Sunday, September 27, 2009

Is sex becoming too expensive?

Two pills have revolutionized sexuality—The Pill and The Little Blue Pill.

Just as Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the first birth control pill in 1960 sparked the Sexual Revolution, FDA approval of Viagra in 1998 sparked a second wave of the Sexual Revolution for Baby Boomers.

Enovid (FDA approval in 1960) and Ortho Novum (FDA approval in 1962) liberated early Baby Boomer women from the threat of unwanted pregnancy (since abortion was not yet legal in the US).

Viagra (sildenafil citrate) liberated Baby Boomer men from the threat of erectile dysfunction (ED).

With all of this freedom, you’d think that all would be well in bedrooms across America. Well, guess again.

A recent article in the New York Times suggests that sex may be too expensive for men who use Viagra regularly. The astute Times reporters calculated that at $15 per pill, Viagra-aided sex twice a week would cost $1500 per year.

What’s a guy to do? Medical researchers have come to the rescue with natural ways to guard against ED. Their advice: Have sex more often and exercise!

Reporting in The American Journal of Medicine, Koskimaki and colleagues suggest a use-it-or-lose-it strategy to prevent ED. They found that “regular sexuality activity preserves potency.” In their study, men who had sex less than once a week were twice as likely to have ED as men who reported having sex once a week. Furthermore, they reported that the more sex a man has, the less likely he is to develop ED.

Since ED is often a symptom of other health problems—particularly diabetes or poor cardiovascular health—medical researchers also suggest exercise as a natural way to improve erectile function, as well as overall health.

Reporting in the same journal, Selvin and colleagues studied the relationship between five cardiovascular risk factors—diabetes, smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol, and obesity— physical activity, and ED.

They found that the prevalence of ED among men with diabetes was over 50%. (This is a particularly scary statistic since diabetes is on the rise in the US.) Furthermore, this research team reported a strong association between lack of physical activity and ED.

So, if you have a middle-aged spread, your sex life isn’t what it used to be, and you can’t afford to use the little blue pill regularly, get off the couch and exercise.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Gloves and hankies: Lessons from the 1918 flu pandemic

If it hadn’t been for the flu pandemic of 1918, I wouldn’t be here.

You see both of my grandparents lost their first spouses to the flu or complications from the flu. Grandma had two sons, and Grandpa had one. After they married in the early 1920s, they had two daughters, my aunt and my Mom. They built an early yours-mine-and-ours family and a 50+ year marriage on the tragedies of the largest pandemic in US history.

According to my Mom, Grandma was relieved that her first husband Charlie didn't have to go to World War I but was devastated when he died from the flu just a few years later. Lessons from the flu stayed with my Grandma her entire life.

For months now we have been hearing scare stories about the coming of the H1N1 flu, also known as the swine flu, and now it’s here. Will 2009 be a repeat of 1918 with an estimated 50 million deaths worldwide?

Wash your hands thoroughly and often appears to be the primary message from the US government, but are there other things you can do?

I believe my Grandma would have some suggestions. Grandma never left home without the gloves on her hands, a hat or scarf on her head, and an embroidered hankie tucked into the waistband of her dress. I always thought this was just her personal style, but when you think about her experiences with the 1918 flu, it’s apparent that her accessories had a purpose.

Gloves. Of course, in the winter, people wear gloves for warmth, but my Grandma wore gloves whenever she went out. She wore them to church and to the store—everywhere she would be meeting people, shaking hands, or touching objects that had been touched by others—faucets, door handles, railings, produce, you name it. Gloves can be both fashionable and functional. Will they be the new fashion statement for 2009? I hope so.

Hats and scarves. Growing up in the 1950s, everyone’s grandma had a collection of little hats for church or fancy occasions. My Grandma was religious about covering her head—hats for church and babushkas (scarves) for everyday wear. When it’s cold out, you lose a lot of body heat through your head. Throw away your vain worries about hat head and wear a hat or a scarf this winter.

Hankies. Grandma had a whole drawer of embroidered hankies to match her cotton gloves of every color. Obviously, hankies can be used to blow your nose, but Grandma also used them every time she coughed or sneezed. The advice these days is to cough into your elbow rather than cough into your hand. Whatever you do, don’t cough or sneeze into the air or into your hand (unless you wash your hands immediately afterward.)

Sharing. Grandma was decidedly not into sharing: don’t drink out of someone else’s glass, use their plate or eating utensil, taste their food, eat or drink out of a container, or even use another family member’s bath towel, hairbrush, or toothbrush. These are especially important for families with small children. Children who are attending school or pre-school are little germ magnets, and they bring these germs home. Protect your family by making it a practice to wash your hands when you come home.

Take a few lessons from Grandma and prevent disease by intervening with potential disease vectors. Wash your hands, wear gloves, cover your head, cover your mouth, and don’t share. And, of course, if you are able, get a flu shot.

Monday, September 14, 2009

You know you're a Baby Boomer when...

20. You remember dial telephones, five-digit telephone numbers, and party lines—telephone party lines, not political party lines.

19. You remember watching The Lone Ranger, Howdy Doody, the original Mickey Mouse Club, Johnny Carson, and Steve Allen on a black and white television—although you were probably too young to understand the jokes Carson and Allen were telling.

18. You remember when almost everyone’s mom was a homemaker and dad was the breadwinner.

17. You remember the excitement of the Sears Catalog—especially the Christmas edition.

16. You remember when people paid cash for everything and to pay for Christmas presents in December people opened Christmas Club accounts the January before.

15. You remember when the only television stations you could get were the three local affiliates for NBC, ABC, and CBS. That, of course was long ago, when there was news, investigative reporting, and locally-produced programming on television.

14. You remember the British “invaded” the US—musically, that is—and all music was on vinyl.

13. You remember the draft and the prime time ritual of pulling military draft numbers from a rotating bin, as if it were a macabre, life-and-death lottery (which it was).

12. You remember the days that President John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Kent State students were shot.

11. You remember watching the Senate Watergate hearings live on television and watching President Nixon leave the White House after his resignation.

10. You or someone close to you served in Vietnam, protested against the Vietnam War, or moved to Canada to avoid the draft.

9. You have at least dabbled in Eastern religions, meditation, yoga, tai chi, alternative medicine, vegetarianism, controlled substances, and/or composting.

8. You own a copy of the Tao te Ch’ing, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Diet for a Small Planet, or anything by Carlos Casteneda.

7. You remember when everyone smoked cigarettes everywhere, and LSD was legal.

6. You learned to type on a manual typewriter.

5. You remember AM transistor radios were a miracle of technology, computers filled entire rooms, and data entry was done on key-punch machines.

4. You remember when abortion was illegal, and the birth control pill had not been invented.

3. You remember the sexual revolution before AIDS, HIV, and herpes.

2. You own something tie-dyed and wore it to a Woodstock 40th anniversary party.

1. Regardless of your gender, you have an old photo of yourself with shoulder-length hair, a beaded necklace, hairy armpits, and no bra.

We’ve come a long way, baby…