Sunday, May 31, 2009

Men Live Sicker And Die Younger

image by personalfx, sxc.hu_*

The Son, The Brother, Lover, Husband, The Father,... Need To Visit The Physician More Often

It is a fact of life - men die younger and earlier than that other gender. Also, a bigger gaggle of diseases simultaneously make the bodies of men their home, than they do the females, from head to toe and across all organ systems. Of the top ten causes of death, men die at higher rates in nine. And this is true for not only the yang of the Homo sapiens species, but also for the yang of all the species Created by Him / Her / It on this planet Earth. For all his outward posturing of machismo and brawn, the creature from Mars is a very, very vulnerable creature indeed.

The Duke Nukem character in a computer game, wiki_*

* The Duke Nukem character in a computer game, wiki. Young lads enjoy the exploits of this hyper-masculine, egotistical, machismo-filled womanizer, as he goes about killing aliens that have invaded Earth. For the time they are playing the game, these boys feel as if they are Duke Nukem incarnate themselves! Well, what do these boys know! That deep down, despite his outward invincibility, their perpetually sneering smart-mouth hero is so vulnerable, and that he will fall on earth earlier than the buxom women he is surrounded by.

There must be something about the male's chemistry that makes him so vulnerable. What is it about the strong, aggressive, go-getter spermatozoon that causes it to decay and die earlier than the passive ovum? Perhaps it is his strength that paradoxically becomes his weakness? Metaphysical and philosophical pondering apart, it is also an observed fact that men do not see physicians for a physical exam as often as women do, which means preventive action, in time, is almost invariably bypassed. Somewhere on the way of growing up, it perhaps gets drilled into the male psyche that to suffer silently, to maintain a stiff upper-lip, is the sign of the perfect male.

image by leroys,

The process of growing up for the typical male is also fraught with confusion and contradictions. Somewhere in this process he learns that he has to be good at table manners, and that he has to be particularly careful that he scratches his belly and touches his organ and gives himself the permission to burp without inhibition, only when no one is looking, especially when the female of the species is not around and not looking. He often finds himself in the crossfire of advice from peers about what image to project: should I keep the hair carelessly tousled, or should I comb them neatly back?

image by redvisualg,

And as he grows up, he finds himself having to learn the fine balance required between social grace and aggression which will help win the mate who makes his heart stop and his knees weak. Competition for a mate has become more gentlemanly since the time of the caveman, who just had to smash the rival's head and drag the woman to the nearest cave -- and never mind what the woman thinks about him. To behave like a statesman with the lady or to genuflect and go down on all fours? To play Don Quixote or to be the Don Juan? To be a saint, or to be an all-out sinner, and who's worried about where it will lead to? Dating forums are full of questions from anxious Adonises - aged from teenage fourteen to very adult sixty - on appropriate behavior.

The transition to adulthood begins with a new competition: this time for resources. Resources that will help him set up his house - the four room house with a lawn in the front and a car in the garage -, resources that will help him pay his bills on time every time, resources that he can safely stash away when the time comes for him to hang those boots. The male warrior spends his entire lifetime in this ultimate battleground where he fights to gather and loot as much of the resources as possible, from the world, in as short a time. It is this battleground where he also begins to play host to the gaggle of diseases we were talking about earlier. The cultural drilling of deferring the visitation with the physician till it becomes absolutely necessary, doesn't help, either.

'Two U.S. marines competing in a match' - wiki_*

'Two U.S. marines competing in a match' - wiki. To display any emotion that betrays anything less than un-manly is absolutely not done, in some cultures. What will the other tribesmen say?

After this competition is through, the man faces the next competition: the competition for status. To be known and respected by peers. The next higher rung on Maslow's ladder. Somewhere deep within the now-oozing-now-ebbing testosterones, the urge to be given some sort of a testimonial of a Life Well-Lived. Depending on the resources garnered during the lifetime, the urge may range from having his own statue erected in some Hall of Fame somewhere, to getting a street square - or an entire village if possible, why not - named after him, to setting up a Trust or a Foundation with a dignified-looking logo, to engaging some ghostwriter who will write the memoirs, to getting his photo on the front-page of some high-profile magazine, to getting some award or prize from some society or organization comprising other distinguished peers, to... well it all depends on how big the ego has ballooned till that point of time.

image by lizevans,

Competition for mates; competition for resources; competition for status --- tell me, with an entire lifetime spent in nothing but competing, is it any surprise that this creature gets to die before time?

'Death of Adonis' - by Luca Giordano, wiki_*

* 'Death of Adonis' - by Luca Giordano, wiki.

