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Why You Should Avoid Taking Vaccines
By James Howenstein, M.D.


If I took an apple and injected it with aluminum, phenol, acetone, thimerosal
(mercury) and billions of bacteria and viruses...WOULD YOU EAT IT? If you
answered NO...how can they justify INJECTING it into a muscle, which gets
into your blood and circulates around the body...exposing all major organs and
tissues to everything in the vaccine? Common sense tells us this is not SAFE!
So, ask your doctor the next time he/she wants to inject your kids with a vaccine.

Dr. James R. Shannon, of the National institute of Health declared,
"The only safe vaccine is one that is never used."

"Vaccines "trick" the body so it does not mount a
complete inflammatory response to the injected virus."

Cowpox vaccine was believed able to immunize people against smallpox. At the time this vaccine was introduced, there was already a decline in the number of cases of smallpox. Japan introduced compulsory vaccination in 1872. In 1892 there were 165,774 cases of smallpox with 29,979 deaths despite the vaccination program. A stringent compulsory smallpox vaccine program, which prosecuted those refusing the vaccine, was instituted in England in 1867. Within 4 years 97.5% of persons between 2 and 50 had been vaccinated. The following year England experienced the worst smallpox epidemic [1] in its history with 44,840 deaths. Between 1871 and 1880 the incidence of smallpox escalated from 28 to 46 per 100,000. The smallpox vaccine does not work.

Much of the success attributed to vaccination programs may actually have been due to improvement in public health related to water quality and sanitation, less crowded living conditions, better nutrition, and higher standards of living. Typically the incidence of a disease was clearly declining before the vaccine for that disease was introduced. In England the incidence of polio had decreased by 82% before the polio vaccine was introduced in 1956.

In the early 1900s an astute Indiana physician, Dr. W.B. Clarke, stated, "Cancer was practically unknown until compulsory vaccination with cowpox vaccine began to be introduced. I have had to deal with two hundred cases of cancer, and I never saw a case of cancer in an unvaccinated [2] person."

There is a widely held belief that vaccines should not be criticized because the public might refuse to take them. This is valid only if the benefits exceed the known risks of the vaccines.

Do Vaccines Actually Prevent Disease?

This important question does not appear to have ever been adequately studied. Vaccines are enormously profitable for drug companies and recent legislation in the US has exempted lawsuits against pharmaceutical firms in the event of adverse reactions to vaccines which are very common. In 1975 Germany stopped requiring pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination. Today less than 10% of German children are vaccinated against pertussis. The number of cases of pertussis has steadily decreased [3] even though far fewer children are receiving pertussis vaccine.

Measles outbreaks have occurred in schools with vaccination rates over 98% in all parts of the US including areas that had reported no cases of measles for years. As measles immunization rates rise to high levels measles becomes a disease seen only in vaccinated persons. An outbreak of measles occurred in a school where 100% of the children had been vaccinated. Measles mortality rates had declined by 97% in England before measles vaccination was instituted.

In 1986 there were 1300 cases of pertussis in Kansas and 90% of these cases occurred in children who had been adequately vaccinated. Similar vaccine failures have been reported from Nova Scotia where pertussis continues to be occurring despite universal vaccination. Pertussis remains endemic [4] in the Netherlands where for more than 20 years 96% of children have received 3 pertussis shots by age 12 months.

After institution of diphtheria vaccination in England and Wales in 1894 the number of deaths from diphtheria rose by 20% in the subsequent 15 years. Germany had compulsory vaccination in 1939. The rate of diphtheria spiraled to 150,000 cases that year whereas, Norway which did not have compulsory vaccination, had only 50 cases of diphtheria the same year.

The continued presence of these infectious diseases in children who have received vaccines proves that life long immunity which follows natural infection does not occur in persons receiving vaccines. The injection process places the viral particles into the blood without providing any clear way to eliminate these foreign substances.

Why Do Vaccines Fail To Protect Against Diseases?

Walene James, author of Immunization: the Reality Behind The Myth, states that the full [5] inflammatory response is necessary to create real immunity. Prior to the introduction of measles and mumps vaccines children got measles and mumps and in the great majority of cases these diseases were benign. Vaccines "trick" the body so it does not mount a complete inflammatory response to the injected virus. --

Notes

[1] Null Gary Vaccination: An Analysis of the Health Risks- Part Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients Dec. 2003 page 78

[2] Mullins Eustace Murder by Injection page 132 The National Council for Medical Research, P. O. Box 1105, Staunton, Virginia 24401

[3] Gary Null Interview with Dr. Dean Black April 7, 1995

[4] de Melker HE, et al Pertussis in the Netherlands: an outbreak despite high levels of immunization with whole-cell vaccine Emerging Infectious Diseases 1997; 3(2): 175-8 Centers for Disease Control

[5] Gary Null Interview with Walene James, April 6, 1995

See complete article here.

