August 31, 2012

Meditation Techniques: I Do It My Way, You Do It Yours

After years of on-again, off-again experiments with meditation, I finally found a technique that works for me. Here's the best part: I sense it's having more of a positive impact on my well-being than anything else I've tried in years.

The great thing about meditation is -- anyone can do it... anywhere. It doesn't require special equipment, gym membership, or an advanced degree.

A week ago, I reported on an article in the current issue of Neurology Now that reviewed the latest scientific findings on the measurable, beneficial impact meditation can have on our brains (http://bit.ly/PGuvUY.) According to Dr. Alexander Mauskop, director of the New York Headache Center and professor of neurology at the State University of New York: "Meditation is the simplest technique in the world, but that doesn't mean it's easy to do." The key, he says, is to approach it with curiosity and without judgement, accepting what is going on in the moment, including the fact that your mind keeps wandering.

Research hasn't identified any optimal duration for meditating; experts say even five to ten minutes a day can help.

Types of Meditation
There are many different types of meditation. Here are the most common:

August 29, 2012

Contrast These Two Speeches: Has America Lost its Dream?

In one of those strange co-incidences, I was clicking on links friends had posted on Facebook and ended up watching these two speeches in sequence.

America Today: No Longer the Greatest, Not Much of a Dream
OK. This isn't an authentic speech by an actual candidate for president. But oh, how I wish it were!

America 49 Years Ago: We Had A Dream I know this is an authentic speech, because I was there when Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr delivered it on August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial here in Washington. Despite all the tumult of those days -- assassinations, riots, unrest -- we had hope that we were making a better America. A hope that, for me, was briefly rekindled four years ago. But all too briefly.

August 28, 2012

Nine of the Most Popular Dietary Supplements: An Update

A pal who knows my interest in dietary supplements sent me a list he'd found of the top supplements recommended for men. I checked them out and will share the results below. (Most of them also would be on any list of the top supplements used by women.) But first....

Best Sources for Checking Out Dietary Supplements
Here are the first places I go when I have questions about dietary supplements. For an old guy, I'm pretty comfortable with online research, but I prefer reading from the page than from the computer screen. So I start with:
  • The Wellness Reports Dietary Supplements, 2012, published by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health
  • The Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine
  • The Truth About Vitamins and Minerals, a Harvard Medical School Special Health Report
For online research, these are the sites I visit first:
If I want to dig deeper, I put the supplement name into Google's search box and add "-.com" (which usually excludes most of the commercial sites selling the supplement, which often dominate search results). Sometimes I hit "advanced search" and check results from the past year.

Whatever I type, I certainly find more than I really need to know... just one more example of my life-long practice of Mae West's advice -- "anything worth doing is worth overdoing."

Update on 9 Popular Supplements
So, here's what I found about that list of recommended supplements for men. Fish oil was also on the list, but we covered that in yesterday's posting. The print reports listed above provided much of what follows; I simply identify them as "Berkeley," "Mayo," or "Harvard."

August 27, 2012

Dietary Supplements: Vitamin D and Fish Oil

What dietary supplements -- if any -- should we take? Here's an update with recent findings on two of the most popular: vitamin D and fish oil. I'll cover others tomorrow.

DHA Supplements vs. Vitamins D and B12 for Brain Health
When you hear about DHA, fish oil, or omega-3 fatty acids, it's basically the same thing when it comes to supplements. "Fish oils" is the umbrella term. These oils include the Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.

In a recent report, Johns Hopkins Medicine noted that vitamin D, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids have been studied for their potential brain-fortifying results... with mixed results. Of the three, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) -- an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil -- seems to hold the most promise, according to the report:
While a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that fish-oil supplements do not slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease once it has begun, another placebo-controlled study published in Alzheimer's and Dementia found that 900mg of DHA per day, taken for 24 weeks, helped improve memory and brain function in people over age 55 with mild cognitive impairment. This suggests that to help the brain, these supplements should be started early, before a mental decline progresses too much.

August 24, 2012

Want A Bigger, Better Brain? Meditate!



