Archive for the ‘mental’ Category

Medicine & Religion: Is confession a potent balm against major diseases in RP?

February 16, 2009

Dr. Francisco Duque III, the secretary of the Department of Health (DOH) reportedly said a staggering 80% of Filipinos are suffering from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) “due to unhealthy lifestyle.” The doctor goes on to say that to combat cardiovascular illnesses, cancers, and diabetes, people have to go to church and make regular “confession.” I find his religious recommendation oddly misleading. It needs clarification.

“Among those considered as NCDs are cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes. Duque said the three are now among the major health problems in the country. Duque said one way to address this problem is for the people to go on regular confession.” I suggest that they go to church to pray and confess their sins because its one way of managing”— (02/16/09)

It isn’t unusual to blame stress as a cause of sickness. Though stress goes with almost all diseases, its role is often indirect, sometimes obscure, in many organic diseases. As far as science is concerned, most illnesses have underlying pathogenetic bases whose roles are generally far-reaching than the effects of stress.

Heart diseases are related to high fat diet, sedentary lifestyle, and smoking. Diabetes mellitus may have an autoimmune basis but can come with risk factors like obesity, lack of exercise, and genetics. Certain cancers are triggered by stepwise mutations (alterations in the DNA) that generate clones of abnormal cells that invade, metastasize, and eventually kill the body. In all these, stress plays a role, albeit less strongly than what is suggested by Dr. Duque.

The act of confession (reconciliation) taught by certain religions is not shared by all believers. Confessing sins to a priest by the Catholics has markedly dwindled in recent years. Dr. Duque may encounter criticism and opposition in recommending the holy sacrament to prevent non-communicable diseases. There are non-faith based treatments in medicine which are more predictable and efficacious.

Stress is part of the normal challenges of daily living. Not all people who go through significant emotionally disruptive situations get ill in the process. Sick and healthy individuals, suffer from harrowing conditions in varying degrees. As such the roles of stress in every illness are hard to quantify; their effects on the body aren’t uniformly the same.

I believe emotion plus the working of the mind, and the entire body equilibrium are influenced by stress more than it affects specific organs of the body. It is probably the reason why religion, spirituality, a belief in the supernatural, exercise, meditation, and relaxation regimens have some roles to play in disease management. The mechanisms behind their healing properties aren’t fully understood.

Yet, medical science offers credible explanations in disease causation and treatment. Illnesses can be attributed to causes like direct physical injuries, infections, cancers, immunologic conditions, hormonal swings, metabolic derangements, nutritional deficiencies, hereditary disorders, chemical, drug and radiation exposures, poisonings, among others.

Stress is only one among the long list. Therefore, “confession” as Dr. Duque suggested may help in being healthy, preventing sickness, and going through an illness and subsequent recuperation. But surely, we need to account for greater ways to fight diseases more than what have been recommended by the standard and complementary approaches of medicine. This is important in the holistic way of maintaining the health of the nation.(Photo Credits: denislpaul; sacerdotal) =0=


Increased suicide risk for white middle-aged Americans & the pessimism in time of recession

October 22, 2008

A research study covering the period of 1999 to 2005, shows a striking change in the demographics of suicide risk. From the records of the National Center for Health Statistics it is revealed that there is a sharp increase in the number of white middle-aged women who commit suicide compared to men.

To appear in the December 2008 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the report of Guoing Hu, PhD of Central South University in Changsha, China and Susan Baker, MPH of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has the following salient findings:

1. The suicide rate for white women 40-64 years old went up 3.9% per year during the study period.
2. The suicide rate among white men in the same age group increased 2.7% per year.
3. Overall suicide rates went up for whites — 1.1% per year. Suicide rates went down significantly for African-Americans — 1.1% per year.
4. Suicide rates remained stable for Asian and Native Americans.” —WebMed Health News (10/21/08, Colihan K, Chang, L. M.D.)

Because the exact reason for the increase in suicide in this period is unclear, Baker urges a review of the social changes that could drive more middle-aged persons to end their life. She says the new findings may help in the reorientation of mental health programs which focus on teenagers, young adult, and white middle-aged men, traditionally thought to belong to the high risk groups.

To guard against suicide, the authors suggest the following: learn new coping or problem-solving skills, adhere to cultural or religious beliefs that discourage suicide; develop strong support from the family and community members, and seek high quality treatment for mental or physical disorders or addictions.

Culled from data before the recent economic downturn, the report comes at a time when negativities and pessimism among Americans are high and on the rise. AFP (10/21/08.) Greater vigilance therefore against depression and suicide must be done as financial problems cause uncertainty, anger, and anxiety. (Photo Credit: by Coolcolonia4711; Laserbread)=0=

Fake Bus Stop for Confused Patients

September 13, 2008

In Dusseldorf, Germany, in front of a Benrath Senior Center is a fake bus stop designed for Alzheimer’s patients who may wander around wanting to go places. A bit heart-rending and funny, this idea became a solution for some confused patients suffering from memory loss who go astray on their intent to go home, visit friends or shop by themselves.

