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Study Shows That Deployed Veterans Have Worse Health Than Their Non-Deployed Counterparts

Remember the 1991 Gulf War between the United States and Iraq (aka: “Operation Desert Storm”)?  A new study has been published in the American Journal of Epidemiology that assessed the health status of 5,469 deployed Gulf War veterans compared to 3,353 non deployed veterans.  At 10 year follow up, the deployed veterans were more likely to report persistent poor health.  The measures were functional impairment, limitation of activities, repeated clinic visits, recurrent hospitalization, perception of health as fair or poor, chronic fatigue syndrome illness and post-traumatic stress disorder.

From 1995 to 2005, the health of these veterans worsened in comparison to the veterans who did not deploy to the Persian Gulf.  A study done in the United Kingdom that compared Gulf War veterans to UN peacekeepers who served in Bosnia and other non-deployed Gulf War soldiers found Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Pay Tribute To The Veterans In Your Life By Learning More About PTSD

My ability to sit peacefully day after day and write about health or enjoy my family owes more than I’ll ever know to the hard work and sacrifice of generations of American men and women who served in the Armed Forces. On behalf of my colleagues at Harvard Health Publications: Thank you for your service.

One of the challenges faced by many servicemen and servicewomen returning from war is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

In a nutshell, post-traumatic stress disorder is a lasting and exaggerated reaction to a terrifying or life-threatening event. It makes a person feel like he or she is living through the event over and over again. PTSD shows itself in three main ways:

Re-experiencing. People with PTSD mentally relive the triggering trauma in daytime flashbacks, nightmares, or inescapable thoughts about the event. Sights, sounds, smells, or other stimuli can bring the event to life.

Avoidance. People with PTSD tend to Read more »

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

How The VA Can Help Our Female Veterans

Women are the fastest growing segment in the US military, already accounting for approximately 14 percent of deployed forces. According to statistics from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), 20 percent of new recruits and 17 percent of Reserve and National Guard Forces are women. As the number of women continues to grow in the military, so does the need for health care specifically targeted to their unique concerns.

Historically, lower rates of female veterans have used the VA system. “Research has shown that women didn’t define themselves as veterans in the past, and this is changing,” said Antonette Zeiss, PhD, a clinical psychologist and Acting Chief for Mental Health Services at the VA Central Office in Washington, DC.

Now, “Women are among the fastest growing segments of new VA users with as many as 44 percent of women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan electing to use the VA compared to 11 percent in prior eras,” said Sally Haskell, MD, Acting Director of Comprehensive Women’s Health, at the VA Central Office.

This change is due in large part to Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Society for Women's Health Research (SWHR)*

PTSD: Emergency Medicine’s Emotional Toll

I sometimes see men and women who come to the emergency department and tell me about their PTSD, caused by service in Iraq or Afghanistan.   I believe some of them; others I doubt, since their PTSD seems directly connected to a desire for Percocet, Lortab, MS-Contin or other prescriptions for back pain.  Sadly, the VA system does not lend itself to inquiry by outside physicians, so in many instances I am treating them in an information vacuum.

However, as I contemplate their allegations of PTSD, I wonder how many physicians and nurses from emergency departments have the disorder.  I’m no psychiatrist, but it just seems probable that the years of cummulative stress, the years of sleeplessness and snap decisions, the untold shifts filled with unpredictable chaos, pain, threats, death and anxiety would add up to significant emotional turmoil for providers who work in that environment.

It is appropriate that we are attentive to the needs of those who serve in combat zones.  And yet, they may spend only spend one or two years there.  Granted, that can be terrible enough. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

PTSD Flashbacks Reduced By Playing Tetris

tetris Playing Tetris Cuts Flashbacks in PTSDFlashbacks are vivid, recurring, intrusive, and unwanted mental images of a past traumatic experience. They are a sine qua non of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although drugs and cognitive behavioral interventions are available to treat PTSD, clinicians would prefer to utilize some sort of early intervention to prevent flashbacks from developing in the first place. 

Well, researchers at Oxford University appear to have found one. Remarkably, all it takes is playing Tetris. Yes, Tetris!

The team responsible for the discovery was led by Emily Holmes. The writeup appears in the November issue of PLoS ONE. Holmes and colleagues had reasoned that the human brain has a limited capacity to process memories, and that memory consolidation following a traumatic experience is typically complete within six hours after the event. Holmes’ team also knew that playing Tetris involved the same kind of mental processing as that involved with flashback formation. So they figured if they had people play Tetris during that six-hour window after the traumatic event, it might interfere with memory consolidation of the traumatic experience. That, in turn, would reduce or eliminate the flashbacks. The idea worked like a charm. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Pizaazz*

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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