Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

The Benefits Of Optimism For Maintaining Good Health

An athletic lifestyle offers many health benefits. This is hardly news. Exercise, attention to good eating and getting adequate rest makes everything better: lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, higher heart rate turbulence and better survival in the event of heart attack and Cancer, just to name a few. The list of positives approaches infinity. We athletes do a lot that is healthy.

But tonight, I want to muse about yet another benefit of being a competitive athlete—you know, the kind of person that signs up for a challenge and then sees it through. No, it’s not just about bike racing, it could be anything that involves pinning a number and seeing results published on the word wide web.

What extra benefit? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

Ten Things You Might Not Know About Afib

September is Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month. Lots of folks don’t know too much about the condition, which is an irregular heart beat that can lead to serious complications such as dementia, heart failure, stroke or even death. To help spread the word, StopAfib.org presents these 10 afib facts and figures that will probably surprise even

some healthcare professionals:

  1. Afib affects lots of people. Currently up to 5.1 million people are affected by afib. And that’s just in America. By 2050, the number of people in the United States with afib may increase to as much as 15.9 million. About 350,000 hospitalizations a year in the U.S. are attributed to afib. In addition, people over the age of 40 have a one in four chance of developing afib in their lifetime.
  2. Afib is a leading cause of strokes. Nearly 35 percent of all afib patients will have a stroke at some time. In addition to leaving sufferers feeling weak, tired or even incapacitated, afib can allow blood to pool in the atria, creating blood clots, which may move throughout the body, causing a stroke. To make matters worse, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Atrial Fibrillation Blog*

Would You Be Able To Recognize Chest Pain As Heart Disease?

Most people are pretty good judges of what’s going on with their own bodies. But telling a heart attack from other causes of chest pain is tough stuff—even, it turns out, for highly trained doctors. That’s why I thought this personal story, written by a Harvard doctor who has heart disease, would make an interesting read. It’s an excerpt—the full version can be found in Heart Disease: A guide to preventing and treating coronary artery disease, an updated Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

Early one spring, I noticed a burning sensation high in my abdomen whenever I walked up a hill or worked out on the treadmill. I felt perfectly healthy otherwise. I had lots of energy and could do high-level exercise on the treadmill—once the burning sensation went away—without becoming short of breath. I thought it was just heartburn, so I started taking powerful acid-suppressing pills. They didn’t help.

Sometimes when I would feel the burning in my chest, I would remember an old saying to the effect that “A doctor who takes care of himself has a fool for a patient.” Still, I hesitated; I didn’t want to waste the time of a cardiologist if all I had was heartburn.

But one morning as I walked across the street from the garage to my office in the hospital, Read more »

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

The New World View Of Coronary Artery Disease

In 2007, when the results were published from the COURAGE trial, all the experts agreed that this study would fundamentally change the way cardiologists managed patients with stable coronary artery disease (CAD).*

____
*”Stable” CAD simply means that a patient with CAD is not suffering from one of the acute coronary syndromes – ACS, an acute heart attack or unstable angina. At any given time, the large majority of patients with CAD are in a stable condition.
____

But a new study tells us that hasn’t happened. The COURAGE trial has barely budged the way cardiologists treat patients with stable CAD.

Lots of people want to know why. As usual, DrRich is here to help.

The COURAGE trial compared the use of stents vs. drug therapy in patients with stable CAD. Over twenty-two hundred patients were randomized to receive either optimal drug therapy, or optimal drug therapy plus the insertion of stents. Patients were then followed for up to 7 years. Much to the surprise (and consternation) of the world’s cardiologists, there was no significant difference in the incidence of subsequent heart attack or death between the two groups. The addition of stents to optimal drug therapy made no difference in outcomes.

This, decidedly, was a result which was at variance with the Standard Operating Procedure of your average American cardiologist, whose scholarly analysis of the proper treatment of CAD has always distilled down to: “Blockage? Stent!”

But after spending some time trying unsuccessfully to explain away these results, even cardiologists finally had to admit that the COURAGE trial was legitimate, and that it was a game changer. (And to drive the point home, the results of COURAGE have since been reproduced in the BARI-2D trial.) Like it or not, drug therapy ought to be the default treatment for patients with stable CAD, and stents should be used only when drug therapy fails to adequately control symptoms.

When the COURAGE results were initially published they made a huge splash among not only cardiologists, but also the public in general. So cardiologists did not have the luxury of hiding behind (as doctors so often do when a study comes out the “wrong” way) the usual, relative obscurity of most clinical trials. Given the widespread publicity the study generated, it seemed inconceivable that the cardiology community could ignore these results and get away with it.

But a new study, published just last month in JAMA, reveals that ignore COURAGE they have. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Covert Rationing Blog*

Top Cardiology Stories Of 2010 And Predictions For 2011

The end of the year marks a time for list-intensive posts. Recently Larry Husten from CardioExchange and CardioBrief asked for my opinion on the three most important cardiology-related news stories of 2010. Additionally, he wanted three predictions for 2011. Here goes:

Top Cardiology Stories Of 2010:

1. By far, the #1 heart story of 2010 was the release of the novel blood-thinning drug dabigatran (Pradaxa) for the prevention of stroke in atrial fibrillation. Until this October, the only way to reduce stroke risk in AF was warfarin, the active ingredient in rat poison. Assuming that there aren’t any post-market surprises, Pradaxa figures to be a true blockbuster. Doctors and patients have waited a long time to say goodbye to warfarin.

2. The Dr. Mark Midei stent story: Whether Dr. Midei is guilty or innocent of implanting hundreds of unnecessary stents isn’t really the big story. The real impact of this well-chronicled saga is the attention that it brings to the therapeutic misconceptions of coronary stenting. The problem with squishing and stenting is that although they improve the physics (of bloodflow), they do not change the biology of arterial disease — a hard concept to grasp when staring at a picture of a partial blockage. The vast press coverage of Dr. Midei’s alleged transgressions has served to educate many about heart disease, the nation’s #1 killer. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

See all book reviews »