Ladies! If you have a male in your life in whatever form - be he a granddad, a father, an uncle, a brother, lover, husband, soul-mate, a son, or a grandson -, despite their I-can-take-care-of-myself act, deep inside they crave your love and care, and you know that, don't you, and so it might do this fellow a world of good if you discreetly find out when it was last that he visited the physician for his checkup. June is observed as Men's Health Month, and if you are in the U.S., June 15-21 is observed as National Men's Health Week --- you might want him to benefit. A male who is healthy is, you will no doubt agree, always good to have around. And go careful around the male ego, please. The balloon is very delicate and tender, and even the hint of a needle can prick it.

Wear Blue logo - Men's Health Awareness_*

Wear Blue logo - Men's Health Awareness.

[While on the subject of males and competition, it is interesting to see the spirit of competition alive and kicking even on the deathbed. Two friends, the best of pals from childhood, compete with each other for one last race: who gets to embrace death first. Read this poignant short story here: "The Newspaper Is Put To This Use, Too".]

image by hilda67,
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Friday, May 22, 2009

Impulsive? Reactive? Aggressive? Get These Biomarkers Tested

image by lusi,

New Research Points The Way To Bring Aggression Under Control

You see that man in the crowd in the corner? Actually, you don't need to see him, you can hear him. His voice tears through the fabric of the hubbub like a sharp knife. Even a half-dozing person can sense the acidic aggression dripping from his body language. As if gearing up for a fight. Provoking the others to provoke him back. And here, look at this man, in this corner, slouching and sulking. But no, his face does not show that he is sulking - it looks as if he wants to blend in with the wall; he wants to become part of the brick-and-paint work.

image by ra3rn,

Social withdrawal and aggression are two extremes of the scale of social behavior. And as with all extremes, both these social-behavior traits are potentially harmful for the individual concerned. Whether you are in a family setting, a workplace setting, or a peer friendship setting, your behavior trait is like an aura around you, whose shine helps others decide how to approach you and interact with you. Somewhere in the process of growing up, we mix our DNA blueprint with our life-experiences and build this aura. This aura both protects us from any "threat" - physical and emotional - as well as also shackles us, for we rarely if ever step out of it.

image by sofamonkez,

Social aggression - of the intense kind - is known to fall into two types: Reactive, which is impulse-prone and emerges as a rebound reaction to stress; and Instrumental, which is totally preplanned, premeditated, and has no ingredient of emotion. While reactive aggression is normally found in the average Joe and Jane, instrumental aggression is the stuff that people who James Bond meets during the course of duty are made of.

image by spekulator,

Outcomes of the latest research appear to suggest that the chemicals that seemingly dictate both these types of social aggression have been identified. What are these chemicals? They say that our behavior is modulated by two chemicals: testosterone and cortisol. A study conducted on 103 teenage boys in a delinquency diversion program has found that overt aggressive behavior is found when the testosterone is high and the cortisol is low. People with high testosterone levels pay more attention to cues that can instigate confrontation. However, a correspondingly high level of cortisol counterbalances the urge to surge forward, for it instills the elements of fear and self-protection, and to some degree, empathy.

image by emospada,

An article published in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry (available online here) takes one step further and suggests that the ratio of testosterone:cortisol be computed. When this ratio is high, then all bets are off, and it does not matter whether the aggression is reactive or instrumental or whatever. Such people are, in the words of the article-writers, a clear "danger to society". How high is "high"? Work is still in progress on this.

image by faberga,

The solution to handling aggression? The article-writers suggest that appropriate therapy be worked out which rectifies the imbalance between testosterone and cortisol levels in the body. May be a time will come when people can walk into the local lab and get their aggression levels tested. Based on the testosterone:cortisol ratio, they might be prescribed injections, to be administered once or twice a week for four weeks and then come back for a follow-up test. Law enforcers - and James Bond too - will carry a tranquilizer kit to handle people they encounter in their line of duty.

image by shelene,

[While waiting for the good doctors to develop those injections and pills, it might be a good idea to include in your regimen a perfectly-natural therapy that automatically restores and maintains the balance between the testosterone and cortisol levels. Here is one article that explains what this therapy is all about: "Workshop On Meditation - Exercising The Muscles Of The Mind".]
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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sleepless? Here's A New Way To Detect Why

image by xymonau,

A New Battery Of Tests Pinpoint More Accurately The Underlying Reasons

Do you remember "Sleepless in Seattle"? The 1993 movie starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan? The movie where the young son calls into a Radio Advice Show about how he wants a Momma for himself and a wife for his dad, and how his dad doesn't sleep in the night because he misses the wife who died from cancer? Who would forget how Annie weeps as she listens to Sam Baldwin talk about the woman who is no longer in his life? Sam's story of sleeplessness becomes famous in the community of the show's listeners, and lands him the mail from Annie the journalist that brings them to the Empire State Building. As the three - Sam, Annie and Jonah - go down the lift of the building in the denouement scene, one can only assume that Annie will cure Sam's sleeplessness. My oh my, some people get very beautiful solutions to their problems!

