Monday, February 23, 2009

American Heart Month: Music for the Heart

American heart month is sponsored every year in February by the American Heart Association. In order to highlight their efforts I wanted to promote the Music for the Heart website. I developed this web resource for people looking for specific connections to music and how it can benefit heart health. My personal experience is with helping people manage stress and anxiety before surgery and as well as using music to build a new heart healthy lifestyle after experiencing heart problems. I have included many of my ideas and suggestions on the website, but also have links to much more. In addition to a section about recent research studies regarding music therapy and heart health, there are links to stories in the news and reference materials like books and music. One of the most effective ways for people to improve their cardiovascular system and heart muscle is to learn how to relax. I have provided many suggestions about how to use music more effectively as an aid to relaxation.

Please consider helping support the American Heart Association by purchasing "Music for the Heart" logo merchandise. Not only does 5% of all royalties go to the American Heart Association, but we can all promote the connection between music and the heart by spreading the message!

Thank you!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Book Review: Changing the Course of Autism, by Bryan Jepson, M.D.

Bryan Jepson wrote this book after becoming part of the autism team at the Thoughtful House in Austin, TX. Dr. Jepson is a former emergency room doctor who had a child that developed regressive autism. He began noticing first hand the physiological problems that are often associated with children on the autism spectrum. These included many different kinds of gastrointestinal issues, frequent sickness and other problems associated with immunodeficiency. In his book, he has gathered together references, statistics and current treatments that surround these medical aspects of autism. His discussion of the material is easy to read and quite compelling. His major thesis is that children with limited or dysfunctional ability to process toxins from the environment may be predisposed to developing regressive autism as a result of certain trigger events or mechanisms. His stated hope is that autism will be viewed as more than just a psychosocial issue so that research and treatments can become more accepted and practiced.

I found the book to be very enlightening about the specific research that has been done regarding vaccines and autism. Dr. Jepson does not argue any final conclusion about a causal link between vaccines and autism, but provides a thorough review of the primary research studies about vaccines and autism, both pro and con. I feel much more informed about some of the results presented in these studies and better able to come to my own conclusions. I appreciate his careful treatment of the subject and will be more wary from now on about accepting news reports of future research results without delving into the research designs and quality of each research study. Dr. Jepson exposes several different instances of conflict of interest with people in charge of some of the research considered "authoritative" on the subject of vaccines and autism. Of particular interest were revelations about some of the government researchers who later became employed by certain drug companies which made vaccines.

I have worked with hundreds of children with autism myself and watched as parents tried all kinds of alternative therapies and medical treatments to help their kids. Dr. Jepson points out that the medical community has become very specialized so that doctors are only experts in certain fields or certain parts of the body. This mindset and way of practice in the medical community has led to a lack of coordination and consideration for a cohesive approach to treating autism. Dr. Jepson argues for a comprehensive approach to autism by combining drug treatment, special diets, behavioral therapy and other alternative therapies. He presents evidence that suggests that the individual therapies can be used together to help balance out and normalize a dysfunctional physiological state of being.

I look forward to future editions of this book after more research has been published. Dr. Jepson makes mention of several studies underway at the time of printing that should be considered in relation to his presentation. I would also like to see more specific recommendations for parents with small children and what they should do with the current schedule of vaccinations. I am not sure that I believe that there has been a link in the past between mercury and regressive autism, but could it be helpful to lower the risk by waiting to do some of the vaccinations until children are a little bit older? And are there advantages of splitting up some of the combination vaccines? There is much research still to be done and hopefully we can expand the conversation and acceptance that we have much to learn. It is not okay for the government and medical community to push "herd" mentality to improve the success of the vaccination program without offering full and honest explanations of any risks that might be involved. The money and power behind the vaccination programs are formidable, but we should not lose sight of what makes sense!

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