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Making Discoveries About Type 1 Diabetes From Long-Term Survivors

It’s hard to imagine what it was like to live with type 1 diabetes 80 years ago. Insulin was a brand new and relatively untested drug, the only way to check blood sugar levels was by testing boiled urine, syringes had to be sterilized, and needles sharpened by hand. Couple those challenges with the common complications of diabetes—heart disease, kidney failure, nerve damage, blindness, and more—and life expectancy for someone with type 1 diabetes wasn’t that long.

Spencer M. Wallace, Jr., was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1931, at age 7. He’s now an active 87-year-old who plays golf several times a week. He isn’t alone as a long-term survivor. Since 1970, almost 3,500 men and women who have lived with the disease for a half century have been recognized by the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston with bronze 50-year medals. Forty-five of them Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Researchers Explore New Methods Of Testing Blood Sugar

My fingers hate diabetes. Several times a day they get poked with a sharp, needle-like lancet. The drops of blood they give up tell me how my blood sugar roller coaster is doing. That’s really important information I need to determine whether to eat, exercise, or give myself some insulin.

It would be such a treat to check my blood sugar (glucose) without pricking a finger, squeezing out a drop of blood, and placing it on a small test strip attached to a meter. Help may be on the way—though I’m not expecting any big breakthroughs for another few years—as researchers across the country explore prick-free ways to measure blood sugar.

Here are three interesting approaches. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Avastin’s Approval Revoked: Harvard Health Publications Uncovers The FDA’s Process

Last week, the FDA revoked its 2008 approval of the drug Avastin to treat breast cancer, concluding that the drug does little to help women with breast cancer while putting them at risk for potentially life-threatening side effects. Avastin will remain on the market (and so be potentially available to women with breast cancer) because it has also been approved to treat other types of cancer.

In a statement, FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said this:

FDA recognizes how hard it is for patients and their families to cope with metastatic breast cancer and how great a need there is for more effective treatments. But patients must have confidence that the drugs they take are both safe and effective for their intended use. After reviewing the available studies it is clear that women who take Avastin for metastatic breast cancer risk potentially life-threatening side effects without proof that the use of Avastin will provide a benefit, in terms of delay in tumor growth, that would justify those risks. Nor is there evidence that use of Avastin will either help them live longer or improve their quality of life.

Why does this happen? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Expert Offers Tips For Preventing Diabetic Neuropathy

[Editor’s note: In recognition of American Diabetes Month, Harvard Health Publications is collaborating with MSN.com on its Stop Diabetes initiative. Today’s post, published on World Diabetes Day, is the first of several focusing on this all-too-common disorder.]

People tend to think of diabetes as a silent, painless condition. Don’t tell that to the millions of folks with diabetes-induced tingling toes or painful feet. This problem, called diabetic neuropathy, can range from merely aggravating to disabling or even life threatening. It’s something I have first-hand (or, more appropriately, first-foot) knowledge about.

High blood sugar, the hallmark of diabetes, injures nerves and blood vessels throughout the body. The first nerves to be affected tend to be the smallest ones furthest from the spinal cord—those that stretch to the toes and feet.

Diabetic neuropathy affects different people in different ways. I feel it as Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Pay Tribute To The Veterans In Your Life By Learning More About PTSD

My ability to sit peacefully day after day and write about health or enjoy my family owes more than I’ll ever know to the hard work and sacrifice of generations of American men and women who served in the Armed Forces. On behalf of my colleagues at Harvard Health Publications: Thank you for your service.


One of the challenges faced by many servicemen and servicewomen returning from war is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

In a nutshell, post-traumatic stress disorder is a lasting and exaggerated reaction to a terrifying or life-threatening event. It makes a person feel like he or she is living through the event over and over again. PTSD shows itself in three main ways:

Re-experiencing. People with PTSD mentally relive the triggering trauma in daytime flashbacks, nightmares, or inescapable thoughts about the event. Sights, sounds, smells, or other stimuli can bring the event to life.

Avoidance. People with PTSD tend to Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

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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