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Latest Posts

Vitamin D For COPD: Why That Won’t Be Enough

I am frequently extolling the health benefits of Vitamin D because almost weekly there is a new study that correlates high vitamin D levels with reducing some disease.  The latest is from the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine and research shows that high doses of vitamin D supplementation improved respiratory muscle strength in patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).  The patients that did not receive supplemental vitamin D had blood levels of 22.8 compared to 53.8 in the supplemented group.  The patients who were supplemented had improved respiratory function, strength and less shortness of breath.  It certainly didn’t cure or reverse COPD but the improvement was an encouraging trend in this terrible chronic disease.

In reading about this it got me thinking about COPD and the fact that it is one of the most common reasons for hospitalization and disability in the United States. It is a progressive disease that affects the alveoli (small air sacs that exchange oxygen) and small bronchioles of the lungs.  These airways and air sacs lose their elastic quality and become thick and inflamed.  Mucus forms and patients become progressively short of breath and eventually need supplemental oxygen just to breathe.  COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.

Did you know that most COPD is caused by Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Dr. Val And Jim Belushi Raise Awareness Of COPD

valjimbelushiIt’s not every day that a physician is invited to be screened for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by a comedian. But this event was no joke – actor Jim Belushi is in a contest with Danica Patrick, Bruce Jenner, Patty Loveless, and Michael Strahan to see who can get the most Americans screened for COPD. It’s a tough race for a good cause – though I’m not sure if Jim stands much of a chance in a competition against Danica Patrick. Maybe my blog readers will vote for Jim and give him the bump needed to keep him in the running? Please take the screening test here, or forward it to friends who may be at risk (age over 35, history of smoking).

Like any good blogger, I had my trusty digital recorder with me and got in a few questions with Jim. Special thanks to South African blogger Delre Roberts, who gave me the idea for my leading joke to Jim via Facebook: “How’s a comedian going to screen a doctor for COPD?  See how short of breath she gets from his jokes?” Good one, Delre! You got a laugh out of Jim… Check it out:

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Tough Love: When Should Physicians Use This Strategy?

Have you ever stopped bothering to care about a patient?  A doctor sent me his own personal account of the smoking Mr Jones:

Dear Happy.  I read your article on bounce backs with great interest, and was astonished by some of the vitriol it elicited.  I remember having one COPDer bounce back to me three times within a month at the VA when I was a medicine resident.  He would leave, smoke and drink, and then come back and be readmitted to my service with exactly the same course each time.  It was like Groundhog Day.

Finally I had a little talk with him and said: “Mr. Jones, each time you come in, you’re on death’s door.  So I come down to the ER, stay up with you all night and save your life.  But you know, I’m really getting tired of having you come in after drinking and smoking and then working like a dog to save your life.  So let me tell you, if you don’t quit smoking, the next time you do this there’s a good chance that I’m not going to bother.  Why should I?  It doesn’t seem to be doing either of us any good.”

To my complete astonishment, he actually quit smoking and stayed quit for about a year.  Then he fell off the wagon, deteriorated too far before getting to the hospital and died.  I was frankly proud of him for the effort, but somehow suspect that I’d be shot in a drive-by if I ever told that story in public. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist Blog*

Can You Diagnose A Cough By Its Sound?

DiscoveryNews is reporting on a Bedford, Massachusetts company developing software that can detect the difference between a typical cough and one caused by a cold, flu, COPD, or a number of other respiratory diseases. STAR Analytical Services is working with a database of pre-recorded coughs to determine signatures that point to underlying conditions.

The final 100 to 150 milliseconds of the cough contains the distinctive sounds that could help doctors and nurses remotely diagnose a cough as the common cold or more serious pneumonia.

Even with a limited amount of data, scientists can distinguish between a healthy, voluntary cough and the involuntary cough of a sick person. Healthy people have slightly louder coughs, about 2 percent louder than a sick person. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

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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