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Culinary Metaphor Used To Understand Gene-Environment Interactions

a pie cut in almost half with the smaller piece labeled Environmental and the larger piece labeled GeneticA recent article in the Archives of General Psychiatry by Hallmayer et al. discussed the role of genetic and environmental factors in autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASD).  The study was a heritability analysis of 192 pairs of twins, which attributed 37 percent of the variation in risk of autism to genetic factors and 55 percent to shared environmental factors.  The authors contrasted their findings with those of previous studies, which had given genetics a much higher share (up to 90%).

Rather than contradicting previous research, the new results provide more evidence that autism, like many other common diseases, results from both genetic and environmental factors.  The way that these elements – often called “nature and nurture” – influence health outcomes has been discussed for decades but is often misunderstood, even among scientists.

Disease Causation is Not as Easy as… Pie Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Genomics and Health Impact Blog*

Is Church Attendance A Risk Factor For Obesity?

For competitive cyclists, Sunday morning usually signifies a time for combining spirituality with calorie-burning. Whether we are immersed in the total focus of a hotly-contested bike race or meditating our way through a seemingly endless training ride, it’s a given that most cyclists use Sundays to churn out the kilo-joules.

This kind of Sunday-behavior differs significantly from many regular (normal) people, who like to sleep late, get up slowly, dress themselves nicely and amble off to church. It goes without saying that this kind of spiritual exercise doesn’t burn many calories. And it is also well known that worship and consuming high-calorie comfort food frequently go hand in hand.

In the hard-to-believe-that-people-study-this kind-of-thing category, comes a report that frequent churchgoing in young adulthood increases the risk of obesity in middle age. Really, I am not making this up. The story was reported prominently here, on the theHeart.org. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

The Heart Health Risks Of Being A Couch Potato

We’ve all made the excuses: You can’t face the drive to the gym, you’re too tired at night, getting up in the morning is a chore, or it’s too hot or cold outside. So you cozy up on the couch in front of the television. If you’re a couch potato, you’re a gambler — with your life.

Unfortunately you’ll need a big sofa because you’re not the only one whose heart isn’t in physical activity. About 60 percent of adults in the U.S. are not getting the exercise they need, according to a report from the U.S. Surgeon General.

It’s time to get up and face — or better yet, dance to — the music! Here are a few facts that may get you moving for your heart’s sake. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Health in 30*

The Epidemic Of Sedentary Behavior

“I never worry about action, but only about inaction.”  — Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill was right: Experts are saying sedentary behavior is an epidemic, with the resulting health effects potentially devastating.

Lack of muscular activity is associated with higher incidence of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, as well as a heightened risk of death. And this is regardless of one’s level of structured physical exercise, according to the authors of an article published [recently] in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The team from Stockholm, Sweden, says that sedentary behavior has become synonymous with lack of exercise, but that this is inaccurate and misleading. Rather, sedentary behavior should be defined as whole body muscular inactivity. Read more »

Can My iPad Help Me Be Healthier?

If you follow me on Twitter or read my personal blog, you probably know by now that I bought myself an iPad this week. The main reason I got it is because I’m a sucker for shiny new technology, but I also wanted to see if I could use it to help myself become a little less sedentary.

As I mentioned in my first two posts about fitness this month, there’s a growing body of research suggesting that a sedentary lifestyle is harmful to your health. I was interviewed about one such study a few months ago on the PRI show “The Takeaway,” and the evidence is fairly convincing: People who spend more hours watching TV also have a higher mortality rate than those who watch it less, even after accounting for exercise. Granted, it’s only a correlation, but the evidence converges quite well with several other studies.

But what am I supposed to do about it? My job requires me to spend long hours in front of a computer screen. If exercising a 30 or 40 minutes a day can’t prevent me from getting heart disease or cancer, what will? Some researchers, including David Dunstan, the lead researcher on the TV-watching study, suggest that just standing periodically, rather than sitting all day, can help a lot. That’s where the iPad comes in. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Daily Monthly*

Latest Interviews

Caring For Winter Olympians In Sochi: An Interview With Team USA’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gloria Beim

I am a huge fan of the winter Olympics partly because I grew up in Canada where most kids can ski and skate before they can run and partly because I used to participate in Downhill ski racing. Now that I m a rehab physician with a reconstructed knee I…

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How Do Hospital Executives Feel About Locum Tenens Agencies And Traveling Physicians?

I recently wrote about my experiences as a traveling physician and how to navigate locum tenens work. Today I want to talk about the client in this case hospital side of the equation. I ve had the chance to speak with several executives some were physicians themselves about the overall…

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Latest Book Reviews

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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Unaccountable: A Book About The Underbelly Of Hospital Care

I met Dr. Marty Makary over lunch at Founding Farmers restaurant in DC about three years ago. We had an animated conversation about hospital safety the potential contribution of checklists to reducing medical errors and his upcoming book about the need for more transparency in the healthcare system. Marty was…

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