Yearly Archives: 2015

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The iconic Smithtown statue, “Whisper the Bull,” welcomes residents as they enter the township and is a symbol of the community’s long and storied past. File photo by Elana Glowatz

By Jenni Culkin

There is cause for celebration among Smithtown residents this year. The town was founded 350 years ago, and the Smithtown Historical Society is preparing to get its residents involved in festivities and immersion in the town’s proud history.

“This town has been inhabited for 350 years,” said Kiernan Lannon, executive director of the Smithtown Historical Society. “It’s self-evident that this is a milestone!”

Lannon said the Smithtown Historical Society’s mission is to “preserve and present the town’s history,” and in order to develop an itinerary for the 350th annual celebration, the town’s historical society developed the 350 Foundation — a group of volunteers comprised of representatives from various organizations in the town.

On March 3rd, 1665, Richard Smythe, the town’s founder, was granted the Nicholls Patent. The patent gave him the right to the territory that encompasses present-day Smithtown. Originally, it was believed that Smythe was told that he could have all of the territory that he could circumnavigate on the back of a bull.

The bull story is so important that it has become the icon that represents Smithtown. The bull statue, affectionately named “Whisper the Bull,” welcomes residents as they enter the town boundaries.

The story proved to be only a legend, but it still has a place in this year’s celebration of the town’s history.

The Bull Smythe Relay is proof that the bull story is still sentimental to the people of Smithtown. The relay is the first of the 350th anniversary events that the 350 Foundation is planning, scheduled for March 1, which will mimic the torch relays that are performed during the Olympics.

The relay will cover approximately 36 miles within the town, each mile sponsored by a different person, organization or family. The public is welcome to come and watch the Bull Smythe Relay and support the participants.

Town historian Bradley Harris helped spearhead the planning of this year’s 350th celebration after Town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio penned a letter to him asking him to help plan the events.

Only two days after the relay, on March 3, there will be a special town board meeting. A time capsule opening will follow the meeting. The capsule was buried in 1965, during the town’s 300th anniversary celebration.

Town Councilwoman Lynne Nowick says that she can remember attending the 300th anniversary and said the events were historically a great historical celebration for the Town of Smithtown.

“The 350 committee is doing a fabulous job,” she said.

The dedicated 350 Foundation has a tentative calendar of events stretching from late February to December of this year. Not all of these events are held by the historical society.

The Smithtown Performing Arts Center is also hosting a musical performance called “The Spirit of Smithtown,” which will be playing in late May and early June. The Smithtown Library is also formulating a schedule of events that is to be announced within the last few weeks of February. Even the public schools in Smithtown’s school districts are planning an art show and contest.

