What to trash, what to keep
One resolution you don't have to worry about making this year:
up earlier. A recent scientific
in British Medical Journal has
disproved Benjamin Franklin's maxim, "Early to bed and early to rise
makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." The study determined that it
makes no difference to mean income, cognitive performance, state of
health, or mortality whether you are naturally an "owl" (going to bed
late and getting up late) or a "lark" (ditto, early). What matters is
the total amount of time you spend in bed. Eight hours is optimal; more
could be a problem). Conclude the authors, "It seems that owls need not
worry that their way of life carries adverse consequences. However,
those who cite Franklin's maxim to encourage their children to go to bed early may wish to consider whether their practice is entirely ethical."
Believe it or not, you can also scrap or at least soften that
to give up candy or (horrors!) eschew chocolate. Another
study in the
same issue of BMJ comes to startling conclusions regarding candy
consumption and longevity. It seems "non-consumers of candy" actually
die younger than consumers: "Using life table analysis truncated at age
95, we estimated that (after adjustment for age and cigarette smoking)
candy consumers enjoyed, on average, 0.92 (0.04 to 1.80) added years of
life, up to age 95, compared with non-consumers." The authors suggest
chocolate's documented antioxidant properties as a possible factor
contributing to this phenomenon. They caution, however, against an
overenthusiastic response to these findings: "Mortality was lowest among those consuming candy 1-3 times a month and highest among those
indulging this habit three or more times a week. Non-consumers of candy, however, still had the highest mortality overall. As with most things in life, moderation seems to be paramount."
So what resolutions should remain on your list? Well, there's always
Old Miserable: giving up smoking. A lot of smokers out there are going
to be making heroic attempts to quit come Jan. 1. (Note that I
will defend to the death -- loosely speaking -- your right as an adult
to choose to smoke. Still, there's no question but that it's in the
best interest of your health to stop. Far be it from me, therefore, to
dissuade you from doing so if you're ready this year.) The resources on
the Net to help you quit smoking are legion -- far more than I could
ever begin to describe here. Start at any of the following sites; most
or all of them contain their own lists of other helpful
smoking-cessation links. Surf freely till you alight upon something
that "clicks" for you. No single program or stop-smoking aid works well
for every individual. Studies show the plain, unsupported "cold turkey"
method (sorry -- I know that's a bit of an unwelcome image this time of
year) has the lowest success rate of all, though, so do swallow your
hauteur and seek some form of help.
A friend of mine had good results (10 years off cigarettes and
counting) with the Smokenders program.
An affiliated British site,
"fact sheet" (really more of an overview or game plan) -- it's a good
starting point from which to look out over the unfriendly terrain ahead, assessing pitfalls, gathering motivation, and strategizing. Check out
"11 Ways to Keep Your New Year's Resolution to Quit Smoking," by Fred H. Kelley, a lengthy essay
that's full of eminently practical suggestions; a convenient button at
the top of the page allows you to have the whole thing emailed to you
rather than reading it online, and its author is kind enough to
encourage questions and comments. The University of Kansas Medical
Center's How to Quit
Smoking page offers a
doctor's much briefer but still substantive advice regarding cravings
and unpleasant symptoms. The QuitNet is a widely recommended, Massachusetts-based, Boston University School of
Public Health-sponsored all-around stop-smoking site. An excellent
smorgasbord of other smoking information and assorted self-help
resources on the Web appears
You may want to check out the Web sites run by manufacturers of the
major stop-smoking aids (nicotine gum and nicotine patches), many of
who've done (or at least have access to) considerable amounts of hard
research about what works and what doesn't.
Nicorette gum, for instance, runs a
comprehensive support program called Committed
Quitters that's designed to work
in conjunction with the use of its product. Whether a patch or gum will
work better for you depends on factors such as how many cigarettes you
smoke per day and how much you enjoy the purely ritualistic aspects of
smoking. There are also low-dose antidepressants like Zyban
specifically indicated for smoking cessation.
Your doctor and pharmacist will be able to advise you more personally.
One last suggestion: Consult your local church (synagogue, mosque,
ashram, etc.) about support groups and/or ministerial counseling.
Quitting smoking relies heavily on the old-fashioned virtues,
particularly fortitude (without which, as C. S. Lewis once pointed out,
none of the other virtues will last very long anyway), and a little
explicitly moral reinforcement in the struggle couldn't hurt.
