Harper Government back out of a treaty that Canada ratified years ago? Where was the debate? Why wasn’t this momentous decision brought to a vote?

Some time ago, I laughed in agreement when Brian Topp wrote, "Unfortunately, the angry old uncles are now in charge of the government of Canada…" If I could edit that article for The Globe and Mail, today, I’d add a couple of words, "Unfortunately, the angry, arrogant, greedy, irresponsible, old uncles are now in charge of the government of Canada."

"Unfortunately, the angry old uncles are now in charge
of the government of Canada"

Q: What can we do?
A: Make sure that your voice is heard.

Frustrated Canadians, might want to consider:

  1. electing more women
  2. encouraging the Green Party and the Liberal Party to merge
  3. electing Elizabeth May to lead the ‘New Green Party’.

Natural Gas Fracking

What is natural gas fracking or fracking for natural gas? Fracking is a, commonly used, short way of saying or writing hydraulic fracturing. Wikipedia‘s descriptive first sentence is:

Hydraulic fracturing, often called fracking, fracing or hydrofracking, is the process of initiating and subsequently propagating a fracture in a rock layer, by means of a pressurized fluid, in order to release petroleum, natural gas, coal seam gas, or other substances for extraction.

There’s a very stark contrast between Exxon Mobil’s commercial and the Gasland trailer:

Exxon Mobil

Gasland

>> Gasland is now on PBS

If wellness is one of your priorities, you owe it to yourself to watch Gasland.

A Retired MD’s Observations

Doctor's Office by Norman Rockwell

Retired MD, Frank Eves’ generalized, observations about a few things noticed along the way:

  • a doctor’s humanity is often more valuable than his/her education
  • humility and a sense of humour/humor are invaluable
  • listening carefully to the client/patient avoids most problems
  • it’s tough to always be on-time when you’re trying to do it right
  • most doctors are doing their best to help
  • the best family doctors have very few patients in hospital
  • most problems can be dealt with in a single visit and do not require dozens of tests and frequent follow-up visits
  • the least competent doctors attempt to garner the most attention in the ER
  • some specialists have forgotten the GP stuff
  • some surgeons really do see patients as a ‘hole’ and are most comfortable with people when they’re sedated
  • the best surgeon drove a VW Beetle
  • many internists hide when there’s a hint of something surgical
  • obstetricians work long hours and appear to function well without sleep
  • the worst gynaecologist/gynecologist drove a Cadillac
  • the nicest specialists are the paediatricians/pediatricians
  • psychiatrists have too many patients and too few friends
  • U.S. trained physicians love technology
  • British trained physicians value a good history
  • some older physicians need their patients more than their patients need them
  • recent med school graduates spend too much time studying the fee schedule
  • most clients/patients are friendly and honest
  • women are better communicators
  • when men are asked, “How can I help you?” a surprising number respond, “My wife made the appointment, I’m not sure.”
  • guys are more nervous about rectal exams than women are about internal exams. Guys like to joke, “If I feel two hands on my shoulders I’ll know it’s not your finger… “ they assume the doctor has never heard this ubiquitous humour/humor
  • the richest man wore a Timex
  • the most obnoxious guy wore a gold Rolex with a diamond bezel.

It was very rewarding to quietly help someone without turning it into a major production.

My last comment flys in the face of the advice I once received. A retiring doc suggested I always say “It’s the worst case I’ve ever seen.” that way, if they get better, you’re a hero. Of course that same character was infamous for billing ‘no-shows’ with a diagnosis of ‘amnesia.’ :)

Antioxidants – An Everyday Battle for Life

Antioxidants – An Everyday Battle for Life
- it’s those radicals again

Free Radicals – the bad guys (mostly)

Free radicals are highly charged matter that can damage or even destroy mitochondrial DNA and cell membranes. Free radicals are usually oxygen molecules that have lost one of their electrons and therefore have what’s referred to as an unpaired electron. Atoms with unpaired electrons try to grab electrons from other atoms, thereby setting off chain reactions which cause damage.

