Plasma Donations Put a Price on Human Life

Reminiscent of a medical facility, this plasma center, built only a year before is brimming with white lab coats, face shields and medical gloves. The sound of Velcro and beeps from blood pressure machines and the whirring of hematostats as they separate blood and plasma fill the air.

The appearance is all so sterile and clinical, but the workers here are not medically certified, they are only required to have a high school diploma and all are trained by each other. Of the almost 70 workers in this building, besides the LPN nurses and the one RN, certified phlebotomists (medically trained personnel that collect blood, plasma and tissue samples from patients) are 10 % of the workforce here which is a crapshoot for professionalism in the taking of blood and plasma.

As the donors (people who give a voluntary gift of plasma) are processed through, their vitals are taken and their appearance assessed as per the companies standard operating procedures (SOP). 38% of those interviewed come because they need the money to help pay for food, rent or bills, 60 % donate because the money supplemented their vacations or spending money, the other 2 % came because they believed that they were “Saving Lives.” Most are not your typical college students, but instead housewives, part-time workers or the working poor.

Plasmapherisis (the removal, treatment, and return of blood plasma from blood circulation) began back in the 1940’s in order to harvest clotting agents by the pharmaceutical companies – now there are more than 500 donation centers in the United States and more being built every day.

The buying and selling of Blood and Plasma is a multi-billion dollar per year business. Plasma is more commercial than Blood and can not be synthetically replicated. In 1988, more than 21 years ago, the industry made over 2 billion dollars per year alone making the current numbers staggering, but incredibly secret.

US Federal regulation is more liberal than anywhere else in the world allowing up to 60 liters (127 pints) a year. The next highest producing country is Canada allowing only 15 liters per year, which is the recommendation from the World Health Organization. More than half of the plasma used in medicines worldwide is from the US.

While US donors are the source of 60% of the world’s plasma, foreign companies like huge mosquitoes, are the ones that control the product from Japan, West Germany, Austria and Canada, flying in to the US to puncture the blood and plasma supply and then fly the profits home to feed on them. Not only do foreign companies own the majority of plasma collection centers, the majority of plasma medications are also sold abroad as well.

There are two different types of plasma donations…the first is non-profit. The largest would be The American Red Cross. According to FDA regulations, truly donated plasma and blood, without any funds exchanging hands between the donor and the organization, is the only blood or plasma that can be transfused into humans. If an individual is paid any money at all, for their time or for their plasma, it can not be used to “Save Lives” per se. Because for-profit donation centers feed on the need or the greed of the economic world temperature, non-profit donation centers are suffering. When non-profit donation centers suffer, then those who need plasma: burn, shock or trauma victims go without. Those looking to make a humanitarian donations should be donating blood and plasma at non-profit donation centers like the American Red Cross.

Donations that are “paid” for are sold to drug and research companies and with the economic downturn of 2007-2009, plasma donation centers are on the rise with one of the largest Austrian Pharmaceutical backed donation centers achieving a 19% rise in stock prices within a quarter while other markets were plummeting.

The ethical question of Plasma Donation comes at a cost. Organ donation is not an unusual thing, but bodily “donation” that is suppose to help and not hinder human survival is questionable when big business gets involved, and for-profit donation of blood and plasma is very big business.

Plasma that is donated to drug and research companies is refined down and made into medicines that “Save Lives”. What is the cost of those medicines to those that would die without them? $50,000.00 to $80,000.00 per year, which can really change the slogan, “We Save Lives” to “We Cant Afford to Live”. Those without insurance or government funded backing can not afford the medications or treatments and without those “donated” treatments, die. Most are government funded solutions, which means tax payers, donors or non-donors, are paying to treat those that would die without the treatments that are suppose to be a voluntary gift…so the saying, “Give until it hurts” may be more applicable.

For-profit donation centers started targeting college students in the 1970’s to improve the quality of the plasma supply. Companies speculated that college students should be healthier than the average population. In 1999 a study was conducted by Ohio University which found that university plasma donors were not as healthy as once thought. Paid donors are three times more likely than non-donors and four times more likely then Red Cross donors to drink alcohol five or more times a week. One eighth of non-donors, one quarter of Red Cross Donors to one third of paid donors smoke tobacco. Consumption of toxins or unhealthy lifestyle is not the only issue at hand today, body piercings, tattoos and branding are other issues that pose unhealthy donation bases as well. Body art is not always visible and unless confessed to, can not always be subject to scrutiny by the donation center.

For profit donation centers will pay $8.00 -$20.00 dollars for the first donation and then to encourage the donor to come back, will pay a higher price for the second donation within the seven day period.

Depending on the weight of the individual, the donation center will take 690mL to 880mL per donation. The 880mL bottles bring a price of anywhere from $300.00 to $1,700.00 when sold to the Pharmaceutical companies. If there is anything wrong with the plasma, if it’s hemolysised (infused with red blood cells) or if the plasma is lipemic (excess fat within the plasma) the plasma is sold to veterinarian companies and bring a lesser price for the donation center.

Plasma donation was worth approximately 4.5 billion dollars in 2007. Today there are approximately 1.5 to 2 million donors worldwide and is expected to grow significantly in the struggling economy of 2009.

Because of the rapid growth within the industry, corporations train their workforce to take the donations, paying an average of $10.00 per hour. The workforce usually does not have medical certification or medical training unless they are one of the 8 LPN’s or RN’s that are hired. A licensed medical doctor covers the center with his license, but he is rarely seen on the floor of the center. He comes in maybe once a week to sign charts and watch vitals being taken once on those being trained and then he is off again, taking only his cut of the centers profits. The corporate training is not done by the LPN’s or RN or even by the doctor, it is done by regular employees that do not have medical certification or license.

Corporate training consists of reading of Standard Operating Procedures in a conference room for several hours, sometimes days, then you are put out on the floor with a trainer to watch him/her go through the motions. If you have an efficient trainer, then you can process with professionalism, but if you do not, then most Medical Historians (Someone who takes vitals, transcribed medical information and does basic phlebotomy) struggle and their bedside manner, technique and record keeping will leave much to be desired and the donors do not get the care that they may need.

In this center, processing time is a task master. This center processed 570 donors in one day with an average of 390 customers a day. From the time donors check in with the receptionist until they scan out they are timed. Time is money in this industry. When doing vitals, the Medical Historians are given a maximum of 1 minute 21 seconds to complete the processing of the donor and sending them out to the phlebotomy floor for the donation which is not much time to practice accuracy. There is no time to check your gloves for contamination issues such as plasma, mucus or blood, so donors are subject to cross-contamination every time they come into the center. Company policy states that gloves should only be changed when they are contaminated with blood, torn, cut or every two and one-half hours.

That is to save time between donors and the crack of the whip comes from the managers as they wait with stop-watches and pink slips over their white coated slave labor force. The Medical Historians are moving so fast in order to keep from getting fired that there were 2 contaminations of workers within 2 months…both from filled but broken capillary tubes that were shoved into the workers skin through their gloves or through their lab coats and scrubs and into their skin. One contamination happened when a Medical Historian tried to pull a hair out of her mouth and realized that she had just consumed the previous donors blood. Donors have to ask specifically to have the Medical Historians “change your gloves” before they are allowed to do it.

Phlebotomists on the floor are moving just as fast. They have one minute to clean, find the vein and stick the donor. They can stick 3 times, twice per arm unless there is a loss of red blood cells or the donor is in danger and needing saline, then they can stick the third time for emergencies. This causes the likelihood of Hematomas (Blood that collects under the skin or in an organ) for the donors, large bruises over 3 inches and tender areas on the arm. Sometimes, because a donor has to be stuck twice, both arms result in hematomas. Donors have to heal up for several weeks before they can return to donate, which makes the donation process an unreliable source of income for anyone.

When this center is running at full gear, processing 570 donors per day, most who work an 8 hour shift are not allowed to take lunches and sometimes not allow to take bathroom breaks. The pace is fast and furious and as soon as the donors are processed and the plasma is back in the lab, they tear down the used sets and get ready for the next donor. Used sets can be dangerous, they are suppose to be heat sealed but sometimes if there is equipment failure, the tubing doesn’t get sealed completely and when the phlebotomist pulls the tubes off the machines, plasma can splash up and out into the face, unprotected arms and saturate clothing. The Personal Protective Equipment required by OSHA doesn’t always cover everything it needs to cover, especially since Personal Protective Equipment is not fitted or trained on, so the workers are in constant hazard of contamination, which happened at least once within a 3 month period of time in this center. There are not only hazards to the Employees, but to the donors as well in this atmosphere. Because the center is trying to fill beds as soon as possible, sometimes beds are not cleaned before the donors sit down and donors can find themselves sitting in the blood of the last donor.

There are 22 Right-to-Work states in the US, which means that in order to receive lunch and bathroom breaks, they have to be contractual or within Union Guidelines, if they are not, the Department of Labor can not enforce bathroom breaks or Lunches for the workers. Of the 22 Right-to-Work states, plasma centers flood at least 13 of those states, and build fewer plasma centers in non-right to work states.

Employees have a hard 8 to 10 hour shift in front of them, not only working long hours without breaks, but working in a precise and fast paced environment as well and without the certified medical training that is desired.

Because they do not have the training and because the bottom line pushes ethics, sometimes shortcuts are taken. When the plasma is delivered to the lab, the lab tech has only 30 minutes to process all those bottles. If the bottle is leaking, that bottle has to be thrown out because it is air contaminated, if the bottles take longer then 30 minutes to process before being put in the storage freezer, they are thrown out, a loss of a lot of money. What has happened in the past is that the lab tech will push the bottles back over into more time to process, or the lab tech will process an air contaminated bottle and just wipe it down, or instead of taking samples from each of the plasma bottles as required by FDA, they will open one bottle and take all the samples from that one bottle…because it saves time. These infractions can close a center, but only if it is caught and reported to the FDA, which questions the purity and usability of the plasma in the system and poses the question of contamination of medications as well.

Workers who stay in this business have after 3 months suffer from foot problems, back problems, hip problems, headaches, varicose veins and neck problems that are not covered by Workman’s Comp and the conditions are not covered by OSHA. This doesn’t include the possibility of contamination that may render them with HIV, Hepatitis or other communicable diseases. These are long lasting ailments and conditions with long lasting effects. Although there are only a few that stay in this field longer than 6 months, Supervisory positions are no better.

