The Biggest Living Single Being On Earth

October 3, 2014 @ 7:26 pm
posted by Dr Ginther

The “General Sherman” Giant Sequoia tree is the largest living tree, and the largest single living organism on earth.  275 feet tall, with a footprint 36 feet in diameter at ground level, and an estimated trunk volume of 52,500 cubic feet.  Wow.

We were awed by the immense size of this and other trees nearly as large.  Photos cannot properly picture these giants.  You have to experience them in person. Even then they are difficult to comprehend.  Their cousins, the Coastal Redwoods are taller, but nowhere near as wide.

We saw the giant sequoias last week when we went to our son’s wedding just 4 miles from the Mariposa Grove of giants in Yosemite National Park.  The biggest are in Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks.  I had not been there before.  I am overwhelmed to have seen them now.

Humans caused serious harm to these trees by supressing natural lightning strike fires from the 1850s to 1970s.  The undergrowth began to choke the giants and prevented new seedlings from growing.  Although the most striking characteristic of these trees is huge fire scars 50 to 75 feet tall, they require fire to supress competition for water and nutrients. 

Studying the growth rings of fallen trees reveals that they grow the fastest in the years just after fire scars.  And those fire scars are every 5 to 13 years over the centuries before European settlement. 

Wandering through the forest in the company of these giants (some over 3000 years old) is truly a trip to the Blue Zones.

Yosemite Valley is incredible.  Kings Canyon is 1/3 deeper than the Grand Canyon.  So much to see of the natural world.

Jay Ginther, MD

Weddings Are Blue Zones

September 30, 2014 @ 8:11 am
posted by Dr Ginther

The Blue Zones emphasize the importance of family.  Few events are more family centered than a wedding.  Our son was married this past weekend in California.  All aspects of our Iowa family were represented, as well as my sister from Ohio.  We enjopyed our time together.

More important, we got to know the bride’s family better.  Despite differences in geography and distant ethnic backgrounds, we all hold similar values of family, faith, and purpose (pillars of the Blue Zones). 

We all knew that the bride would fit in well a year ago, when she helped, then not yet 3 year old, RJ get over the fact that attention was centered on his 6 week old sister, Gwen. 

The cycle of life moves on and we are enjoying it.  You should take time to enjoy your point in the cycle of a Blue Zones life.

Jay Ginther, MD

Goodbye to “Totally Natural” Vitamin D

September 14, 2014 @ 8:18 pm
posted by Dr Ginther

I was out at high noon (about 1:12 CDT) today, and may have made some Vitamin D in my exposed skin.  We had beautifully clear skies with cool, dry air and lots of sunshine.  I did not use sun-block for the few minutes of skin cancer risk.  Unfortunately, it was also only a few minutes of Vitamin D opportunity. 

Ultraviolet light is attenuated and eventually blocked by the atmosphere.  The lower the sun is on the horizon, the less UV light gets through.  In Waterloo, IA we are entering the 7 months of the year when the sun is too low on the horizon.  We do not get enough UV to produce any Vitamin D.

Less than half of Iowans, who do not take substantial Vitamin D3 supplements, have sufficient Vitamin D levels in September.  By early April, that is less than 15%.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology received bad news about Breast Cancer Patients this week.  A study of women with breast cancer, being treated with Aromatase Inhibitors (AI), was presented at the 2014 Breast Cancer Symposium.  AI is a great treatment for breast cancer, however…

AI is known to decrease bone strength and to increase Fracture Risk.  How many of these patients  were evaluated for their bone health?  Only 54%.  How many got a repeat evaluation to check to be sure that their bone health was not deteriorating?  Only 46%.

Of those tested, 43% had a DXA T-score in the “osteopenia” range.  In this situation, FRAX is needed to calculate Fracture Risk.  41% of this group met guidelines for treatment with medication to prevent bone loss and Fractures.  Of those who should have been treated, only 23% were.