Points To Ponder

Not all doctors are healers.
Not all healers are doctors.

"Nothing will benefit human health and increase
the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as
the evolution to a vegetarian diet."
-- Albert Einstein

"If you do not breathe consciously for 11 minutes a day,
you lose 40% of the vitality of life. This 40% you cannot
recapture by any medicine or any exercise. But if you do
breathe consciously for 11 minutes and make it very long,
deep and slow, that can do exactly what no miracle can do,
because your life is based on the breath of life."
-- Yogi Bhajan

"No matter how good the diet is, we tend to exceed the self
cleaning capacity of our bodies. Uric acid, (a byproduct
of meat consumption), calcium crystals, and many other
wastes and poisons get stored in tissues and joints. They
make us stiff and may cause many diseases. In Kundalini
Yoga
, muscle stretching along with internal massage bring
waste back into circulation so that the lungs, intestines,
kidneys and skin are able to remove it." --
Yogi Bhajan

"In each and every environment, good
health and sustained wellness is dependant
on the rapid removal of waste. In terms of our
personal health, one needs to void solid waste two to
three times a day or once between each meal, without
straining, to maintain basic health and wellness. Toxins can
be harmless if removed quickly from the body."
-- Hari Singh

"I do not know any work that is more important for the evolution of
humanity’s collective consciousness and our own evolution as
spiritual beings, than to heal the wounds that block us from fulfilling
our destiny and prevent us from feeling satisfied with life, and then
to learn how to help others heal their wounds." --
Sat Santokh Singh

"Due to the power and corrupting influence of Big Pharma, the teaching of
nutritional science and the use of vitamin and herbal supplements is not
taught to any significant extent in our medical schools. The obvious reason is
that teaching this science reduces the use of prescription drugs." --
H. S. Khalsa

   

Helpful Health Hints

                                          

                                                            

                                    

                                  

                                  

                                    

                              

      


About Hair

Eyes Have It

Ear Candling

Back Walking

Energy-Drinks

The Water Cure

Inner Clean Diet

What About Gout

For Women Only

The Human Body

For Garlic Lovers

Sugar Is A Poison

Reflexology Chart

Path2Fitness.com

What's Eating You

Yogi Bhajan's Diet

The Oreo Dilemma

Vegetarian Recipes

Food Ads vs. Reality

A Healing Meditation

Drinking Driving Dead

Test Your Eyes Online

Beware: Canned Soup

Meditation For Women

How To Reverse Aging

Sugar Dumbs Us Down

What About Gallstones

What About Chemtrails

What About Aspartame

The Color of Depression

Beware: "No Added MSG"

Do Doctors Cause Dementia

Texting And Driving Is Crazy

It's Time To Rag On Ragweed

What About Sodium Benzoate

SugarIsAFourLetterWord.com

Left Brain-Right Brain Diversity

Be Warned If You're On Statins

The Aquarian Age Wake Up Call

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's

Lasik Eye Surgery - FDA Warning

Drug Company Insider Confesses

Corporations are killing Americans

A Critical Look At Optical Retailers

Jimmy Carter And Women's Rights

What Your Optician Needs To Know

Is Alzheimer's Diabetes of The Brain

Appendix: A Newly Discovered Organ

Another Side of The Soy-Protein Story

See What Happens When You Meditate

See Why Sikhs Keep Their Hair Unshorn

What About PPA (PhenylPropanolAmine)

Use Himalayan Salt - Do Not Use Table Salt

Opticians: Merchants or Health Care Providers


Reverse Aging
By Sang Whang

Here is the simple process of aging.

Every living cell within our body creates waste products. The nutrients from our food are delivered to each cell and they burn with oxygen to provide energy for us to live. The burned nutrients are the waste products. Whether you eat gourmet or junk food, all food generates waste products. The food that is either good or bad for you is determined by the amount and quality of the wastes produced: toxic, acid, alkaline, etc. Most of our cells go through metabolism and old dead cells become waste products. These waste products must be discharged from our body. In fact, our body tries its best to dispose of them through urine and perspiration. Virtually all waste products are acidic; that is why urine is acidic and skin surface is also acidic.

The problem is that, due to several reasons, our body cannot get rid of 100% of the waste products it produces.