Supervisors have demanding jobs as well. They oversee the operations to maintain not only FDA standards but also the Company’s SOP (Standard Operating Procedures). Supervisors not only man the course of Medical Historians, but also phlebotomists on the floor and incoming data entry. A supervisor must be trained and tested on all aspects of phlebotomy and medical history as well as incoming data. If the Medical Historians and Phlebotomy work 8 to 10 hour shifts without lunch or bathroom breaks, then the supervisor works 12 hour shifts with the same conditions and with the added responsibility of catching all non-conforming events that may give the center a Quality Incident Report that, depending on the severity, may be reported to the FDA if it effects the health of the public.

When new donors come through the door, they are required to read a “New Donor” booklet, which has in it all the side effects, what to expect and some of the documentation that they will be required to sign. From the time they check in until they are done reading the book, even the donors are timed, up to 10 minutes to read their packet of legal documents. After they are done reading, they are asked for two forms of identification, usually a current driver’s license and social security card will be sufficient. If the driver’s license is not current or an address is not current, then a piece of mail that is dated less than 60 days can be used to verify the address. Social Security must be verified by Social Security Card, current Tax Information or Pay stub.

Plasma donors are usually not aware of side effects and most likely told that plasma donations are safe in the long term…the reality is that 7% of the human population has an anaphylactic reaction to sodium citrate or saline of which they will need intravenous medications immediately. If they do not receive treatment within minutes, the reaction is fatal.

In this center, we have at least 5 to 6 lesser reactions a day, sometimes more. Immediate side effects can be fainting, bleeding, edema at the venipuncture site, nausea, vomiting, drop in blood pressure, faintness, dizziness, blurred vision, coldness, sweating or abdominal cramps.

If allowed to progress the side effects can be tingling around the mouth or in the limbs, muscle cramps, metallic taste in the mouth and further reactions can lead to irregular heartbeat or seizures.

After prolonged donations, 12% of donors will have a lowered level of antibodies, causing an inadequate immune system response and the probability of increased infection or disease for the rest of their lives.

Plasma donations can save lives, especially when given freely and as a humanitarian gesture…drug and research companies would like the public to believe that they are the good guys in order to increase the bottom line in this Multi-billion dollar business, profiting on the generosity of some and the desperation and greed of others, treating donors like Cash Cows grazing on the bottom line.

For-profit donations feed a fire-storm of ethical questions such as, “if selling human organs is immoral, unethical and illegal, then what makes selling Plasma any different?” “If harvesting a human organ and holding it ransom to those that can pay the price to live, if selling it to the highest bidder is wrong, then isn’t harvesting plasma and selling it to those that would die without it the same thing?” What is the cost of a human life? With 15 million donations a year, the plasma industry looks the donor gift horse in the mouth everyday and laughs all the way to the bank. For-Profit plasma companies have a win-win situation…donors give their plasma or practically give their plasma to the industry and the blood sucking, plasma hoarding corporations can turn around and charge $50,000.00 to $80,000.00 a year to allow a person to live, long term cost projections are at $3.7 million to $5.9 million for medications that allow one person to live a normal life…and now we can put a price on what a human life is worth to the plasma industry.

The Cholesterol Conspiracy – The Truth About Statins And Nutritional Supplementation

“All truth passes through three stages.

First, it is ridiculed.

Second, it is violently opposed.

Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

Arthur Schopenhauer

(1788 – 1860)

What is the true cause of heart disease, and how can we truly reduce the risk of death?

Atherosclerosis, or Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), is the leading cause of death in both men and women. In the U.S. alone, there are more than one million heart attacks every year, one third of them resulting in death. The majority of men and women currently have, or are actively developing, atherosclerosis. By age 20, most people already have a 15-25% narrowing of their arteries due to plaque formation. By age 40, there is a 30-50% clogging of their arteries.

In the beginning of the Twentieth Century, congestive heart disease (CHD) was mostly a result of rheumatic fever, which was a childhood disease. However by the year 1936 there was a dramatic change in the main cause of heart disease. Cardiovascular disease caused by atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup, took first place as the primary cause of heart disease, making congestive heart failure a distant second.

During the 1950’s, the autopsies conducted on men who died of heart disease that revealed plaque-clogged arteries concluded that cholesterol was the cause of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and coronary artery disease. Cholesterol, not calcium, was considered the “cause” of heart disease, despite plaque consisting of 95% calcium and a relatively small percentage of cholesterol. By 1956 there were 600,000 deaths annually from heart disease in the U.S. Of those 600,000, 90% were caused by atherosclerosis, or clogged arteries. In fewer than 25 years, the number one cause of death in the U.S. had changed dramatically …from congestive heart disease to coronary artery disease.

Because cholesterol was dubbed the “cause” of atherosclerosis, the effort to lower cholesterol by any means began in earnest. Both the food industry and the pharmaceutical industry seized upon this opportunity to cash in on a cholesterol-lowering campaign by creating foods and drugs that would supposedly save lives. Diets, such as the Prudent Diet, were established to lower the amount of cholesterol intake from food. There was no doubt that both polyunsaturated oils and drugs reduced cholesterol, but by 1966 it was also apparent that lowering cholesterol did not translate into a reduced risk of death from heart disease.

As there was so much money to be made from pharmaceutical development, the campaign to produce cholesterol-lowering drugs kicked into high gear, despite the lack of evidence showing that the lowering cholesterol reduced the risk of untimely death from heart disease.

Heart disease kills 725,000 Americans annually, with women accounting for 2/3 or nearly 500,000 of those deaths. After thirty years of cholesterol-lowering medications’ failure to significantly lower the death rate from cardiovascular disease, in 1987 a new and more dangerous class of drugs was unleashed upon the world: the “statin” drugs. Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs are now the standard of care that physicians are indoctrinated into prescribing to reduce cardiovascular disease. Are statin drugs the best way to prevent heart attacks and death?

Before 1936 the most common type of heart disease was congestive heart disease (CHD). It rarely caused sudden death and could be treated with the drug digitalis. The incidence of CHD remained stable until 1987, after which the incidence of the disease skyrocketed. Interestingly, the timing of the increased incidence of congestive heart disease coincides with the introduction of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. Could cholesterol-lowering statin drugs have something to do with the weakening of heart muscles and the increased incidence of congestive heart failure? We will see that lowering the body’s co-enzyme Q10 levels, a side effect of statin drugs, does indeed increase the risk of muscle damage, including the muscles of the heart.

Atherosclerosis is a disease characterized primarily by inflammation of the arterial lining caused by oxidative damage from homocysteine, a toxic amino acid intermediary found in everyone. Homocsyteine, in combination with other free radicals and toxins, oxidizes arteries, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, which in turn releases C Reactive Protein (CRP) from the liver-a marker of an inflammatory response within the arteries. Inflammation (oxidation) is the beginning of plaque buildup and ultimately, cardiovascular disease. Plaque, combined with the thickening of arterial smooth muscles, arterial spasms, and clotting, puts a person at a high risk of suffering heart attack or stroke.

For years, doctors have hyper-focused on cholesterol levels. First it was the total cholesterol; later the focus became the ratio of “good” HDL cholesterol to “bad” LDL cholesterol. In other words, how much of your cholesterol was good, and how much was bad? Of the two, the important parameter is the level of HDL cholesterol, not LDL cholesterol. HDL, or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, is responsible for clearing out the LDL cholesterol that sticks to arterial walls. Exercise, vitamins, minerals, and other antioxidants, particularly the bioflavonoid and olive polyphenol antioxidants, increase HDL cholesterol levels and protect the LDL cholesterol from oxidative damage, and therefore do more to reduce the risk of heart disease than any medication ever could.

There is nothing inherently bad about LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is critical to maintain life. LDL cholesterol only becomes “bad” when it is damaged, or oxidized by free radicals. Only the damaged, or oxidized form of LDL cholesterol sticks to the arterial walls to initiate the formation of plaque.

Let us look towards cigarette smoking for a simple example demonstrating that we really need to reduce oxidized LDL cholesterol to prevent atherosclerosis, as opposed to indiscriminately lowering LDL cholesterol with statin drugs. Everyone knows that cigarette smoking increases the risk of many chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Smokers with normal levels of LDL cholesterol are at an even greater risk of developing heart disease than a non-smoker who has elevated levels of LDL cholesterol. Of course the reason why a smoker with normal levels of LDL cholesterol is at greater risk of disease is because his LDL gets excessively oxidized.

Cigarette smoke releases so many toxins and free radicals that the LDL cholesterol, the triglycerides, and the arterial walls are extensively oxidized. Homocysteine levels are also increased by cigarette smoking which further oxidizes LDL cholesterol and the arterial lining. Oxidation is the initiating cause of atherosclerosis. Therefore, the more and longer one smokes, the more oxidative damage he sustains and the greater his risk of developing heart disease. The degree of oxidation directly corresponds to the risk of heart disease.

If you are not taking vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants then your LDL cholesterol is being oxidized, it is sticking to your arterial walls, and you ARE developing heart disease EVEN IF YOUR CHOLESTEROL LEVELS ARE NORMAL! LDL cholesterol starts sticking to arterial walls before the age of 5.

Among the many free radicals that damage cholesterol, triglycerides and the arterial lining is homocysteine, a toxic intermediate biochemical produced during the conversion of the amino acid methionine into another important amino acid, cysteine. Both methionine and cysteine are non-toxic, but homocysteine is very toxic to the lining of the arterial endothelium. Homocysteine oxidizes LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and the arterial lining.

Homocysteine is an amino acid normally produced in small amounts from the amino acid methionine. The normal role of homocysteine in the body is to control growth and support bone and tissue formation. However a problem arises when homocysteine levels in the body are elevated, causing excessive damage to LDL cholesterol, as well as to arteries. Furthermore, homocysteine actually stimulates growth of arteriosclerotic plaque, which leads to heart disease.

Thyroid hormone controls the level of homocysteine, but numerous factors play a role in the elevation of homocysteine. Normal aging, kidney failure, smoking, some medications, and industrial toxins all elevate homocysteine levels. Interestingly, estrogen helps lower homocysteine.

Homocysteine becomes elevated in the blood with a deficiency of the B vitamins-B6, B12 and folic acid. Genetics also play a role. About 12% of the population has an undetected defect requiring higher levels of folic acid than the rest of population to help maintain homocysteine levels in a safe range (below 6.5). Therefore if you have high homocysteine levels (> 7.0) even though you are taking supplemental B complex vitamins, then you may be among the 12% who need more than 1000 mcg of folic acid per day. In addition, betaine, also known as trimethylglycine (TMG) lowers homocysteine.

