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Latest Posts

How Can We Interpret The Conflicting Messages From The Media Regarding Research?

I’m choosing to blog about a HealthDay story headlined, “British Study Suggests Mammograms Do More Harm Than Good,” rather than do one of our criteria-driven systematic story reviews because our criteria don’t address the bigger picture.

And that bigger picture is this:

In a criteria-driven, systematic story review of another HealthDay story about a Dutch study this week headlined, “Mammograms Cut Risk of Breast Cancer Death by Half, Study Finds,” our review team commented: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Health News Review*

Research Shows That Supplements Can Be Dangerous

Hallelujah. At last there is an actual, published paper (full text behind subscription firewall, unfortunately) objectively documenting not only a lack of longevity benefit for several commonly consumed dietary supplements, but a numerical association indicating potential harm. Finally!

Investigators looked at nearly 39,000 women (in scientific terms: a lot) over 19 years of follow up (in scientific terms: a long time) and found increased risk of death in women who took supplemental iron (strongest association), copper, zinc, magnesium, Vitamin B6, and multi-vitamins.


If nothing else, that should at least give one pause when considering whether or not to take supplements at all, especially in the demographic studied (the “older female”). But are they overstating their case? Scare-mongering? Not at all. In fact, the following caution was explicitly added by the researchers: Read more »

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

Understanding Risk Related To Outdoor Health

Dr. Robert “Brownie” Schoene, an enormously talented, accomplished, and insightful physician who resides within the bedrock of wilderness medicine, gave a wonderful presentation about the concept of risk at the 2010 annual summer meeting of the Wilderness Medical Society. Risk is inherent in outdoor activities, whether it is part of exploration, adventure, science, or industry. I am going to summarize his approach to the topic, which is among the most important general concepts in the field, and editorialize with some of my thoughts.

When one thinks of risk related to outdoor health, it is about the possibility of suffering harm, damage, or loss. When a person is aware of the possibility of a specific risk, he or she usually weighs the risk against the possible benefits. When you hike on a slippery, snowy trail in early spring, where the trail winds over patches of ice near ledges from which a fall would cause a severe injury, is the experience worth the risk? When you ride a wave on your surfboard when the waves are intimidating and you are outside your comfort zone, is the improvement in performance worth the possibility of a tumble and possible muscle tear or broken bone? Sometimes the answer is easy. When I travel to a third world country, I always run the risk of acquiring infectious diarrhea. The benefits of the mission supersede the discomfort, and I both anticipate the risk and prepare for treatment by carrying oral rehydration supplies and appropriate antibiotics.

I love the quote from Winston Churchill that Dr. Schoene used to illustrate a risk-taker’s approach: Read more »

This post, Understanding Risk Related To Outdoor Health, was originally published on by Paul Auerbach, M.D..

Doctors And Patients Will Be Harmed By The Debt Ceiling Train Wreck

Watching the negotiations over the debt ceiling legislation is like watching an impending train wreck.

You see a train hurtling down the track, you see an unobservant trucker about to cross, you know that the train engineer and the truck driver have only a few moments to avert disaster, you try to yell and scream to get them to pay attention before disaster strikes—but you have this sinking feeling that your voice won’t be heard until it is too late.

Well, that is how I feel watching the collapsing negotiations over raising the debt ceiling. Responsible persons in both political parties know that a failure by Congress to authorize an increase in the debt ceiling will create incalculable harm to our country, even though some politicians seem to think that default would be no big deal.

But it would be a big deal, and here is why. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*

Patient Inaction Can Hurt Their Families Too

Dr. Mehmet Oz recently had a piece in Time titled “What I Learned from My Cancer Scare” in which he became the the more humbled Mr. Mehmet Oz.  As noted previously here, Dr. Oz last summer had a colonoscopy at age 50 and much to everyone’s surprise had a precancerous colon polyp.  He was advised to follow-up again for a repeat test in 3 months.

As the Time magazine piece noted, he didn’t return for 9 months despite repeated reminders from his doctor.

From this experience, he essentially stumbled upon what has been challenging American medicine and primary care.  How do we enable patients to do the right thing and get the screening tests done and treatments necessary to avoid premature death and maintain a high quality of life?  As a highly trained professional, Dr. Oz knows the risks and benefits of not doing a preventive screening test.  As a doctor, he knows all of the secret protocols and codespeak we use when calling patients or asking them to see us in the office for important matters.  As a doctor, he also understood the importance of a repeat colonoscopy to ensure no more colon growths.

Yet he didn’t return for 9 months.  Why? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Saving Money and Surviving the Healthcare Crisis*

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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