The main reason for this is our life style. We stay up late and get up early. We do not take time to rest; some of us work more than one job. We, therefore, spend more time producing waste products than processing and discharging them.

The second reason is food. Most of the food we like is mainly acidic. Acidic food does not necessarily mean that it tastes acidic, but that the wastes it produces are acidic. Grains and meats are mainly acidic; fruits and vegetables are alkaline. Citric fruits may taste acidic but they are considered to be alkaline because they contain alkaline minerals.

The third reason is our environment. More healthy cells are killed by air, water and soil pollution than the natural death of cells caused by normal metabolism. Thus, more waste products are created. The question is: "What happens to those non-disposed acidic waste products?" The answer is simple. These waste products become solid wastes, such as, cholesterol, fatty acid, uric acid, kidney stones, urates, phosphates, sulfates, etc., and, unknown to us, they accumulate and build-up somewhere within our body. This accumulation of non-disposed acidic wastes within our body is the aging process.

Alkaline neutralizes acid. Drinking alkaline water helps our body dissolve acid wastes and make it easier for the body to dispose of them safely. Since the accumulation of acid wastes is aging, the reduction of acid wastes is reverse aging. Alkaline water is not a medicine to cure any disease. However, if consumed regularly, alkaline water gradually reduces the accumulated acid wastes. As a result of acid reduction, there are many reports of natural health improvement in Japan. We use alkaline soap to wash acidic dirt accumulated on our skin; we must wash the acidic dirt accumulated within our body by using alkaline water. Alkaline water has been available in Asia for over 30 years.

Water ionizers to produce alkaline water have been approved by Japanese government agencies as medical devices.

In future publications more detailed scientific explanations will be discussed on the subjects of water, acidity and alkalinity, effects of acidic wastes on the human body, causes of some adult diseases, effects of alkaline water, and simple methods of making alkaline water. Find your true age here. --

From Yogi Bhajan

"No matter how good the diet is, we tend to
exceed the self cleaning capacity of our bodies.
Uric acid (a biproduct of meat consumption),
calcium crystals, and many other wastes and
poisons get stored in tissues and joints.
They make us stiff and may cause many diseases.
In Kundalini Yoga, muscle stretching and internal
massage bring waste back into circulation so that the
lungs, intestines, kidneys, and skin are able to remove it."

Yogi Bhajan



Is this preservative, Benzoate of Soda,
(Sodium Benzoate) bad for you?


Diet Coke will drop additive in DNA damage fear.
By Colin Fernandez

May 26th - Diet Coke to drop additive in DNA damage fear. May be linked to hyperactivity and DNA damage.

Coca-Cola is phasing out a controversial additive that has been linked to damage to DNA and hyperactivity in children.

Sodium benzoate, also known as E211, is used to stop fizzy drinks going moldy.

Coca-Cola said it had begun withdrawing the additive from Diet Coke in January in response to consumer demand for more natural products.

By the end of the year no can or bottle will contain E211.

The company plans to remove it from its other products as soon as possible, but said that at present it had not found a satisfactory alternative to replace the additive in some soft drinks with a higher juice content, including Fanta, Dr Pepper, Sprite and Oasis. The chemical is not used in regular Coke.

While sodium benzoate occurs naturally in some fruits, it is used in greater strengths by the soft drinks industry.

But research by Peter Piper, a professor of molecular biology at Sheffield University, found that the additive could switch off parts of DNA, the genetic code in the cells of living creatures, that could be linked to cirrhosis of the liver and Parkinson's disease.

However, the Government-backed Committee on Mutagenicity has dismissed the research.

It argues that while sodium benzoate has been shown to be harmful to yeast cells, human cells are stronger.

Research by Southampton University found that sodium benzoate was one of seven additives - the six others are food colors - that can lead to hyperactivity in children.

The Food Standards Agency has called for the six colors to be withdrawn from products but not sodium benzoate.

The Daily Mail has campaigned for a ban on harmful additives.

A Coca-Cola spokesman said: "We are continuously listening to our consumers' thoughts about ingredients."

The firm stressed that E211 was approved as an additive by many bodies around the world including the European Food Standards Agency.

BUTTER IS BETTER FOR YOUR HEALTH


Do You Know?
The differences between Margarine and Butter.

Margarine was originally manufactured to fatten turkeys. Then, they came out with some clever and different flavorings to improve the taste for public consumption.

Both margarine and butter have the same amount of calories.

Butter is slightly higher in saturated fats at 8 grams compared to 5 grams.

Eating margarine can increase heart disease in women by 50% over eating the same amount of butter, according to a recent Harvard medical study. See Snopes.com.