Homocysteine is second only to cigarette smoking in its oxidative destruction. It causes small nicks or tears in the arterial lining, while also oxidizing and damaging LDL cholesterol. The damaged, or oxidized LDL cholesterol sticks to the homocysteine-damaged areas of the arterial lining. The combination of oxidized LDL cholesterol and a damaged arterial lining is what causes LDL cholesterol to stick to the arteries, whether or not the LDL cholesterol level is normal.

Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs are the standard for treating high cholesterol. This is dogma, and anyone who states otherwise is committing medical heresy. Many people find it hard to believe that pharmaceutical companies could ever succeed in paying medical researchers, medical associations, and doctors to recommend something detrimental to our health.

Most people do not know that pharmaceutical companies fund medical institutions, medical education, medical conferences, and still reward doctors and research institutions for providing favorable results on their drugs. Likewise, pharmaceutical companies often suppress negative results from studies done on their drugs. Money has the power to sweep negative results and serious side effects under the rug. Money has the power to influence the FDA to decide which drugs make it to market and which drugs become the “standard” of treatment.

Former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), Dr. Marcia Angell, warned of the problem of commercializing scientific research in her outgoing editorial titled “Is Academic Medicine for Sale?” Angell called for stronger restrictions on pharmaceutical stock ownership and other financial incentives for researchers. She said that growing conflicts of interest were tainting science, warning “When the boundaries between industry and academic medicine become as blurred as they are now, the business goals of industry influence the mission of medical schools in multiple ways.” She did not discount the benefits of research but said, “a Faustian bargain” now existed between medical schools and the pharmaceutical industry. Angell left the NEJM in June 2000 and has written a book, “The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It.”

Two years later, in June 2002, the NEJM announced that it was going to begin accepting articles that were written by biased researchers, as there weren’t enough unbiased researchers left to write articles. In other words, most research institutions were now funded by one or more of the numerous pharmaceutical companies.

An ABC report noted that a survey of clinical trials revealed that when a drug company did not fund a study, favorable results regarding a drug were found only 50% of the time. In studies funded by drug companies favorable results about the drugs were reported an amazing 90% of the time. Money can and does buy the desired results. This is how most medical research and drugs are now developed and brought to market.

In 1977, the internationally-renowned heart surgeon, Dr. Michael DeBakey pointed out that only 30-40% of people with blocked arteries and heart disease have elevated blood cholesterol levels, and posed the logical question, “How do you explain the other 60-70%?”

Because lowering cholesterol did not reduce the risk of death from heart disease, the Cholesterol Consensus Conference in 1984 developed new guidelines to lower the “acceptable level” of cholesterol. High cholesterol would now be the diagnosis for any man or woman with a cholesterol level over 200. Doctors had to convince their patients that they had the disease and needed to take one or more expensive drugs for the rest of their lives.

However, when lowering total cholesterol levels below 200 did not translate into saving lives from heart attacks, the focus then turned to LDL cholesterol levels. The “disease” of high cholesterol was refined to the disease of high LDL cholesterol. The unfortunate patient who had an LDL cholesterol level above 130 was now condemned to a lifetime of expensive drugs. Though completely illogical, even when a person with normal LDL cholesterol levels suffered a heart attack, he would still be prescribed a cholesterol-lowering drug.

As we shall see, statin drugs reduce the risk of death by repeat heart attacks by as much as 30%, but interestingly enough, the mechanism of action in reducing the risk of death after a heart attack is not via statin drugs’ ability to lower cholesterol! It has been discovered that statin drugs have a modest anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect. Yet, there are many natural antioxidants that reduce inflammation and oxidation of LDL cholesterol and the lining of the arteries, which may soon be discovered to be more effective in reducing the risk of death than “antioxidant drugs,” without toxic side effects.

The myth that high LDL cholesterol is the primary cause of heart disease, and that we must be on drugs to protect ourselves is dispelled by the evidence. If the premise were true that people with high levels of LDL cholesterol get heart disease, then we could assume that people with normal levels of LDL should not get heart disease, or at least very few should get it. However, as Dr. DeBakey observed, approximately 60% of those who die from heart disease have normal LDL cholesterol levels!

Furthermore, after over 45 years of doctors prescribing cholesterol-lowering drugs, heart disease and stroke still remain the number one cause of death in both women and men. This says that regardless of whether you have a high or a normal level of cholesterol, you have a 50% chance of dying from heart disease. If this is so, and it is, then why take a dangerous drug to attempt to lower your cholesterol in the first place?

In 2001, the target level of LDL cholesterol was lowered from 130 to 100, and overnight the number of people considered to be candidates for cholesterol statin drugs doubled. Many people such as myself bristled at the news, because we knew the effectiveness of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in preventing and reversing heart disease. Many of us could see the conspiracy for what it was.

The level at which LDL cholesterol is considered normal has continually been influenced by pharmaceutical companies, who pull the financial strings of research grants that keep medical schools and medical organizations in business. The lower they can establish the level at which LDL cholesterol is considered to be normal, the more people automatically become victims of the dreaded disease of “high cholesterol.” Therefore, more people will be persuaded that they need to be taking a statin drug, and voilà, more profit for the manufacturers. When you consider the size of the profits already received, let alone the potential profit from statin drugs over the next several years, the cholesterol conspiracy is one of the largest money making schemes ever perpetrated on the world.

In July 2004, the level of LDL cholesterol considered normal underwent another change. The new norm plunged from 100 to 70, virtually doubling again the number of people who are “infected” with the plague of high cholesterol. Why, it’s the epidemic of our time! Many enlightened people howled at this news, wondering if the masses would ever wake up and see who is behind this, and why. Why is the medical establishment ignoring the thousands of published medical studies that show the beneficial effects of nutritional supplements against heart disease? Why is the medical establishment down-playing the dangerous and deadly side effects of statin drugs?

The “updated” LDL cholesterol recommendations were published in the July 2004 issue of the American Heart Association’s publication, Circulation. A panel from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health, which is endorsed by the American College of Cardiology, and the American Heart Association, were the ones who actually pronounced the new cholesterol level at which drugs should be prescribed. Sounds pretty official and reliable if these powerful medical institutions are backing up these recommendations, right?

The fact is eight of the nine panel members making the new LDL cholesterol recommendations were being paid by the statin-producing pharmaceutical companies. The panelists did not disclose their financial conflict of interest. This information was uncovered by Newsday, a Long Island, New York

newspaper (D. Ricks and R. Robins, Newsday, July 15, 2004). Seven of the nine panelists have financial connections to Pfizer, the makers of Lipitor®. Five of the nine served as “consultants” to Pfizer. So, what did the other two panelists do to deserve their money? Seven of the nine panelists also received money from Merck, the producers of Zocor®, with four of them serving as “consultants” to the company. Eight of the panelists who made the recommendations that would increase the prescribing of statin drugs have received either research grants or honoraria from Pfizer, Merck, AstraZeneca, Novartis, Glaxo Smith Kline, Johnson & Johnson, Bayer, and many other drug companies that produce statin drugs.

You would think that with all the advertising and recommendations from medical experts on the benefits of statin drugs, the medical community would possess overwhelming evidence that the drugs reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. A hint of some of the smoke and mirrors in the pharmaceutical companies’ advertising can be seen in their TV commercials. Read carefully the small print on some of Crestor’s® commercial advertising. Their commercial states how much it lowers LDL cholesterol. However, in the same ad you can read, “…Crestor® has not been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease or heart attack.” If so, then why take it? Isn’t the bottom line to prevent death?

The system for reporting adverse effects from medications is tremendously flawed, so much so that many people are seriously harmed or killed by some medications before they are finally removed from the market. Most doctors do not know what symptoms or effects are due to the drug, what should be reported, or even to whom to report adverse effects. They assume that the research that went into developing the drug has already identified all the effects and that a drug brought to market is “safe.” However, only one in twenty side effects is ever reported to either hospital administrators or the FDA.

Statin drugs block cholesterol production in the body by inhibiting the enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase in the early steps of its synthesis in the mevalonate pathway. Cholesterol is one of three end products in the mevalonate chain. This same biosynthetic pathway is also used to create co-enzyme Q10, or co-Q10, as well as dilochol. Therefore, one unfortunate consequence of statin drugs is the unintentional inhibition of both Co-Q10 and dilochol synthesis.

The drug information insert of a statin drug states that it lowers co-enzyme Q10 levels. Most doctors have forgotten their biochemistry class in medical school, and forgotten about the importance of Co-Q10. Therefore they apparently are not concerned about such a statement on the drug labeling information sheet. They may even reassure their patients that lowering Co-Q10 is nothing to worry about, but at the same time warn them that the drug may cause liver damage and to have their liver enzymes checked every three to six months to make sure the drug isn’t killing them. They do not realize that it is the depletion of Co-Q10 that leads to liver damage and death.

Ubiquinone, or co-enzyme Q10, is a critical cellular nutrient created in the cell’s mitochondria, the “engines” that produce energy for the cell. Mitochondria use sugar, oxygen, and water to produce energy molecules known as ATP. Without ATP cells could do nothing. Damaged tissues could not be repaired. Cells could not divide or produce or utilize proteins, enzymes, or hormones. Death of cells, and indeed of the human body would occur if ATP could no longer be produced and utilized. Co-Q10 functions within the mitochondria as an electron carrier to cytochrome oxidase, our main respitory enzyme, which helps turn oxygen and sugar into energy. The heart requires high levels of oxygen, sugar, and Co-Q10 since it utilizes a lot of energy. A form of Co-Q10 called ubiquinone is found in all cell membranes, where it plays a role in maintaining membrane integrity, so critical to nerve conduction and muscle contraction. Co-Q10 is also vital for the formation of elastin and collagen, which make up the connective tissues of the skin, musculature, and the cardiovascular system.

The most common side effect of statin drugs is muscle pain and weakness. In fact, many patients who start on the statin drugs almost immediately notice generalized fatigue and muscle weakness. This is due to the depletion of Co-Q10 needed to support muscle function. Dr. Beatrice Golomb of San Diego, California, is currently conducting a series of studies on statin side effects. The pharmaceutical industry insists that only 2-3% of patients get muscle aches and cramps, when in fact in one study, Golomb found that 98% of patients taking Lipitor®, and one-third of the patients taking Mevacor® (a lower dose statin), suffered noticeable to significant muscle problems.

