November 1, 2006
"Everybody worries about cancer, heart disease and other illnesses, but most people don't have any idea what their long-term risk for developing a serious health problem really is," was the first sentence of Tara Parker-Pope's "Health Journal" feature in yesterday's Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
The second was, "The best place to find out is a Web site called www.yourdiseaserisk.com.
I mean, just knowing what day you're gonna crump isn't all that interesting, especially if it's decades from today: here's something to fill in the hours, days, weeks, months and years until that day arrives.
Of enormous fascination to me is Ms. Parker-Pope's assumption that "everybody worries about cancer, heart disease and other illnesses...."
Perhaps everyone who reads the WSJ.
But what about me?
Why am I not worried?
Am I not a man?
Are we — that's you and me — not men*?
Here's her piece.
- Web Site Tallies Your Risk Of Disease And Tells You
Everybody worries about cancer, heart disease and other illnesses, but most people don't have any idea what their long-term risk for developing a serious health problem really is.
The best place to find out is a Web site called www.yourdiseaserisk.com. The site, created by the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention, stands out as one of the best health-oriented sites on the Web. Most Internet sites give users general health information, but the Harvard site has found a way to provide customized information to help patients better understand their personal health and risk for disease. More important, it also spits out a tailored action plan on ways to lower risk for health problems. It does all this using colorful graphics and charts that allow users to grasp how their health stacks up against the rest of the population and how small changes in lifestyle can lower their health risks.
"We started this because people didn't appear to understand how much of cancer or other diseases can be prevented with changes in lifestyle," says Harvard professor Graham Colditz, director of the cancer prevention center and founder of the site. "We're giving you an individualized assessment of what you can do."
Other Web sites offer calculators to help users assess their risk for various health problems. The American Heart Association, for instance, offers a short quiz to help determine your 10-year risk of heart attack. But the calculator isn't easy to find. Go to www.americanheart.org and type "heart attack risk assessment" in the search box. But unlike the Harvard Web site, the heart association calculator just focuses on basic statistics like cholesterol and blood pressure, and doesn't factor in healthful behaviors like exercise, fruit and vegetable intake, and regular wine consumption.
Another site, www.cancer.gov/bcrisktool from the National Cancer Institute, allows women to calculate their risk for breast cancer. I like this site because it gives a woman her actual risk rather than using scary-sounding relative-risk percentages. For instance, a 60-year-old woman who had children after the age of 30 and whose own mother had breast cancer has a 44% higher risk of getting breast cancer than the average 60-year-old. But this site puts those numbers in perspective, showing her real risk of getting breast cancer in five years is just 2.6%, compared with the 1.8% risk faced by the average 60-year-old woman. But again, the downside of the NCI calculator is that it uses only a few basic questions and doesn't include the variety of factors that influence breast-cancer risk.
The Harvard Web site allows users to calculate their risk for developing 12 different cancers, as well as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and osteoporosis. The site goes beyond the standard questions about age, cholesterol and family history and explores the variety of lifestyle choices, environmental issues and other factors that can influence health risk. The questions are based on risk factors that have been established through credible scientific studies. To create the site, researchers pored through the medical literature, looking for various risk factors that could influence a particular disease, such as age of first period (breast cancer), age of first sexual contact (cervical cancer) and history of steroid use (osteoporosis). Then a committee of Harvard experts met to discuss the quality of the research behind those risk factors and formed a consensus on which risk factors should be used in the Web-site survey to calculate a person's overall risk for various diseases.
"There's no way to completely control everything," says Cynthia Stein, associate director of the Harvard center, who in 2004 helped revamp the site from just a cancer tool to a risk assessment for several diseases. "You can't change your family history or your age. Those do have a huge impact on your risk, but there are things you can do to keep yourself healthier."
At the end of the survey, the site creates a color-coded graphic showing how your risk stacks up against the rest of the population. But the best thing about yourdiseaserisk.com is the next step — a customized action plan showing how you can alter your risk through lifestyle changes, such as increasing vegetable consumption, exercising more, taking calcium supplements or a multivitamin, stopping smoking or changing alcohol habits. The site allows you to click on those tips, and the color-coded graph changes, showing the user how adopting the lifestyle changes will alter risk.