But eating butter increases the absorption of many other nutrients in other foods.

Butter has many nutritional benefits, whereas margarine has only a few, but only because they are added!

Butter tastes much better than margarine, and it can enhance the flavors of other foods.

Butter has been around for centuries, whereas margarine has been around for less than 100 years.

MORE ABOUT MARGARINE

Margarine is very high in trans fatty acids.

Margarine triples the risk of coronary heart disease. See Snopes.com.

Margarine increases total cholesterol and LDL, the bad cholesterol, and lowers HDL cholesterol, the good cholesterol.

Margarine increases the risk of cancers up to five fold.

Margarine lowers the quality of breast milk.

Margarine decreases the immune system response.

Margarine decreases insulin response.

WHAT‘S REALLY DISTURBING

Margarine is only ONE MOLECULE away from being all PLASTIC.

This fact alone is enough to make anybody avoid margarine for life and anything else that is hydrogenated (this means hydrogen is added, changing the molecular structure of the substance).

Try this:

Purchase a tub of margarine and leave it in your garage or shaded area. Within a couple of days you will note a couple of things:

No flies, not even those pesky fruit flies will go near margarine (this should tell us something).

Margarine does not rot or smell differently because it has no nutritional value; nothing will grow on it. Even those teeny weenie microorganisms will not a find a home to grow in margarine. Why, because it is PLASTIC.

Question: Would you melt some Tupperware and spread it on your toast? --

The History of Butter 

How To Make Ghee (Clarified Butter)

Health facts about Honey and Cinnamon

    

It's been found that a mixture of Honey and Cinnamon cures many diseases. Honey is produced in most of the countries of the world. Scientists today also accept honey as a very effective medicine for all kinds of diseases. Honey can be used without any side effects for any kind of diseases.

Today's scientists say that even though honey is sweet, if taken in correct dosage as a medicine, it does not harm diabetic patients.

Weekly World News, a magazine in Canada, on its issue dated January 17, 1995 has given the following list of diseases that can be cured by Honey and Cinnamon as researched by some scientists:

HEART DISEASES:
Make a paste of honey and cinnamon powder, apply on bread, instead of jelly or jam, and eat it regularly for breakfast. It reduces the cholesterol in the arteries and saves the patient from heart attack. Also, those who have previously had an attack, if done daily, will prevent future heart attack.

Regular use of this combination relieves shortness of breath and strengthens heartbeat. In America and Canada, some nursing homes have treated patients successfully with honey and cinnamon, having found that it revitalizes the arteries and veins.

ARTHRITIS:
Arthritis patients may take daily, morning and night, one cup of hot water with two spoons of honey and one spoon of cinnamon powder. This can cure even chronic arthritis. In research conducted at the Copenhagen University, it was found that when patients were treated with a mixture of one Tablespoon honey and half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder before breakfast, out of the 200 people so treated, 73 patients were relieved of pain within a week, and within a month, most patients who could not walk or move around because of arthritis, were walking without pain.

BLADDER INFECTIONS:
Take two Tablespoons of cinnamon powder and one teaspoon of honey in a glass of lukewarm water and drink it. This destroys the organisms in the bladder.

TOOTHACHE:
Make a paste of one teaspoon of cinnamon powder and five teaspoons of honey and apply on the aching tooth. This may be applied 3 times a day till the tooth stops aching.

CHOLESTEROL:
Two Tablespoons of honey and three teaspoons of cinnamon powder mixed in 16 ounces of tea water, given to a cholesterol patient, is found to reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood by 10% within 2 hours. As mentioned for arthritic patients, if taken 3 times a day, any chronic cholesterol is cured. Pure honey taken daily with food relieves elevated cholesterol.

COLDS:
Those suffering from common cold symptoms should take one Tablespoon lukewarm honey and water with 1/4 spoon cinnamon powder daily for 3 days. This process will cure most chronic cold symptoms, and clear the sinuses.

UPSET STOMACH:
Honey taken with cinnamon powder cures stomach ache and also clears stomach ulcers.

GAS:
According to studies done in India and Japan, if honey is taken with cinnamon powder the stomach gas is relieved.

IMMUNE SYSTEM:
Daily use of honey and cinnamon powder strengthens the immune system and protects the body from bacterial and viral attacks. Scientists have found that honey has various vitamins and iron in large amounts. Constant use of honey strengthens the white blood corpuscles to fight bacterial and viral diseases.

INDIGESTION:
Cinnamon powder sprinkled on two Tablespoons of honey taken before food, relieves acidity and helps digest the heaviest of meals.