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This article was originally published in the January 23, 2014 issue of Arts and Lifestyles.
Gluten has been gaining in notoriety over the last several years. When we hear someone mention a gluten-free diet, several things tend to come to mind. One may be that this is a healthy diet. Along the same lines, we may think gluten is bad for us. However, gluten-free is not necessarily synonymous with healthy. There are many beneficial products containing gluten.
We might think that gluten-free diets are a fad, like low-fat or low-carb diets. Still, we keep hearing how more people feel better without gluten. Could this be a placebo effect? What is myth and what is reality in terms of gluten? In this article I will try to distill what we know about gluten and gluten-free diets, who may benefit and who may not.
But first, what is gluten? Most people I ask don’t know the answer, which is OK; it is part of the reason I am writing the article. Gluten is a plant protein found mainly in wheat, rye and barley.
Now to answer the question of whether going gluten-free is a fad. The answer is resounding “No,” since we know that patients who suffer from celiac disease, an autoimmune disease, benefit tremendously when gluten is removed.(1) In fact, it is the main treatment.
But what about people who don’t have celiac disease? There seems to be a spectrum of physiological reaction to gluten, from intolerance to gluten (sensitivity) to gluten tolerance (insensitivity). Obviously, celiac disease is the extreme of intolerance, but even these patients may be asymptomatic. Then, there is nonceliac gluten sensitivity, referring to those in the middle portion of the spectrum.(2) The prevalence of NCGS is half that of celiac disease, according to the NHANES data from 2009-2010.(3) However, many disagree with this assessment, indicating that it is much more prevalent and that its incidence is likely to rise.(4) The term was not even coined until 2011.
What is the difference between full-blown celiac disease and gluten sensitivity? They both may have intestinal symptoms, such as bloating, gas, cramping and diarrhea, as well as extraintestinal (outside the gut) symptoms, including gait ataxia (gait disturbance), malaise, fatigue and attention deficit disorder.(5) Surprisingly, they both may have the same results with serological (blood) tests, which may be positive or negative. The first line of testing includes antigliadin antibodies and tissue transglutaminase. These measure a reaction to gluten; however, they don’t have to be positive to have reaction to gluten. HLA–DQ phenotype testing is the second line of testing and tends to be more specific for celiac disease.
What is unique to celiac disease is a histological change in the small intestine, with atrophy of the villi (small fingerlike projections) contributing to gut permeability, what might be called “leaky gut.” Biopsy of the small intestine is the most definitive way to diagnose celiac disease.
Though the research has mainly focused on celiac disease, there is some evidence that shows NCGS has potential validity, especially in irritable bowel syndrome.
Before we look at the studies, what does it mean when a food says it’s “gluten-free”? Well, the FDA has recently weighed in by passing regulation that requires all gluten-free foods to have no more than 20 parts per million of gluten.(6) The agency has given food manufacturers a year to comply with the new standards. Now, let’s look at the evidence.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a nebulous disease diagnosed through exclusion, and the treatments are not obvious. That is why the results from a randomized controlled trial, the gold standard of studies, showing that a gluten-free diet significantly improved symptoms in IBS patients, is so important.(7) Patients were given a muffin and bread on a daily basis.
Of course, one group was given gluten-free products and the other given products with gluten, though the texture and taste were identical. In six weeks, many of those who were gluten-free saw the pain associated with bloating and gas mostly resolve; significant improvement in stool composition, such that they were not suffering from diarrhea; and their fatigue diminished. In fact, in one week, those in the gluten group were in substantially more discomfort than those in the gluten-free group. There were 34 patients involved in this study.
As part of a well-written March 4, 2013 editorial in Medscape, by David Johnson, M.D., a professor of gastroenterology at Eastern Virginia Medical School, he questions whether this beneficial effect from the IBS trial was due to gluten withdrawal or to withdrawal of fermentable sugars because of the elimination of some grains, themselves.(8) In other words, gluten may be just one part of the picture. He believes that nonceliac gluten sensitivity is a valid concern.
Autism is a very difficult disease to quantify, diagnose and treat. Some have suggested gluten may play a role. Unfortunately, in a study with children who had autism spectrum disorder and who were undergoing intensive behavioral therapy, removing both gluten and casein, a protein found in dairy, had no positive impact on activity or sleep patterns.(9) These results were disappointing. However, this was a very small study involving 22 preschool children. Removing gluten may not be a panacea for all ailments.
The microbiome in the gut may play a pivotal role as to whether a person develops celiac disease. In an observational study using data from the Swedish Prescribed Drug Register, results indicate that those who were given antibiotics within the last year had a 40 percent greater chance of developing celiac disease and a 90 percent greater risk of developing inflammation in the gut.(10) The researchers believe that this has to do with dysbyosis, a misbalance in the microbiota, or flora, of the gastrointestinal tract. It is interesting that celiac disease may be propagated by change in bacteria in the gut from the use of antibiotics.
Not everyone will benefit from a gluten-free diet. In fact, most of us will not. Ultimately, people who may benefit from this type of diet are those patients who have celiac disease and those who have symptomatic gluten sensitivity. Also patients who have positive serological tests, including tissue transglutaminase or antigliadin antibodies are good candidates for gluten-free diets.
There is a downside to a gluten-free diet: potential development of macronutrient and micronutrient deficiencies. Therefore, it would be wise to ask your doctor before starting gluten withdrawal. The research in patients with gluten sensitivity is relatively recent, and most gluten research has to do with celiac disease. Hopefully, we will see intriguing studies in the near future, since gluten-free products have grown to a $4 billion industry that the FDA now has begun to regulate.

(1) Am J Gastroenterol. 2013;108:656-676. (2) Gut 2013;62:43–52. (3) Scand J Gastroenterol. (4) Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2013 Nov;25(11):864-71. (5) (6) (7) Am J Gastroenterol. 2011; 106(3):508-14. (8) (9) 9th annual AIM for Autism Research 2010; abstract 140.007. (10) BMC Gastroenterol. 2013:13(109).

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, go to the website or consult your personal physician.

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If imitation is the highest form of flattery, there should be plenty of blushing moths. A group of scientists is working on a new way to create a structure similar to the moth eye, albeit with several important differences, to build a better solar cell.

Unlike human eyes, the compound moth’s eyes have a collection of miniature posts across their surface.

These posts allow the moth to absorb a wide range of light without reflecting it back. This prevents the “moth in the headlights” appearance, enabling the insect to blend in without sending a reflection predators might notice.

While Lord Rayleigh worked out the mathematics for why the moth eye geometry eliminates reflection in the 1800s, a team at Brookhaven National Laboratory has come up with a new approach to creating an anti-reflective silicon.

