Can you be bored to death? Dr. David Hepburn

“A ship in a harbour is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”


FARIAS  “Ahhh. I’m not sure yet Alva. Give me a second or two.”

Alva was 99 years old and lived independently with Phyllis, his bride of 71 years, for whom he was the caregiver. She had become confused, forgetful and had gone all Alzheimery. He was adamant that she not be institutionalized and so we agreed that he could look after her at home and that I would call him daily to check on him. I did this usually while driving to work with the newspaper in one hand, the phone in the other and a root beer float in another. My knees did the steering, gearing and plenty of veering. Alva loved to do the paper’s Word Jumble and so we would daily compare notes on solving the puzzles.

At 99 he was infinitely more interesting than many 60 year olds. He and Phil loved adventure and went everywhere whenever they could. They were always poor in terms of dollars but they were rich in terms of having truly lived on this rock.

There are many boring people out there, people who seldom venture or adventure beyond their robotic, foreordained, prescribed repetitive days and weeks to experience the excitement this planet offers.

People who are bored are simply boring people.” Alva would say as he sat in his living room tapestried with treasures of travel. Phil would keep a diary of their adventures and when they returned from Kenya, Khartoum or Kansas she would type up her stories so that they could relive their adventures at will. That tome is now their legacy and really, when they finally throw our carcasses on the scrap heap of life, hopefully well used, enthused and abused, all that we have left that matters is what we did, not what we owned.

Bored man - Dr. David Hepburn
Bored man – Dr. David Hepburn

As George Carlin observed, “We’ve learned how to make a living but not a life. We’ve added years to life, not life to years.”

Boring Billy Bloggins’ carcass gets tossed on the same scrap heap leaving a large bank account that little Blogginses are now scrapping over. Boring, provincial, lots of useless, unused, overprotected cash and little adventure. A skinny book of life.

Can you be bored to death?

Scientific investigations point to negative health effects caused by boredom. It weakens the immune system, is brutal on your mental health and may be the first step towards depression, substance abuse and low self esteem. Boredom is linked to anger suppression, which can raise blood pressure and be as dangerous as stress.

When people are bored, dangerous hormones are released in the body that stress the heart. In fact, those who live boring lives are two and a half times more likely to die of a heart problem than those who aren’t bored. People who are bored also tend to eat and drink more, and they’re probably not eating carrots, kale and cauliflower. They get into the infamous night time carbs or Kahlua and health begins to suffer. But the biggest problem with being bored is that you become…boring.

To prevent this disease I try and do two wild things every year. My spontaneous or opportunistic bucket list. Last year I met a travel expert who was returning to his favourite place in the world, the amazing safari wilds of Africa. Within minutes I decided that I would join him. Had never been before. Told my wife that night at dinner. “What say we go run with the rhinos, horseplay with hippos, leap with leopards and lions, make merry with monkeys, wiz with the wildebeest and stand in awe (and slightly aside) of wild elephants.” We went. Until you have stood on the Serengeti and Masai Mara and shared a watering hole with a giraffe or a zebra, you really have no idea what real nature feels like. Why wait for age and/or illness to overtake you before emptying your bucket. Experiences await us that are an antidote to boredom. Loved it so much we’re going to go back next year.

My patient and friend Alva was finally tossed on that scrap heap of life, Phil preceding him by a couple of months. He would have loved to dance naked on the Serengeti  (which I also was going to do but decided against it, as it apparently is considered provocative to other baboons.)

So if you’ve ever wanted to go to IRACAF, please go. You’ll have a heck of a FARIAS.


Eponymous Kings by Dr. David Hepburn

High school English was never a forte of mine, possibly because I never went to class. I was not much of a reader either unless it involved the words “DC Comics” or “court summons.” So in a belated attempt to correct this obvious deficit in my education I am now on page 42 of The Hardy Boys Jump off The House on the Cliff and in a quest to improve my vocabulary I have attached to my icebox, right beside my grandson’s drawing of a bunging jumping Holstein or whatever, a list of words that I’m fixin to learn and add to my lexicon, which by the way is a word on my list, as is the word Holstein. I find that by using words like addled, genetic and plea bargain, I get through life much better now.

One of these words is “eponymous.” Means something named after a particular person. Medical examples would include; Aspergers, Down Syndrome, Parkinsons and Alzheimers diseases. Which mean if it weren’t for Alois Alzheimer, we wouldn’t have Alzheimer’s disease but rather something less appealing like Peewee Herman  Syndrome.