INFLUENZA:
A scientist in Spain has found that honey contains a natural ingredient which kills the influenza germs and prevents the flu.

LONGEVITY:
Tea made with honey and cinnamon powder, when taken regularly, arrests the ravages of old age. Take 4 spoons of honey, 1 spoon of cinnamon powder and 3 cups of water and boil to make like tea. Drink 1/4 cup, 3 to 4 times a day. It keeps the skin fresh and soft.

PIMPLES:
Three Tablespoons of honey and one teaspoon of cinnamon powder paste. Apply this paste on the pimples before sleeping and remove it next morning with warm water. If done daily for two weeks, it removes the pimples.

SKIN INFECTIONS:
Regular application of honey and cinnamon powder in equal parts to the affected parts cures eczema, ringworm, and all types of skin infections.

WEIGHT LOSS:
Daily in the morning 1/2 hour before breakfast on an empty stomach and at night before sleeping, drink honey and cinnamon powder boiled in one-cup water. If taken regularly it curbs the appetite and reduces the weight of even the most obese person. Also, the frequent drinking of this mixture does not allow fat to accumulate in the body even though the person may eat a high calorie diet.

CANCER:
Recent research in Japan and Australia has revealed that advanced cancer of the stomach and bones have been cured successfully. Patients suffering from these kinds of cancer should take one Tablespoon of honey with one teaspoon of cinnamon powder daily 3 times a day for 40 days.

FATIGUE:
Recent studies have shown that the sugar content of honey is more helpful rather than being detrimental to the strength of the body. Senior citizens, who take honey and cinnamon powder in equal parts, are more alert and flexible. One researcher says that half a Tablespoon of honey in a glass of water and sprinkled with cinnamon powder, taken twice daily, increases the vitality of the body within a week. --

The Miracle of Hydrogen Peroxide

These are the benefits of that plain little ole bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide you can get for under $1.00 at any drug store.

Most doctors don't tell you about hydrogen peroxide. Have you ever smelled bleach in a doctor's office? Why? Because it smells, it's toxic, it is not healthy! Ask the nurses who work in the doctor's offices about it.

Did you also know bleach was invented in the late 40's? It's chlorine! And it was used to kill many people.

Peroxide was invented during WWI in the 20's. It was used to save lives and helped to cleanse wounds and hospital areas.

Try these:

Take one capful (the little white cap that comes with the bottle) and hold in your mouth for 10 minutes daily, then expel it. (Do it when you bathe.) No more canker sores, and your teeth will be whiter without expensive pastes. Use it instead of mouthwash.

Let toothbrushes soak in a cup of peroxide to keep them free of germs.

Clean counters and table tops with peroxide to kill germs and leave a fresh smell. Simply put a little on your dishrag when you wipe, or spray it on the counters.

Pour peroxide on your wooden cutting board after rinsing it off to kill salmonella and other bacteria.

Spray a 50/50 mixture of peroxide and water on any foot fungus (especially the toes) every night and let dry.

Soak any infections or cuts in 3% peroxide for five to ten minutes several times a day. Combat troops have seen gangrene that would not heal with any medicine, but was healed by soaking in peroxide.

Fill a spray bottle with a 50/50 mixture of peroxide and water and keep it in every bathroom to disinfect without harming your septic system like bleach and many other disinfectants will.

Tilt your head back and spray this 50/50 mixture into your nostrils whenever you have a cold or plugged sinuses. It will bubble and help to kill the bacteria. Hold for a few minutes, and then blow your nose into a tissue.

If you cannot get to a dentist right away with a toothache, put a capful of 3% peroxide into your mouth and hold it for ten minutes several times a day. The pain will lessen greatly.

Spray the 50/50 solution on your wet hair after a shower and comb it through. You will not have the peroxide-burnt blonde hair like the hair dye packages but more natural highlights if your hair is a light brown, faddish, or dirty blonde. It also lightens gradually, so it's not a drastic change.

Put half a bottle of peroxide in your bath to help rid boils, fungus, or other skin infections.

Add a cup of peroxide instead of bleach to a load of whites in your laundry to whiten them. If there is blood on clothing, pour it directly on the soiled spot. Let it sit for a minute, then rub it and rinse with cold water. Repeat if necessary.

Use peroxide to clean mirrors. There is no smearing. --

Operating Blind



Courtesy of Prevention Magazine

Every year, nearly 2.5 million people go under the knife unnecessarily, often with devastating consequences. Make sure you're not one of them.