The site, which receives about 2,000 visits a day, is supported by Harvard, various foundations and research grants. The site is constantly being updated as new health information becomes available.
*In the generic sense, booboo.
Golf Mousepad with Putter
Sometimes you need to adapt the principles of sports training to time wasting.
I mean, you can only sit passively diddling around online for so long before you get restless and need to exercise a different part of your brain.
For times like these, there's this item.
From the website:
- Golf Mousepad with Putter
Add fun to your workday by sinking a few practice shots while waiting for a long download, talking on the phone or enjoying a coffee break.
Full-size mousepad is cut in the shape of a classic golf green.
Includes mini putter, four tiny golf balls and flag.
8-1/4" long x 12" wide.
There's something about touch screens...
... that I just don't get.
I mean, I fume silently and wince (almost) imperceptibly when someone pointing something out to me on my computer screen touches it: don't they realize it's not a touch screen?
Or is it that they don't care?
I think it's the latter in the great majority of cases: when I look carefully at people's computer screens I see a smudgefest of grease and fingerprints.
How can they stand it?
Me, I try to dust mine lightly each day before I get cracking, preferably with an old scrub top.
I use an iKlear when I'm feeling especially perky.
But how can people be satisfied using computers that require physical contact with the screen?
Even more reason we need a Wii-like interface yesterday.
Let touchscreens swim with the fishes.
Ball Cap Earband — Episode 2: Price Break
When I featured this earwarming accessory on August 31 of last year, many readers thought it was so goofy-looking they burst out laughing.
Until they saw the price ($19.95), which they (and I) thought was outrageous for what, after all, is just a stretchy circular piece of fabric with a big hole in it.
Even if you want to go for the dork look, you can get there far more cheaply.
So I told my crack research team to keep this item simmering on the back burner, as it were, in the hope of finding a more reasonably priced iteration.
It took them 14 months but they succeeded.
From the website:
- Fleece Ear Band
Fleece Earband holds cap on — keeps ears toasty warm!
Designed for those who just won't give up that favorite baseball cap, even in the coldest weather.
Clever ear band covers your ears and forehead.
Cap's visor slips through the special slit for a snug "wind-proof" fit.
Black or Camouflage.
Hunters, we've got you covered, as it were: you can get one in Blaze Orange for $9.50.
N.B. If you prefer yours in Red or Blue,
you're back up to $19.95.
it hurts to be beautiful.
'The God of Small Things' — Earthly Outpost Opens in Virtual World
Translation: Tiny Living, a store in New York City devoted to the wee lifestyle, now has a website.
The news came in early this morning.
When I first heard about the business, in a mention in the New York Times last week, I emailed the owners (Gretchen Broussard and Roee Dori) and asked them to let me know when their website went live so I could get the word up and out.
Note to Gretchen and Roee: You'll want to at least have a copy of Arundhati Roy's Booker Prize-winning novel
in your window even if you don't choose to sell it.
- Pigeon Light
"An urban souvenir."
Perch-able light with a wooden clothes pin for feet.
Made of 3mm vac-formed Perspex with 25W light bulb.
9"L x 3.1"W x 9"H.
Made in the UK.
Pink, Grey, White, Orange, Black or Yellow.
£55 (€82; $104).
Endless fun for the easily amused.
Hey — that's me.
From the website:
- What Would Bacon Do? Deluxe Spin Folder
A good folder not only holds your important papers, but also provides some form of entertainment to get you through those droning lectures and meetings.
Doodling on a Pee-Chee is fun for awhile, but pretty soon you're going to get the urge to flick something.
This 9-1/2" x 12" glossy folder features classic spinner technology: just flick the spinner and watch it twirl round and round before stopping on an amusing phrase.
Oracle of Bacon, call your office: your accessory is in.