One of the classiest athletes in the history of any sport was the Iron Horse of baseball, the great Yankee slugger Lou Gehrig. Part of the famed Murderers Row who repeatedly mowed down base paths, Gehrig was mowed down himself in the prime of his life. His name will forever be tied to greatness in sport, something we’d all desire. But his name will also be forever tied to a disease that is something we’d never desire. The greatest first baseman of all time had his life cut short at age 37 by ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Dr. Hepburn -Baseball
Dr. Hepburn -Baseball

In 1938 his normally incredible baseball numbers started to decline for no apparent reason. In the first month of April 1939 he became weaker and weaker and then the Iron Horse of baseball, not wanting to hurt his team, took himself out of the lineup, breaking his umpteenth game consecutive streak playing an umps game.

As he became increasingly uncoordinated and weak and stumbled over curbs, his wife Eleanor called their doctor, Charles Mayo, who (eponyms galore) had a little clinic named after him.

ALS destroys motor neurons, the connection through which the brain controls the movement of muscles. Muscles of limb movement, speaking, chewing and swallowing become weak and poorly controlled. ALS does not affect the five senses, nor does it normally affect the mind (see Steven Hawking) or heart, bladder, bowel, or sexual muscles. It strikes about 6 people per 100,000 per year occurring most commonly between the ages of 40 and 70. There is as yet no treatment though stem cells may provide an exciting and novel approach for neuroprotection. Studies are ongoing that include injecting stem cells into the muscles or even the brain of patients with ALS it is hoped that regeneration of destroyed nerve cells will occur.

Lou Gehrigs disease has claimed the lives of David Niven, Catfish Hunter and apparently Lou Gehrig who when he came to the park for the last time stood and announced.

Dr. Hepburn -ALS
Dr. Hepburn -ALS

“Fans, you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. Sure, I’m lucky. When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift — that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers remember you with trophies — that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law (he was obviously heavily medicated at this point) who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter — that’s something. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed — that’s the finest I know.”

Thanks for showing such class Mr Gehrig. Wish I’d attended.

Filthy facts of Flying – Dr. David Hepburn

Dr. David Frederick Hepburn answer your questions:

Q: Why do I seem to get a cold every time I take a flight over 3 hours?

Dr. David Hepburn: The air in airplane cabins is plain oxygen deficient, dry and stale, not unlike my Aunt Sophia or her brownies. Oxygen levels are usually twenty percent less than on the ground while the Humidex can be a whopping 80% lower. Loosening up by stiffening our drinks adds to the risk of becoming dehydrated and suddenly our nostrils become a perfect storm for catching those famous airplane viruses that flight attendants secretly spray about the cabin just before boarding. To mitigate your chances of getting ill; use saline sprays to keep your nostrils moist, keep well hydrated by drinking a glass of water for every hour you fly, and even moisturize your skin using something other than Kokanee.

Airplane take off - Dr. Dave Hepburn
Airplane take off – Dr. Dave Hepburn
  • Q: I am wondering if there is any risk of flying when I am pregnant and when is the best time for me to fly across country.

Dr. David Hepburn: First of all flying with your child will never be easier. While in the womb it is much more difficult to hear them and they seldom throw up on the nice doctor in the seat behind you who was just trying to help. The risk of flying for women who have normal and healthy pregnancies is minimal though pregnancy under the best of circumstances can predispose to getting a blood clot. Obviously high risk pregnancies should not be risked up high.

The best time to fly is the second trimester as the nausea and miscarriage potential drops off and the risk of preterm birth is minimal. Some airlines don’t let you fly after 36 weeks while others require you to buy 7 seats and bring hot towels and a doctor in your carry on just in case. I not only support this but suggest that third trimester moms visit Maui, Cancun and I’ve always wanted to see Brazil.

  • What can I do to prevent my eardrum from making me go painfully deaf?

Dr. David Hepburn: As always, it’s important to avoid flying at all when you are congested, as even a common head cold could put you at risk of rupturing an eardrum. A simple product called EARPLANES can soften the pressure gradient across your eardrum. Though you can still hear quite well with these, the excited auctioneer beside you will think you can’t.

  • How can I avoid jetlag?

