Random Health Notes
November 13, 2009, 03:27 PM
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1. Over the last decade, I've occasionally preached the prudence of using hand sanitizing alcohol gel. For example, keep a dispenser in your car for when you go through the Drive-Thru. This slowly seems to be catching on. Another habit to develop is to stop rubbing your eyes. Hand-eye contact is an important pathway for germs into your body. It's really not that hard of a habit to break. If you have to rub an eye, use the collar of your shirt.

2. A new study discussed in the NYT finds that various germs may contribute to strokes:

The infections in order of significance are Chlamydia pneumoniae, Helicobacter pylori, cytomegalovirus and herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2, according to the study, published online on Nov. 9 in The Archives of Neurology. The report will appear in the print edition of the journal in January.

This is more evidence for the Cochran-Ewald theory that germs play an underestimated role in illness. More money has gone into genetic research in recent years, but your genes didn't evolve to kill you. All else being equal, germs would prefer not to kill you—you make a nice host—but they don't really care about you all that much.

3. Gina Kolata has an article in the NYT entitled "Medicines to Deter Some Cancers Are Not Taken," noting that there are apparently useful preventative drugs for prostate cancer (finasteride and dutaseride) and breast cancer (tamoxifen), but few people take them to avoid getting cancer in the first place.

4. "Is it time to retire the football helmet?" ask Reed Albergotti and Shirley S. Wang in the WSJ, noting that Australian Rules football, where they don't wear helmets, seems to have fewer head injuries than American football, although, judging from promotional videos, kneeing a guy in the back of the head while jumping up to catch ("mark") a kicked ball seems to be considered the essence of sport by all true Australians. They do have tackling in Aussie football, although, lacking helmets, it's a lot more gingerly done than, say, Ryan Clark knocking Willis McGahee out cold with a helmet-to-helmet hit in last year's AFC Conference title game. The Australians tackle by tilting their heads back out of the way and trying to wrap the ballcarrier up and grapple him to the ground.

American football might be safer if helmets were never invented, but how would you make the transition with players trained to charge head-first suddenly playing unhelmeted?