Some people on statin drugs lose coordination of their muscles. Some develop pain in their muscles, some are not able to write due to loss of fine motor skills. Many lose the strength to exercise. Others are falling more frequently as their muscles give out, still others have trouble sleeping due to muscle cramping and twitching. Even worse, many people are experiencing most of these side effects. The problems are so numerous, it is difficult to list all the symptoms people might experience. These problems do not come from the “disease” of high cholesterol, but the disease of ignorance in prescribing these drugs.

As we age, Co-Q10 levels decline naturally. From the age of 20 to 80, Co-Q10 levels fall by nearly 50%. Along with the natural decline of Co-Q10, comes a natural decrease in energy and an increase in the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. If the natural decline of Co-Q10 levels increases the risk of fatigue, cancer, heart disease, and stroke, would it not make sense that accelerating the decline of Co-Q10 levels with statin drugs would have the same effect? They do indeed!

Demonstrating the importance of Co-Q10 to cardiovascular health, in a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study of people either taking or not taking statin drugs, supplementation with Co-Q10 reduced the risk of heart attacks and death in those with heart disease and prior heart attacks by 50%, regardless of whether they were on a statin drug or not. (Singh R, Neki N, Kartikey K, et al. Effect of coenzyme Q10 on risk of atherosclerosis in patients with recent myocardial infarction. Mol Cell Biochem. 2003 Apr; 246(1-2):75-82.)

Additionally, Co-Q10 was shown to increase blood levels of vitamin E and significantly increase the levels of protective HDL. As low HDL is a major risk factor for heart disease, increasing it is a definite benefit. Statin drugs were shown not to provide any benefit beyond that of supplementing with Co-Q10. Let me make this clear – in this study only the co-enzyme Q10 provided any benefit, not the drugs!

Cardiologist Dr. Peter Langsjoen of East Texas University reported the effects of Lipitor® among 20 patients who started with completely normal hearts. After six months on a low dose of 20 mg of Lipitor® per day, two thirds of the patients started to show signs of heart failure, as seen by abnormalities in the heart’s filling phase. According to Dr. Langsjoen, this malfunction is due to Co-Q10 depletion. Nine controlled trials using statin drugs in humans have been conducted thus far. Eight of these showed significant statin-induced Co-Q10 depletion leading to a decline in left ventricular function and other biochemical imbalances.

In the United States, the incidence of heart attacks over the past ten to fifteen years has declined slightly. But congestive heart failure and cardiomyopathy have risen alarmingly. Is it a coincidence that statin drugs were first marketed in 1987, and then from 1989 to 1997, deaths from congestive heart failure more than doubled? 38 It scares me that virtually all patients with heart failure are put on statin drugs, even if their cholesterol is already low. In my opinion, the worst thing to do for a failing heart is take a statin drug. The best thing is to take is a full range of quality nutritional supplements, …vitamins, minerals, fish oil, and other antioxidants, including Co-Q10.

Various antioxidants work synergistically, each contributing to the fight against free radicals in different areas and in different ways. In the blood stream, water-soluble antioxidants, such as vitamin C, and grape seed extract come in contact with and neutralize free radicals before they damage LDL-cholesterol. Other antioxidants saturate arterial walls and other tissues, and protect collagen and elastic fibers from free radical damage, reducing inflammation and plaque formation. The fat-soluble antioxidants, vitamin E, beta carotene, and co-enzyme Q10 ride along in the blood fat (triglycerides) and LDL cholesterol, protecting them and the endothelium from oxidation. Vitamin E sits on the surface of LDL cholesterol, protecting it from free radical damage. Beta carotene, grape seed extract and olive extract penetrate deeper inside the LDL cholesterol and arterial walls, adding more protection from oxidation. Quercetin and alpha lipoic acid work through nitrous oxide pathways to reduce high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease.

A report published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2005 looked at 97 double-blind controlled studies comparing the efficacy of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs to fish oil. They found that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs reduced the risk of death from heart disease by only 13%, and

interesting enough it was NOT due to the effect of lowering cholesterol. The benefits, although small, were derived from the fact that statin drugs have a slight antioxidant effect.

Even more interesting, the salmon oil was shown to reduce the risk of death from heart disease by 23%, nearly double the benefit of statin drugs. Salmon oil is an omega-3 fatty acid that gets incorporated into cholesterol and triglycerides and prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Since LDL cholesterol is protected from excessive oxidation there is less plaque buildup and less risk of heart disease.

Inflammation is a well-known component in the formation of atherosclerosis. To keep it simple, think of inflammation and oxidation as the same process. The immune system’s response to inflammation is to

release peroxides that act like acid to break down damaged tissues, so that cells from the immune system, macrophages, can consume the molecules and clean up the site. But peroxides escalate the oxidation/inflammation process, thus damaging more tissue. The arterial walls become more inflamed, escalating the formation of plaque and scarring. The downward cycle continues until atherosclerosis is so advanced that the occurrence of a heart attack or stroke becomes imminent.

The liver’s response to inflammation is to release C reactive protein (CRP) into the blood. Other inflammatory causes can cause elevated CRP levels, including cigarette smoking, obesity, insulin insensitivity, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, infections, dementia, colorectal cancer, high blood pressure, and aging. Accordingly, elevated CRP levels are a direct indication of inflammation in the body and that atherosclerosis, including heart disease, is actively developing.

Homocysteine and high sensitivity CRP levels can and should be tested. Dr. Jialal, of the Universtity of Texas Southwestern Medical School at Dallas, is well known for his research correlating oxidized LDL cholesterol as the true cause of atherosclerosis, has also identified high sensitivity C reactive protein as a predictive risk factor for inflammation of arterial walls and plaque formation. Your doctor may not test for these routinely, but you should insist on getting these tests done. Both of these predictive values can be kept at “safe” levels. Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids can lower the levels of homocysteine and CRP. The B vitamins, along with betaine, or tri-methyl-glycine (TMG), change homocysteine into safer amino acids and reduce inflammation of the LDL cholesterol and the arterial lining.

When you receive the results of your homocysteine test, do not accept the answer, “Your test was normal.” Ask for the actual number. The doctor and nurse usually know what is normal by what the lab slip states as the “normal range.” Most lab results report a normal homocysteine level as being below 10.4, when in fact, since the early 1990’s, researchers have known that a homocysteine count above 6.5 signals a rapid linear rise in the risk for heart disease.

Furthermore, with every 3 point elevation of homocysteine above 6.5, e.g., when homocysteine levels are 9.5, the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) rises by an additional 35%! Yet you may be told that 9.5 is “normal and not to worry.” With a homocysteine level of 12.5, the increase in the

risk for heart disease exceeds 70%. The greater the homocysteine level, the greater the oxidation

of both LDL cholesterol and the arterial lining. The greater the inflammation, the higher the CRP. Is it any wonder that homocysteine and CRP levels are more predictive for risk of heart disease than cholesterol levels and ratios?

I need to emphasize that anyone whether they have a medical problem or not, should discuss this information with their physician before acting upon anything written here. The information provided is not meant to diagnose or treat any disease. It is for informational purposes only; and no one should make decisions about their medications without consulting with their physician. No one should come off a cholesterol-lowering statin drug in lieu of nutritional supplements without a thorough discussion with their physician who is keenly aware of all the pros and cons of both treatment modalities.

In summary, I recommend a full spectrum of quality nutritional supplements, along with a healthy diet and exercise, to help obtain and maintain optimal heart and arterial health. I believe all would agree that lifestyle changes are the most important factor for optimal health, …and many believe that quality nutritional supplements are key in protecting against the process that leads to, and accelerates the development of almost all chronic degenerative diseases, that of oxidation. To combat oxidation we need a full range of quality antioxidants.

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Cardiovascular Risk May Be Indicated by Some Unusual Factors

There are times when researchers uncover interesting collateral information when attempting to find answers to the most puzzling health questions. Over the past several years, many of these unusual findings have been related to an individual’s risk for developing heart disease.

Earlobe Creases

It sounds implausible and slightly amusing, but more than two dozen scientific studies conducted over the past few decades have examined the relationship between earlobe creases and increased risk for heart disease. Perhaps the most well-known of these studies was published in 1991. Researchers from the University of Chicago followed more than a hundred subjects for 10 years and discovered that individuals with a diagonal crease across the earlobe had markedly higher instances of heart disease or death from heart-related conditions than those without such a crease. The researchers in Chicago were not alone in their findings.

Swedish researchers performed over 500 autopsies on victims of cardiac arrest or heart disease and found that earlobe creases were a “positive predictive value” for more than 68 percent of the subjects they examined. More than 80 percent of their subjects under the age of 40 who had succumbed to coronary artery disease had earlobe creases. A Turkish study determined that earlobe creasing was a more serious risk factor for heart disease than family history, diabetes, or even smoking. At the Montreal Heart Institute, researchers reviewed cases of nearly 350 admitted patients. Of those, 91 percent of patients with earlobe creases had heart disease as compared with only 61 percent of those without creases. Irish scientists studied almost 250 patients and found that earlobe creases were indicative of heart disease in more than 71 percent of participants.

All of this research appears to support what statisticians call low sensitivity-high specificity. This means that individuals without earlobe creases are not necessarily immune from heart disease, but that individuals with earlobe creases are much more likely to have cardiovascular trouble at some point in their lives. Though this evidence seems to present a strong case for the relationship between earlobe creases and cardiovascular disease, it is essential to note that many similar studies have found no such connection. There is currently no medical consensus on whether or not earlobe creases are a significant indicator of heart disease or an individual’s predisposition for it. Most experts believe that creasing simply increases with age, as does the risk for developing cardiovascular disease.

However, earlobe creases are certainly not the only unusual supposed risk factors for heart disease.

Leg Length

In 2004, British researchers at Bristol University announced that they had found evidence to support the relationship between the length of a woman’s leg and her risk for developing heart disease. Among 4000 participants, those with the shortest legs were at the greatest risk for developing heart problems. For every four centimeters above a specified baseline leg length, the risk decreased by 16 percent. Leg length remained a strong indicator of risk even after more traditional causes of heart disease such as high cholesterol, weight, age, tobacco use, and poor lung function were accounted for.

Ring Finger Length

Researchers at Liverpool University in the United Kingdom found that males with short ring fingers had lower testosterone levels which increased their risk of early heart attack. The Liverpool study measured participants’ index and ring fingers, then divided the lengths. In subjects with a ratio of measurements greater than 1.0, testosterone levels were found to be significantly lower than in those subjects whose measurements fell in a smaller measurement ratio. Low testosterone levels have been linked to higher instances of early heart attack.