Dr. David Hepburn: Stay home. Nowadays those HD Discovery Channel shows are so realistic that you feel like you’ve been to, say Mongolia, or wherever and you get to avoid

 and that persistent yak hair. But for those who absolutely have to see the yaks for themsleves:

  1. Go to bed earlier than usual for a few nights before departure.
  2. Eat lightly the night before. Perhaps just one pizza instead of three.
  3. Rehydrate when you fly and after you land
  4. Don’t over-schedule yourself the first day of arrival. Allow your body to ease into its new schedule.
Airplane passengers - Dr. Hepburn
Airplane passengers – Dr. Hepburn
  • How about Melatonin?

Dr. David Hepburn: The biological rhythm disorganization caused by the rapid change of environment (and associated light/dark cues) apparently can be corrected by melatonin. Melatonin when taken at the destination, between 10 pm and midnight, can offset jet lag. The benefit is greater as more time zones are crossed and less for westward flights. However, melatonin taken before travel can actually worsen symptoms as opposed to the benefit of melatonin initiated immediately upon arrival. I know of no side effects other than the occasional yak.

Disorderly Disney Diseases by Dr. Hepburn

My oldest son, Bert, relished his role as older brother/idol/torturer of Ernie. (For sake of confidentiality I will call them Bert and Ernie since using their actual names, Palmer and Stewart, would likely cause significant embarrassment and years of expensive therapy.)

My thrill seeking sons loved to seek thrills and so it was we found ourselves in Universal Studios Florida seeking our thrill seeking thrills on the Hulk roller coaster. Within seconds of launch, Bert was in a gray out, as the G forces pooled his blood somewhere in his Airwalks causing his vision to fade to black, much to the great glee of young Ste…Ernie. A couple of twists and screams later Bertmer was revived but as the ride finished Ernie, noting the odd effect this ride had on big Bert announced that we should do it again. Not wanting to show any signs of weakness for fear of diminishing his authority as Atilla the older Hun, he agreed. Again, gray out, much to the delight of Ernie who of course wanted to do it seven more times. By the time we finally finished our fling on Hulkmania, Bert was ready for something easier like bunging jumping into Crocodile Lake without a cord.

A few years later I took my grandkids (I will call them Snuffleupagus and Grover since Eliza and Enoch may not be overjoyed to see their names in print either) to a similar park of pleasant pestilence and we rode the spinning strawberries or twirling teacups or hellacious helicopter or whatever. “This will be fun kids” I announced as I took the wheel and spun us around like Katarina Witt on expresso. Whispering with evil intent “can’t wait to see them stumble around like drunken cops after this.” But as we got off the teacups and as they skipped towards the next ride…”Wait a sec kids….um…..grandpa is..” “Grandpa are you sweating?” “Heck no…just tears of joy springing from my forehead, but lets…. sit down… before Grandpa vomits.”

Hulk Coaster - Dave Hepburn
Hulk Coaster – Dave Hepburn

I used to be able to do these things no problem but as the Big Macs accumulate over the years and my belt and the sun has turned my hair grey I find I don’t spin so good. Can a day at Disney be dangerous and detrimental to your dentures, digits and dignity?  As roller coasters continue to push the envelope of speed, I note the following medical warnings from the park, somewhat bastardized by, well… Goofy

  1. The sharp turns, ups and downs, and high speeds of today’s roller coasters could cause damage to your ears. Passengers should remain facing forward for the duration of the ride to avoid letting the full impact of acceleration wind hit the ear. Barotrauma occurs when there is a quick change in pressure between the external environment, the ear drum and the pressure in the middle ear space. Stanley Cup rioters should be fine as the wind should pass right through.
  2. Roller coasters can jolt your neck about, leaving you at risk for headaches as well as whiplash. Sit in the middle of the chair and don’t lean to one side. Relax, but do not go limp (sounds familiar). When the seat pitches you to the left, relax your torso and bend to the right to keep your head upright and centered. You want to ride the seat–not have it throw you around or toss you out over the It Doesn’t Much Matterhorn.
  3. Do not ride the coasters if you are pregnant, or resemble third trimester were you a woman. There are special rides designed for the extra-fluffy folks but they are currently permanently broken.
  4. If you have high blood pressure, a heart condition or even a rupturing aneurysm try the angio ride over in ICU land.
  5. If you get nauseous simply watching Al Gore kiss something or if you have just gorged on the Pluto Splatter Platter then please stay off the Whirling Duodenum.
  6. Most fun theme parks are not found in Winnipeg or the Straits of Magellan but rather near a Solar Flare. Drink lots of water and keep cool, dude.
  7. If you are visiting with a child or a grandparent or a childish grandparent, take a moment to explain how they should behave. Set a good example for them by following the rules. Tell them to stay seated, to hold the grab bar, put their hands rather than their breakfast in their laps, and not to stick their knees and feet outside a ride vehicle. And never put a crying child or a screaming grandfather on a ride. If he starts to cry, let others pass you in line until he is calmed….. Same with the child.
Roller Coaster- Dr. David Hepburn
Roller Coaster- Dr. David Hepburn

