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Latest Posts

Happiness In Life: Carrying The “H Card”

The most moving speaker at the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) convention I went to in Denver a few months ago was a doctor with Stage 4 cancer who had survived well past all expectations for his disease. While talking about achieving happiness through balance in life, he pulled out of his wallet a card made for him by his daughter, a preschool teacher.

“This is the C card,” he told us. “It says: ‘I have cancer. I can do whatever I want.’”

What a great idea, I thought. As much as it resonated with me, though, I couldn’t help but feel there was more to it than that.

Recently I was comforting a dear friend who had lost her mother. Remembering this handout from the AAFP, I held her close and said: “You’re a mourner now. You can do whatever you want.” I might as well said: “You have the M card.”

There’s this crotchety old guy in his eighties whom I’ve known for years. He does whatever he wants. I don’t think he actually carries a card in his wallet that says: “This is the O card. I am old. I can do whatever I want,” but he might as well. He is indeed old, and so he is entitled. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Dinosaur*

May We All Die So Well

Everyone liked him. Though his later years (the only ones in which I knew him) took away his ability to do most things, and though he was in great pain every day, it was easy to see the mischief in his eyes. The subtle humor was still there, coming out of a man who was weak, in pain, dying.

She lived for him. She was always telling me of his pain, frustrated with the fact that he didn’t tell me enough. She was anxious about each complaint of his, wondering if this was the one that would take him away from her. Many of her problems were driven by this anxiety and fears, and she spent many hours in my office giving witness to them through her tears.

As his health failed, I wondered about her future. He was the center of her life, the source of her energy, joy, purpose. How could she manage life without him? How could she, who had so much lived off of the care of this wonderful man, find meaning and purpose in a life without his calming presence?

Then he died. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Distractible Mind*

In Front Of The Mirror Of Middle Age

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

An intermission, the curtain has closed on youth, but the next act awaits.

Caring for hiccups of the heart, like atrial fibrillation for example, often throws me in front of the mirror, of middle age that is, and sadly the reflections show imperfections. Since I am middle aged myself, there are my own experiences. But everyday at work, on my job site, I see the effects of these same middle-age experiences on the atrium of my patients. The results are often profound. So must be the pressures.

I read a passage in the wee hours of the quiet morning, in the dark, with a flickering book light. It grabbed me. It is from Elisabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning, Olive Kitteridge. Read more »

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

The Dream Disconnect: A Tribute To Lillie Love

On my Friday commute to work I sometimes hear a tale of someone’s life as recorded through Story Corps. NPR plays these short, oral narratives in which an “average” person recounts some significant moments in his life, or reflects on what really mattered in her every day routine. They are short, pithy, genuine, and often inspiring.

Among the laudable characteristics that make humans unique is our ability to tell stories. On this particular Friday I listened to a singularly moving piece, only about 2 minutes long. It was recorded by a woman named Lillie Love who unfortunately passed away two weeks ago at 53 years of age. Read more »

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

The Impact Of Attitude On Life

Life sometimes gets in the way of daily posting. Specifically, the treadmill of life sometimes roars too fast.

But as I strolled through the hospital this morning, there was a plain piece of white paper taped to the wall around the nurses station. Although I’m not overly religious (and even highly conflicted about which rituals are the right ones), these words from a pastor/celebrity stopped me for a moment:


The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill.

It will make or break a company, a church, or a home. The remarkable thing is that we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.

We cannot change the past, we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is plan on the one thing that we have, and that is our attitude.

I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.  And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes.

As a cardiologist programmed to “alert” most of the time, words such as these help me. I haven’t seen the studies yet, but I’m guessing that positive attitudes reduce inflammation, which is good for our atria, and our arteries.


*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…

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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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