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Perverted Economics: Eating Healthy Is Too Expensive

I watched a good documentary called “Food, Inc.” It was nominated for an Academy Award. The promo says “you’ll never look at dinner the same way” and they’re right. Since I’m a fan of Michael Pollan and have read “Fast Food Nation,” I was already a healthy-food fan, but seeing how agriculture and farming has changed over the last 40 years was still a shocker.

There’s no doubt that high-calorie, sugar-laden processed foods are contributing to serious health issues in America. And 10 billion animals are raised on factory farms under inhumane conditions.

So when I went to the grocery store today, I made a conscious choice to ask if Safeway had any grass-fed beef for a healthy stir fry I was making for dinner. The answer was “No,” so I journeyed over to Whole Foods where I bought a pound of grass-fed sirloin. The cost was a whopping $16.43.

I have to ask myself why grass-fed beef should be so much more expensive than corn-fed beef. There’s no way the average family could afford to eat the way we should. The impact on our environment and our health is suffering terribly because of these perverted economics.

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Tips For Reducing Springtime Allergy Symptoms

Allergists from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) have some tips for reducing allergy symptoms this spring. I thought they were excellent and worth sharing… Enjoy!


1. Wear glasses or sunglasses when outdoors. Covering  your eyes keeps pollen and other irritants away from this sensitive area, which reduces itchiness and redness.

2. Shower and wash your hair before bed.  Cleaning up before getting into bed helps remove pollen from your hair and skin, which reduces irritation. You should also consider keeping pets out of the bedroom if they’ve been outside, as pollen can cling to their fur. Read more »

It’s Not A Tumor: Dr. Val Lacks Veterinary Savvy

onaoncomputerAs some of my Twitter friends already know, I had a bit of a scare a few days ago with my cat. I know that I more-or-less promised not to let this blog degenerate into cat talk (and for the record I love dogs too), but please indulge me because I think there’s a larger lesson to be learned.

A few days ago I was emailing away on my computer when I heard an odd thud behind me. I turned around to find my cat lying on her back with one leg fully extended, her pupils dilated, and a fine tremor in all four legs. This lasted for about 10 seconds and then she jumped back onto her feet and walked away as if nothing had happened.

My husband denied giving her any catnip, and since I hadn’t seen this odd behavior in her before I decided to keep a close eye on her. About an hour later she was walking across the floor when she suddenly raised her back rear leg, hopped a few steps, flopped onto her back and did the same weird leg extension, trembling, and let out a bizarre yowl.

That buys her a trip to the vet – and I started running my differential diagnosis through my head. It seemed to me that she was having some kind of focal seizures – and I wondered if she could be in renal failure (she had had a UTI earlier in the year) with metabolic encephalopathy, or perhaps a small tumor that had started to trigger some seizure activity. The episodes seemed to resolve completely in between episodes so I didn’t think she was having a stroke, she also wasn’t continuing to limp and when I pressed on her bones she didn’t flinch so I didn’t think she had broken anything. I called the vet and when asked for the “chief complaint” I was just as helpful as many ER patients:

Dr. Val: My cat’s ‘acting weird.

Receptionist: Could you be more specific?

Dr. Val: Well, she’s acting like she’s had catnip, but she hasn’t.

Receptionist: Uh huh… And what do you mean by that?

Dr. Val: She keeps falling on the floor and stiffening her rear leg. Then she gets up as if everything’s fine. This seems to be happening every hour or so.

Receptionist: I see. And is it possible that she could have eaten something toxic? Do you have poison lying around the house?

Dr. Val: Not that I’m aware of.

Receptionist: Well it sounds like you should bring her in. Can you be here in 15 minutes?

Dr. Val: Wow, that’s not much time. But I can try! I think she might be having seizures…

And so with the vet’s office being 15 minutes away, you can imagine the frenzied efforts that ensued – I managed (single handedly) to put together a cat carrier and stuff the “seizing” feline into it and hoist her onto a cart and push her down the city sidewalks, much to the amusement of onlookers, who probably fully believed that I was a cat-abuser, hearing the pitiful cries coming from inside the cage.