Normal living produces many free radicals, they’re unavoidable. Free radicals are produced more often and become more active when we encounter polluted air, water and food.

When iron is exposed to free radicals, it oxidizes, we call it rust. A cut apple turns brown when it oxidizes. People age more quickly and become more susceptible to certain diseases when exposed to excessive free radicals. In recent years, free radicals have been linked to most diseases by thousands of scientific studies.

Antioxidants – the good guys (mostly)

Antioxidants help to protect your cells from the damage and aging caused by free radicals.

There are two groups of antioxidants

Primary Antioxidants – you make these guys

Primary antioxidants are your best defence, they’re about a hundred times more potent than secondary antioxidants. Primary antioxidants are produced by your body, remain in your body and protect your cells 24/7/365. Although you can consume primary antioxidants, they’re not absorbed, they’re digested. You can however consume precursors that will be absorbed and these precursors will help your body produce more primary antioxidants, resulting in a higher level; you want to keep your tank as full as possible. The best known primary antioxidants are:

  • Glutathione
  • SOD (SuperOxide Dismutase)

Secondary Antioxidants – you consume these

Most people know the ACES (Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Selenium) but there are many more antioxidants. Secondary antioxidants are found in food or supplements. You need them every day.

Unfortunately, in this story, sooner or, hopefully, later the bad guys win; we inevitably die. The trick is to be the very best your genetics allow you to be, for as long as possible.

To quote Gandalf, in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

Note: In the past decade, I’ve marketed liquid supplements from two companies. The first focused on minerals and vitamins, the second mangosteen and minerals. Both were excellent products at the time they came to market. I’ve sold thousands of bottles.

The good:
- liquids are very well absorbed

The bad:
- the super-fruit hype and associated nonsense

I’ve recently discovered a new liquid antioxidant that does everything right. It focuses on:

  • both primary and secondary antioxidants
  • nutrients that promote our powerful primary antioxidants
  • secondary antioxidants from multiple sources
  • herbal adaptogens

>> click here to discover XYNGULAR Super Fruit Global Blend

Link deactivated

Update 20111103: I’m no longer involved with network marketing.

Water – Don’t Take Yours for Granted

Image of earth from space

Where I live, water is abundant, but did you know that one in eight people worldwide don’t have access to clean water?

“Most of us have never really been thirsty. We’ve never had to leave our houses and walk 5 miles to fetch water. We simply turn on the tap, and water comes out. Clean. Yet there are a billion people on the planet who don’t have clean water. It’s hard to imagine what a billion people looks like really, but one in eight might be easier. One in eight people in our world don’t have access to the most basic of human needs. Something we can’t imagine going 12 hours without. Here, we’d like to introduce you to a few of those billion people. They are very real, and they need our help. They didn’t choose to be born into a village where the only source of water is a polluted swamp. And I didn’t choose to be born in a country where even the homeless have access to clean water and a toilet.”
– charity: water (About Us tab)

>> click here to visit charity: water’s website

Geographical water shortages aren’t the only threat to your water, I suspect that coming years will make it obvious that corporate greed is an even bigger threat.

Have you watched ‘Flow – the film?’

>> click here to watch the trailer

ShelterBox – Shelter, Warmth, Dignity

ShelterBox - the contents of a ShelterBox

ShelterBox responds to earthquake, volcano, flood, hurricane, cyclone, tsunami or conflict by delivering boxes of aid.

Each box supplies an extended family of up to 10 people with a tent and lifesaving equipment to use while they are displaced or homeless. The contents are tailored depending on the nature and location of the disaster, with great care taken sourcing every item to ensure it is robust enough to be of lasting value.

ShelterBox was a new discovery for me, but has been the Rotary Club’s largest project since 2000 and in May 2009 ShelterBox launched its official partnership with The Scout Association.

>> click here to visit ShelterBox.org

American Children at Risk?

David Mitchell writes, “Seventy percent of American children are at increased risk for bone and heart disease because of low levels of vitamin D, according to a recent study published in Pediatrics.”

His article appears in AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians) NEWS NOW.

>> click here to read the full article

>> click here to view the abstract of the original Pediatrics article