Male Pattern Baldness

In a study of more than 22,000 male physicians conducted over the course of 11 years, researchers found that participants with frontal baldness were nearly 10 percent more likely to develop heart disease than their non-balding counterparts, while subjects with more hair loss or crown baldness were 23 to almost 40 percent more likely to have heart disease. A 2007 study by researchers at the University of Arizona confirmed that baldness does in fact increase risk for heart disease, but it ultimately concluded that hair loss by itself was not a reliable indicator of risk.

Bad Breath

Halitosis is just one of the side effects caused by advanced gum disease, and studies have shown that individuals with this condition produce antibodies that increase their risk of heart disease by as much as 100 percent. In fact, one study even reported that treating gum disease could reverse thickening of the carotid arteries.

Clear Skin

Generally thought to be a positive trait, one British study found that clear skin could be a potentially life-threatening condition. Of 11,000 males who participated in the study, those with acne as teenagers were 30 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular or heart disease in middle age and beyond.

Discolored Mucus

A recently published study in the Biochemical Journal has suggested that there is a connection between cardiovascular disease and green-tinged mucus. The discoloration is caused by an enzyme in the body called myeloperoxidase, which fights bacteria by producing an acid that can damage tissue and lead to asthma, arthritis, and thickening of arterial walls.

Earwax

There are two different types of earwax: dry and wet. Individuals produce only one kind or the other for the extent of their lives, and earwax type seems to be a hereditary trait. A 1966 Japanese study found that individuals who produced dry earwax had an increased risk of arterial thickening than those who produced wet earwax. No other study since has confirmed these findings – a later peer review, in fact, concluded that the results should be viewed with suspicion. Yet when one considers all the other strange indicators of heart disease, certainly the kind of earwax an individual produces is no odder than any other potential risk factor.

Cardiovascular disease is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that should never be taken lightly. However, these unusual risk factors can surely add some levity to the conversation.

Official – Biting your Finger Nails Causes Heart Disease

Scientists at WITS university have discovered that biting your fingernails greatly increases your chances of heart disease. They also have seen a likelihood that you life expectance will be dramatically shortened to that of a heavy smoker.

The heart problems are caused by Bacterial Endocarditis which is an infection of the hearts inner lining (endocardium) and / or the heart valves.

Bacterial Endocarditis occurs when bacteria enters the blood stream, either though Finger Nail Biting or dental procedures. The bacteria then lodges itself heart valves or other damaged heart tissue

This will eventually lead to extensive heart damage which will in turn cause it to fail.

Apart from finger nail biting, you can contract Bacterial Endocarditis through other forms of surgery or dental procedures, teeth whitening is also a culprit. Some other medical procedures (such as colonoscopy, cryoscopy and sigmoidoscopy) increase the risk of bacteria entering the bloodstream.

Flu like symptoms, fever, chills, shaking are signs that you may have contracted Bacterial Endocarditis. You should talk to your doctor immediately. Your doctor will then need to do more tests, such as blood tests and echocardiography (ultrasound) to find out if you have Bacterial Endocarditis.

Usual treatment is a hospital stay for a few days with antibiotics. Antibiotics are usually started intravenously in the hospital, but many people can finish their treatment at home. For more complicated infections, heart surgery may be needed.

Long term damage can occur even if Bacterial Endocarditis is treated. Your heart may be weakened by the infection and may not pump properly, their also may be blood clots or damage to the heart muscle.

People who do not seek treatment for Bacterial Endocarditis may risk facing death.

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Cat Stevens – Where Did He Go?

If you were born before the sixties you may have wondered what became of then popular singer-songwriter Cat Stevens. What happened to his music career and where is he today?

The pop singer goes his own way

In the end of the sixties Cat Stevens who lives in England–born from a Greek father and a Swedish mother–pursued what we could call a “regular” pop musician career. The songs were of high quality but the arrangement were not much different from other typical pop songs in that period. It seems that this was not a life style which he could stomach because he caught ill with tuberculosis and ended up on a hospital.

After this experience he must have decided to change something in his life. He somehow got his record company to drop him. And then started to work with a new approach on his songs–in a more folk-rock direction.

The following albums with that new sound became extremely popular in the beginning of the seventies–many songs have the qualities of a strong melody and complex arrangements while they still can be played on a single guitar at the camp fire. It was as if the earlier person he had been before was forgotten–this was the real Cat Stevens.

The transformation to “Yusuf Islam”

If you listen carefully to the lyrics of the albums you will find a rich layer of search for spirituality and religion. So in the rear view mirror it is perhaps not so surprising that when the artist known as Cat Stevens finally finds some long searched answers in the Islam religion, he practically abandons his music career. He simply stopped making records at all in the end of the Seventies, and put his attention on the religion not to mention the understandable goal of having a life and a family of his own.

He changed his name to Yusuf Islam at the same time. Of course, as the productive artist he was, the creative process does not stop just like that. Now the output went into becoming one of the most respected spokesmen for the religion of Islam itself, always communicating the basic good intentions and values his newly found religion represents.

The music never stops

Actually, Yusuf did continue to make music but now he played music that would communicate the teaching of Islam. Of course, if you listen to some of this musical output which is obviously not meant for the broad public, the quality is sky-high as usual for everything this charismatic singer-songwriter does.

Now, he begins to realize that making a song is actually the best way to communicate something-instead of lecturing, and thus creating a debate where opinions can be questioned-as Yusuf said, “You cannot argue against a good song, and I have some really good songs”. And if you want to come out with messages of peace and understanding what is a faster way of spreading the words than pop music? So Yusuf is recording and singing live again – returning much to the old sound of Cat Stevens and not closing the door to that part of his life and career.

Where to start?

To listen to samples of the music of Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens, and get all your questions answered about this phenomenal artist, go to his own Cat Stevens-website and see for yourself.

9 Things That Hinder Business Growth

Have you ever wondered why some small businesses take off and grow very rapidly and others stay the same for years and years?

Small business growth takes strategy and strong leadership. Some new business owners achieve a certain level of success, sit back and fail to do what is necessary to grow the business.

9 Things That Hinder Small Business Growth

1. Lack of Vision

All businesses need a written vision statement to help direct their planning and decision making. If there is no clear vision, a business can waver with no specific direction. Lack of vision is detrimental to any organization. How can you plan, or have a business strategy without knowing where you want to go?

2. No Strategic Plan

Every organization needs strategy and should have a strategic plan to map out steps to achieving the strategy. The strategic planning process helps to keep an organization’s vision fresh and moving forward. Strategic plans need to be updated every few years as the market, environment and focus changes.

3. No Written Goals

Not having SMART Goals, and accountability for achieving those goals, is a sure way to impede the growth of an organization. Goals are what make a strategic plan happen. Not writing goals, and having a structured performance management process to achieve those goals, is an invitation for business failure.

4. No Desire to Grow

Believe it or not some businesses don’t have a desire to grow. With growth comes growing pains and sometimes business owners aren’t comfortable making the necessary changes for growth. Hiring the first employees and dealing with human resource management issues is an example of a growing pain. Other areas of growing pains are delegating and trusting others to do things the way you would do them. Growth requires a commitment from the top of the organization.

5. Not in Tune with Customer Needs

This is where many organizations get stuck. The world is changing at such a fast pace that unless an organization understands customer expectations and puts systems in place to take care of their customers, competitors will do it for them. Ensuring good customer service is critical to long term success. The fact is, customers pay the bills and employee salaries so you’d better find out what they want and give it to them!

6. Failing to Reinvest Back In the Business

When a business is just starting out it is sometimes difficult to reinvest back into the business, but not doing so can affect business growth. Keeping up with changing technology and updating facilities are examples of areas that can consume considerable resources but are important to meeting customer expectations. Clean, updated facilities can have an impact on customer perceptions and customer loyalty.

7. Failing to Delegate

As a small business grows, it becomes more and more important to learn the art of delegation. It is important for business owners to develop employees, delegate and trust others to complete tasks. Small business owners can quickly get overwhelmed with trying to manage every aspect of the business and learning to allow others to help is critical at this stage of growth. Successful small businesses have learned the skill of developing, delegating and letting go of lesser things so they can continue to drive organizational vision.

8. Not Collecting and Believing Data

Collecting, analyzing and making decisions based on data is another critical aspect of small business growth. Confronting “the brutal facts” (as described in Good-to-Great by Jim Collins) is one of the most important aspects of managing a small business. Understanding what the data is telling about the business can lead to changes in practice or improving processes. All organizations should have established critical success factors to help monitor and track performance toward goals.

9. Not Having a Clear Problem Solving Process

The reality is, every business has problems and as soon as one problem is solved another problem takes its place. That is what management does – solves problems. As small businesses grow, problems are created that need to be solved. As an example, outgrowing office space creates the problem of finding new office space. Finding new office space creates the problem of planning out the layout of the new space. Once a layout of new space is done, planning to move offices needs to be done. Organizations need to have structured processes for planning and problem solving. Having good leadership, coupled with good processes, can result in successful problem solving.

Lastly, thriving small businesses understand how to remove those things that impede growth and put a lot of focus and energy into strategy, planning and goal setting.

Prognosis of Hemangiosarcoma in Dogs

The prognosis of dogs surviving with Hemangiosarcoma, is very slim. I have searched the internet for answers ever since my dog Moebert died from this horrible disease. Hemangiosarcoma is a very aggressive type of cancer, very persistent and can rapidly spread elsewhere in the body to other tissues, especially liver, lungs, and the abdominal lining.  Hemangio(sarcoma) a blood-fed sarcoma; which means blood vessels grow directly into the tumor and it is usually filled with blood.

By the time you would see any “clinical signs” such as pale gums, cold to the touch (their body, mouth, and nose), labored breathing, abdominal swelling, just to name a few. it would probably be too late as it was with Moebert.

The sooner your veterinarian diagnosis and treats Canine Hemangiosarcoma the greater the chances of survival are, but unless they do blood work, x-rays and are looking for something specific they would never know either. How would you know that your dog might have a “Hemoabdomen” (which means free blood inside the abdominal cavity)? Sometimes the spleens will grow masses and they are normally either benign tumors which are (hemangiomas) or malignant tumors which are (hemangiosarcomas).

The treatment and the prognosis for a hemoabdomen depend entirely on the cause. Most often the cause of the bleeding has to be stopped surgically by removing the spleen. Or eventually the growth ruptures and the spleen bleeds. When a vascular organ like the spleen bleeds, the blood loss can be life-threatening resulting in a (hemoabdomen). Studies have shown that most bleeding tumors are more than likely to have been a hemangiosarcoma. There is a 50:50 chance that it could be either one the only way to know for sure is by doing a biopsy.