Two years ago, when Leah Coppersmith went in for back surgery, she expected to be lacing up her running shoes within days. She's been in pain ever since.

A car accident in 1991 left this mother of four with nagging lower-back pain -- annoying, but not bad enough to keep her from running 5-Ks. But in 2005, the nag grew to a scream.

An MRI revealed that two disks -- the gel-filled cushions between the vertebrae -- were badly worn. Coppersmith expected the doctor to recommend a diskectomy, in which part of a troublesome disk is removed to relieve pressure on the nerve; the low-risk surgery had helped her once before. But this time, the surgeon wanted to replace a disk with an artificial one. The procedure was getting great results, he said. Coppersmith was skeptical until he told her she'd be back running 5-Ks again in no time. She laughs bitterly at the memory.

Pain is now the defining feature of her life. She can't sit down to family dinners. She quit her job because she can't work at a desk. Her misery has company: While looking for help online, she found a study showing that 64% of people who received the disk, called the Charité, still needed narcotic painkillers 2 years after surgery.

Every year, upward of 15 million Americans go under the knife -- and for most of them, surgery provides relief or a new lease on life. Joints are replaced, organs are transplanted, lives are saved. But Congress has estimated that surgeons perform 2.4 million unnecessary surgeries a year in the United States, with a cost of roughly $3.9 billion -- and a toll of about 11,900 deaths. The reason isn't simple.

"The majority of surgeons who perform these procedures are actually very enthusiastic about their benefits," says Mark Chassin, MD, chair of the department of health policy at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "It's not like they get up in the morning and ask themselves, How many unnecessary procedures can I do today? But there's a lot of financial incentive to do surgery that may not benefit the patient, and very little oversight."

So how do you know when someone is suggesting surgery you don't need -- and what can you do to prevent it? Your first line of defense is to become your own advocate. One study showed that when patients and doctors share the decision making, rates of surgery drop by as much as 44%. Here, we explain what's behind four of the procedures most often done unnecessarily and give you expert advice on the best alternatives.

BE SKEPTICAL: SPINAL SURGERY

The waiting room of Charles Rosen, MD, a spinal surgeon and an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of California, Irvine, was filled with patients who, like Coppersmith, had failed disk implants. "In my 20 years of orthopedics, I'd never seen so many people in such a severe state of constant pain," he says. So Rosen examined the evidence backing the Charité disk. He was shocked to see that the researchers had compared patients who got the disk with those who received a type of fusion surgery with a particularly high failure rate -- 60%. (Even before the study's publication, that procedure had been largely abandoned.) Then he discovered that researchers on other Chariti studies were paid consultants for the device maker. Outraged, Rosen founded the Association of Ethical Spine Surgeons. Members agree not to take money from device makers or form partnerships with the companies.

The spine is ground zero for unnecessary surgeries partly because back pain is incredibly common and notoriously tough to treat. More than 1 million sufferers opt for surgery each year, and spinal fusion -- the use of bone grafts, screws, and other devices to secure one or more vertebrae -- is one of the most popular choices. Between 1996 and 2001, the number of spinal fusions skyrocketed 113%, while the number of knee- and hip-replacement surgeries rose just 15% and 13%, respectively. But unlike those procedures, spinal surgeries often fail -- instead of relieving pain, they can turn it into agony. According to Aaron Filler, MD, PhD, director of the Peripheral Nerve Surgery Program, Institute for Spinal Disorders, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, there are tremendous rewards for spinal surgeons who do aggressive procedures: Because of the hardware involved, an operation on the spine can pay a surgeon 10 times as much as one on the brain. Yet the moneymaking back surgeries help in only a small proportion of cases. What's more, back surgeons are rarely held accountable if the operation fails. "The referring doctor has low expectations," Filler says. "So does the patient, because everyone thinks of back problems as so difficult to treat."

Protect Yourself
Pinpoint the pain: If your doctor labels your back pain as "nonspecific," it means he doesn't know the cause; if he suggests surgery, alarm bells should go off, says Filler. Spinal fusion is most beneficial when vertebrae slip out of place and press on the ones below, which is easily detected on an x-ray. "When properly done for the right reasons, spinal surgery can be extremely effective," says Filler.

Make lifestyle adjustments: A 2003 study compared spinal fusion surgery with a lifestyle approach to back pain: Docs taught patients how to protect their backs, by bending at the knees when lifting, for instance. They also encouraged exercise, like water aerobics. A year later, the nonsurgical approach reduced pain and increased mobility just as much as surgery did. Alternative treatments such as chiropractic and acupuncture can also pay off, studies show. For more info on finding alternative treatments, go to prevention.com/links.