Dr. David Hepburn advice: Kissing

Health Benefits of Kissing – Dr. Hepburn

Ten benefits of kissing by Dr. David Hepburn:

Remember your first kiss? I do like it was yesterday. “David, give Amaretto Auntie Hilda a kiss goodnight before you go to bed.” As awful as kissing seemed at age three I actually quite enjoy a good smooch now that I’m more mature, or at least older. Little did I know how much the pucker factor was/is simply improving my health.

  1. Helps keep the facial muscles toned.

A kiss involves 34 facial muscles (30 if you don’t speak French) and often 112 postural muscles in the rest of the body including those muscles that prepare you to run like really fast. According to my Uncle Vern, the three words he used to hate to hear while in the throes of passion were “Honey, I’m home.”

  1. More years living

Those who kiss their partner goodbye each morning live five years longer than those who don’t. Those who forget completely may not live past supper.

  1. Prevents three-eyed children.

Women tend to be attracted to male partners with a different immune system makeup from their own. Subconsciously they detect information about a partner’s immune system through smell during kissing and can reject a potential mate based on one kiss. And here I just thought it was the garlic and pickled eggs when, in fact, it’s just a different immune system. I feel better.

  1. Less cavity searches (by the dentist)

As extra saliva produced during kissing cleans the bacteria off your teeth. Hence you may select either a hearty floss or possibly a Heidi Fleiss. Thus kissing can be helpful to your teeth however should you be salaciously saliva-sharing with Moose’s girlfriend, possibly harmful to your teeth, as my Uncle Vern used to say.

  1. Can help you lose calories.

During a really, really passionate kiss you might lose two calories a minute – double your metabolic rate. Of course you might even burn more calories if kissing leads to other activities like, umm, basketball.

  1. Relive Stress

Due to the release of the calming hormone oxytocin kissing helps alleviate stress, unless it is with someone other than your spouse or dog, in which case the oxytocin is replaced by oxymoron.

Dr. David Hepburn advice: Kissing
Dr. David Hepburn advice: Kiss
  1. Natural antiseptic.

When we swap kisses we swap antibodies. There are powerful proteins in saliva that make it a natural antiseptic. New evidence suggests that these proteins may even destroy viruses. Animals lick their wounds because saliva has healing qualities and acts like an antibiotic. Personally, knowing what my dog has been licking I tend to take antibiotics after he zips his tongue into my mouth trying to get at those jelly beans remnants lodged in my molars.

  1. Gets rid of the owwie.

I know this is true because my mother told me so and she is bigger than your mother. The trust that is generated with a maternal kiss makes one feel loved with all the confidence that comes with it.

  1. Relieve sneezing and sniffling

A study in Japan revealed that thirty minutes of intense kissing can relieve sneezing and sniffling, caused by allergies, by slowing down histamine production. Of course this can get a little messy if it doesn’t work as kissing and sneezing at the same time suddenly makes fugu look good.

  1. Kissing can boost the immune system.

If you’re sharing your germs with somebody, you’re adding to your internal defense system. This has lead to an interesting line at the bars “Hey baby, care to snuggle up to a little Strep, a little bacterial buss. Name’s Vern.”

Follow the advice of Dr. David Hepburn and kiss more, apart from brightening the day and fell well, bring benefits to your health.

Venom for medicine – Dr. David Frederick Hepburn

While New Mexicoing it recently in New Mexico I narrowly missed running over and squashing a monster sunning itself on the road, a Gila monster. Had I hit this loathsome leathery lizard and created this monster mash I could have once again destroyed one of the secrets that could save mankind. “Gila” pronounced “heela” as in healing, is a less than sexy reptile that, like the less than sexy Olson twins, eats only three meals a year.