'Sleepless in Seattle' - original film poster, wiki_*

* 'Sleepless in Seattle' - original film poster, wiki.

The complex neurocircuitry which closes the eyes and shuts down all the mechanisms in the body to bring the body to a state we all know as "Sleep" - is essentially a network of neurons that lies immersed in a cauldron of fluids that the brain keeps secreting time and again. During our lifetime, we go through a sleep/wake, sleep/wake, sleep/wake cycle which has a delicate rhythm of its own. It is the function of these fluids to regulate this rhythm. When this rhythm is disturbed, we experience what Sam Baldwin experienced - insomnia. The list of reasons why this rhythm can get disturbed is still in the process of being updated. Genetic and environmental factors figure in this list, as does stress.

The Neurotransmitter Link, courtesy NeuroScience, Inc._*

* The Neurotransmitter Link, courtesy NeuroScience, Inc.

Different factors can disturb the level of different fluids in the cauldron; say factor X increases this chemical while factor Y decreases that neurotransmitter, but their net outcome is the same: insomnia. So when a patient sits before the clinician moaning about how they couldn't sleep last night, the doctor has to sift through these factors, eliminating one-by-one the most improbable and zeroing down to the main culprit. Which factor is doing what damage? What chapter in the patient's life-story has had the most impact on the cauldron? And so therefore, out of the vast array of therapies that can be prescribed, exactly which therapeutic intervention will rectify the imbalance? The sifting through the factors and the elimination of the improbable has always been a tedious process, with a high-enough chance that the prescription the good doctor scribbles might be something less than the best, the most-optimum solution.

image by egahen,

Well, if the son had called into the show today, the psychologist might in all probability advice the son to subject his dad to a newly-launched non-invasive lab test that measures not one, not two but a dozen bio-markers that give a pretty good snapshot of the imbalances in the body's hormones and neurotransmitters that are behind sleep regulation. Armed with the snapshot, the clinician might then be able to prescribe a more optimal therapy that is just right for Sam. And emerging from the therapy would be a much better Sam, who would have taken more seriously his son's advice to go meet Annie on the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine's Day, instead of wasting time with somebody who was proving to be a compromise choice anyway.

Scene from the movie 'Sleepless in Seattle' - Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Ross Malinger, film.Virtual-history.com_*

* Scene from the movie 'Sleepless in Seattle' - Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Ross Malinger,

And what is this newly-launched non-invasive lab test? It is part of a medical protocol called NeuroSLP, launched by NeuroScience, Inc. Here is the site where you can find further details about this new protocol:

Stained neuron, wiki_*

* Stained neuron, wiki.

Research of course is a never-ending process. So it is quite possible that as you read this, a thirteenth and the fourteenth biomarker too is on the way, to make the diagnosis even more accurate. Since you and I don't have anybody waiting for us on the top of the Empire State Building, sigh, let's hope that the new trick in medical trade will make the good doctor prescribe an appropriate enough therapy that will help get us a good night's sleep.

image by xymonau,

[While insomniacs struggle to find a cure to their condition, here is one situation where people have reported going to sleep when performing a particular task: "I Go To Sleep Whenever I Try to Meditate".

On a different note, are you a Nora-Ephron-Tom-Hanks-Meg-Ryan fan? Then you will enjoy reading this article on another of this gang's movies - "Don't cry, Shopgirl". Which movie does this article talk about? The article title is a giveaway!]

image by straymuse,
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Sunday, May 03, 2009

When Intimacy Turns Violent

image by penywise,

It Is The Wife-Battering Gene That Is The Cause

When the courtship stages take their predictable route and end up in marriage, it is but natural to presume that the happy times will continue to roll on. In some cases they do. But in some other cases, the mask of gentility and love begins to slip away very soon, and the beast within begins to emerge. And not necessarily only on nights of the full moon or the eclipses. The husband or intimate partner begins to reveal a side of his personality which he had so carefully hidden during those wonderful courtship days, which if the then-fiancee-and-now-wife/intimate-partner were to know then, she would have run away! And thus begins a saga of what is nowadays euphemistically called "Intimate Partner Violence", IPV for short.

image by planetka,

Like the swine flu, IPV does not discriminate against race or skin-color, and affects wives and intimate partners across all cultures and continents with equal impartiality. A study conducted in ten countries covered 24,000 women, and the reasons that emerged give a peek into the spectrum of the wife-beater's psychopathology: from physically forcing sexual intercourse to insisting on knowing where she was at all times to getting angry because she spoke to another man to demanding more dowry to .... In fact, an entire journal dedicated exclusively to IPV is now in its fifteenth year of publication in 2009: Violence Against Women: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal.

