Tag Archives: mortality

R.I.P.: A Horse Named Steve; and a Neurosurgeon Confronts His Own Death

The New York Times online has the story:

As soon as the CT scan was done, I began reviewing the images. The diagnosis was immediate: Masses matting the lungs and deforming the spine. Cancer. In my neurosurgical training, I had reviewed hundreds of scans for fellow doctors to see if surgery offered any hope. I’d scribble in the chart “Widely metastatic disease — no role for surgery,” and move on. But this scan was different: It was my own.

Well worth your time to read unless you’re in denial of death.

h/t Yoni Freedhoff.

*  *  *

A pall hangs over the Parker Compound since one of our horses died of colic yesterday. Certainly not the same as a human death, but still….  

My wife and daughter rescued Steve from appalling conditions  eight or nine years ago when he was about seven years old. They named him after me for some reason—his original name was Wyatt. Sunny paid $200 (USD) for Steve, which is one cheap horse. Many horses are like boats and airplanes in that they may not cost all the much initially—it’s the maintenance and repairs that get you.

The seller in Apache Junction, Arizona, had him in a large pen with 20 or 30 other horses. At feeding time, the owner threw a few flakes of hay into the pen and then it was “survival of the fittest” time. Horses are not by nature sharing creatures. Steve was not high up on the pecking order. If she hadn’t bought him, he may well have ended up in a meat market.

Steve was originally my daughter’s first horse, not mine. For reasons forgotten, we got her another horse, Buckwheat. Steve was to be my wife’s horse then. Soon enough Sunny broke her leg and was out of commission for months. Horses, like people, need exercise. The most fun way to exercise them is to ride them. That’s when I first started riding Steve, to give him exercise. My daughter and a cowgirl named Angel Antan were my instructors.

I had an odd experience with him one time when my daughter and I were on a trail ride to the Verde River from our home in Rio Verde. If you don’t know how to ride, note that a horse isn’t supposed to move or stop unless the rider gives the signal. You can’t let the horse be in charge. We were in a dry wash when Steve suddenly stopped and started sniffing the ground. I had no idea what was up and thought I’d just sit there waiting to see what would happen. Soon and without warning, Steve knelt down on his front legs, then his back ones, and was on his belly, starting to roll over! I jumped off and pulled him up by the reins before he did the deed. You do NOT want a horse rolling over on you, or your saddle for that matter. He never did that again, nor have I heard of that happening to others.

One of the cool things about our trail rides is that you can get close to coyotes. When you’re on horseback, the coyotes don’t perceive you as much of a threat.

Steve always liked men more than women. It was only in the last few months that my wife and he became quite fond of each other.

My wife gave him a great home. He was a good horse who taught me how to ride. I always felt safe when I was around him and on him, regardless of the near roll-over.

He “colicked” every year for the last five years. I’d like to think that Steve’s in horse heaven with his buddy Buckwheat, running over grassy  hills and wading through clear streams. RIP, Steve. No more pain, ever. 

Steve is the palomino on the right

Steve is the palomino on the right

Mediterranean Diet Linked Once Again to Longevity

…by Johns Hopkins researchers

Six thousand Americans were followed over the course of almost eight years, with attention to heart disease and death. Significantly lower death rates were seen in nonsmokers, and those maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and eating the Mediterranean diet. The more adherence to those healthy factors, the lower the risk of death

h/t Lyle J. Dennis, M.D.

Huge U.S. Study Confirms Health and Longevity Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

This is a reprint of the very first blog post I ever did, from December 24, 2007, at my old Advanced Mediterranean Diet Blog.  

We now have results of the first U.S. study on mortality and the Mediterranean dietary pattern.  380,000 people, aged 50-71, were surveyed on their dietary habits and scored on their conformity to the Mediterranean diet.  They were visited again 10 years later.  As you would expect, some of them died.  12,105 to be exact: 5985 from cancer, 3451 from cardiovascular disease, 2669 from other causes.  However, the people with the highest adherence to the Mediterranean diet had better survival overall, and specifically better odds of avoiding death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.  Compared to the people with low conformity to the Mediterranean diet, the high conformers were 15-20% less likely to die over the 10 years of the study.  The study authors, funded by the National Institutes of Health, noted eight similar studies in Europe and one in Australia with similar results.

