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Making Discoveries About Type 1 Diabetes From Long-Term Survivors

It’s hard to imagine what it was like to live with type 1 diabetes 80 years ago. Insulin was a brand new and relatively untested drug, the only way to check blood sugar levels was by testing boiled urine, syringes had to be sterilized, and needles sharpened by hand. Couple those challenges with the common complications of diabetes—heart disease, kidney failure, nerve damage, blindness, and more—and life expectancy for someone with type 1 diabetes wasn’t that long.

Spencer M. Wallace, Jr., was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1931, at age 7. He’s now an active 87-year-old who plays golf several times a week. He isn’t alone as a long-term survivor. Since 1970, almost 3,500 men and women who have lived with the disease for a half century have been recognized by the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston with bronze 50-year medals. Forty-five of them Read more »

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

Harvard Medical School Provides Tips For Improving Bladder Control

I was hiking in the woods recently with a group of women friends when something caught my attention. It wasn’t an interesting bird or plant, but the surprising number of “pit stops” my friends needed to make.

Their frequent detours into the bushes struck me because I had just finished working on Better Bladder and Bowel Control, the latest Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School. According to the report, incontinence is the unintended loss of urine or feces that is significant enough to make it difficult to do ordinary activities without frequent trips to the restroom. In the United States, about 32 million men and women have some degree of incontinence. For women, incontinence is a common but rarely discussed result of childbirth and aging—that could explain the pit stops of my hiking friends, who were all mid-life mothers. For men, incontinence is most often a side effect of treatment for prostate disorders.

Many things can go wrong with the complex system that allows us to control urination. Read more »

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

Managing Stress With Meditation

In the early 1970s, when Dr. Herbert Benson was defining and testing the techniques he presented to the world in his revolutionary book, The Relaxation Response, I was a hippie teenager learning transcendental meditation (TM). Flash forward about 40 years and I’m sitting in an amphitheater packed with a few hundred medical students, faculty, and staffers from Harvard Medical School listening to the iconic director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute explain the myriad benefits of the relaxation response.

The relaxation response is a self-induced quieting of brain activity. It leads to a body-wide slowdown and a feeling of well-being that have measurably positive effects on disorders caused by stress or made worse by it, including high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, and many digestive disorders. As Dr. Benson describes in Stress Management, Read more »

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

Caring For People In The Later Stages Of Alzheimer’s Disease

Barbara Moscowitz, coordinator of geriatric social work for the Geriatric Medicine Unit at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, spoke to me and about a dozen other Harvard Medical School employees yesterday as part of series of seminars on family life and other issues offered by the school’s human resources department.

Moscowitz’s talk was titled “Dementia and Cognitive Decline (Aging Gracefully).” I was there mainly out of professional interest because I’ve written a couple of articles for the Harvard Health Letter recently about Alzheimer’s and dementia, including a piece in the September 2011 issue about mild cognitive impairment and another in July 2011 about new Alzheimer’s guidelines.

But I also wonder about how my own aging brain is faring (not well, it seems, on some days) and I have an older parent (age 81).

So my curiosity wasn’t entirely work related.

A disease of behaviors

Moscowitz covered Read more »

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

Setting SMART Goals To Make Lasting Healthy Changes

Each year, countless people vow to get healthier: Lose five pounds. Exercise every day. Quit smoking. Unfortunately, replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthier ones usually isn’t easy, and many ambitious attempts often fall short. But you’re more likely to succeed if you start by choosing the right goal.

Choosing a goal seems simple enough. If that muffin top is bothering you, you should plan to lose those extra 10 pounds, right? Not necessarily, says Dr. Edward Phillips, Director and Founder of the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine and assistant professor of the Harvard Medical School’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. If you tackle the goal you’re most likely to accomplish—rather than the goal you think you should make—you’re better able to achieve it and build up a head of steam to tackle tougher goals.

Listen to Dr. Phillips’ advice on how to make a healthy change that will last: Read more »

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

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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