“Our advance is in coming up with a tricky new way” to make a silicon surface that absorbs instead of reflects light, said Chuck Black, a scientist and group leader at the Center for Functional Nanomaterials at BNL. “We think it has practical advantages in applying this” to things like solar cells or even, some day, anti-reflective windshields on cars or windows in buildings.

Companies have been using multilayer coatings to increase the ability of silicon solar cells to absorb light. By etching a nanoscale texture onto the material, researchers including Black and Atikur Rahman, a postdoctoral researcher, were able to create an anti-reflective surface that works as well as multilayer coatings, while outperforming single antireflective film by about 20 percent.

The researchers coated the top of a silicon solar cell with a substance Black has worked with for more than 15 years, called a block copolymer. The advantage to this substance is that it can self-organize into a surface pattern with dimensions of only about 10 nanometers. This pattern enabled the development of posts that are similar to those of a moth’s eyes, even though the features in their structures are much smaller than those in the insect eye.

The challenge in trying to reduce reflections is that sunlight has a wide range of colors at different wavelengths. Substances designed to absorb one color won’t be as effective at capturing a different one.

That’s where the moth enters the picture.

“Nature has learned how to create this anti-reflection,” by using spikes, Black said. “This promotes anti-reflection not just in one but in all wavelengths of light.”

The way this works is somewhat akin to the proverbial frog in a pot of water. In the frog story, a frog sitting in a pot of water that slowly heats up doesn’t jump out of the water even when it’s boiling because it’s adjusted to the changing temperature. Similarly, these spikes draw light of different wavelengths in because the distances between them are all smaller than the wavelength of light. The light effectively reacts to their average properties, Black explained.

When the light travels through these spikes, which are not cylindrical but, rather are thinner at the top and flair at the bottom, it reacts as if it hits something that is a combination of something small and insignificant and air. As the light travels towards the silicon surface, it interacts less with air and more with the spike, where it becomes absorbed by the thicker base before it can reflect back out.

“You’re softening this transition between air and whatever you’re trying to couple the light into,” Black said. Instead of a sharp boundary between the air the light is traveling through and the surface, the spikes ease that interaction, gradually capturing the light.

To demonstrate its effect, Black held a small photograph of his lab above a reflecting surface in which a small square is coated with the anti-reflective material. In the reflection, the square with the anti-reflective substance appears black.

Black and Rahman, who was the lead author on the study, published their results in Nature Communications. They don’t know whether this approach is more economical or efficient than the current multilayer coating for solar cells. They are working with external partners to understand the economic or performance advantages of this approach, he said.

Black and his wife Theresa Lu, who is a physician scientist at the Hospital for Special Surgery, live in Manhattan with their two primary school children, Marina and Charlotte.

As for his work, Black and Rahman filed a patent for this technology last year. “It’s something we’re very proud of,” he said.

East Northport man was also a firefighter and veteran

Elaine and Salvatore ‘Sam’ Macedonio Sr., on vacation in Italy last year. Photos from Mark Macedonio

By Julianne Cuba

East Northport firefighter, veteran and retired police officer Salvatore “Sam” Macedonio Sr., a former member of what was once the Town of Huntington Police Department, died from complications with lung cancer earlier this month. He was 87.

Macedonio, survived by his wife, Elaine, and his children, Gary Macedonio, Mark J. Macedonio, Lisa M. Macedonio Olofson and Salvatore Macedonio Jr., had served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II.

Following his military service, Macedonio joined the Town of Huntington Police Department as a patrolman in 1954. When the department merged into the Suffolk County Police Department in 1960, Macedonio was one of its first members.

Mark Macedonio said his father was loved very much and he will be sorely missed.

“He knew everybody in the Town of Huntington and everybody knew him,” he said. “He was a very well-known fellow. From his early days growing up in Huntington until the very end, he was a very approachable, kind, person. He was a great listener and peacemaker.”

Macedonio retired from the 2nd Precinct of the Suffolk County Police Department as a senior patrolman in 1973. Since his retirement from the police force, Macedonio had co-founded Vor-Mac Auto Collision Inc. in Greenlawn, which he co-owned with his wife for more than 20 years. During that time, he was also a volunteer firefighter at the East Northport Fire Department for more than 40 years; and he was active for more than 20 of those years.

Sam Macedonio in 2011, at the national World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Photo from Mark Macedonio
Sam Macedonio in 2011, at the national World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Photo from Mark Macedonio

Following in her father’s footsteps, Macedonio Olofson — along with her husband, Brian, and their two daughters, Katherine and Nicole — joined the East Northport Fire Department as volunteers.

Macedonio Olofson, an EMT and lieutenant of the rescue squad, is also a school nurse at the Norwood Avenue Elementary School in Northport.

“He always taught us to give back to the community and that’s what I’m doing,” she said. “I volunteer all my free time to give back to the community.”