'Violence Against Women: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal'

'Violence Against Women: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal' - brought out by Sage Publications.

And to think that the husbands project such a genteel, civilized image of themselves when out of the house! The friendly wave to the neighbors and the chitchat with the colleagues, the staring at the floor while being given the dressing-down by the boss - it is hard to imagine what comes over him when he returns to the house and to the wife.

image by branox,

Another pattern that has been consistently found is that the beastly streak comes out in its full force when the wife is pregnant. It is a mystery that has baffled sociologists, psychologists and mental health researchers alike. The sight of the progressively swelling abdomen stirs something in the male soul. Intellectuals brush aside the idea that the increased incidence of violence during pregnancy is due to frustration arising out of limited sexual intercourse opportunities. After all, the male ego gets a huge boost as the crown of fatherhood is the best possible evidence of his virility, so possible pregnancy termination due to violence will actually puncture the balloon, will it not? Then, why? Does the male choose to use the three trimesters to assert himself, to re-proclaim his control over the relationship, and to remind the woman of her dependency on him during those emotionally vulnerable times? Or is it simply that it is only when women happen to visit healthcare centers for their routine pregnancy checkup that IPV incidentally comes to light, which otherwise would have remained hidden?

image by bjearwicke,

Depending on the culture they are embedded in, women themselves consider violence as an accepted part of married life. In fact, if the day passes by without assault, they worry and fuss over the poor husband, wondering if he is unwell or down with the flu or something. There is certain "learned helplessness" about these battered wives which prevents them from seeking legal redress or counsel. And it certainly doesn't help when the laws of the country do not have any provision for reporting and handling of IPV specifically. It is no surprise, therefore to find women being kicked around by husbands. And to find the women wrap themselves around the same legs that kicked them, begging to be "forgiven", promising that they will be "sweet" and do their "Master's bidding".

'The Battered Woman: Lenore E. Walker, Amazon.com_*

The Battered Woman: Lenore E. Walker, The phrase "learned helplessness" comes from this book.

There must be something in the male DNA, the portion that is the 'Y', which defines the male make-up, and which drives him to behave the way he does with the wife / intimate partner. If this something can be detected in advance, a helluva lot of problems can be solved before they crop up. If only governments would set aside some funds for scientists to come up with male-centric tests for the man who is in the market for marriage. There are two suggestions for these tests. One test will give a "PIPV Rating", short for "Proneness to Intimate Partner Violence Rating" which will have a scale from 0 to 10. A 0 (Zero) will indicate a genteel personality, who will not even raise their voice, let alone their hand-or-leg-or-whatever, in anger. A 10 will mean a RED ALERT marker, to STAY AWAY!!! The man may be good only for romance, but is definitely not husband material.

image by andreyutzu,

And the second test will give a "PVDP Rating", which is short for "Proneness to Violence During Pregnancy", which too will be on a scale from 0 to 10. A 0 (Zero) will indicate a loving, caring personality that will remain angelic throughout the three trimesters and keep his beastliness under control. A 10 rating will mean a RED ALERT, to STAY AWAY from him the moment the doctor declares that you are pregnant or when the abdomen starts swelling. Or better still, don't marry him at all and go find a better husband if it is your dream to have a large brood for yourself.

image by shine4him8,

Once these two tests come in the market, ladies, then before you swoon and loose your control at the sight of your man kneeling down before you and holding your hand asking whether you will marry him... before you say yes, do yourself a favor, control yourself and ask that you be shown the lab report on these two tests first.

image by andreyutzu,

Taking this hyper-imaginative thread further, when these tests do come to the market, dating sites will have two additional fields which male users will be required to fill - "PIPV Rating:" and "PVDP Rating:". And when a relationship begins heating up, females will doubtless peek into these values, and if they are not filled, discreetly ask the other party why they are not filled.

image by omar_franc,

Till that time comes when these and other such tests become commonplace, keep your fingers crossed and pray that the man you are tying the knot with will keep his beastly urges in check both when you are carrying and also when you are not.

image by eschu1952,

[Some people enter into a marriage with love in their heart and dreams in their eyes, and then there are others who do so with reluctance driven by circumstances. While you are pondering this, here is another article that uses this theme to talk about the inner conflicts that wreck havoc in us, and urges us to resolve them at the earliest: "Resolving Inner Conflicts". Read and reflect!]
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