Gila Monster - Dr. Hepburn
Gila Monster – Dr. Hepburn

I have some patients that eat three meals before breakfast. Most are now diabetic, a disease that is the product of how and how much we eat in this country. Yet Gila monsters not only don’t get diabetes but they don’t even get hungry. They have a chemical in their saliva, no doubt discovered by a lonely southwest lad with way too much time in the desert, called exenatide. Like insulin this chemical stimulates cells to take sugar out of the bloodstream but stops working when the sugar is normal! Thus it only works when it is actually needed, an advantage it gives diabetics who don’t want to have their blood sugar drop too low at the wrong time such as in the middle of the night or when dancing with Marie Osmond or her teeth.

As a result an exciting class of drugs called incretins have been spawned thanks to the lovely lizard of Laredo. It is known as exenatide, a much more palatable name than monster mucous, and is amongst the fastest expanding medications in waist expanding North America, diabetic capital of the expanding universe, which apparently, is expanding as it should. It is also an appetite suppressant and induces weight loss.

For those gumbooters who believe that only “natural” stuff can cure your lazy blood yeasts blahblahyawn, you can take rasta hair huggin’ joy in knowing that this medication is tantamount to swapping spit with a lizard. But hold your Gilas, lizard lovers. You are not to have all the glucose glory. Turns out that the skin of a South American frog secretes a compound that stimulates insulin release from the human pancreas with no side effects, unless warts bother you.

Now IT is about to be made into a medication, (Fernando flakes?). Soon it may benefit diabetics to camp out at the reptile and amphibian exhibit at the local zoo just to keep their sugars in check. Snuggle down at night with a monster and a frog (gotta kiss a few to find the guy formerly known as a prince anyway) and you could have normal blood sugars, a dream that only diabetics could appreciate.

Not to be outdone by his disgusting cousins, a scorpion named Sid decided to get in on the action. Finding that the diabetic field was getting crowded with do-gooder lizards and Amazonian frogs, Sid focused on brain tumours. He is no ordinary run of the mill, sleep in your slippers scorpion, he is the African Death Stalker (emit low evil cackle). What a cool friggin’ nickname. “Hey look out guys! Here comes Dave the African Death Stalker!” But Sid comes by his moniker honestly as his venom can kill a human or even Kim Il Jong.

His venom is remarkable as it has an affinity for the very nasty death stalking brain tumour known as a glioma. Injected directly into the brain the venom bypasses normal brain tissue and heads right to the tumour and with the help of a little radioactive package that the doctor has attached to it, kills the deadly glioma cells! Incredible! The cure for cancer possibly lies in the tail of a scorpion? Who knows? But wait there are even more venom cures.

Scorpion - Dr. Dave Hepburn
Scorpion – Dr. Dave Hepburn

There are fish loaded with pain killers, cone shells with anesthetics, ant juice that may lower blood pressure, tick stuff that may stuff heart disease and awkward looking toads that simply tickle our funny bone. Venom, designed by nature to kill us may in fact keep us alive. So scorpio/spidey/snake lovers, fill your boots. Just take a glance in them before you put them on.

Sense of smell and Alzheimer´s – Dr. David Hepburn

According to Alzheimer´s society of Canada the number of people with dementia has increased considerably in recent years. Currently there are a little over half a million Canadians with dementia and around 46 million in the world suffer from Alzheimer. As we can see, it is one of the most important challenges for public health in near future specially if we considering that there is no cure for this disease at the moment and the average age of the world population is getting higher.

In consequence early detection can be very helpful. For this reason Dr. David Hepburn and Dr. Robert Sealey give you a very important advice to detect Alzheimer’s with anticipation and can be treated properly.

Dr. David Frederick Hepburn, David Frederick Hepburn, Dr. Hepburn, Dr. David Hepburn

According to Dr. Sealey an important research has suggested that loss sense of smell probably would be the first indication that a person could have Alzheimer’s. Conforming to scientists of this research the amyloid plaques which are responsible for the cognitive decline in dementia initially begin to accumulate in the part of the brain responsible for the sense of smell. As consequence, to note a loss of sense of smell should be the warning to see a doctor

Consequently Dr. David Hepburn comment that thanks to this discovery now we have an inexpensive alternative that can be done through the sense of smell, replacing brain scans in order to determine if early Alzheimer’s is setting in.

Alzheimer, Dave Hepburn, Medical AdvicesDr. David Frederick Hepburn

Therefore it is very important to be aware of our sense of smell as Dr. David Hepburn said because the early detection of Alzheimer’s can make a difference not only in the treatment to be followed but in the quality of life, once the disease is diagnosed.