When the tumor on the spleen ruptures the dog usually hemorrhages profusely into their abdominal cavity which is usually very detectable to the veterinarian by the swelling of the abdomen. In my opinion it would still be too late to really be able to save your dog. Even if they could be stabilize which would involve taken Radiographs/x-rays and/or ultrasound, replacing the blood volumelost with IV fluids and blood transfusions and oxygen the outcome would be removal of the spleen but in many cases if it has metastasis; which means that is has spread elsewhere in the body and with that happening the prognosis becomes very poor. Remember Hemangiosarcoma is an aggressive cancer and that is the problem even with the removal of the spleen and tumor, the dog is probably spared death by bleeding to death but will probably eventually die from the cancer.

So what is the prognosis of Hemangiosarcoma in dogs?

In the long term if your dog is diagnosis with hemangiosarcoma their chances are slim to none. The survival time after a splenectomy is 3 weeks to 3 months, with chemotherapy it might increase the survival time to 5 to 7 months, only a few dogs have survived past a year. Of course the survival time may vary depending on the scale of disease, the aggressiveness and the follow up care. The follow up care normally includes monthly thoracic x-rays and physical exams which are necessary to watch for any reoccurrences of the cancer. Most dogs will probably die or be euthanized because of this metastatic disease. This type of cancer, sorry to say is fatal but if caught soon enough the dog’s life may be prolonged but to whose expense?…The answer is both you and your dogs.

If your dog is diagnosed with Canine Hemangosarcoma you will have to make some decisions which will be very hard to do to say the lease. First of all no one wants to do nothing to save their pet but what are you going to be putting your best friend through to do that, x-rays, blood test, surgery, pain only to have them surrender to cancer and die anyway. Should you consider their age and whether or not they have other health issues and what would their quality of life be like? Then you have to take in to consideration all the veterinarian bills that there would be to extend your dog’s life by only a month or three or maybe even days. This is not the kind of cancer you can cure with chemo (which can make your dog sick) if you get rid of the cancer from one place it has more than likely spread to somewhere else. The outcome is going to be the same.

Only you the owner can make this heart retching decision. No matter if you caught this disease in its early stages or not the prognosis is still going to be poor. I didn’t have to make any decisions; it seemed as if my dog Moebert made them for me. He never showed any signs that he was sick. It is true when they say that Hemangosarcoma is the “silent killer” because in most cases the cancer has already advanced before the dog owner would notice. Moebert did wait for me to get home from work so we both could say good-bye to one another; I know that on my heart.

Would I have put him through the surgery and everything else? If it would have saved his life and he would have been better and “cured”….you bet. He meant more to me than life.  I am so glad that I didn’t have to make a decision on whether to operate or even to consider euthanasia? Sometimes circumstances don’t give you time to ask questions and when you are so upset one wouldn’t be thinking straight anyway. I know I wasn’t, I probably would have done anything to keep Moe alive but it would not have been for his good it would have been for my own selfishness on not wanting to lose him and that would not have been right. I have never been so devastated over losing anything or anyone in my life as I am over my Moebert.

Love and hold your pet everyday and every chance you get because one never knows what could and can happen. You might not get another chance.

To You and Your Pets Health,

Alice

Bed Bug Control – Health Risks Associated With Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are small flat reddish brown insects that feed on the blood of people and animals. They feed on their hosts when the hosts are asleep, hence the name bed bugs. The sudden prevalence of these wingless creatures has brought up actions towards bed bug control.

Just because they are named bed bugs doesn’t necessarily mean that they are only found near beds or places where people or animals sleep. For proper bed bug control, other areas of the house must be inspected as well. Bed mites also are present in chairs, upholstery, furniture, and also in small, dark, protected spaces.

Bed Mites and Diseases

Studies show that bed mites do not carry a health risk, and they have never been known to transmit disease to humans. This doesn’t mean that there is no danger to a person’s health when it comes to the bites of these pests. Once bed mites are discovered, the area should be treated against these pests and proper bed bug control measures should be initiated.

One reason that bed mite control is important to some people is because a bug bite can cause an allergic reaction to them. Signs of an allergic reaction are itchiness, swelling, and discomfort.

These can also cause some psychological stress due to the anxiety caused of a bug bite during sleep.

MRSA

Researchers in Vancouver have discovered some of these pests contain Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). MRSA can cause infections of the skin, blood, and joints. It also causes pneumonia. MRSA kills 19,000 Americans annually.

Although not proven, the discovery suggests that bed mites may play a role in the transmission of MRSA, especially in areas that are highly infested. In places such as these, bed bug control is a priority.

As mentioned, there has not been any research that proves bed mites can infect humans with MRSA. But the study does suggest that treatment of bed mite in one’s home is important. Bed bug control should not be ignored.

When to Seek Medical Treatment

Bed mites are not known to carry diseases but it can cause allergies to some people. For a few, the allergies caused can be a serious health risk. Medical treatment is recommended if the person experiences any of the following symptoms:

  1. Shortness of breath
  2. Wheezing
  3. Chest pain
  4. Difficulty swallowing
  5. Lip or tongue swelling
  6. Dizziness/Fainting
  7. Rashes
  8. Spreading redness around the bite
  9. Fever

Although only a small percentage is allergic to bug bites, responsible bed bug control can save a person a trip to the hospital.

Money-Saving Kitchen Tip: Turn That Old Chest Freezer Into a High-Efficiency Refrigerator

I know, it's pathetic that at age nearly-60, I know next to nothing about electricity. I do know that compact fluorescents use less than incandescent bulbs, though CFLs are no ecological picnic. So we've changed out most of the bulbs around Taylor Springs, NM.

I also know about phantom electricity, the power that you're using even when things, like the TV, are "off." So, because I'm writing about this, I just got up and went around shutting down power strips, and the UPS the TV's plugged into, and the overhead fan, and the power cord for the indoor satellite radio. None of those appliances is in use during the day, when I'm home by myself, so why should they be pulling juice.

But the one appliance that's on all the time, that runs when it wants to, and is the biggest energy gobbler and least efficient of all is – the refrigerator. We have an old Crosley, which predates the Energy Star ratings. We do not have a Kill-a-Watt meter (available for $ 25 everywhere), so we do not know exactly how much electricity we're using, but I'm sure it's over $ 100 a year, maybe a lot over, and it's stupid.

I have long known that refrigerators, by design, do not work well. You're making cold by removing heat using compressors and motors and coils and fans, then you vent the heat into the kitchen, which in summer helps kick in your A / C. And every time you open the refrigerator or freezer door, you dump all the cold air out of the unit, forcing it to run again. Insane.

I've read about converting a top-opening chest freezer for use as a refrigerator. They make sense: they're better insulated than regular stand-up refrigerators, and because they open from the top, the cold stays inside instead of running out onto the floor. I've seen one conversion in use, in an off-the-grid house in Indiana, and it worked great, but as I said, I'm not much of an electrician, so I've never made a chest fridge of my own. Yeah, most chest freezers are smaller than standard household refrigerators, but we tend to keep a lot of stuff in the fridge that could, and should, be kept in the pantry instead. And we tend to just put stuff in the fridge every which way; a little organization and forethought would not kill us, especially if it results in permanent savings.

So I had written on my to-do sheet, "chest refrigerator," and started poking around the internet to see if I could find a cheap meter for converting a small chest freezer to a refrigeration unit, and save a bunch of energy .. . and money.

And voila. Mikey Sklar at Over and Jehanara Wendy Tremayne's site, Http://blog.HolyScrapHotSprings.com , "Digital & homesteading making all our stuff in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico," the I found a $ 49 plug-in unit The controller made ​​by vBulletin® Mikey, for converting freezers to refrigerators. Sklar says it'll reduce energy consumption from $ 100 / yr. to less than $ 10 / yr., so the unit will pay for itself in about six months.

And with 200 million refrigerators in the US alone, the potential savings are mammoth, both in dollars and in costs to the environment. Let's see, that's 200 million times $ 100 a year; that's $ 20 billion a year in electricity that we could cut to $ 2 billion, just by installing a plug-in $ 50 gadget into a used chest freezer. That's got to be the equivalent of a power plant or two, easy. A no brainer; no household should be without one.

By insulating the sides and front, leaving space where the air intake at the bottom is located, and not covering up the back, where heat's vented, you can cut the energy use even further. Have you ever felt the side of your refrigerator, and noticed that it's always slightly cool? That's because that even though the walls and door are insulated, they're not insulated enough, and a simple Styrofoam-and-paneling enclosure is certainly a worthwhile addition.

So, as an environmentalist and cheapskate, I've finally got this conversion on my Xmas wish list. There's a used appliance store up in Raton that I'm going to check out for a low-cost, working chest freezer. Free or cheap at a yard sale would be good, too.

Bronchitis In Children – 20 Must Know Facts For Parents

Bronchitis is a respiratory ailment that can happen at all ages. It scares all the parents as they do not want their children to be afflicted with the ailment. A key identification of this ailment is inflammation of a person's bronchi that is a part of our lungs.

First of all, the parents and / or caregivers can calm down as the medical findings have proved that bronchitis among children is not a chronic ailment.

Though among children bronchitis is certainly not a chronic ailment, the parents and / or caregivers must essentially acquire the knowledge on the disease. This way they would be able to help their child better while the child suffers a bronchitis attack.

In the disease of bronchitis, the air passages amidst the child's lungs & nose swell up owing to the viral infection. This affects the child's bronchi. Bronchi refer to the tubes where in the air passes through in to & out of the child's lungs. Many a times, the tracheas & windpipe are also affected by this inflammation.

Bronchitis is of two types – acute & chronic.

Acute bronchitis or the short term bronchitis is perhaps the most common among bronchial ailments. Chronic bronchitis usually appears among the adults. The ones who smoke heavily and / or are prone to inhaling the chemical substances have quite many chances to catch chronic bronchitis.

Acute Bronchitis

1. This type of bronchitis is the most common one for the winter season, especially among children.

2. The viruses attack the child's lining of bronchial tree that leads to infection. The swelling heightens as the child's body combats with the attack of the viruses.

3. As the swelling increases, more & more mucus is produced in the body.

4. The child is most likely to develop acute bronchitis in case the causative virus of the ailment is inhaled in the air that they breathe or it can get passed over from a person coughing.

