In 1735, the young religious leader John Wesley visited the city of Savannah, located in the province of Georgia in what was then the American Colonies. He was particularly impressed by the Native American peoples he encountered, describing them as the perfect example of health, correctly believing this to be due to their lean diet and rigorous physical lifestyle.
Numerous cultural and economic shifts have occurred since Wesley’s initial visit that have greatly affected the health of not only the American Indian, but also that of the white and multi-ethnic settlers that came to populate the country. As advancements in technology have taken away the need for hard daily physical activity, the American public has been taking it easy, letting the wheels and motors do the walking. We have become a country of couch-potatoes and TV watchers. It is a dangerous cycle: as we do less, we become less able to be physically active, which encourages us to do even less. This sedentary lifestyle has an enormous negative impact on our health.
At the same time, diets have changed with the availability of government-subsidized and inexpensive oil, flour, corn-syrup and cheese. This has made highly marketed, high-calorie, high carbohydrate fast-food a dietary staple, rather than the lean meat, fruits, eggs, and vegetables, which had been the traditional American Indian diet. Not only did they eat better, but they worked harder for it as well.
The consequence of eating more and moving less is an obesity epidemic. Two out of three Americans are over-weight and half of these are obese. It is no surprise that an epidemic of diabetes has followed. Right now, 29 million Americans know they have diabetes, and about one in four people with diabetes have it but don't know it. Although this epidemic is affecting non-Indian immigrants that have come to live in the U.S., diabetes is about twice as bad for the American Indian population.
The obesity and diabetes epidemics are a growing problem. The question is, how do we address it? It should certainly start with something more than developing and prescribing diabetic medicine. The most common form of diabetes is type 2, the incidence of which is greatly affected by lifestyle choices. People who eat too much and exercise too little are at a much higher risk. A recent study showed that educating children and parents about eating less and moving more makes the biggest difference in preventing and treating diabetes. Our job as medical care providers and as a society should be to spread this knowledge, encouraging everyone to eat a leaner diet and live a more physically-active lifestyle.
We all could learn from the habits of the early American Indians.
If you ask any of the members of my family to describe us, each would likely include our dog in that description. Our current dog Sasha was discovered at the Humane Society by our daughter, Julia. I asked Julia, “Why do you think our dog is good for us?” She quickly came back, “Sasha is playful and joyful, yet calming, soothing, relaxing, and comforting.” She said, “Sasha is sad when you’re sad and happy when you’re happy; a companion that loves you unconditionally; and on top of all that, SHE IS SO CUTE!”
Our son Preston points out how the dog protects our home by bark-warning us of intruders and cleaning the floor of bug-alluring food spilled from the dinner table. Our son Carter referenced how the dog says to us in dog-speak, “Car ride? I wanna go.” or, “Family is home, HOORAY!” Carter said, “It has something to do with her innocence, blind faith, and pure enthusiasm.”
The four dogs I have loved in my lifetime could each be described by those same descriptors. It doesn’t matter whether a person is emotionally devastated or filled with confidence, everyone can use a little companionship and unconditional love, especially during the lonely episodes that we all face, from time to time.
Different than a loving pet is a specially trained service dog. Service dogs are specially trained dogs who help individuals with mental or physical disabilities. Dogs can pull a person in a wheelchair, protect a person having a seizure, remind a person with mental illness to take their medicine, and calm a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack. Service animals are not restricted to just canines. Recently, miniature horses have been helpful for some disabled, and after special training, are being accepted as service animals as well.
Service dogs (and sometimes miniature horses) are allowed in places which serve the public, like restaurants or libraries. To allow this, however, the dogs or horses must be specially trained to perform specific tasks for their handler and be well behaved in public. Separate from these service animals are animals providing emotional support. Along with service animals, emotional support animals are allowed to live in housing that has a ‘no pets policy’ when a medical professional certifies that the individual has a verifiable disability and that the animal in question provides a benefit. Different from service dogs and miniature horses, comfort and emotional support pets do not need special training, but are often expected to be disciplined and well trained.
No question, our dog Sasha provides plenty of comfort and emotional support.