Millions of people around the world claim that meditation has transformed their lives. But for centuries, only anecdotal evidence was available to back up those claims. Now, scientific support is emerging from well-designed studies which include brain scans. Some research suggests that meditating as little as 20 minutes a day can affect the function and structure of the brain in a positive way. Meditation increases attention span and focus, improves memory, and dulls the perception of pain.

Having spent an hour meditating this morning, I'm hoping the researchers are right. But my family and friends might argue that I 'm proof that meditating DOESN'T do much good for the brain. I admit: this meditator won't win any prizes for attention span or memory.

But let's get back to the bigger picture. During the past 20 years, scientists have shown great interest in studying how and why meditation works. The findings of this research are summarized in the current issue of Neurology Now.

August 22, 2012

Nine Low-Cost Things -- New & Old -- that Keep Me Healthy & Happy

My original plan: escape the swamp called Washington, D.C. this month. I was considering Maine and Nova Scotia, but by the time I got around to making plans, I found that others had already filled up the places where I wanted to stay. So, finding no rooms at the inns, I stayed home and watched the temperature soar above 100, day after day.

To restore my spirits, I made a list of the low-cost things, some newly discovered, that keep me happy and healthy regardless of the weather. Here are the top nine.

Let's start at the bottom (pun intended) and work our way up.

9. The "Blue Bidet"

Having spent a lot of time in Southeast Asia this past decade, I've discovered that water is better than paper when it comes to toilet hygiene. Earlier this year, I saw a recommendation for the Blue Bidet, which is a simple, relatively cheap ($60) attachment for our standard toilets. I tried it out on one toilet and really liked it. Now it's also installed on the other two.

August 20, 2012

Coconut Oil May Not Cure Alzheimer's, But It Has Other Uses

In my earlier posting on the many health claims for coconut oil, I highlighted the lack of scientific evidence for some of those assertions, particularly those pertaining to Alzheimer's. So, are you surprised that I frequently throw a spoonful of coconut oil in the blender with my fruit or veggie smoothie... or that I may try coconut oil as a skin moisturizer and hair conditioner? More about that in a minute.

First, I want to acknowledge that some studies appear to support claims that coconut oil can help control weight and cholesterol levels. On closer examination, it seems more than a coincidence that most of those studies come from coconut-exporting Asian countries. Still, the chemical makeup of coconut oil provides a basis for these claims, so let's take a closer look.

August 17, 2012

Meditation: A Loneliness Remedy for the Elderly

A few days ago while talking about the best place to die, I observed that most of us would like to keep living in our own homes right to the end. But the loneliness that comes when spouses, friends, and neighbors die -- and when children scatter -- is often a big problem for seniors.

Loneliness has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, depression, and even premature death. Moreover, loneliness is associated with increased activity of inflammation genes that can promote a variety of diseases. Previous treatment efforts have yielded little success.

But now researchers at UCLA have found that mindfulness meditation can help reduce the feelings of loneliness, and significantly reduce expression of the inflammatory genes.

August 16, 2012

Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and an Interview with Ted Dawson

This past Monday, I wrote about the exciting new trial underway involving an extended family in Colombia, South America. Many of them carry a genetic mutation that will cause early onset Alzheimer’s disease (AD) when they’re in their mid 40s. Researchers know in advance which family members carry the mutation, and their aim is to use a new drug therapy to PREVENT the disease before its devastating symptoms – to date irreversible – even begin. Yes, a new paradigm.

Today, I read an interview with Ted Dawson -- Professor of neurodegenerative diseases and Director of the Institute for Cell Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine -- in which he essentially said the same thing about his recent Parkinson’s disease (PD) research: “…for disease modifying therapy, we are treating patients too late. We really need to treat patients earlier.”

Since AD and PD are both neurodegenerative conditions, it’s not surprising that researchers occasionally travel along the same track… in this case trying to identify likely sufferers sooner in order to begin therapy – hopefully PREVENTIVE therapy – earlier. Once either disease appears, the most we can do – at this time, anyway – is treat the symptoms. Still, I am lucky we’ve come that far.

August 15, 2012

Best Place and Best Way To Die: My Secret Strategy

Most of us oldsters would prefer to stay at home until we're carted off. The ideal scenario: do this surrounded by loving, caring family and friends. But all too often, this set-up isn't possible. (I've found a way that I think may work, which I'll get to shortly.)