The bus stop with a yellow and green sign is something the patients recognize as a place they can take a ride. But the buses don’t really stop there. The oldies are often advised the bus comes later in the day and if they are invited for a coffee, most of them forget that they wanted to leave.

Richard Neureither, the director of the Benrath senior facility said, the fake bus stop which goes to nowhere is an effective way to rein over the patients with dementia and difficulty of remembering. The “trick” has been used by other senior facilities in the country. AARP Bulletin (09/08 Vol 49, no.7; (06//03/08) =0=

Nature and Nurture: marital crisis and the “bonding gene”

September 3, 2008

It’s intriguing to think that long term relationships are influenced by a “bonding gene” variant which may help predict if a spouse is likely to stay and be a good “husband material.”

Without negating the effects of socio-cultural factors on behavior, this is what researchers from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute in Stockholm Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics suggests in a study first observed in voles (rodents) and later on humans— species sharing the vasopressin gene 1.

Vasopressin known as the antidiuretic hormone (ADH,) a peptide stored in the posterior pituitary gland and released in the blood in a circadian fashion is mainly known to decrease urine formation in the kidneys, causes vasoconstriction which raises blood pressure, and exerts some influence in memory. Also, vasopressin is thought to play a role in social behavior such as male aggression and pair-bonding.

The researchers’ findings suggest, “men with a certain variant, known as an allele, of the vasopressin 1a gene, called 334, tended to score especially low on a standard psychological test called the Partner Bonding Scale. They were also less likely to be married than men carrying another form of the gene. And carrying two copies of the 334 allele doubled the odds that the men had undergone some sort of marital crisis (for example, the threat of divorce) over the past year.” Healthday (09/03/08, Mundell, E.J.)

If true, this gene which controls the production of vasopressin receptors adds up to the body of knowledge that certain genetic factors influence certain behavior with the interaction of other genes. Psychiatrist John Lucas of the New York Presbyterian hospital believes it’s hard to say a single gene controls “marital commitment.” Though the gene may have some effect on mate bonding, it’s unwise to attribute a complex situation such as a rocky marriage to the influence of one gene.

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago’s flight to reality & her bid in the International Court of Justice

May 29, 2008

Miriam Defensor Santiago, the Philippine Senator and Condolezza Rice, the US Secretary of State have something in common. High-powered and articulate, both women are apparently very intelligent. But their similarity quickly ends there.

A prodigy of Czech émigré Josef Korbel who inspired her to study Soviet affairs and world relations, Condi Rice, the astute black international peace broker from Birmingham, Alabama, has been earnestly diplomatic in pushing US policies in the world stage. On the other hand, Miriam Santiago, a self-made Visayan legislator, has been blunt and caustic in dealing with her colleagues, to an extent that baffles the public.

No wonder when Santiago complained that the Lopezes, owners of the ABS-CBN news outfit and stake-holders of Meralco were out to sabotage her candidacy as a jurist in the International Court of Justice (ICJ,) some people didn’t take her seriously. Filipinos assumed she had enough hyperbole, humor, and hubris that made her allegation seemed like another post-climacteric tantrum.

Santiago asserted ABS-CBN’s article on her candidacy was a form of blackmail— “a diabolic attempt to ensure that foreign countries will be influenced to vote against me, as the Philippine national candidate to the ICJ.” Daily Tribune (05/27/08, Rosales,A)

This brand of piquant accusation by Santiago made Filipinos laugh over her foes’ long-standing apprehension over her labile mental state. Claiming that her intelligence was superior, the UP-educated lawyer from Iloilo challenged President Joseph Estrada for an IQ competition. She claimed she would “jump from a plane” if the move to depose Estrada prospered, but only to say later with a giggle that her preposterous statement was a lie.

She called fellow senators and congressmen “idiots” who’d been intimidated to lock horns with her, whether in a swanky debate to thresh out legislative issues or in a plain collegial wrangle. When she talked, many senators listened. Probably, there were stunned by her self-patronizing erudition and blabbertalk.

That’s why restraint and decorum was far from her when she recklessly declared (to the embarrassment of the country,) that China “invented corruption” for which she later apologized.

In this backdrop of Santiago’s bipolar display of gutsy “brilliance” and bizarre thinking process, President Gloria M. Arroyo nominated her to the ICJ in July 30, 2007—a move actively promoted by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) which believes she’ll be a fine addition to the august body of international jurists.

But of course, Filipinos who know her better are skeptical.

Critical of Sen. Miriam Santiago’s solipsistic approach to reality, an internet blog by Jemy Gatdula, a Manila-based university mentor who specializes on the law of international economics and World Trade Organization asserted,

If, heaven forbid, she does get to be part of the ICJ, she will have her views, writings, and opinions dissected, analyzed, and critiqued as minutely and as unforgiving as possible. That is part of international law practice. What will she do when that happens? Call the international law scholars, international lawyers, government officials, and international tribunal members as “worms” or “idiots” in her usual raving manner?Blurry Brain (05/28/08 Gatdula J.)

The Supreme Court, the country’s highest judicial body whose opinion counts on such nominations as the ICJ, has given her no endorsement. ==0==