Curiosity, Mystery, and Murder
By Richard P. Holm, MD
Stories of curiosity, mystery, and murder—invented or real—have fascinated people for many years. The first in this genre, the tale of Frankenstein’s monster, was published in 1818. During the author Mary Shelley’s life, the study of anatomy was gaining considerable interest. But there was a problem: aspiring anatomists were short on bodies to dissect. The grim solution to that problem came in the form of grave robbing.
Shelley’s story evolves with the scientist Victor Frankenstein searching for body parts, although his purpose was more sinister than studying anatomy. He pondered: “The moon gazed on my midnight labours . . . who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil as I dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave . . . I collected bones . . . with profane fingers . . . where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption.”
Ten years later, a true story also highlighted the difficulty of finding human bodies for dissection. Dr. Robert Knox, a Scottish anatomist at Edinburgh University, was desperate for bodies to dissect. A lodge keeper, William Hare, had a tenant pass away who owed Hare money. Understandably, Mr. Hare sought to clear the tenant’s debt by selling the body to Knox’s anatomy lab. He received the surprisingly large payment of about $800 in today’s money. After that, Mr. Hare, with his friend Thomas Burke, began murdering the working-class people living in or near Hare’s boardinghouse. Over the next ten months, the bodies of 15 others were sold to the unsuspecting Knox.
The jig was up when Mrs. Gray, another tenant, noted Burke acting suspiciously, and her curiosity prompted her to investigate after Burke had left the hotel. Mrs. Gray found a dead body and called the police. After careful investigation, Burke’s ties to several murders became evident. Dr. Knox convinced a jury he didn’t know of the murders but lost his job; Hare was granted immunity for spilling the beans but had to escape the country; Burke became the fall guy, was hung, and, ironically, his body was dissected in front of a crowd. His skeleton is still on display in the Anatomical Museum of Edinburgh. Wow! A true and intriguing story demonstrating greed, murder, and gruesome justice.
Twelve years later, the American writer Edgar Allan Poe wrote the first detective story The Murders in the Rue Morgue, and some 46 years after that, British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle began writing about the brilliant detective Sherlock Holmes. Both authors frightened their readers with inventive and gruesome tales.
Stories of curiosity, mystery, and murder—invented or real—have and will continue to fascinate and captivate audiences for years to come.
When the Rhythm is Disturbed
By Richard P. Holm, MD
Mr. AB was a perfect specimen of health. A mid-fifties-aged man, he was physically fit because of rigorous farm work, and lots of physical activity involved with hunting, and fishing. This morning, he awoke with an uncomfortable chest pressure going into his neck and jaw. He arose to find no relief with stretching, drinking a glass of milk, taking a deep breath, or even laying down again. Finally, after rousing his wife, they made their way to an emergency room (ER) where he was given merciful pain relief and was immediately tested to define if it was his heart that was causing the pain.
Not long after arriving to the ER, while talking with his wife, he suddenly slipped into unconsciousness. The ER crew immediately ran into his room and started resuscitation efforts, but it was there in that cold, mid-winter, South Dakota, pre-dawn-hour that he died, despite their doing all the right things. Likely due to arterial blockage and irritable heart muscle, the symmetry of his heart rhythm had changed into one of pure chaos that wasn't effectively pumping blood. He just couldn't be converted back to a normal rhythm again. The value of rhythm is never more evident than during a cardiac arrest.
The definition of rhythm comes the from Greek roots of rhuthmos (to flow) and rhyme; meaning any regular, recurring, pulsing; a succession of contrasting beats occurring over various periods of time. Think of the rhythmic experience from speech and verse, rhyme and song, or drum and dance. There is something about rhythm that calls for symmetry, and when it is out of sync, there is a part of us that becomes uncomfortable, and we want to make it right again.
The rhythm of life is regular, recurring, pulsing; a succession of surges over time, like the flow of seawater and fish meeting the shore on an estuarial tide; the seasonal swim of salmon up a freshwater river looking for a place to spawn; the birth of lambs and calves, bursting forth on an early springtime prairie pasture; or even the 70 to 90-year life-cycle of humans, moving with joy, sorrow, and grace, from birth to natural death.
When humans die too early, the symmetry is out of sync, the rhythm is disturbed, and we are left wanting to make it right again.