A recent study found tonsillectomies associated with a 50% increase in heart attacks. (I write about tonsillectomies here.)
Are tonsillectomies unusual? Several recent news stories suggest no, they aren’t. Failure to tell patients the full risks of medical treatment may be common:
1. Undisclosed risks of hernia surgery. From the Wall Street Journal: “More than 30% of patients may suffer from long-term chronic pain and restricted movement after surgery to fix a hernia … studies show.” The article says “many patients don’t consider” this risk — meaning they don’t know about it. A Berkeley surgeon named Eileen Consorti told me I should have surgery for a hernia I could not detect. I have previously written about her claim that evidence supported her recommendation when no such evidence existed — or, at least, no one including her has ever found it. I said I wanted to see the evidence because there were risks to surgery. She replied that none of her patients had died. I was shocked by the incompleteness of her answer. There are plenty of bad outcomes besides death — as the Wall Street Journal article shows.
2. Undisclosed risks of sleeping pills. A book called The Dark Side of Sleeping Pills by Daniel Kripke, a professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego, goes into great detail about risks of sleeping pills that few doctors tell their patients. For example, one study found that “patients who took sleeping pills died 4.6 times as often during follow-ups averaging 2.5 years [than matched patients who did not take sleeping pills]. Patients who took higher doses (averaging over 132 pills per year) died 5.3 times as often.” Insomnia alone was not associated with higher mortality. Tomorrow I will post Dr. Kripke’s answer to the question “why did you write this book?” Here is a website about the dangers of Ambien.
3. Undisclosed risks of anticholinergic drugs. From the NY Times: “After following more than 13,000 British men and women 65 or older for two years, researchers found that those taking more than one anticholinergic drug scored lower on tests of cognitive function than those who were not using any such drugs, and that the death rate for the heavy users during the course of the study was 68 percent higher. That finding, reported last July in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, stunned the investigators.” Anticholinergics are “very very common” said a researcher. They include many over-the-counter drugs, such as “allergy medications, antihistamines and Tylenol PM”.
4. Undisclosed risks of statins. A recent NY Times story says “the Food and Drug Administration has officially linked statin use with cognitive problems like forgetfulness and confusion, although some patients have reported such problems for years. Among the drugs affected are huge sellers like Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor and Vytorin.” Prior to this official linkage, the reports of forgetfulness and confusion were mere anecdotes that evidence-based medicine proponents ignore and tell the rest of us to ignore.
5. Undisclosed risks of metal-on-metal hip replacements. They leak dangerous amounts of metal (e.g., cobalt) into the rest of the body. “Despite the fact that these risks have been known and well documented for decades, patients have been kept in the dark,” says a recent article in the BMJ. By 2007, the danger was so clear that a British regulatory committee said that patients must sign a form saying they’ve been warned. This didn’t happen — a surgeon told the BMJ that “surgeons were unaware of these discussions.” Other materials could have been used.
Research shows that people who buy annuities tend to live longer – and not just because they are the kind of people that have the money to buy annuities to start with. It’s apparently that little extra incentive of the annuity payout that keeps people going.
A Stanford study claims that older-age fathers promote longevity in the population.
But old-age male sperm has more random mutations (another 2 per year of father’s age, usually bad, of course, but out of 1.6 billion or so, probably mostly harmless), so this means more losers even though those who reproduce are going to have better long-life-promoting genes.
It turns out that the mother’s contribution to mutational load is constant (because the eggs were produced earlier?); the benefits of younger motherhood come from elsewhere. Still, older fathers aren’t unambiguously awful; mutational load aside, it may be general health more than just age that’s at work in reducing older men’s sperm quality.
Diana Vaamonde, a researcher at the University of Cordoba and lead author of the study said in a press release, “We have analysed qualitative semen parameters like the ejaculated volume, sperm count, mobility and sperm morphology.” [that’s what *she* said!]
For the study the men were also tested for hormone levels that included follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), testosterone (T), cortisol (C) and the T/C ratio that the researchers explain provides a better picture of the environment needed for sperm creation, in addition to giving a picture of the general health of the 31 men included in the study.
The results showed men who exercise more had faster swimming sperm that was more perfectly formed, compared to their sedentary counterparts. Exercising appears to create a more favorable environment for sperm creation that comes from healthy hormone levels.
The good news is the researchers say it only takes moderate exercise to keep your sperm in good shape.
According to the CDC, it’s possible to change a man’s sperm with healthy lifestyle changes.
2. Diet improves sperm in 45+ year old men.
3. A study finds that the risk of autism goes up considerably more in the children of older mothers in all age ranges than it does in the children of older fathers.
The older a mother is when she gives birth, the higher her child’s risk of autism, new data show.
A smaller effect also is seen for the age of the father, but only when the child is born to a father over age 40 and a mother under age 30.
All of the above are just studies of correlations in existing populations, of course. There was no control group.
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.”
psychologist James Cutting (2003, 2006) briefly exposed undergraduate psychology students to canonical and lesser-known Impressionist paintings (the lesser-known works exposed four times as often), with the result that after exposure, subjects preferred the lesser-known works more often than did the control group. Cutting took this result to show that canon formation is a result of cultural exposure over time.
From 1990 to 1999, the risk of having a child with autism was:
- 1.6 per 1,000 women under age 25
- 2.3 per 1,000 women aged 25-29
- 3.1 per 1,000 women aged 30-34
- 3.85 per 1,000 women aged 35-39
- 4.4 per 1,000 women aged 40 and older