Consider a helpful shot: A nerve-blocking injection called an epidural, given by a surgeon or a rehab specialist like a physiatrist, may quiet the pain for up to a year; it helps in about 50% of patients.

Skip the hardware: If surgery seems like the right approach, get the simplest procedure possible. There's a much smaller chance of complications if you have a diskectomy, for example, than if you have an artificial disk implanted.

BE SKEPTICAL: HYSTERECTOMY

Lori Jo Vest was 36 when three doctors told her a hysterectomy was the only fix for her heavy bleeding caused by uterine fibroids. Terrified that she'd be thrust into early menopause -- in half of all hysterectomies, surgeons end up removing the ovaries, too -- Vest went online and discovered myomectomy, in which the surgeon cuts out the fibroids, sparing the uterus. But her doctors nixed the idea; after all, they said, Vest, who had a toddler, didn't want more children. Then Vest called the nearby University of Michigan, Ann Arbor -- and nearly leaped through the phone when she heard they had a clinic for women seeking alternatives to hysterectomy.

"The doctor said I was a perfect candidate for myomectomy," Vest says. She also told Vest that many surgeons dislike the surgery because it's more difficult than a hysterectomy. Now 44, Vest no longer is troubled by heavy bleeding, but she still has her uterus and ovaries. *"I don't want to go through menopause until my body is ready," she says.

Hysterectomy is second only to C-section as the most common surgery performed on women in the United States. Each year more than 600,000 Americans have the procedure -- twice the rate as in England. A 2000 study found that 70% of the hysterectomies performed in nine Southern California managed-care organizations were recommended inappropriately. "The most common mistake we saw was that doctors didn't try safer, less-invasive approaches first," says lead author Michael Broder, MD, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine.

Hysterectomy can be warranted if a woman has cancer, and it can be the right choice in other cases, too -- for instance, if medical treatment didn't get your bleeding under adequate control, and you don't want to try a surgery like myomectomy because of the risk of recurrence. But unless you have cancer, "having a doctor say, 'You absolutely need a hysterectomy,' is akin to a waiter at a restaurant saying, 'You've got to have the steak,'" says Malcolm G. Munro, MD, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UCLA. "A good doctor should give you a menu of choices."

Protect Yourself

Try hormones or drugs first: Most hysterectomies are done on women under age 45, but if you can manage symptoms of fibroids with medication until menopause, symptoms usually ease naturally. Birth control pills or other drugs help control irregular bleeding. Also check into getting a progestin-releasing IUD (Mirena): It can dramatically decrease bleeding caused by fibroids.

Consider a less drastic procedure: Like myomectomy, uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) preserves the uterus: An "interventional" radiologist carefully closes off blood vessels feeding the fibroids, starving them. A woman may need more treatment after either procedure if the fibroids come back, and both cause a fair amount of discomfort. (UFE can require serious pain meds, although recovery is quicker than after a hysterectomy, and the risks are lower.) For more info on hysterectomy alternatives, go to prevention.com/links.

BE SKEPTICAL: ANGIOPLASTY

When Irwin Melnicoff, a forensic engineer in Boynton Beach, FL, felt a stabbing chest pain at age 45, he went straight to the cardiologist. The diagnosis? A narrowed artery. The answer? Angioplasty. But Melnicoff was scared of surgery; even when the doctor told him he'd die without the artery-opening procedure, he chose drug therapy instead. (He also chose a new doctor.) That was 25 years ago. With the help of daily heart medications, his chest pain vanished. He walks 30 minutes a day, 7 days a week, and feels great.

He made the right choice. Though angioplasty has been hailed by some as a wonder fix for decades, it now turns out that most of the time, the procedure doesn't help. Angioplasty can save your life if it's done during or right after a heart attack. But in other circumstances, it may not do you much good.

"Doctors used to think of heart disease as a plumbing problem -- that arteries were like drainpipes gradually being clogged by plaque made up mostly of cholesterol," says Arthur Agatston, MD, a preventive cardiologist and author of The South Beach Heart Program. So it seemed to make sense to use angioplasty, in which a small balloon is inflated in the artery, to get that gunk out of the way by squashing it against the vessel wall. However, research has since shown that problematic plaque actually forms within the delicate inner lining of artery walls.

What does cause a heart attack? If the plaque within the wall ruptures, it injures the artery, producing a blood clot as part of the healing process. Unfortunately, the clot can close off the entire artery -- that's a heart attack, and you need angioplasty or bypass surgery immediately. If you have angioplasty, the doctor may also insert a stent, a mesh scaffolding, to hold open the artery.