As the middle child in a family of 13 children, family always came first to Macedonio, his daughter said.

Born in Locust Valley on March 11, 1927, Macedonio was forced to quit high school to work on his parent’s farm — Cedar Hill Farm in East Northport — in the midst of the Great Depression. Macedonio was able to receive his high school diploma following his military service.

Henry Johnson, an 86-year-old Huntington Station resident, had worked on the Town of Huntington Police Department the same years Macedonio did.

“I just about never worked with him, but he had a good reputation, he was a hard worker and he was a good police officer,” Johnson said.

As a patrolman, Macedonio led a very distinguished career, his daughter said; he had been issued many commendations, including for bravery, meritorious service and outstanding performance of duty, as well as two heroic life-saving events in the early 1960s, Olofson recalls.

“He was widely known to many Huntington Township residents as a result of his active life, service to the community, humility and great love of all people,” she said.

Former Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer sang Macedonio’s praises in an email statement, calling the East Northport man “a special kind of person” who was a “master of verbal judo” and could defuse volatile situations.

“He had no ego issues and brought a steadying and calm influence to his police duties,” Dormer said. “He loved the police department and when we would run into each other over the years, he would always bring up his days serving the people of Huntington Township and Suffolk County. He was so proud to be a cop.”

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Heart-shaped pancakes straight from the skillet.

​If you’ve ventured into the Valentine’s Day section of Target lately, you probably had to squeeze past other shoppers trying to acknowledge the holiday with sanity. A few heart-shaped cookies here, maybe some chocolates and, of course, cards for the kids to hand out at school. Though the aisle was probably full, there was not yet a sign of mania.

Nevertheless, there are some — and I used to be one of them — who still crumble under the pressure of having to produce an appropriately deep and meaningful display of affection for their sweeties. And in desperation, end up buying — forgettable, or not so forgettable — tchotchkes like heart-bedecked dress socks. But why all the pressure? We could blame the Victorians, who made the practice of sending a card to that special someone de rigeur. But really, there’s nothing wrong with a simple card.

The thing is, little is actually simple these says. And retailers like it that way.

If Valentine’s Day becomes another chance to have a little fun and celebrate our friends, or families, or sweethearts, there’s no reason for people to lose their minds. So, there’s no need to order that Vermont Teddy Bear Christian Grey, equipped with mask and handcuffs. (I kid you not — that bear, in all his three-piece-suit glory, exists. That’s just fifty shades of wrong!)

Instead, think of February 14 as an excuse to have pink-and-red and heart-shaped fun! Like heart-shaped pancakes for dinner. That’s fun, and you don’t even need a mold to make them — unless you want them to be absolutely unquestionable in their heart status, in which case, a trip to Bed Bath and Beyond may be in order. But really, it’s very easy to shape the batter into a heart once it starts to bubble and get a little bit of form on the bottom. And the result really does look more like a heart than not.

Pizza dough is also pretty easy to shape into a heart, and I’ve even seen some with the pepperoni cut into little hearts. Use a heart cookie cutter for sandwiches, and if you go online, you’ll see that people can turn just about any food into hearts. Cookies and Rice Krispy treats look downright pedestrian compared to heart-shaped cinnamon rolls, strawberries and cherry tomatoes.

You name it, there’s a how-to for it. There’s even heart-shaped salad — to offset the chocolates, of course. Or, since we’re all about being low-key, low-stress and fun, buy heart-shaped ravioli, and boom! — you’ve met your heart-shaped quota for the meal.

Homemade Valentines can be fun with stencils, doilies, glitter glue, stickers and construction paper. I admit we went the way of Frozen and Spider Man, but the grandparents, at least, will get something original. In fact, for something a little fancier, you can cut flowers out of tissue paper and stick a Dum Dum lollipop through the center to make an edible flower valentine. But you only have to do it, if you want to.

Are you overdue for a new mix of love songs? (I know it’s a playlist, but mix tapes bring back such good memories.) Besides, what’s more full of emotion than music? (Not a word from you, Kanye). You don’t have to be a fan of Lionel Richie, George Michael or Chicago to have a romantic list, though who can resist their deliciously cheesy ballads? There are so many ways to mix your music — with standards, Broadway duets, or all 60s or 80s or 90s fare. And who says it has to be romantic? With some C and C music factory, Paula Abdul, and Michael Jackson, you can make it a dance party!