5. Therefore, the ailment of acute bronchitis is most oft acquired by the air the child breathes.

6. The symptoms & signs of acute bronchitis among children are:

i. Runny nose
ii. Followed by cough
iii. Slight fever
iv. Experiencing pain in the back & muscle area
v. Sore throat
vi. Getting chills
vii. Malaise

7. In the early stage of acute bronchitis, the child suffers with dry & unproductive cough. This later on develops in to copious cough all filled with mucus. In some cases, the child vomits or gags as he / she coughs.

8. In case you notice the symptoms given above in the children, the experts say, it is high time that you should take the child to the physician. Initially the doctor does a physical examination and refers to the child's medical history to conclude whether he is suffering with the said ailment or not.

9. To verify the ailment developing in the child, the following tests are referred to by the medical practitioners:

i. Blood tests
ii. X-ray of the chest
iii. Lung Tests
iv. Pulse Oximetry
v. Sputum cultures

10. To cure the acute bronchitis among children the key word is taking rest. You must ensure that the child takes a good & well balanced meal. Also, drinking loads of non-caffeinated fluids is very helpful. Another key tip to cure this ailment is maintaining the in the surroundings of the child. You can do this by placing room humidifiers or keeping wet towels in several places in the house.

11. Some times the medical practitioners recommend some asthma related medications for the child. These medications help the child release the mucus jammed inside the child's bronchi tubes. Usually with these medications an inhaler is also prescribed.

12. To relieve the child's fever and the feeling of discomfort, analgesics are also a part of the prescription.

13. The parents and / or caregivers must note that hey should not give aspirin to the child who is suffering with bronchitis. This can lead to devastating results and other ailments like Reye's syndrome.

14. Along side, antihistamines must also be prevented as these can worsen the cough of the child.

15. In order to avoid recurring acute bronchitis for the child, you must ensure that the child washes his hands well regularly.

16. Also make sure that the child keeps away from all sorts of smokes like that coming from the belches or cigarettes.

Chronic Bronchitis

1. When the bronchial symptoms persistently afflict the individual for three months or more, it is termed as chronic bronchitis.

2. This usually initiates with a continuous irritation in the bronchial tubes.

3. Among children, acute bronchitis is rather common as compared to the chronic type of the ailment. The studies prove that chronic bronchitis hits the children usually when the symptoms of acute bronchitis are not treated well and in time.

4. Bronchitis must not be taken lightly as this ailment can also lead to other severe conditions like pneumonia.

Whenever your child experiences cough or cold, rather than thinking it to be a simple phase take it seriously and consider a visit to your physician as it might get dangerous for the child leading to bronchitis!

Top Causes of Homelessness in America

As many as 3.5 million Americans are homeless each year. Of these, more than 1 million are children and on any given night, more than 300,000 children are homeless.

While the general impression is that the homeless are primarily the chronic and episodic, those unfortunate individuals often seen living on the streets in the downtown areas of our cities, the fact is that more than half the homeless are families with children. The vast majority of these have been thrust into homelessness by a life altering event or series of events that were unexpected and unplanned for. Contrary to the belief that homelessness is primarily the result of major traumatic events or physical and mental disabilities, there are many top causes of homelessness in America.

Homelessness is, in fact, caused by tragic life occurrences like the loss of loved ones, job loss, domestic violence, divorce and family disputes. Other impairments such as depression, untreated mental illness, post traumatic stress disorder, and physical disabilities are also responsible for a large portion of the homeless. Many factors push people into living on the street. Acknowledging these can help facilitate the end of homelessness in America.

For those living in poverty or close to the poverty line, an “everyday” life issue that may be manageable for individuals with a higher income can be the final factor in placing them on the street. A broken down vehicle, a lack of vehicle insurance, or even unpaid tickets might be just enough to render someone homeless.

Divorce costs and the associated lowering of a family’s total income can cause one or more family members to become homeless. For families that can hardly pay their bills, a serious illness or disabling accident may deplete their funds and push them out onto the street. Today, the rapid, unexpected loss of jobs and resultant foreclosures has caused great dislocation among families and has dramatically added to the number of people without a roof over their heads.

Natural disasters often cause current housing situations to become untenable and costly repairs are often simply not possible. The results of Hurricane Katrina stand in bleak testimony to the power of nature to displace people.

The great challenge for the newly homeless is to figure out how to return to their normal lives. Organizations that build emergency shelters and transitional housing typically work with a larger number of service providers around the country whose mission is to provide the services, such as job training, social skills training, and financial training, that enable these people to regain employment and return to mainstream lives. The progression for these recently homeless is to first be housed in transitional residences where they can learn these skills, to graduate to assisted living in affordable housing while they build up economic reserves and rebuild their employment resume, and then to graduate to full, market rate housing.

Many of these service provider partners are household names, such as Volunteers of America, Rescue Missions, and the Salvation Army. Many others are local organizations formed to address specific homelessness issues in the community. By carefully vetting the qualifications and financial stability of these service providers, organizations that build emergency shelters and transitional housing are able to assure that their facilities are effectively utilized in the fight to end homelessness.

Clarity Enhanced Diamonds – Some Things You Need to Know!

What they are and what they are not…

Clarity enhanced diamonds are diamonds that just needed a “makeover”. These are diamonds that are for the most part relatively clean except for a prominent inclusion or two. Think of it as getting a bit of plastic surgery. A “diamond plastic surgeon” starts with a diamond that would have a low clarity… a very low SI2, an I1, or a very high I2 clarity. If the diamond’s inclusion(s) can be made to be less noticeable, then you have a more marketable diamond. Clarity enhanced diamonds are 100% real diamonds and they are not some sort of diamond simulants (like a Cubic Zirconia or Moissanite) or synthetic diamond.

The clarity enhanced diamond started off as a diamond that would have an inclusion(s) which could be easily visible without any magnification… it would not be what could be considered an “eye clean” diamond. By the use of this clarity enhancement process, the diamond has become a diamond which now can be described as “eye clean” because the inclusion(s) are less visible. Clarity enhanced diamonds can be bought for a considerable savings in comparison to a similar non-enhanced diamond.

A bit of history-

Clarity enhancing diamonds is a relatively new process, since early 80s, so it is not too possible that you would find a clarity enhanced diamond in your grandmother’s diamond ring. This process relies on the use of lasers and high tech materials that would not have been available when your grandmother got engaged. The one person who is credited with commercially producing a clarity enhanced diamond is Zvi Yehuda. His company is still involved in improving the clarity of diamonds and they have been working on improving the process over the years.

How is it done?

Clarity enhanced diamonds fall into one of two categories. Both types of clarity enhanced diamonds should be relatively easy for a trained person to spot. Some jewelers might not be able to spot a clarity enhanced diamond but it will definitely be detected if a clarity enhanced diamond is sent to a gemological laboratory for a diamond grading report.

The two processes are as follows-

Process #1- Laser Drilling- This process uses a laser to precisely drill down into a diamond to get access to a diamond inclusion. The inclusion will be dark in color against a bright background. Because of all the white light being returned back up through the diamond, the diamond’s dark inclusion would be very noticeable. Upon reaching the inclusion, the heat from the laser beam will many times will completely vaporize the inclusion. A special cleaning solution (actually boiling acid!) might be needed in order to bleach out the dark inclusion so that after the treatment, it will then be a light colored inclusion against a bright background.

The laser drill holes that are now in the diamond are extremely small and you will need high magnification in order to see them. Because of the reduced contrast between the now lightly colored inclusion and its background, the clarity grade of this clarity enhanced diamond will be improved. The newly clarity enhanced diamond will many times be “eye clean” but its clarity grade (determined under magnification) will not change. The process is considered a permanent treatment and it is possible to have the diamond go through a gem lab and they will issue a diamond grading report for this diamond and note the laser drilling on the report.

Process #2 Fracture Filling- Now this process presents a whole bunch of concerns! It can be difficult to detect, even by people who you would think that they should know what to look for… Normally a purple to orange flash can be seen when the stone is turned and light is reflected off the area that has the fracture filling. Fracture filling clarity enhancement is the same process that is used when you get a crack in your windshield. A liquid is forced into the crack (fracture) and just like magic… it disappears! It really is a dramatic change in appearance of the diamond. The liquid that is used is a glass-like material which has similar optical properties to that of diamond. The fracture that is being filled must reach the surface of the diamond. Some clarity enhanced diamonds could have been laser drilled and then fracture filled.

The biggest problem that this treatment presents is when a fracture filled clarity enhanced diamond comes into a jeweler’s shop for some type of repair work. Heat from a torch (will burn up the fracture filling material), excessive pressure in the wrong place, and the ultrasonic cleaning machines with strong cleaning solutions have the possibility of totally screwing up the stone! If the jeweler knows ahead of time that they will be working on a fracture filled clarity enhanced diamond then these problems can be avoided. Fracture filling is not a permanent treatment.

So, is a clarity enhanced diamond right for you?

Maybe… There is really nothing wrong with a clarity enhanced diamond. It can represent a very good value for you… maybe a savings of 10%, 20%, 30%, or more. I have seen some absolutely beautiful diamonds that have been clarity enhanced. I do believe that they are generally better suited for earrings, pendants, pins, etc. A diamond that is worn on or around the hand (a ring, a bracelet, cufflinks, etc.) does take a lot of abuse.

Some of the companies that perform these processes are proud of their services and work with retailers to promote this as a viable and valuable product. Some clarity enhanced diamonds will come with grading reports, have the company name marked on the diamond, and offer a lifetime guarantee. Have some clarity enhanced diamonds been sold to a customer without the customer realizing it… sure. My most recent occurrence of seeing a clarity enhanced diamond was when a customer brought in his wife’s diamond ring for an appraisal. It was bought many years ago from his friend who had an optician shop but also sold some jewelry. The customer was disappointed but I am sure that the optician was not even aware that the ring he sold to his friend was clarity enhanced. But I was the one who had to break the bad news about the clarity enhanced diamond to the customer.

If you deal with a reputable company and any diamond that you buy comes with a grading report, then you will lessen the possibility of this happening to you. As with any situation involving an expensive purchase of something that not many people are well versed in, education should be an essential part of your plan. This is even more important if you plan to purchase a clarity enhanced diamond.

Helping Older Children With Disabilities to Have Fun and Stay Fit

I had two great opportunities in the past month to assist parents of older children with ideas and strategies to help keep their children with Down and Prader-Willi Syndromes more fit and how to have fun while doing it.

