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Steps To Lower An Artificially High Blood Pressure

A recent study confirmed that the doctor’s office may be one of the worst places to determine if your blood pressure is under control. The automatic rise in tension many people experience when they are being scrutinized contributes to artificially high blood pressure readings. Although many times the only way improve one’s blood pressure is through treatment (such as medication, a low salt diet, and weight loss), other times I’ve seen a simple 10 second relaxation routine drop a patient’s blood pressure reading by up to 20 systolic points. The following may help you obtain a better, more accurate reading the next time you have your pressure checked in the harried office.

1) Insist on being seated for at least 3 minutes before your pressure is taken. Even walking from the waiting room back into an examining room will briefly increase your blood pressure.

2) Take several deep, relaxed breaths in and out before the doctor begins to check your blood pressure.

3) Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Examining Room of Dr. Charles*

What Is The Best Type Of Thermometer For Babies?

A fever in an infant can be the first sign of an illness. While a rise in body temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit is part of a healthy immune system response, it does signal potential danger and need for further evaluation. Since a reading may lead to a call or visit to the child’s doctor or emergency room, accuracy is key. What is the best type of infant thermometer?

A digital rectal thermometer.

This is according to such authorities as the American Academy of Pediatrics, Consumer Reports, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

The definition of a fever is important as well. According to the AAFP:

A normal temperature is about 98.6°F (37°C) when taken orally (in your child’s mouth) and 99.6°F (37.5°C) when taken rectally (in your child’s bottom). Many doctors define a fever as an oral temperature above 99.5°F (37.5°C) or a rectal temperature above 100.4°F (38°C). Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Examining Room of Dr. Charles*

A Poem: Mend

We are living incarnations of a love that preceded us.

Vibrant, with ailing petals that should fall.

A knot in the throat, a conjuring of another’s quintessence,
as music brightens the void.

As we love others perhaps we can feel the face
of eternity shining down upon us.

If we could but hold on to love,
to be mindful of its primacy,
we might never grow dim again.

*This blog post was originally published at The Examining Room of Dr. Charles*

“Dr. Watson” And The 7 (Human) Qualities Of An Ideal Physician

After the computer known as Watson easily dispatched of the best two human Jeopardy! contestants in history, IBM announced that one of the first applications of their artificial intelligence technology would be in the medical field. We should soon expect virtual physician assistants in the exam room. At least one of my friends even speculated that the days of human doctors are numbered.

Is it possible that machines will replace humans in the doctor-patient relationship? I doubt it. According to a study done by the Mayo Clinic in 2006, the most important characteristics patients feel a good doctor must possess are entirely human. According to the study, the ideal physician is confident, empathetic, humane, personal, forthright, respectful, and thorough. Watson may have proved his cognitive superiority, but can a computer ever be taught these human attributes needed to negotiate through patient fear, anxiety, and confusion? Could such a computer ever come across as sincere?

I’m afraid some major calibrations might be needed to substitute artificial intelligence for an “ideal” physician. What do you think? Here’s an artist’s conception (read: farce) of how such an application in the examining room might play out. Click HERE to watch the medical cartoon.

*This blog post was originally published at The Examining Room of Dr. Charles*

Stress In Life: Respond Differently And Live Longer?

“This job is killing me” is not a statement of jest. It is a desperate plea of outright sincerity.

Stress, anxiety, depression — all have been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality. But can interventions to help people cope with stress positively affect longevity and decrease risk of dying? The results of a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine would imply the answer is an encouraging “yes.”

Constructively dealing with stress is easier said than done, but it would seem logical that if we can reduce our psychological and social stressors we might live longer and delay the inevitable wear and tear on our vessels. This study proved that one such intervention, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for patients who suffered a first heart attack, lowered the risk of fatal and nonfatal recurrent cardiovascular disease events by 41 percent over eight years. Nonfatal heart attacks were almost cut in half. Excitement may be dampened by the fact that all-cause mortality did not statistically differ between the intervention and control groups, but did trend towards an improvement in the eight years of follow up.

Definitely less suffering. Maybe less deaths.

The authors state that psychosocial stressors have been shown to account for an astounding 30 percent of the attributable risk of having a heart attack. Chronic stressors include low socioeconomic status, low social support, marital problems, and work distress. Emotional factors also correlated with cardiovascular disease include major depression, hostility, anger, and anxiety. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Examining Room of Dr. Charles*

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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