In our mobile society, family members are usually scattered all over the world. Even if they aren't (and I'm one of the fortunate few with all my family still in the area), our kids and grandkids are having a hard enough time struggling with the lousy economic hand we've dealt them (I'll have more to say about THAT in another post). Most of us don't want to make their lives more difficult by burdening them with caring for us.

I was surprised to read in the Washington Post this morning that only four percent of the 65-plus population go to nursing homes. Of course, many more go to senior residences or move in with relatives. Most of us try to remain at home. The article in the Post, titled "Aging in Place," was based on an interview with Henry Cisneros, the four-term mayor of San Antonio and former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He is co-editor of a new book, Independent for Life: Homes and Neighborhoods for an Aging America," a collection of papers authored by more than a dozen experts in aging and housing.

August 14, 2012

Alzheimer's Prevention: Can a Mutation-Afflicted Extended Family in Colombia Show the Way?

Two years ago, as this blog was getting started, I saw an article by Pam Belluck in the New York Times that captured my imagination. It told the story of an extended family – 5,000 strong -- in Colombia, South America… a family in which many members developed early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The article began this way:
At frighteningly young ages, in their 40s, four of Laura Cuartas’s children began forgetting and falling apart, assaulted by what people here have long called La Bobera, the foolishness. It is a condition attributed, in hushed rumors, to everything from touching a mysterious tree to the revenge of a wronged priest.
Since all our efforts so far to treat Alzheimer’s -- in people already suffering from the disease – had pretty much come to naught, it seemed like a goldmine for scientists to find this family group plagued by an inherited genetic mutation that caused the debilitating dementia by middle age. Could researchers tap this troubled gene pool and figure a way to PREVENT the disease altogether, in a population known in advance to be acutely susceptible? The possibilities seemed fascinating, and encouraging.

Last fall, the New York Times updated its story. The new, large, and novel study to assess the possibility of preventing the disease was underway. Family members had begun travelling from their homes around Medellin, Colombia, to the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix, AZ, for PET scans to determine the presence of amyloid plaques, those tell-tale protein accumulations that typically accompany AD, and are thought to play a causative role.

August 13, 2012

Coconut Oil vs Curcumin as Remedies for Alzheimer's and other Ailments -- Part 2

In my last post I took a look at the health benefit claims being made for coconut oil. In this post I'll do the same for curcumin. I'll start by repeating the introduction to the last post:

The two things that have surprised me the most this year in my blogging and health-related research are:
  • The coconut oil craze. I first became aware of this in February when I put up my first post about the  reports I'd seen touting coconut oil as a remedy for Alzheimer's. That post took off like a skyrocket in terms of the hits it got and it kept on going. It has attracted five times as much traffic as any other post I've  published. Yet all the research I've done on coconut oil has yet to turn up a valid study to substantiate the claims made for it.
  • Curcumin -- the "unsung hero." Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric, the curry spice that Indians call the "holy powder." I had never heard anything about curcumin until I began researching dietary supplements, and I was startled to find it has been the subject of over 500 scientific studies, almost all of which verify its potential for treating not just Alzheimer's but also other neurological disorders like Parkinson's and MS, as well as cancer, diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, depression... and the list goes on.
The contrast between the much-hyped coconut oil and the little-known curcumin says a lot about how we let ourselves get seduced by internet hype, YouTube videos, anecdotal stories of miracle drugs, and our reluctance to check the validity of the claims.

CURCUMIN
Background 
Curcumin is the only botanical whose clear efficacy has been demonstrated by science. Almost 5,000 peer-reviewed studies now exist to support curcumin's beneficial effects. Most of the studies were small and many of them were done with mice and rats, not humans. There's no question: we need more large-scale, peer-reviewed, clinical studies involving people, and a number of them are now underway.

Curcumin has powerful antioxidant properties, which means it can fight inflammation. Many diseases are accompanied by inflammation and, according to some research, prompted by it. Curcumin also appears to combat ongoing cellular damage. These dual attributes -- combating both inflammation and cellular damage -- could affect virtually all the body's tissues, including the brain. What's especially exciting to me (and millions of others) is curcumin's potential to fight Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and other neurological disorders that are known to be related to inflammation.

