That's what they're doing.
And everybody should do it this well.
In 1968, Philip Morris marketed Virginia Slims cigarettes to women with an advertising strategy showing canny insight into the importance of the emerging women's movement. The slogan "You've come a long way, Baby" later gave way to "It's a woman thing" in the mid-1990s, and more recently the "Find your voice" campaign featuring women of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The underlying message of these campaigns has been that smoking is related to women's freedom, emancipation, and empowerment.
COPD used to be considered an old man's disease.
Think of smoker's cough. It's easy to see the old coot getting up in the morning, lighting one up even before he gets dressed, and coughing his way to the bathroom.
Today, more women have COPD than men.
That's almost certainly because smoking for women became very, very cool in the decade following 1968.
We're all suckers for whatever we think is cool
How do we encourage young people to feel that smoking isn't cool at all?
For 50 years, strokes have been the third leading cause of death in the United States, after heart disease and cancer.
We've been told that COPD -- lung diseases -- would take over the third spot by the year 2020. Now we're told COPD, a condition that most of us Alphas share, rushed into third place 12 years early -- in 2008.
Thanks to the smoking boom 30-40 years ago, especially among women, lung disease is rising fast as a killer. But did it suddenly speed up?
No. Turns out, we're just counting differently. David Mannino is among the lung specialists who say deaths from COPD have been under-counted for many years. He's quoted here.
Ever raise a child?
Then one of the things you know, down to your bone marrow, is how much work it is to do this job well. That's true of any child, including a reasonably healthy kid facing all the usual challenges of growing up.
How do you feel about adopting a child? Let's say a child with brain damage, severe physical problems that will require medication for a lifetime, and emotional problems caused by rejection and neglect.
Here's how I feel: Overwhelmed at the very idea.
This is why some children are usually considered unadoptable: Most people feel the way I do. But amazingly, not everybody.
Vitamin D: I start with the maximum. Then I double it.
During the winter, once a week, I take a 50,000 mg capsule of Vitamin D. I do this even though I live in the deep South of the United States, where I could just go out into the sunshine between 10 am and 2 pm for half an hour two or three times a week wearing shorts or swim trunks and get all the Vitamin D I need.
I could do this, but like most people, I don't.
A committee of the Institute of Medicine, which describes itself as "an independent, nonprofit organization that works outside of government to provide unbiased and authoritative advice to decision makers and the public," has just recommended slightly higher levels of Vitamin D supplements.
The recommendations are ridiculously low, as are the recommendations the U.S. government has been suggesting for years.
The committee says nobody should take more than 4,000 of Vitamin D a day. Too much can cause kidney stones, they say. I take nearly double that amount, all winter, every winter. There's no chance this will cause me to make kidney stones. There's an excellent chance it will help my immune system to fend off colds, the flu, and the lung exacerbations that increase in people with Alpha-1 during the winter.
Elena Christofides, MD, is appalled by the new recommendations. I agree with Dr. Christofides.
This year, a Danish researcher named Peter Gøtzsche said his analysis of two studies showed there's no evidence that Alpha-1 augmentation works.
This month, two researchers analyzed the same studies and said they show that augmentation works exactly as it's supposed to -- it slows loss of lung tissue.
Those are the same, exact studies. And these conclusions are as exactly opposite as I can imagine.
Who you gonna believe?
Well, the Alpha-1 Foundation blasted Gøtzsche and said his review was so flawed it might ruin the reputation of the Cochrane Library, which published it.
The big underlying fear is that health insurance companies might jump on Gøtzsche's conclusion and refuse to pay for augmentation, which is expensive.
The new analysis, published in the journal Respiratory Research, is by British Professor Robert Stockley, MD, who is on the Foundation's Medical and Scientific Advisory Committee, and Danish Professor Asger Dirksen, who was the lead author of the only two studies being discussed here.
Talecris Biotherapeutics paid for the analysis published in Respiratory Research, and for one of Dirksen's original studies. Talecris manufactures Prolastin-C, the dominant augmentation therapy.
Just about everybody except Gøtzsche agrees we really need a bigger study to settle this question.
As for me, I'll keep on sticking myself once a week.
What the top dogs are wearing these days.
Click the photo for fashion details.
Designer Lindsay Megenhardt; and her model, Brooklyn.
Dennis Pollock was in Washington in 2007 for a "Genetics Day on the Hill" when he decided to pay a visit to US Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma -- Pollock's home state.
Pollock wanted the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act passed. GINA provides some basic health insurance and job protections for people with genetic conditions like Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency. Alpha-1 caused the lung disease that forced Pollock to have a lung transplant in 2004.
Coburn had placed a hold on the GINA bill. Any senator can keep a bill from a vote on the Senate floor by the unofficial but all-powerful weapon called a "hold." GINA had widespread support, but the bill was never going to make it to a vote as long as Coburn had it on hold.
Pollock had no appointment, and nobody in Coburn's office wanted to see him. Eventually, he met with an aide who told him the senator would keep the hold on the bill. Period.
"I thought that was arrogant," Pollock said. "I was so frustrated."
He left, and from the steps of Coburn's office building, he got on his cell phone. He called about 10 members of his Alpha-1 support group back in Oklahoma, and asked them all to get 10 of their friends to join in calls to the senator's office.
Within 45 minutes he got a call from Coburn's office. "They asked me to tell the Alphas to stop calling. They were getting so many calls, they couldn't get anything done. I said, 'Will you release the hold on the GINA bill?' They said no. I said, 'Then I won't stop the calls.'"
The Oklahoma Alphas kept up the calls and emails for months. Eventually, Coburn released the hold. The Senate passed GINA 95-0. Dennis Pollock was in the room when President Bush signed GINA into law on May 21, 2008.
Coburn said his concerns about GINA had been resolved, and that's why he released the bill. Maybe so.
But I think it's at least as likely that the Oklahoma Alphas changed the senator's mind.
And I'm just saying, Thank you, Dennis.
People with low levels of Vitamin D are 36 percent more likely to develop an upper-respiratory infection.
The peak season is just beginning for upper respiratory infections. Right, Alphas?
Low levels of Vitamin D turn out to be increasingly common, and it's undermining our immune systems. Sunlight gives us plenty -- but not if you slather on sunscreen, as all the dermatologists have been telling us to do for decades now.
If you live in the northern part of the US or in Canada, you can't make any Vitamin D from sunshine till next April anyway. The sun's just too low in the sky. (That's true in Boston, Milwaukee, and Portland (either Oregon or Maine), for some examples.
I take supplemental Vitamin D, specifically D3 or cholecalciferol, which is cheap, readily available and 3 or 4 times more effective than other kinds. How much do you need? The officially-recommended levels are being reconsidered as much too low. Experts all over are recommending 1,000 to 2,000 IUs per day, but they're doing it "unofficially," presumably in fear of the FDA or somebody.
For perspective: Your body makes 20,000 IUs a day if you spend 20-30 minutes exposing yourself to the sun, and you're light-skinned. (Dark-skinned people, especially African-Americans, take much longer to produce the same amount.)
Here is an expert opinion.