There’s a certain sweetness to the way kids celebrate with corny candy heart expressions and cartoon characters cards. It’s the idea that love of every kind is worth celebrating, especially friendship and appreciation for those who make a difference in our lives.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do on the day marked with a huge heart on the calendar. All that matters is that you don’t wait for that day to arrive to show those around you that you care.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The Ronjo magic shop is full of tricks and costumes. Photo by Jenni Culkin

By Jenni Culkin

Ronjo has a little something magical for everyone. The magic and costume shop has card tricks, coin tricks, novelty items, pranks, juggling props and swords, magicians, knife throwers, ventriloquists, jugglers, balloon artists and party planners. There are costumes, accessories, makeup, masks, wigs and so much more on display from the moment a customer walks through the doors.

“We specialize in entertainment,” said Ronald Diamond, owner of the shop on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station. “We can do it all.”

Ronald Diamond performs a card trick at the Ronjo magic shop. Photo by Jenni Culkin
Ronald Diamond performs a card trick at the Ronjo magic shop. Photo by Jenni Culkin

Diamond is a professional magician and entertainer who has years of experience working with different age groups. He believes that magic is an art form that serves a purpose higher than just entertainment.

He attributes his success to good business practices, like customer service skills and product knowledge. He also gives credit to the current manager of the store, Peter Albertson.

Born in Flatbush, Diamond’s family moved to Suffolk County in 1966. The shop owner began his adventure at seven years old, when he was introduced to magic and took it up as a hobby. In May 1974, when he was 15, he began to take magic from hobby to profession.

“It made me feel confident,” Diamond said about performing magic. “It helps people with public speaking and it is used as a way to connect.”

Diamond, a husband and father of two girls, lives in the Town of Brookhaven, where he says he can relate to and understand the needs of his local customers. He believes he can spread his confidence and social skills by offering private magic lessons for adults and children and running a magic club during the first Friday of each month. During the nicer weather, Diamond runs a free magic show that accepts donations for designated charities.

According to the businessman, magic can boost even the most distinguished professionals, such as health professionals and lawyers, by helping them develop social connections with the people they work with.

In 1978, Diamond began expanding his store’s specialties to include costumes and other dress-up items, a transition that began when his performers started asking him if he could provide them with a mask or a costume to further entertain their audiences.

“We are not Halloween, we are Hollywood!” Diamond said, sharing his motto for Ronjo’s costumes.

People are impressed by the quality and selection of the store’s costumes, he said, especially when compared with chain stores that tend to carry only three sizes or one-size-fits-all costumes. Ronjo’s shelves have costumes for many seasons and holidays, including the Easter bunny, Santa Claus and some comical green St. Patrick’s Day outfits.

Ronjo also manufactures its own tricks — about 40 right now — and distributes them worldwide, and Diamond has published a couple of his own magic booklets.

In recent years, Ronjo has upped its game, becoming a “green” store that uses LED lighting and prints on both sides of the paper and cards they use.

“This is not a job,” Diamond said about his business. “It is a lifestyle for me.”

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Mackenzie Wardrope with baby Addy and husband Gregory. Photo from Mackenzie Wardrope

By Jenni Culkin

Her struggle has become one that is shared with the entire community.

Residents have been giving comfort, hope and encouragement to 1-year-old Adelaide “Addy” Marie Wardrope and her family as she battles a rare genetic disorder rarely seen by area doctors. It was recently discovered that Addy, the granddaughter of Three Village resident Bridget McCormick, has a mutated SCN8A genome and is one of only a handful to ever be diagnosed with such a condition.

“She gets horrible seizures where she will hold her breath for two minutes and turn purple,” said Mackenzie Wardrope, Addy’s mother, “It’s been the hardest experience of my life.”

Wardrope now lives in Maryland with baby Addy and her husband Gregory but grew up in the Three Village community and still checks in with her mother, McCormick, who works in the soup kitchen at St. James Roman Catholic Church.

According to the Frontiers in Genetics academic journal, “the mutation causes seizures, developmental delays, and other neurological complications.” But even through the struggle of conditions, Wardrope remains extremely optimistic.

“She’s an amazing fighter,” Wardrope said about her daughter, mentioning countless hospital visits where Addy would try to lift her head up even under sedation.

Wardrope said she credits much of her early support to a Facebook page dedicated to Addy, where other families going through similar situations as Addy find inspiration to be courageous and fight through the disease.

The family’s tie to the community has given them a strong support system, Wardrope said. Approximately 3,000 families attend the St. James Roman Catholic parish and many of them are involved with helping with or donating to Addy’s fund.

One of Addy’s supporters, Tony Casale of St. James Roman Catholic Church’s and the Kiwanis Club of the Three Village-Brookhaven Township, has been acting as Addy’s Long Island advocate. Casale works with McCormick at the church.

“A lot of people from the church have been very generous since they started the fund,” Casale said.

The fund, which is contributed to by the website, has raised $9,835 as of Wednesday.

“Hugs and kisses to the Wardrope family. You’re in my thoughts and prayers,” Pamela Oelerich posted on GoFundMe with her $50 donation.