One of the newer theories about cancer is that it is linked to inflammation in the body: if you reduce inflammation, you reduce cancer risk. Recent studies have suggested that the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin helps protect the cells in the pancreas that create insulin, making it more effective in preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Other promising studies have shown that curcumin has the potential to treat cardiovascular disease, arthritis, depression, male-pattern baldness... and the list goes on.

August 10, 2012

Coconut Oil vs Curcumin as Remedies for Alzheimer's and other Ailments -- Part 1

The two things that have surprised me the most this year in my blogging and health-related research are:
  • The coconut oil craze. I first became aware of this in February when I put up my first post about the  reports I'd seen touting coconut oil as a remedy for Alzheimer's. That post took off like a skyrocket in terms of the hits it got and it kept on going. It has attracted five times as much traffic as any other post I've  published. Yet all the research I've done on coconut oil has yet to turn up a valid study to substantiate the claims made for it.
  • Curcumin -- the "unsung hero." Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric, the curry spice that Indians call the "holy powder." I had never heard anything about curcumin until I began researching dietary supplements, and I was startled to find it has been the subject of over 500 scientific studies, almost all of which verify its potential for treating not just Alzheimer's but also other neurological disorders like Parkinson's and MS, as well as cancer, diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, depression... and the list goes on.
The contrast between the much-hyped coconut oil and the little-known curcumin says a lot about how we let ourselves get seduced by internet hype, YouTube videos, anecdotal stories of miracle drugs, and our reluctance to check the validity of the claims.

So, let's take a closer look at both. Today, let's consider:

COCONUT OIL

The Basis for Claims About Coconut Oil as a Remedy for Alzheimer's
The claim for coconut oil as a remedy for Alzheimer's has to do with substances called ketones. The damage caused by Alzheimer's disrupts the brain's ability to use its primary energy source, glucose. The brain naturally gets a portion of its energy from ketone bodies when glucose is less available (e.g. during fasting or after strenuous exercise or in newborns). Ketones may provide an alternative energy source to the brain's cells to moderate the damage caused by Alzheimer's disease. The body produces ketones when it metabolizes coconut oil and similar fatty acid substances.

That's the theory behind the claims for coconut oil. But the Alzheimer's Association says, "Unfortunately there just isn't any creditable science to support this idea."  http://blog.alz.org/can-coconut-oil-treat-alzheimers/

August 9, 2012

Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Egrifta, Levetiracetam, Ginseng-Fortified Milk, and Fish Oils

Since information about new studies – most of them encouraging -- keeps flooding in like a daily, unrelenting hurricane storm surge, we’ve GOT to be making progress in the good fight against cognitive decline, right? Here are four more recent tidbits in the ongoing saga.

1) HIV Drug May Support Memory in Early Alzheimer’s
Approved by the FDA in 2010 as a successful AIDS therapy, the drug Egrifta promotes production of a human growth hormone, which then activates the creation of various other hormones, including insulin.

While we know insulin’s role in regulating blood sugar, it also functions to create new nerve cells in the brain and protects existing brain cells from damage. The hormone’s potential role in treating Alzheimer’s isn’t new, but Egrifta gives it a novel application in the battle against cognitive decline in people with early Alzheimer’s.

For more info about Egrifta, see the update that appeared on the WebMD site on August 6.

August 8, 2012

Surprising Dangers of Vitamins and Supplements

That's the banner headline across the cover of the September, 2012 issue of Consumer Reports. The subtitle is "How To Protect Your Family."

Here's the link if you want to see the full report. The parts that resonated with me are summarized below.

Supplements are not risk-free
More than 6,300 reports of serious adverse events associated with dietary supplements were reported to the FDA between 2007 and mid-April 2012. The reports described more than 10,300 serious outcomes, including 115 deaths and 2,100 hospitalizations.

The FDA receives many more reports of adverse effects from prescribed medications. But there's one big difference, notes Peter Cohen, M.D., internist at Cambridge Health Alliance in Massachusetts. When it comes to prescribed meds, "these powerful medications with powerful side effects are actually saving lives when used appropriately." But with supplements, "there's rarely a powerful lifesaving effect."