Nothing to do with this post…I just like this picture

Once again, my promotion of the Mediterranean diet is vindicated by the scientific literature.  I’m not aware of any other diet that can prove anywhere near this degree of health benefit.  If you are, please share

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Mitrou, Panagiota N., et al.  Mediterranean Dietary Pattern and Prediction of All-Cause Mortality in a US Population,  Archives of Internal Medicine, 167 (2007): 2461-2468.

Yo-Yo Dieting In Women Has No Effect On Death Rates

Yo-yo dieting isn’t so bad after all.

Fifteen years ago there was lots of hand-wringing in the medical community about the potential dire physical consequences of “weight cycling” – also known as yo-yo dieting. You know, lose a bunch of weight, gain it back, lose it again, gain it back, etc.

After a while, yo-yo dieting as a medical issue dropped off the radar screen. 

A 2009 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine reported on the cardiovascular and mortality effects of yo-yo dieting in women in the massive Nurses’ Health Study. One in four of these women could be classified as weight cyclers. The worst ones were defined as those who lost at least 9.1 kg ( 20 pounds) at least three times.

It turns out the weight cyclers had the same rates of death from cardiovascular disease or any cause as the women who didn’t cycle. They did eventually gain more overall weight as they aged, compared to the non-cyclers.

Note that this study investigated death rates only. So there may have been effects on rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, gout, stroke, etc, that we wouldn’t know about.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Field, Alison, et al. Weight cycling and mortality among middle-aged or older women. Archives of Internal Medicine, 169 (2009): 881-886.

Which Components of the Mediterranean Diet Prolong Life?

Researchers at Harvard and the University of Athens (Greece) report that the following specific components of the Mediterranean diet are associated with lower rates of death:

  • moderate ethanol (alcohol) consumption
  • low meat and meat product intake
  • high vegetable consumption
  • high fruit and nut consumption
  • high ratio of monounsaturated fat to saturated fat
  • high legume intake

Minimal, if any, contribution to mortality was noted with high cereal, low dairy, or high fish and seafood consumption.

The researchers examined diet and mortality data from over 23,000 adult participants in the Greek portion of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and nutrition. You’ll be hearing more about the EPIC study for many years. Over an average follow-up of 8.5 years, 1,075 of participants died. 652 of these deaths were of participants in the lower half of Mediterranean diet adherence; 423 were in the upper half.

Alcohol intake in Greece is usually in the form of wine at mealtimes.

The beneficial “high ratio of monounsaturated fat to saturated fat” stems from high consumption of olive oil and low intake of meat.

It’s not clear if these findings apply to other nationalities or ethnic groups. Other research papers have documented the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet in at least eight other countries over three continents.

The researchers don’t reveal in this report the specific causes of death. I expect those data, along with numbers on diabetes, stroke, and dementia, to be published in future articles, if not published already. Prior Mediterranean diet studies indicate lower death rates from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Trichopoulou, Antonia, et al. Anatomy of health effects of the Mediterranean diet: Greek EPIC prospective cohort study. British Medical Journal, 338 (2009): b2337. DOI: 10.1136/bmj.b2337.

Additional Information: Childs, Dan. Take it or leave it? The truth about 8 mediterranean diet staples. ABC News online, June 24, 2009. Accessed June 25, 2009.


Here’s a direct quote from the study at hand:

Among the presumed beneficial components of the Mediterranean diet score, high consumption of all but fish and seafood was inversely associated with mortality, although none of these associations was statistically significant.

“. . . none of these associations was statistically significant.” So I can understand some skepticism about this journal article. The researchers had to use some very sophisticated statistical manipulation to come up with the “healthy components” list. I’m not saying that’s wrong. I will admit that the statistical analysis is beyond my comprehension, so I’m trusting the authors and peer-review process to be honest and effective. My college statistics course was too many years ago.

The take-home point for me is that the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet probably stem from an overall combination of multiple foods rather than any single component.

And remember to exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight (BMI 18.5-25), keep your blood pressure under 140/90, and don’t smoke.