In addition to Oelerich’s kind donation, 93 other people left money with the fund within four months. Some left sweet messages while others made their donations anonymously. No matter what the intention of the donor, each donation is just one more step toward peace of mind and ease for Addy’s parents in Maryland, her family said.

The Kiwanis Club and Ward Melville High School’s Key Club have also been a tremendous source of leadership and advocacy for Addy’s situation.

Kyra Durko, president of the Ward Melville Key Club and a Village Times Herald person of the year for 2014, has also put forth a huge effort toward helping Addy and her family through their times of trouble.  She created a website for the events for Addy and has reached out to the Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts in her area, providing the young people with the opportunity to help lead a charitable cause.

“This is what the Key Club is all about,” Durko said about the time she spent planning events for Addy.

The Kiwanis Club also plans on raising approximately $1,000 during their family game night fundraiser, Casale said.

“Thank God for the Key Club and the Kiwanis,” Casale said about the events that are being orchestrated in Addy’s honor. “Even if we don’t solve the problem, there’s an idea of giving a little bit of hope to this family.”

To contribute to Addy’s medical fund, visit Or, attend the talent show in Addy’s honor at Ward Melville High School on Feb. 26 or the family game night on Feb. 28 at the Setauket Neighborhood House.

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Wouldn’t it be great if cardiovascular disease (CVD) were rare? It’s not like traveling to Mars and back. It is something we have the tools to make happen in the present. However, reality is different from the fantasy. Though fewer people are dying from this compilation of diseases (strokes and heart disease), it still tops the list. In fact, a 30-year-old has a one-in-two chance of developing CVD in his or her lifetime (1). Now that we have shock and awe, where are we with this disease?
We know that greater than 90 percent of the patients that will suffer from CVD have at least one risk factor (2). Most of these risk factors are modifiable. They are the seven pillars: blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, diet, exercise, smoking status and blood sugar. If we control them, the risk of CVD goes down dramatically (3). However, very few of us do it without medication (4).
Factors that might positively influence these pillars include HDL “good cholesterol,” activity, exercise, diet and drugs. We will investigate this further.

What may be the best potential predictor of cardiovascular disease? Is it BMI, waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio or sticky bun consumption? To be fair, I don’t think there has been a study done on how many sticky buns it takes to predict CVD, but they certainly contribute. The answer is in the study that follows.
In a recent prospective (forward-looking) study, results showed that waist-to-hip ratio was a better predictor of CVD than either BMI or waist circumference (5). The researchers used a biomarker of atherosclerosis (plaques in the arteries) to measure CVD risk. To measure atherosclerosis and confirm which anthropomorphic (body habitus) measurement was most useful, a Doppler of the carotids and a brachial-ankle pulse wave were used. In postmenopausal women, it appeared that waist-to-hip ratio was directly correlated with carotid Dopplers and brachial-ankle measurements. Those with waist-to-hip ratios above 0.86 were considered at higher risk for atherosclerosis and thus CVD. Waist circumference did correlate to brachial-ankle results, but not to carotid Dopplers. This is best explained by a potential postmenopausal redistribution of fat from the hips and buttock to visceral fat in the belly.

Would you take a pill once a day with no side effects and no cost for the rest of your life if it meant preventing cardiovascular disease? Of course you would — or would you? In a recent study, patients were asked this very question and the results might be a surprise (6). Approximately one-third of participants would rather lose several months of life, about 12 weeks, than take a single once-a-day drug to prevent CVD. In fact, 20 percent of the participants were even willing to go as far as to pay $1,000 not to take such a medication. Mind you, about half of the participants were already taking three medications. Even more intriguing, it was the participants who were already taking pills that were least likely to want to add the hypothetical CVD prevention pill. Therefore, we need to reduce risk factors in other ways with lifestyle.

We all know that high blood pressure is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and those who are over the age of 60 will have the highest probability of having CVD. However, in a recent observational study, results show that younger patients with isolated high systolic blood pressure (SBP) have a significantly increased risk of CVD (7). Systolic is the top blood pressure reading number, and isolated high SBP means greater than 140 mmHg with a normal <90 mmHg diastolic (bottom number) pressure. Study participants were between the ages of 18 and 45.
Those who had a higher SBP had a significantly greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than those who did not have elevated pressure over a 31-year duration. It turned out that 25 percent of the men and about half as many women had isolated high SBP. However, the women had a greater risk of dying. However, there were several confounding factors that make this not the best type of study.