But if you're not having a heart attack, angioplasty (with or without a stent) won't help and may even do some harm. That's the news from a large trial published in April in the New England Journal of Medicine. People with "stable" heart disease -- they weren't having a heart attack, but a vessel was at least 70% closed -- fared no worse if they received medical therapy, such as aspirin, blood thinners, and cholesterol-lowering drugs, than if they got angioplasty. During the next 4 1/2 years, neither group was more likely to have a heart attack or stroke or die.

A study published late last year helps pinpoint exactly when it's worth getting angioplasty. That trial showed that if the procedure was done 3 or more days after a heart attack, it didn't help. "We were very surprised -- we thought angioplasty would be beneficial even if it was done later," says lead author Judith Hochman, MD, director of the cardiovascular clinical research center at New York University School of Medicine. "But that's why we do studies: to see if the patient really does benefit."

Protect Yourself
Insist on being convinced: If your doctor says you need a non-emergency angioplasty, ask if it will prolong your life. "That question puts a cardiologist on the spot," says Agatston. If the procedure isn't needed to save your life, it still may make sense if angina (bouts of chest discomfort caused by a lack of blood flow to the heart) interferes with daily activities. But get a second opinion -- from a preventive cardiologist, not a cardiac surgeon.

Eat right, exercise, and lose weight if necessary: You needn't avoid fats and carbs to keep your heart healthy -- just choose wisely. A diet high in omega-3-rich canola and olive oils can actually protect your heart. High-fiber carbs in whole grains, fruits, and veggies also help get fats out of your blood.

Use the meds known to save lives: Many people with high cholesterol aren't on statins, though the drugs slash the risk of heart attack by more than 30%. Similarly, most people with high blood pressure don't get adequate treatment, studies show. Lifestyle changes can bring down both cholesterol and BP, but if they're not enough, medication can be lifesaving. Your doctor may also put you on daily aspirin or another drug to lower the risk of a blood clot.

BE SKEPTICAL: KNEE ARTHROSCOPY

Soon after Diana Aceti turned 50, the ache in her knee began to keep her from walking and playing tennis, two activities she loved. An orthopedist said that she had a small tear in her cartilage and recommended arthroscopic surgery. "He said I'd back on my feet in a few weeks," says the public relations director from Bridgehampton, NY.

But afterward, Aceti's knee hurt worse than ever. So she got a second opinion -- and the news wasn't good. In a rare complication, her cartilage was damaged beyond repair, and she needed a partial knee replacement. "Doctors talk about surgery like it's getting your teeth cleaned," says Aceti. "If he'd told me this was a possibility, I never would have done it."

Knee arthroscopy is most often used for people, like Aceti, who have osteoarthritis -- cartilage damaged by wear and tear. A surgeon makes small incisions and inserts instruments to remove tissue fragments and wash out the joint in the hopes of reducing pain. Yet in 2002, when knee arthroscopy was put to the test in a randomized, controlled trial, it failed royally. Osteoarthritis patients given arthroscopy reported no more improvement than those who got sham surgery -- incisions were made but no arthroscope was inserted. Still, 5 years later, the procedure remains among the top 10 outpatient surgeries: More than 650,000 knee arthroscopies are performed annually.

Critics say that almost everyone has small tears in their knee cartilage visible on MRI's, providing a never-fail excuse for surgery. "Patients have arthroscopy for what is clearly the result of a bruise or a bump," says Ronald Grelsamer, MD, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. "For many orthopedists it's the only way left to make a half-decent living. Does that justify it? No."

The procedure can help in certain situations, Grelsamer says: If a piece of cartilage is catching, like a hangnail, clipping it can make you feel better. And some doctors still believe that for some osteoarthritis patients, flushing the interior of the knee during arthroscopy can ease pain, perhaps by getting rid of irritating chemicals. Researchers can't predict who will benefit from a washout, though -- and surgeon Bruce J. Moseley, MD, who led the sham surgery comparison, argues that any improvement in arthritis patients is due to the placebo effect.

Protect Yourself
Wait a while: Arthroscopy is most frequently done after a twist or fall, but those injuries often get better within a few months with physical therapy, anti-inflammatory meds, a cortisone injection -- or just the passage of time.

Be skeptical of MRI results: Arthroscopy is most apt to help if there's a detached fragment of cartilage or a severe tear -- a 3 on a 1-to-3 scale, as rated by a radiologist. But even a bad tear may not cause pain, so ask whether it matches up with the area that hurts. --


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