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Stress In Life: Respond Differently And Live Longer?

“This job is killing me” is not a statement of jest. It is a desperate plea of outright sincerity.

Stress, anxiety, depression — all have been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality. But can interventions to help people cope with stress positively affect longevity and decrease risk of dying? The results of a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine would imply the answer is an encouraging “yes.”

Constructively dealing with stress is easier said than done, but it would seem logical that if we can reduce our psychological and social stressors we might live longer and delay the inevitable wear and tear on our vessels. This study proved that one such intervention, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for patients who suffered a first heart attack, lowered the risk of fatal and nonfatal recurrent cardiovascular disease events by 41 percent over eight years. Nonfatal heart attacks were almost cut in half. Excitement may be dampened by the fact that all-cause mortality did not statistically differ between the intervention and control groups, but did trend towards an improvement in the eight years of follow up.

Definitely less suffering. Maybe less deaths.

The authors state that psychosocial stressors have been shown to account for an astounding 30 percent of the attributable risk of having a heart attack. Chronic stressors include low socioeconomic status, low social support, marital problems, and work distress. Emotional factors also correlated with cardiovascular disease include major depression, hostility, anger, and anxiety. Read more »

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

A Biofeedback Pen For Managing Stress

Miguel Bruns Alonso, a graduate student at Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands, has developed a pen that detects how much twitching and twirling it’s being put through.

People under stress tend to move and shake a pen more than someone who is calm. In order to try to get a therapeutic effect out of the pen, Bruns built in counter motion feedback that makes the pen a bit more difficult to move around. Though initial experiments have shown a marginal benefit, further studies and development may prove the benefit of the technology. From TU Delft:

Bruns, who studies industrial design, carried out various experiments during the course of his research, which showed that people tend to play with their pens in their hands when they are tense. It also seems that when they are encouraged to check these nervous movements, or make more gentle movements, it is possible to gain more control over a situation. “Sensors in a pen could provide an unobtrusive way of measuring stress levels. Giving users the right feedback could then help them deal with their stress in a constructive way,” says Bruns. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

A Coping Game For Healthcare Providers

Ever wonder how ICU nurses get through their daily grind? Why, with ICU Bingo, of course.

How does ICU Bingo work? It works just like regular bingo. Every nurse receives their own Bingo card with different ICU diagnoses. And every time they take care of one of these conditions, they get to ”x” it out. Fill out a line or any other predetermined design pattern, and you are the ICU Bingo winner, and you win a prize.

This is quite similar to my 2010 March Madness Hospitalist Bracket, only in this case the game is Bingo. As you can see, this nurse has already cared for a GI bleed, a homeless man, a drug overdose, chest pain, DKA, alcohol withrawal, subdural hematoma, a prisoner, and someone with super-morbid obesity. That’s ICU medicine for you.


*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist*

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*

Sedating Yourself With Food: Why?

Dr. Whoo and I seem to be in the same place at the same time — we both struggle with our weight because we’re using food for something other than sustenance. We use it to manage stress. Overeating is, after all, a wonderful sedative. It soothes the savage beast and all that. And it really works. I’ve probably saved my marriage and my job and kept from killing my kids and my husband by sedating myself with food. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Blog that Ate Manhattan*

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

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Latest Book Reviews

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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

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