For the longest time, we have thought that high levels of HDL had a protective effect against cardiovascular disease. But this paradigm may not be true. In fact, in a recent study, results show that it may have to do more with functionality of HDL than with the actual number (8). The baseline number for HDL had no impact on reducing cardiovascular risk but functionality did.
Functionality is referred to as the cholesterol-efflux capacity. The cholesterol-efflux occurs when HDL helps remove cholesterol from cells in the arterial walls and shifts it back into the liver. The patients with the highest quartile of cholesterol-efflux capacity had a two-thirds reduction in CVD risk compared to the lowest quartile. The better this process is working, the lower risk of CVD. Thus, it does not relate as much to the level of HDL in the blood but as to its functionality. This suggests that raising HDL by drug therapy may not be the most effective approach. To clarify and make for a more vivid image, as Dean Ornish, M.D., professor of medicine at UCSF has written, if you think of HDL as dump trucks, adding more dump trucks at a stoplight only piles up the trucks; it does not make for more effective transport.

Many of us try to live a healthy life by managing our diets. However, not all diets are created equal when it comes to cardiovascular risk. In a recent meta-analysis (a group of 12 randomized controlled trials), the results disappointingly show that four popular diets did not decrease the cardiovascular disease risk, nor did they result in a substantial decrease in weight over the long term, compared to the placebo group (9). These diets included Weight Watchers, Atkins, South Beach and Zone.
Though Weight Watchers did show a significant initial weight loss, some of the weight was regained over time. The duration of the studies was between one and two years. There was no significant effect on markers for cardiovascular risk, such as cholesterol levels, blood pressure and sugar control.
It is disheartening to think that some diets don’t have any effect on cardiovascular disease. So what do we do? It turns out that a diet that has high levels of enterolactone, a biomarker for fiber and vegetables, has shown significant 65 percent reductions in cardiovascular events and mortality in men (10). Thus, a plant-based diet rich in vegetables and fiber has an impressive benefit. Diets such as Mediterranean-type and DASH diets are rich in these components.
Therefore, a productive way to make cardiovascular disease rare is to know your risk factors and to make lifestyle changes that include a plant-rich diet and activity. There are simple ways to determine risk, with waist-to-hip ratio as a useful tool. Reduce your waistline and you reduce your ratio, thus your risk. Eliminating these risk factors will make the probability of suffering from CVD that much less likely.
(1) Lancet. 2014 May;383(9932):1899-911. (2) (3) Circulation. 2010;121(4):586-613. (4) JAMA. 2012;307(12):1273-83. (5) Maturitas. online Jan. 12, 2015. (6) Circß Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. online Feb. 3, 2015. (7) J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015;65(4):327-35. (8) N Engl J Med. 2014;371(25):2383-93. (9) Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. 2014;7:815-827. (10) Lancet. 1999;354(9196):2112.

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management.  For further information, go to the website and/or consult your personal physician.

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In the blistering heat of the summer, when the three H’s — hazy, hot and humid — dominate the weather forecast, people gravitate toward the refreshing stream of comfort from an air conditioner. Similarly, when a polar vortex descends, people seek the warmth from a heater to help unfurl frozen fingers.

Ya Wang, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Stony Brook University, is working on a type of vent that will direct the soothing air toward people wherever they are, whether they’re cozying up on a couch, dropping down at a desk, or resting in a recliner.

Teaming up with professor Lei He and professor Qibing Pei at the University of California, Los Angeles, Wang and her partners recently received a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for a proposal that will make the vents for these air conditioners and heaters more efficient, lowering the cost to heat or cool a room.

Wang and her collaborators are developing a vent that will enable the air conditioner or heater to work less hard at changing the temperature in the parts of a room where a filing cabinet, a ficus tree, or a fireplace is, targeting the soothing air at the room’s occupants.

The new vent could generate 30 percent savings through such directed flow, SBU estimates. “We can regulate the airflow velocity by a special design and adjust the temperature to whatever is needed,” Wang said. “This will adjust automatically to regulate the airflow velocity back to the occupant.”

Wang is the principal investigator on the project, which means she collaborated on the idea and put it together.

Unlike academic funds, which require researchers to conduct experiments and produce data, this grant was awarded to produce a product.

Aside from coordinating the effort, Wang will also focus on developing the harvesters, which will provide a power supply for the on-board sensors and actuators. Wang and her collaborators estimate a cost of less than $20 per unit, with a $60 per year per unit electricity savings.

Jeff Ge, chairman of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at SBU, said Wang is one of six new faculty members hired in the past two years. He said she received positive reviews for her research and teamwork.

“The work of Dr. Wang and her colleagues to enhance energy efficiency is one of the most important research endeavors for our state and society,” Samuel Stanley, president of SBU, said in a statement.

Apart from her work on the new vent, Wang spends about a quarter of her time teaching, 65 percent of her time on academic research, advising graduate and undergraduate students, and about 10 percent of her time in community service. She participates in a seminar for women in science and engineering, and encourages women to enter these fields.