Current laws make it difficult for FDA to act against problem supplements. The FDA has banned only one ingredient, ephedrine alkaloids, used in weight-loss products, and that effort dragged on for a decade during which ephedra products were implicated in thousands of adverse events, including deaths.

How to protect yourself:  CR recommends you type the name of any supplement you're thinking about using into the search box at www.fda.gov to see if it has been subject to warnings, alerts or voluntary recalls. Tell your doctor if you think you're having a bad reaction to a supplement. You can report any problem with a supplement to the FDA at 800-332-1088 or www.fda.gov/medwatch.

August 7, 2012

Coffee: Prolongs Life, Helps Parkinsonians!

At last! One of my addictions may actually prolong my life, not shorten it. A study published May 17 in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that older adults who drink coffee may be less likely than non-drinkers to die from a number of causes.

In the largest study yet of coffee and health, researchers reviewed data on 229,119 men and 173,141 women (all aged 50-71) who took part in a National Institutes of Health dietary study. Participants were asked about their coffee consumption when the study began in 1995 and were followed through 2008. Men who drank six or more cups of coffee each day had been 10% less likely to die. Woo-HOO!

Decaffeinated or high-test, coffee was associated with lowered risk of death from heart disease, diabetes, stroke, respiratory disease, and infection -- but not cancer. The study doesn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship between coffee drinking and reduced risk of death, only an association between the two. But as coffee consumption increased , risk of death decreased: evidence that suggests the connection may not be mere coincidence.

Other studies bolster the cause-effect connection.

August 6, 2012

Enough of Death, Dying, Suicide. Let's Talk About Love, Living, Family.

Last week, we spent some time talking about dying and planning for the "final exit." I came away from those discussions feeling inspired rather than depressed. But not everybody is as strange as I am, so some may worry that I'm overly focused on the dark side of life, particularly as many of my posts also deal with Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cancer and other ailments. Not exactly cheery subjects.

Not so. In fact, far from it. As long as I spend as little time as possible brooding about the transition of our democracy into an oligarchy, I'm a happy camper... for an 83-year-old with a variety of ailments. Heading the list of what makes me happy is my family and friends.

I'm particularly fortunate that everyone in my traditional family is still based in the Washington/Baltimore area. My Kathmandu and Pokhara families are also right here.

So, here they are: the jewels in my crown.

1. The Schappi Family 
Here's the cast of characters:
  • Son Todd lives in his dream house up in the woods off route 15, a few miles south of Thurmont, MD. From there, he commutes to his job as night building maintenance engineer at an office building in downtown Washington.
  • Daughter Ann lives in her house in suburban Alexandria, VA. She works as an editor at Mercer Consulting's DC office.
  • Granddaughter Jessie is married to Dan Dreisonstok, and mother to my great-granddaughters Kaylee, 6, and Mckenzie, 1. Jessie started her own business, and she and Dan are buying their first house near Frederick, MD.
  • Granddaughter Emily is entering her second year at the University of Maryland-Baltimore law school and buying her first house there.
  • Grandson Colin just graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. He's taking a year off from academia to see the world, starting with his just-completed month in Japan.
We all gathered a few weeks ago for a cookout at Todd's house.  Here's the gang.

Daughter Ann (back to the camera), Dan, Mckenzie with Jessie, and Todd.

