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McDonald’s Vs. DASH: Two Days, Two Diets

This week I’ve been trying to eat according to the DASH guidelines for lowering blood pressure. It actually hasn’t been too difficult — partly because I’m not following their strictest guidelines, which call for just 1,300 milligrams of sodium and 16 grams of saturated fat a day. I’ve been shooting for 2,300 milligrams of sodium and 22 grams of saturated fat.

In 2003, I tried a somewhat different “diet,” which in some ways was more difficult to follow, even though it only lasted one day. My son Jim (then age 11) and I ate every meal at McDonald’s for an entire day (yes, this was before Super Size Me). We recorded the experience on the Web. I thought it would be interesting to compare my day at McDonald’s to a typical day on DASH. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Daily Monthly*

What Can Diet And Exercise Actually Help Do?

First, an article in the New York Times talks about whether exercise can actually help you lose weight. Short answer: Probably not, but it may help you keep the pounds off. Click here to read the article.

Second, I’ve done a podcast about my post on whether diet can be used to control blood pressure long term. Each week Razib Khan, Kevin Zelnio and I discuss an article we’ve covered on one of our blogs, and it was my turn. Click here to listen to the podcast online, or click here if you’d like to subscribe to the podcast. You can also visit iTunes and search on “ResearchBlogCast.”

*This blog post was originally published at The Daily Monthly*

Can High Blood Pressure Be Controlled With Diet?

Do a search on the Internet for “high blood pressure” or “hypertension” and you’ll find that nearly every health website recommends the DASH diet to control blood pressure. It makes some sense: If sodium and saturated fat cause high blood pressure, then removing them from your diet should make it come back down.

But changing your eating habits is easier said than done. It’s easy to say you want to cut down on fat and sodium, but it’s hard to resist a hot slice of Chicago-style pizza piled high with sausage and cheese. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Daily Monthly*

Can My iPad Help Me Be Healthier?

If you follow me on Twitter or read my personal blog, you probably know by now that I bought myself an iPad this week. The main reason I got it is because I’m a sucker for shiny new technology, but I also wanted to see if I could use it to help myself become a little less sedentary.

As I mentioned in my first two posts about fitness this month, there’s a growing body of research suggesting that a sedentary lifestyle is harmful to your health. I was interviewed about one such study a few months ago on the PRI show “The Takeaway,” and the evidence is fairly convincing: People who spend more hours watching TV also have a higher mortality rate than those who watch it less, even after accounting for exercise. Granted, it’s only a correlation, but the evidence converges quite well with several other studies.

But what am I supposed to do about it? My job requires me to spend long hours in front of a computer screen. If exercising a 30 or 40 minutes a day can’t prevent me from getting heart disease or cancer, what will? Some researchers, including David Dunstan, the lead researcher on the TV-watching study, suggest that just standing periodically, rather than sitting all day, can help a lot. That’s where the iPad comes in. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Daily Monthly*

Healthy And Fit Without Ruining Your Life?

I consider myself a relatively fit person. Of course, “relatively” is still relative. I try to watch what I eat. I usually exercise five days a week. Heck, I’ve even run a couple half-marathons. But the rest of my days are pretty much sedentary. I sit in a climate-controlled office staring at my computer screen. I make dinner in my highly-automated kitchen. After dinner I sit in the living room sipping wine and watching TV or talking to Greta. Then I go to bed and start the process over again.

That’s not a whole lot of activity for a creature that evolved for endurance. Over a 50 mile course, a race between a man and a horse can be quite competitive. Millions of people all over the world do hard manual labor day in and day out. But millions of others don’t set aside any time for exercise. In my half-marathons, I’ve finished in the top half of competitors, so compared to a lot of people, I must be doing something right. Right? Or do my sedentary days outweigh my occasional bursts of activity? I exercise an average of 4 hours per week. That’s less than 4 percent of my total waking time. Is that really enough to stay fit? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Daily Monthly*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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