Saturday, June 01, 2013

Confused and Betrayed

I try and do the right things, I really do. But I'm confused.

Take recycling. Like any good liberal weenie, I made sure to place all used cans and plastic containers in a clear plastic bag, and used newspapers in a brown paper one. Then I faithfully consulted the schedule the refuse company sent us (note that I'm such a weenie that I didn't even use the term "garbage"), and on the appropriate alternate weeks, brought one or the other to the curb along with the regular weekly can.

Now they tell me it's not necessary. With so called single-stream recycling, they tell me to throw it all into one bag. Not to worry, they say: if you just give us all the stuff that can be reprocessed together, we'll figure it out at the other end. Still, years of conditioning aren't so easy to shake. So we still use two different bags, but bring them out together early Friday mornings, and watch the guy on the garbage truck (whoops, I slipped) toss it all in the same hopper. In the name of Al Gore, I just have to trust them.

Plenty of other similar conundrums abound. We used be taught to pump the brakes to stop; now we are told to jam them on and let the anti-lock system do the job. We used to religiously backup all our data locally; now we're told to do it all online in the cloud. It's as if Woody Allen's 1973 movie "Sleeper" has come to life. In it, a man is frozen for 200 years, and when he wakes, requests a breakfast of wheat germ, organic honey and tiger's milk. "They were thought to be healthy," says one doctor." Another: "You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or hot fudge?" Says the first, "Those were thought to be unhealthy, precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true." They both shake their heads: "Incredible," they agree.

Incredible indeed, yet that's precisely where we are. In a new study published by cardiologists at Duke University, researchers looked at two of the most common recommendations for better health. The first involves a class of drugs known as statins. Statins reduce cholesterol and appear to have few detrimental side effects, a one-two punch that helps make them the most prescribed pharmaceuticals in the world. As a person with genetically high cholesterol, I count myself as a taker. Indeed, between some dietary changes and the pills, I can report that my levels have dropped below my former 2 pieces of pizza a day marker, a result my doctor and I find encouraging.

The second area the folks at Duke looked at involved exercise. You have to have been living under a rock not to know that virtually every health care professional says that that doing some sort of physical workout is a good thing. Walk, run, bike - doesn't matter what. Any getting up and out is a good thing, and so I do it all. As long as I don't get hit by a bus when jogging, doc and I are both happy.

So one would think that if get your pills down and your heart rate up, living to 137 is possible. Well, maybe not 137, but at least you have a better chance of getting closer than a couch potato with an LDL of 200. But not so fast, say the researchers at Duke. Turns out that statins and exercise don't mix so well. When they tested a bunch of volunteers, as the study so dryly puts it, "Cardiorespiratory fitness increased by 10% in response to exercise training alone, but was blunted by the addition of simvastatin resulting in only a 1.5% increase." In other words, if you want to get healthy, you can exercise or you can take statins. But doing both? Well, let's just say they go together like Lindsey Lohan and authority figures.

As for me, once more I'm confused. I know that peanut butter and chocolate go together. I know that rainy days and naps have a synergy. But beyond that? At least for now, I'll keep taking my pills and running a few miles every few days. But please figure this out. Or that getting hit by a bus option is starting to look a whole lot more attractive.


Marc Wollin of Bedford runs slowly, but at least he runs. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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