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5 Tips On How To Be A Healthcare Survivalist

There are plenty of “survivalists” out there who stock their basements with canned goods, getting ready for some unexpected (and unlikely) apocalypse. Meanwhile there are things that are much more likely to happen to you — like getting sick — which many of us don’t prepare for at all. So to help you get started, here are five important tips on how you can become a healthcare survivalist:

1.  Take care of your chronic conditions. Whether it’s high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, depression, asthma or any other kind of ailment, do what it takes to manage your own care. Take your medications and follow your doctors’ instructions. Why? Because if you don’t, your condition can get worse and lead to even more serious problems. As much of a pain as it may (literally) be, there’s a reason the old saying “an ounce of prevention” still resonates today — because it’s true.

2.  Live a healthy lifestyle. Everyone gives you this advice, but with studies showing that 42% of Americans will be obese by 2050, it doesn’t seem to be getting through. Denial can wonderfully appealing;  but when it comes to your health, it can also kill you. Stop smoking, exercise, and eat right. You may find that your employer has programs in place that will help you do all of those things, and many of them work. Why not give one of them a try? You can’t improve your life all at once, but you can start. Your life will be happier if you keep yourself healthy. So rather than whistling past the graveyard, jog past it. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

“Small Steps”: Get Healthy Compliments Of Uncle Sam

It makes my blogging life easier if I can just direct readers to a cool site, compliments of (drumroll…) — the U.S. government! The site, called Smallstep Adult and Teen, is filled with great healthy eating and exercise tips. Check it out and click around a bit. (Don’t ya’ just love the Internet?) From the site:

Today’s lifestyle doesn’t allow much room for health. And that’s where Small Steps comes in. We know that it’s impossible for many people to make dramatic lifestyle changes. Instead, we want to help you learn ways that you can change small things about your life and see big results.

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Tips For Handling Halloween When You Have Diabetes

My friend and fellow blogger Kerri Morrone Sparling (at the Six Until Me blog) was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was in second grade. The diagnosis came a few short weeks before Halloween, and back then she didn’t realize the risks of sneaking candy bars behind her mom’s back.

Now that Kerri’s grown up, she has some excellent tips for parents of children with type 1 diabetes (or frankly, for anyone who wants to enjoy Halloween and manage their diabetes). You should check out her video blog on the subject here.

Some tips include:

1. Focus on the costume part of the holiday, not the candy part.

2. Make some “candy” corn with Splenda, Equal or a sugar substitute. Enjoy the salty-sweet treat instead of a Snicker’s bar (for example).

3. Work in a small amount of candy into your diet plan. Eat a half a candy bar during a period of high activity, for example, and the sugar spike will not be so bad.

Please check out Kerri’s post for more tips!


And for a good laugh about candy, check out The Onion’s headline here.

Joan Lunden Loves Personal Health Records

Photo of Joan Lunden

Joan Lunden

Former Good Morning America host, Joan Lunden, is getting behind the personal health record industry. As the daughter of a physician, Joan grew up believing that she’d become a doctor one day. She told me that all that came to a screeching halt when she “realized that she didn’t like blood or stitches.” But Joan has always kept women and children’s health advocacy initiatives close to her heart.  She will soon be starring in a new Lifetime TV show called Health Corner. I caught up with her about her recent work with PassportMD.

Listen to the podcast here, or read a summary of our discussion below.

Dr. Val: Tell me about your experiences in taking care of your mom, and what led you to become involved with a PHR company.

Lunden: I lost my brother to type 2 diabetes a little over a year ago. As it happens, he had been managing my mom’s medical care, and so with his loss I needed to step in and take it over. Of course she lives on one coast and I live on the other. I’ve got 4 little kids (two sets of twins) and three young adult children. It becomes really daunting to keep track of everyone’s medical care. Around that time I met some folks from PassportMD, and when they showed me how easy it could be to keep everyone’s records in one place, I said, “this is exactly what I need.”

I think I’m really typical of a lot of women out there in what we call “the sandwich generation.” Today a high percentage of women with small children are working outside of the home. It’s really a lot to juggle – a career, raising a family, and getting everyone to the doctor on time – forget about getting YOU to the doctor on time. As good as we women are at nurturing others, we tend to be at the bottom of our own to-do lists.

What I really love about PassportMD is not just the organization (I can immediately see all my kids’ vaccination schedules for example) but the fact that I’m building a family medical history. It’s so important to know your family history so that you can engage in appropriate screening tests and take preventive health measures. This PHR even sends you reminders when its time for immunizations, mammograms, or other appropriate screening tests.

