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What's the right age? Is there an age factor?

Posted Mar 27 2012 5:18pm
There have been a couple of stories in the news lately that have really stirred up the talking heads, the blog world, diet world and health care folks.  At first glimpse they do not seem at all related, but as I was thinking about both stories, one of the main points in both is the age of the subject.

Picture So what do a 71 year old man and a 7 year old little girl have in common?  Mainly the fact that both are involved in a controversial issues based upon their ages.  

Over weekend former Vice President Dick Cheney received a heart transplant at the age of 71.  The procedure received some raised eyebrows on the subject of organ transplants due to the fact that Cheney is 71 and also brought about questions of how one moves up on the transplant list.  Apparently, heart transplants are not as unusual as they were in the past AND they are also received by older folks these days.  

My own father received a heart transplant at the age of 58.  For that reason he lived to see my three boys born and grow to the ages of 14, 12 and 9 before passing away last year.  He waited for 116 days at Emory Hospital confined to his hospital room and attached to lots of machines to keep him alive until the right match became available.  I am all too familiar with the "transplant world" and the after effects.  At the time Daddy received his transplant the longest anyone had lived was nine years.  He lived 15 with the "new" heart.  So, I see things have come a long way even in this short amount of time.  

Consider the following numbers, courtesy of the United Network for Organ Sharing, which manages the national transplant system for the federal government. Of the 2,322 hearts transplanted nationwide last year, 332 -- or about 14% -- went to patients 65 and older. Going back to 1990, that rate was 3.4% -- just 72 out of 2,107 hearts.  That's pretty notable.

The majority of heart transplants -- 44% last year -- have long gone to patients 50 to 64.

 On the other hand, while more older patients are considered viable candidates for transplants, the whole number of available hearts each hear hasn't changed.  That means that giving a heart to an older person leaves fewer to go around for everyone else. "That problem has been alleviated to a large degree by medical advances -- both drugs and mechanical pumps like one Cheney had -- that keep patients alive longer while they wait. Last year, 331 people died while waiting for a heart, down from 785 in 1995, the earliest year for which that data is available."

In 2011, heart transplants were performed at 126 U.S. hospitals. Each hospital's program decides who to put on a list and who is not eligible. Many factors are considered, including other health issues, contribution to the community, a strong support system and how the body will react to the heart.   It seems that larger centers tend to take riskier -- and older -- patients, whereas smaller transplant programs tend to select patients with better chances for survival.

"At the Inova Fairfax Hospital, where Cheney received his transplant, 2 of the 19 heart transplants -- or nearly 11% -- performed last year went to patients 65 and older."

One argument against giving scarce organs to older patients is that those patients are much more likely to die from some other cause before the organ wears out. The proposal has been highly controversial, with older patients arguing that they deserve the same chances as everybody else.

So, what are your thoughts on the "age factor"  or should there be an "age factor" when determining who receives a second chance at life?

I think it can be said without much argument that childhood obesity is on the rise or at least is a serious concern.  So, if you are a parent with an overweight or obese child, what is to be done?  How is this to be handled?  Apparently not like Dara-Lynn Weiss!  She told Vogue magazine how she handled her 7 year old's weight problem and a firestorm of criticism has landed her in the midst of controversy.  

Weiss put her 7-year-old daughter, Bea, on a diet after a pediatrician said that Bea should lose some weight.  Bea weighed 93 pounds, making her clinically obese. It wasn't the diagnosis that was the problem, it was Weiss' handling of the child.  

This is what she said of her methods
"Sometimes Bea's after-school snack was a slice of pizza or a gyro from the snack vendor. Other days I forced her to choose a low fat vegetable soup or a single hard-boiled egg. Occasionally I'd give in to her pleas for a square of coffee cake, mainly because I wanted to eat half of it. When she was given access to cupcakes at a party, I alternated between saying, 'Let's not eat that, it's not good for you'; 'Okay, fine, go ahead, but just one'; and 'Bea, you have to stop eating crap like that, you're getting too heavy,' depending on my mood. Then I'd secretly eat two when she wasn't looking."

Weiss recalls a disturbing incident at a Starbucks: she tossed Bea's hot chocolate in the trash after the barista failed to give her an accurate calorie count.

In the Vogue article, Weiss does admit she was not equipped to teach her daughter about having a healthy relationship with food.  Apparently, Weiss had her issues and demons on this front.  

What saddens me is the fact that Weiss' cruel treatment of this issue and handling of what could have been a great teaching time, is the fact that this little girl may now be set up for a lifetime of misery in handling food issues.  

In fact, Bea said the following during her interview
"'That's still me,' she says of her former self. 'I'm not a different person just because I lost sixteen pounds.' I protest that, indeed, she is different. At this moment, that fat girl is a thing of the past. A tear rolls down her beautiful cheek, past the glued-in feather. 'Just because it's in the past,' she says, 'doesn't mean it didn't happen.'"

And, now, not only was she humiliated in public by her mother during her weight loss journey, she now is being publicly photographed and interviewed about what seems to have been a most unpleasant experience.  

The spokesperson for the weight watchers program Weiss initially used with Bea, but discontinued, stated that ""The parents aren't supposed to react in public. . . They're supposed to be on their child's team."  She went on to say that she believed if Weiss had continued to come to the program rather than choosing the drastic measures she took on her how, the end result might have been better.  

It seems obvious from the article that there were some emotional issues that were not addressed for Bea.  She was only 7 years old when dealing with being put on a strict diet by her mother, and her own body images.  

Is there an age when it is too soon for these type of drastic measures?  Is there a set age that obesity should be addressed?

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