August 4, 2012

Dudley Clendinen: "Final Exit" Song and Prayer

Dudley Clendinen
1944-2012

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////
Last month, an old friend brought me a recording of the greatest concert he'd ever seen, Leonard Cohen, live in London, three years ago. It's haunting, powerful music, by a poet, composer, and singer, whose life has been as tough and sinewy and loving as an old tree.
The song that transfixed me, words and music, was "Dance Me to the End of Love." That's the way I feel about this time. I'm dancing, spinning around, happy in the last rhythms of the life I love. When the music stops -- when I can't tie my bow tie, tell a funny story, walk my dog, talk with Whitney, kiss someone special, or tap out lines like this -- I'll know that Life is over.
It's time to be gone.
///////////////////////////////////////////////////////
Those are Clendenin's final words from the New York Times Sunday magazine article he wrote last summer. A gay alcoholic with Lou Gehrig's disease, Clendinen was describing his own impending death. He didn't take his own life as he'd planned, but died of natural causes on May 30, 2012, determined to the end to finish the book he was writing about his final years
.Between February, 2011 and January, 2012, he participated in a series of interviews with his friend and Baltimore radio host Tom Hall, in which Clendinen discussed his disease, mental state, and preparations for death. I found his comments about death -- even in the last two interviews -- much more uplifting than depressing.
 In that last interview, Hall asked his guest about a prayer he had written even before the ALS diagnosis. Clendinen answered: "Yes, I did it after I got sober and realized that I should be thankful and I should use the chance to better my life. It's not a religious prayer. I'm not religious, but I'm spiritual. So it's not Catholic, or Muslim, or Jewish, or Protestant. It is just particular to me,"
Oh God, who art the center of all things, thank you for the sobriety of today and of yesterday and of the day before, and all the days of my new life. Help me to keep that life fresh and to view its precious possibility and its purpose, and to use it to loving ends and in important ways to me and to those I love and who love me. 
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. 
Amen

August 2, 2012

Alzheimer's: Inflammation, Pine Cones, Popcorn

The march of science to create a treatment for Alzheimer’s continues apace. Two new articles recently caught my eye.

Neuroinflammation as Culprit
As reported in the July 25 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, a new drug may soon become available that treats a range of conditions – including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and brain injuries – by reducing inflammation in the brain.

Unlike other recent therapies that target amyloid plaques and tangles – protein accumulations in the brain that typically indicate Alzheimer’s – the new drugs, including MW151 and MW189, are designed to improve neuro-function by reducing inflammation.

D. Martin Watterson, study co-author and molecular pharmacology and biological chemistry professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, reported that his university received patents for this new drug class, and licensed commercial development to a biotech company. Phase one of the clinical trials on humans – screening for safety – was recently completed.

Earlier, using rodent subjects, researchers found that the drugs prevented development of full-blown AD in mice that had been genetically-tweaked to develop the disease.

Additional information about the study can be found on this Northwestern University “NewsCenter” bulletin.

And Now… Pine Cones?

August 1, 2012

Let's Talk about Suicide, Facing Death, and Dudley Clendinen

"We obsess in this country about how to eat and dress and drink, about finding a job and a mate. About having sex and children. About how to live. But we don’t talk about how to die. We act as if facing death weren’t one of life’s greatest, most absorbing thrills and challenges. Believe me, it is. This is not dull."  -- Dudley Clendinen -- 1944-2012
I started to write this post a few days ago, after members of my Parkinson's support group spoke about suicide. All of us had thought about it; some had thought a lot about it.

Suicide is a topic we can't easily discuss. We don't even want to use the word "death." When a dear friend died last week, her wonderful daughter called to tell me her mother had "passed." I'm pretty sure the daughter doesn't believe her mother has gone to heaven or into some other afterlife. Still, she avoided saying her mother had died.

Over a year ago, I wrote a blog post about Dudley Clendinen, the author of a provocative article for the New York Times Sunday magazine. His piece carried the eye-catching title: "I Will End My Life by My Own Hand When the Time Is Ripe."

Clendinen, a former national correspondent and editorial writer for the Times, had been diagnosed in November 2010 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, "Lou Gehrig's Disease"). His doctors told him he had 18 to 36 months to live.

ALS basically comes in two forms. One starts with the progressive death of nerves and muscles in the hands and feet, and continues from there. The other, called bulbar ALS, begins in the mouth, throat, chest, and abdomen. Clendinen had this second form of the disease; since it affects breathing from the start, death comes sooner.

Clendinen decided to use his remaining time to "defang" -- his word -- the subject of death. That Times article was one of his many public discussions about his disease, which he called "Lou," and his impending death.

I wondered what had happened to Clendinen when I began this new post about suicide. A quick Google search brought me the news: he had died two months ago. I read many of the remembrances and obituaries, and I read more pieces Clendinen had written, too. This talented man covered all the points I'd hoped to make... and far more eloquently than I could have, so -- in much of what appears below -- Clendinen speaks again from the grave.

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