She is working through other grants on energy-related research. With the U.S. Department of Transportation, she is developing ways to tap into the vibrational energy from subway trains and from the wind these cars generate to power sensors that monitor the track. As it stands, the DOT sends people to the tracks to make sure they are functioning correctly. By reusing other forms of energy, the department can create a more extensive monitoring system that won’t involve as many potentially hazardous trips onto the tracks for transit workers.

Wang said soldiers in the field often carry a few hundred tons of batteries to power electronics and communication systems. She is working with the U.S. Navy to generate power by walking or running. To be sure, that won’t provide all the necessary energy, but it can supply some of the power for electronics or communications.

A Smithtown resident, Wang woke up one night to the sounds of her smoke alarm battery indicating it needed replacing.

She’s working on a circuit that will use vibrational energy for the detector. She has a one-year old nephew and sees an opportunity to create batteries that tap into vibrational energy or the temperature difference between a toy and the air to provide power.

With all her interests in energy for commercial applications, Wang would be a compelling candidate to work in industry. Why, then, did she choose to come to SBU, an academic home where she’s worked for 18 months?

“My dream, since I was a kid,” in Shandong Province in China, was “to be a teacher,” she said. “I enjoy working with new students.”

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The solar panels on his house in Dix Hills help provide about a third of the energy he and his family use. When he drives around Long Island and sees plumes of smoke from power plants, he looks to see where it’s heading.

Energy and environmental conservation aren’t just hobbies or personal philosophies ­— they are part of what Vasilis Fthenakis teaches as a senior scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory and an adjunct professor at Columbia University.

Fthenakis helped improve the environmental impact of solar cells, working several years ago to eliminate lead, which can be dangerous to humans and to the environment, from the manufacture of solar panels. He has helped guide the industry to minimize the environmental, health and safety risks of solar cells.

Fthenakis recently returned from a trip to Chile, where he is encouraging the use of solar panels in a country that is often bathed in sunlight. “It’s the best place in the world for solar,” he said. It rarely rains and most of the land that is available for installation is up on high altitudes, he said.

Fthenakis, who was born and raised in Greece, has worked for about a year with several Chilean organizations to discuss the benefits and realities of solar energy.

Chile now imports coal, natural gas and diesel fuel. If the country produced its own energy, it could cut its energy costs, he said. It could take up to five years to see significant effects on the national economy, he estimated.

The South American nation has been ramping up its solar efforts. A few years ago, Chile generated no power from sunlight. That rose to 10 megawatts in 2012, 189 megawatts in August last year and currently stands at about 500 megawatts.

“We’re talking about tremendous growth,” Fthenakis said. Chile has a plan to boost renewable energy, which includes solar, wind and some hydroelectric plants, to 12 percent by 2020 and 20 percent by 2025. Fthenakis believes solar will be the biggest constituent in the mix.

While Chile doesn’t have the same oil, gas, coal and nuclear lobbies as the United States does, it does present some challenges to boosting solar energy, including inertia, Fthenakis said. “Most people don’t want to change,” he added, including people in other countries around the world.

In 2008, Fthenakis and two other authors wrote a cover story for Scientific American, titled “A Solar Grand Plan,” about the benefits and reliability of solar energy. At the time, solar was contributing 0.1 percent of energy to the capacity in the U.S. That number has climbed to 2 percent.

The article was translated into 11 languages and has raised his profile around the world. He has also traveled to Abu Dhabi to discuss the feasibility of tapping into the sun-driven renewable resource. As with Chile, these interactions have developed through a combination of approaches from other countries and an interest on Fthenakis’ part.

In addition to his work at BNL, Fthenakis teaches two environmental courses at Columbia: Air Pollution Prevention and Control, and Photovoltaics Systems Engineering and Sustainability.

As for his research at BNL, Fthenakis said he is involved in all aspects and impacts in evaluating energy alternatives. That can include affordability, which addresses direct and hidden costs, resource availability and environmental impact.

Fthenakis has been working at BNL for 34 years, where he has earned the respect of his colleagues. He is “a world-renowned expert in issues of safety of photovoltaic systems and, more broadly, in issues of deployment, efficiency, practicality and the like,” said Stephen Schwartz, a senior scientist in the Biological, Environmental & Climate Sciences Department at BNL, who has known Fthenakis for about 20 years.

Fthenakis’ wife, Christina, is an executive director in research and development at Estée Lauder Companies. The couple have a daughter, Antonia, who is doing her residency in dermatology at Stony Brook and a 21-year-old son Michael who is exploring his career options.

Fthenakis said he and his family visit beaches on Long Island or wherever they travel. When they find litter, they help dispose of it in a safe place.

“Solar energy and the environment defines the way I live,” Fthenakis said.