Dr. Val: As a doctor I’ve encountered resistance to PHRs from patients because they don’t want to have to enter all the data themselves. They’d like it to be auto-populated with their medical record data so that they don’t have to start from scratch. Has the PassportMD tool solved that problem?

Read more »

Office Safety: Do You Know How To Use A Defibrillator?

Would you know what to do if someone in your office collapsed in front of you and became unresponsive? Having a defibrillator handy could save their life – and it’s important for you to know how to use one. I interviewed Dr. Jon LaPook, Medical Correspondent for CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, to get his take. [Interesting factoid: Jon became passionate about cardiac defibrillators after a friend of his died while exercising at a gym in NYC. The health club did not have a defibrillator on site - which could have saved his friend's life.]

*Listen to the podcast*

Dr. Val: What is a defibrillator?

Dr. LaPook: It’s a machine that can convert a life threatening heart rhythm (like ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation) back into a normal beating pattern. It uses a pulse of electricity to do this. These machines are potentially life-saving.

Dr. Val: Why is it important for offices to have them on hand?

Dr. LaPook: About 1.2 million people in the United States have a heart attack every year and 300,000 of those have “sudden death.” The reason why these people die is not because of the heart attack, but because of the irregular heart rhythm that accompanies it. When the heart isn’t beating in a coordinated fashion, it can’t pump blood effectively and people pass out and ultimately die if there’s no intervention.

If a defibrillator is used to administer a shock to the chest during one of these life threatening heart rhythms, there’s a much higer chance that the person’s life will be saved. For every minute of delay (from the time a person collapses) to receiving a shock to the chest, their chance of survival decreases by 7-10%. So it’s very important for people to get defibrillation quickly.

Dr. Val: How do you use a defibrillator?

Dr. LaPook: When you first see someone collapse and become unresponsive, all you have to do is get the defibrillator and press the “on” switch. It will talk you through the next steps. Remember that the first step is always to have someone call 911 so that EMS will be on its way while you continue CPR. Then you expose the victim’s chest so that you can apply two sticky pads, and the defibrillator will tell you where to put the pads. Then it will analyze the victim’s heart rhythm and decide if it requires a shock to get it beating in a coordinated way. If a shock is recommended, the machine will announce that and ask you to step away from the person. Once the shock has been received, it will then give you instructions for CPR (which includes chest compressions and rescue breaths) until EMS arrives or a pulse is able to be felt. If a person doesn’t require a shock, the machine will not give one – so there’s no risk of harm to the victim.

It’s important for people not to be intimidated about defibrillation because it’s really very simple and can save a life.

Dr. Val: What are a person’s chances of surviving a cardiac arrest?

Dr. LaPook: Nationally, your chances of survival (without intervention) are about 4-6%. If you receive CPR, your chances increase to 15% but with a defibrillator – especially if it’s used quickly – the chances are 40% or higher.

Dr. Val: What do you think about the new research suggesting that rescue breaths may not be as important for CPR as initially thought?

Dr. LaPook: I spoke to Dr. Rose Marie Robertson, who is the Chief Science Officer at the American Heart Association, and she said that in a “witnessed arrest” (when you actually see someone collapse) it doesn’t seem to make a {big} difference if you do rescue breathing (i.e. mouth-to-mouth resuscitation) or not. The reason they studied this is because one of the main reasons why people don’t perform CPR is the “ick” factor of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. As it turns out, chest compressions alone are about as successful at saving lives as traditional CPR.  However, if you’ve been trained to do the rescue breathing technique, you should definitely use it. The key to CPR is “hard and fast” chest compressions, about 100 compressions per minute.  Whatever form of CPR you use, the key to success is using the defibrillator as soon as possible, ideally within several minutes.

Dr. Val: What should people working in an office environment know about first aid?

Dr. LaPook: The most important thing is for people to be trained in CPR, the Heimlich maneuver, and defibrillator use.

Dr. Val: Are there enough defibrillators out there nowadays?

Dr. LaPook: Not at all. At the very least, defibrillators should be in every single health club in America. I also think they should be installed in every office building and be widely available at schools.

A cardiologist friend of mine told me about some parents who lobbied for their daughter’s school to purchase a defibrillator. (They were in tune to cardiac issues in children because their daughter had an arhythmia called Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.) Two years after the school purchased the device, the girl  - only 13 years old at the time – collapsed while walking past the nurse’s office at the school. The nurse saved her life with the very defibrillator that her parents fought so hard for. So defibrillators are incredibly important, and although they’re not inexpensive (about $1200), you really can’t put a price on life.

*Listen to the podcast*

*Check out Dr. LaPook’s defibrillator training video with Katie Couric*This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

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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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