To make a long story short, I explained to the vet-on-call what I’d witnessed, and suggested that my cat might have a brain tumor. Luckily for me, the vet did not blindly take my diagnosis for granted, but performed her own physical exam.

The conclusion?

Vet: Dr. Jones I don’t believe your cat is having seizures. She has a subluxing patella.

Dr. Val: Um, so you’re saying that her knee cap popped out of place?

Vet: Pretty much, yes. That’s why she flops on the floor and stiffens her leg. She’s trying to get the knee cap to slide back into place. It’s a grade 3 subluxation, which means it pops out easily, but still goes back into place on its own.

Dr. Val: How do we fix it?

Vet: She’s a surgical candidate. We can create a divot in her femur to help keep the knee cap in the right groove.

Dr. Val: Wow, we don’t do that for humans. Are you sure that will work?

Vet: Well, you can try glucosamine. It will reduce the inflammation.

Dr. Val: Glucosamine doesn’t reduce inflammation in humans – and there’s no conclusive evidence that it improves joint health either. Isn’t this more of a mechanical problem that needs a mechanical solution?

Vet: [Becoming irritated] Yes, well you can see our orthopedic specialist. She’s not board certified though – but she has a lot of experience with these kinds of things.

Dr. Val: Well, is there a board-certified orthopedic veterinary surgeon that we could consult with? How much do you think that would cost?

Vet: There’s an animal hospital in Friendship Heights. I’m sure their surgeons are all equally well qualified. I guess the procedure would cost around $2000.

Dr. Val: Wow, $2000 to put a divot in a cat’s femur? Gee… I don’t know…

Vet: You should also know that your cat needs her rabies shot.

Dr. Val: She needs another one?

Vet: Yes, they need one every year.

Dr. Val: How likely is a house cat to get rabies? Are there rabid mice that could get into our condo?

Vet: [Scowling] It’s the law. All cats must get a rabies shot every year. There is one rabies shot that can be given every three years, but it’s been associated with osteosarcomas in cats. Would you like to give her that vaccine?

Dr. Val: Uh, no. But seriously, where is my cat going to catch rabies?

Vet: Maybe she’ll catch it from the other pets at the animal hospital when she goes for surgery?

Dr. Val: [Visions of Cujo dancing in her head] Well, that doesn’t sound like a very safe place to take her.

Vet: Would you like to buy some glucosamine?

Dr. Val: No thanks, I think I’ll go now.


I learned a few things from this amusing interaction:

1. People should try not to make diagnoses beyond their level of expertise. (Brain tumor versus subluxing patella? Yikes.)

2. Vets do not necessarily practice evidence-based medicine. (Glucosamine for a subluxing patella?)

3. There’s a lot of money in cat vaccines.

4. Cash-only practices are quite lucrative. My little visit cost $300.

What do you think I should do with/for my poor cat?

The Friday Funny: Happy Halloween

Vote In My Poll Or You Will Be Forced To Read About Cats Forever!

Alright, well a little melodrama never hurt anyone did it? I’m trying really hard to listen to my readers and adjust my blogging themes/topics/approach accordingly. I actually have no idea what you like to read – health policy, touching stories, humor, research explained, expert interviews, celebrity health initiatives, health tips… etc. So I’m asking. What would you like me to blog about? Please vote in my poll on the right hand side of this page. (Or if you’re viewing this message in a reader, well please come on over to my blog and vote.)

So far (my poll has a N=11, not a very high statistical power) you readers seem to be saying that you like personal stories about the blogger (I guess that means you want me to tell you about my cat – well there she is, featured in the top left-hand corner. Her name is “Ona” and she has an insatiable appetite for grilled asparagus.)

But I have this sneaking suspicion that you don’t really want to hear about ME, you’d like to hear about healthcare and medicine from a fresh perspective. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this should be a cat blog? Please do vote in my poll so you can water down the voices of those crazy people who are asking for more personal blogging. If you don’t… my only choice is to give the people what they want…  and you may be doomed to read about kitties, etc. forever!


Bizarre event of the day: I was voted as one the top 20 most influential health voices on Twitter. So go ahead and follow me there. My Twitter name is drval.

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

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

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