Once you've ironed out your list, click
here to register
it online. (You've got a better chance of sticking to it if it's on
record somewhere, and online is just so much more fun than the
refrigerator door, isn't it?) Fill in the handy form and click the
"Resolved" button to have your personal resolution included on the site; new resolutions will be accepted through January 5. Then amuse yourself
reading other people's resolutions, some of which make fascinating
reading ("To remember I will never be alone because BOTH the Hanke
Brothers and Channel 4 really love me. - DB"). I wish you all success
in your various projects.
Non-prescription Viagra on the Web?
Not long ago I was logging onto the Net during what was supposed to
desperately needed long weekend of doing absolutely nothing (I got
bored). I was using America Online, where, ever since a long-ago, brief
but intensive spate of surfing on the Dark Side of the Web (purely for
research purposes), two or three sleazy spam email come-ons a week
("Vixxxens!!!") await me. This never bothers me, since my delete
function works fine. But on this particular day there was something a
"Get VIAGRA - Delivered to Your HOME!!" shouted the colorful missive
within my mailbox. "In LESS THAN 5 MINUTES you can complete the on-line
consultation and in many cases have the medication in 24 - 36 hours.
From our Web site to your mailbox. On-line consultation for treatment
of compromised sexual function. Convenient ... affordable ...
confidential." The message was emailed from one [email protected] (yeah,
I'll bet) but had its Reply-To set to "[email protected]." Filing that
thought for later, I clicked on the message's eagerly proffered
hotlink, which brought me to the Web site of Vsource!.
My first impression of the site was considerably less sleazy than I'd expected. Clicking on its "find out if Viagra is right for you" link,
for example, takes you to the dedicated site run by Pfizer,
the pharmaceutical company manufacturing
the drug. Pfizer's Viagra site contains
all the official, FDA-approved (for what that's worth) professional and
consumer information regarding Viagra. So at least that's relatively
aboveboard, I thought; straight from the horse's mouth, no obviously
inflated claims or flagrant misinformation being offered. And in the
Vsource! waiver section, small print points out that the $75 "online
consultation" available to those who lack prescriptions is "in no way a
substitute for a general medical history and physical examination." By
and large, in fact, there's an atmosphere of responsibility and
professionalism. But the fact is that it's all a bunch of horseradish.
That expensive "online consultation"? You fill in a bunch of
yes-or-noes and answer a few brief questions (such as what other drugs
you use). It covers the essentials, sure, but so what? There's no
reason to suppose that the men filling out this form are answering the
questions thoroughly or even truthfully. They're not wrapped in flimsy
paper garments and being examined by a socially intimidating
professional in a physician's office; they're sitting alone at a
keyboard at two o'clock in the morning, and they WANT THEIR VIAGRA.
And if they're willing to pay the $75 surcharge just to avoid going
an actual doctor to get it, chances are they know perfectly well that
there's some good reason they ought not to be taking it. Maybe they've
got a type of problem their doctors have told them Viagra won't help.
Maybe they have other health problems (or are taking other drugs) that
would make Viagra extremely dangerous for them. Possibly they don't
have a problem at all, and just want the drug for some imagined
The point is, the self-styled "Viagraguys" at Vsource! who evaluate
rubber-stamp the information these men submit will never know. It
doesn't matter how many MDs they employ or how many waivers they make
their customers "sign." There's simply no way to do a genuine, adequate
medical evaluation of a patient's candidacy for Viagra online. Period.
What this site (and the handful of sites like it) actually offers is
out-and-out order form -- just like you find at any online commercial
site such as Amazon or CDNow -- for purchasing a prescription drug over
the Internet, without a prescription and at an extortatory surcharge.
That is dangerous and irresponsible in the extreme.
The effect of such sites will ultimately be pernicious. The
Viagra-associated death rate (and the rate of serious nonfatal adverse
events related to Viagra) will rise due to inappropriate use by men who
were never properly screened by physicians in the first place. Alarm
bells will go off. The regulation-hungry beasts at the FDA --
ill-sleeping grizzlies, best left unprodded -- will awaken and start
growling about how they're going to take the drug off the market. And,
ultimately, it's Pfizer and all the legitimate Viagra users out there,
the men who really need and can benefit from Viagra, who'll be the ones
(Am I potentially exacerbating the problem by mentioning the site in
public forum? It's possible, of course. But I'm banking on my feeling
that readers of WorldNetDaily will be intelligent and savvy enough to
know better than to let themselves be taken in by a scam like this.
Seeing your doctor is far, far, safer; it's cheaper (for the insured,
certainly -- and I would imagine the uninsured have far better things to spend their money on); and it's overwhelmingly smarter. Just say no,