The first was a training event that we put on for parents of children with Down Syndrome entitled, Strategies for Adults with Down Syndrome: Having Fun By Staying Fit and the second was at a clinic for which I provide physical therapy, for children with Prader-Willi Syndrome.

What struck me in both instances is how we (therapists and parents) try to inject what our idea of exercise is upon children with one disability or another. No wonder so many of my programs designed for kids to stay fit have flopped over the years, I obviously have been starting from the wrong place. I believe we need to start by having fun and let everything else follow.

Before I go any further, please let me clarify the population of kids and adults that I am writing about. Somewhat older children in their early teens and beyond, that probably do not get much organized physical therapy anymore, that have established a general level of ambulatory function, get around pretty well and like the rest of us could benefit from more physical activity. These folks have diagnoses within a wide range but could include things like Down Syndrome, Spina Bifida, Cerebral Palsy, Prader-Willi Syndrome and many, many more.

The fitness profile is always unique to the person but there are many similarities between these folks that can help us design fun and productive programs that are sustainable and really work.

First in terms of organization I recommend that you establish a monthly calendar. I have found that when we do things by the “month” as opposed to the “week” we have a much better chance at being successful. For example if we say that there are 30 days in a month and we would like our children to be “active” for more days out of the month than they are not active, then we can simply select more than 15 days out of the month and write down what we would like to do on those specific days.

What are the components of a successful monthly fitness program for special needs kids?

I have found that combination programs that contain both basic fitness and life interest activities are the most effective and fun. Here is how I generally set it up for families.

Program A: (Basic Fitness) 20-30 minutes 2-3x/week

Program B: (Life Interest Activities) 20-30 minutes 2-3x/week

Okay, let’s start with the basic fitness program.

Program A: (Basic Fitness) 20-30 minutes 2-3x/week

15-20 minutes cardiovascular component if possible: For example, stationary bike, treadmill walking, elliptical machine, swimming, destination walks, hikes, and bike rides (someplace you are going that they enjoy to give them a goal/endpoint)

10-15 minutes of basic exercise that could include stretching and general upper and lower body strengthening exercises such as those on a circuit training regimen at a fitness center. Or it could be a few exercises that a PT has given you for your child that are helpful and up to date.

Basic fitness programs of course can be done just about anywhere, however I have found that when we make an effort to leave our homes we are usually a bit more successful. For example going to a health club, community center, or day program or just out in the neighborhood. Also with most of our folks we are more concerned with muscular endurance and stamina as opposed to short duration strength, therefore the exercises should be geared toward less weight/resistance and more repetitions.

So referring back to our monthly calendar if we say our objective is to implement a basic fitness program 2-3x/week for your child then simply select between 8-12 days on the calendar where your child is going to do “basic fitness” and of course what time of day and where you plan on performing the program.

Program B: (Life Interest Activities 20-30 minutes 2-3x/week)

I define life interest activities as those which require our children/adults to be actively engaged in something mentally such as a leisure activity while they are standing and moving. Life interest activities do not have to be challenging in a cardiovascular or strengthening sort of way, but they do need to be fun and they cannot include a couch or a TV. The activity does not have to be rigorous and they do not have to sweat. This is different from hobbies and crafts which are a great back-up for rainy days.

Some common examples of life interest activities that have been successful for many of my clients are such things as:

* shooting a game of pool

* Magnetic or velcro darts

* Air hockey

* Lawn hockey

* A close-up game of Frisbee

* Croquet

* Shooting hoops

* Racket sports (tennis, racquetball, badminton, just the hitting part not an actual game)

* Golfing (either at the driving/putting/chipping range or miniature golf)

* Slow pitch batting cage

* Bowling either traditionally or using a ramp

* Lawn bowling or Bocci ball

* Horseback riding

* Tetherball

* 4-square

* “Bounce-back” type activities with various balls and objects off walls/netting

* Horseshoes (the plastic more safe variety)

Like with the basic fitness program I recommend making a monthly calendar where you plan out 8-12 days with short periods of time where you will help your child participate in a life interest activity. Going in you should realize that you will probably try some activities that they will not like as much, but being creative and trying as many as possible will help your child learn the activities that they really enjoy. The goal long-term as I see it is to eventually find a handful of life interest activities that motivate your child to stay active and have fun

Many parents ask me about hobbies and crafts and how they fit into my ideas about keeping older children more fit. Of course as a physical therapist I would like to see the kids moving around to some degree and many hobbies and crafts require sitting down. With that said, your program must have contingency plans for rainy days as well as when the schedule just doesn’t go to form. Hobbies and crafts are an excellent back-up and they fit one of the main criteria which is that our program does not involve a TV.

Another question that I get frequently is about Wii video games and whether or not it counts as being “active.” I would use the Wii sparingly mixed in with non-video life interest activities and make sure that the kids are moving around. If you find a game on the Wii where your child is very active, sweating and getting a good workout (such as Wii boxing) then consider making that activity part of the fitness portion of the program

The last component of your combined fitness and life interest program that I would like to touch upon is the use of rewards to keep your child engaged in the program. Ideally its optimal to not use rewards and that the activity itself is the reward, however I am a realist and know that this is not usually the case. When using rewards the first thing I like to determine is how long your child can follow the program without being rewarded. Can they follow for a week and be rewarded on Saturday for their participation or do you need to reward them every day? Most children with special needs that I have worked with have difficulty following the program for an entire month without being rewarded. I have found most success with determining the reward time frame and the actual reward first and then use stickers, stamps or something similar to keep track of each time your child participates in either fitness or life interest activities. Then you simply add up the stamps or stickers until the reward period is complete and give them the reward.

Sleep Paralysis: Some Home Remedies

Sleep paralysis is a very common sleep disorder. I myself have experienced it many times, so I know how scary it is. I have tried so many pieces of advices from different doctors, but most of them were ineffective. Recently I tried something that has relieved me of this daunting problem, so I thought I should share it with you people. But first, let’s see what sleep paralysis is.

Sleep paralysis is a condition in which a person remains aware while the body shuts down for Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the deep most stage of sleep in which one usually dreams. It occurs either when falling asleep, or when awakening. When it occurs upon falling asleep, the person remains aware while the body shuts down for REM sleep, and it is called hypnagogic or predormital sleep paralysis. When it occurs upon awakening, the person becomes aware before the REM cycle is complete, and it is called hypnopompic or postdormital. The person is unable to perform movements of the limbs. The individual may also experience paralysis of skeletal muscle which could be complete or partial. It usually last from several seconds to several minutes. In severe cases it may last for hours. It is not a complete paralysis, as studies show the eye movement is possible in it.

Apart from paralysis the person may experience increased heartbeat. It may also be accompanied by terrifying hallucinations, such as feeling of mysterious and horrifying creatures in the room, or something sitting on the subject’s chest.

To look for its cure one should first try to understand its causes. Major causes of sleep paralysis include Migraine and Narcolepsy, a condition in which an individual experiences sudden periods of sleep during daytime hours. Sleep paralysis may also be hereditary. In addition to these, following may trigger sleep paralysis:

* Sleeping in a face upward position.

* Stress and anxiety.

* Sudden change in lifestyle.

* Excessive use of alcohol.

* Disruption in sleep cycles.

It is obvious that by reducing stress, relaxing and having a complete sleep are the ways to control sleep paralysis, but how can one avoid stress? How can one relax and sleep when there is a fear of sleep paralysis?

It is through Aromatherapy, and in this case you don’t really have to go to a professional aroma therapist and ask for help. In fact you, yourself are the therapist. Try to figure out the fragrances and smell that calm and relax you. It may be the fragrance of a flower, a perfume or may be food. Just before you go to sleep have a whiff of that fragrance, or keep it at your bedside table. You can also help yourself unwind by adding essential oils or herbal tea to you bath water in the evening. Lavender, chamomile, frankincense, neroli, and rose oils are recommended. It will relax your mind and thus you will be able to overcome stress. Try not to think of your problems and stress during bed time, as it will harm the effect of aromatherapy.

For those people who experience sleep paralysis due to migraine, I will suggest they should use chamomile (a flower) tea. Add 2 to 3 teaspoons per cup. Dissolve and boil in any liquid (preferably water) 10 to 20 minutes. Use in up to three cups daily.

Some other general precautions to avoid sleep paralysis are:

* Avoid sleeping in a face upward position.

* Exercise regularly.

* Avoid alcohol, caffeine and tobacco, especially before bed time.

* Try to remove the fear of sleep paralysis. Tell yourself that it is not really a harmful thing and that you won’t die of it.

* Try to live happy, avoid tensions.

I have tried all this and it really works. I hope that this article will help you fight this bloodcurdling disorder out.

Is It Really Liver Pain?

Liver pain is on the right side, mostly right under the rib cage, and up. There can be free fluid around the liver in the abdominal cavity which will produce pain in the right shoulder. It probably hurts to breathe in, or cough. Sometimes people describe the feeling as a swollen full feeling or cramping under the rib cage.

Liver pain symptoms are often dismissed because it is a general belief that organs don’t hurt. If you are experiencing any of these sensations, don’t give up, and don’t think you are making it up. Liver Pain can be real. Rheumatologists, nephrologists, family practitioners, all have been known to dismiss liver pain as patient complainings.

Sometimes it feels like your liver just doesn’t fit under your rib cage. One person described it as feeling like a brick was tucked under their right rib. Sometimes the feeling is connected to a pain in the back as well.

Pain caused from a swollen liver is not necessarily sharp. Most of the time ‘liver pain’ is just a dull ache. Sometimes the sensation is wrongly attributed to fibromyaliga.

The cause of Liver Pain may be more easily identified by identifying other symptoms, such as fatigue, itching, swollen testes, difficulties breathing, eating problems, or even shoulder pain.

There can be many reasons for liver pain. Blood and urine tests help to identify problems in the liver, but don’t rule out the effects of barrage of pollutants and toxic substances in today’s environment. While the liver was designed to detoxify and rid the body of foreign chemicals, it may not be equipped to handle the barrage of pollutants and toxic substances in today’s environment. So, while you are checking for possible causes of the pain associated with the liver, it would be a good idea to check your body for chemical overload as well.

Individual reaction to toxic overload can vary greatly. The most common symptom associated with toxic overload is fatigue. Other symptoms include headache, muscle and joint pain, irritability, depression, mental confusion, gastrointestinal and/or cardiovascular irregularities, flu-like symptoms or allergic reactions including hives, stuffy or runny nose, sneezing and coughing which is not usually associated with liver pain, but can actually be the cause.

Like all other pain symptoms in the body, liver pain should be taken seriously.