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Research Provides Statistics About Adult Smokers In The U.S.

I live on the West Coast, where it is rare to see a smoker.  Because it is not socially accepted, smokers are not out in the open.  They lurk behind buildings to take a smoke break at work and I don’t even own an ashtray for friends because none of my friends smoke.  But San Francisco isn’t the rest of America.   In 2010 there were 45.5 million Americans who smoke, with men smoking more than women.  Tobacco remains the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States.  Each year approximately 433,000 people die of smoking-related illness.

Here are some more stats on American adult smokers.  The highest prevalence is American Indians/Alaska Natives (31.4%) followed by whites (21%).  Smoking incidence decreases with increasing education and improved economics.  By region, the Midwest has the most smokers in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia (22-27%).  That is huge.

California and Utah have the lowest percentage of adult smokers at Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

True Story: Man Dies From Following Alternative Medical Advice On The Internet

Photo Credit: Mark Crislip, M.D.

During a recent trip, I met a woman whose father had just passed away. When she discovered that I was a physician, she decided to tell me the sad story of the events leading up to his death. She gave me permission to share the story on my blog so long as I did not identify her or her family by name. For the purposes of the story, I’ll refer to the woman as Sue, and her father as Frank.

Frank was a healthy, robust man, descended from a long line of nonagenerians. Everyone assumed that he would live well into his 90’s – at least 30 more good years. One day Frank began having some leg pain, which he ignored as long as he could. Sue noticed him limping around a week later and decided to take him to see a physician. As it turned out, Frank had a deep venous thrombosis (or blood clot) in his leg, caused by a previously undiagnosed, mild genetic clotting disorder. The physicians treated him with heparin to prevent the clot from expanding, and prescribed coumadin to protect him from having the clot travel to his lungs – a condition (pulmonary embolism) that carries with it a high risk of death.

While researching his new medicines, Frank came upon an alternative medicine website. The site warned people against taking coumadin (stating that it was “a form of rat poison”) and offering herbal supplements instead. Frank decided to stop taking his coumadin, and purchased the alternative medicine from the website. Two weeks later he Read more »

Man Dies In An Attempt To Remove His Own Pacemaker

A 47-year-old Chicago man died after trying to remove his own pacemaker. He’s not the first to try self-surgery, as it turns out.

The Chicago Tribune described this most recent attempt at self-surgery:

“Chicago Fire Department paramedics were called after the man told a worker in the home that he was experiencing chest pains and asked them to call an ambulance.

“The man returned to his room, where he remained until paramedics arrived, police said. When they did, he complained to them about chest pains and was taken to the ambulance where he fell unconscious, police said.

“As paramedics were trying to revive him, they discovered Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Kill Tens Of Thousands Each Year

Antimicrobial resistance is a world-wide problem and increases the difficulty a variety of infections. In the United States, the major threat that is faced each day by millions of Americans every year is posed by bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. Studies to obtain precise estimates for all types of resistant infections is ongoing, but we do know that every year, almost 90,000 people become ill with infections caused by one of these resistant bacteria—methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA. Of these people, over 15,000 die.

Tremendously effective strategies have been developed to prevent infections, especially those likely to be caused by resistant bacteria. Readers of this blog are very familiar with the wide range of evidence-based, proven-effective interventions that reduce the incidence of infections and prevent the transmission of dangerous pathogens between people, especially hospitalized patients who are most at risk.

But a critical strategy for preventing the development of drug resistance in bacteria is to use antibiotics carefully and judiciously. Scientists have known for 70 years, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Safe Healthcare*

CDC Reports Increased Deaths From Prescription Pain Medications: Should We REALLY Blame Doctors For This Trend?

The overdose death rate from prescription opioids, referred to as “narcotics”, has reached “epidemic levels” in the US according to a report just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  The report further states that the intentional misuse and abuse of popular opioids such as OxyContin, Vicodin, methadone and others now cause more deaths than those caused by heroin and cocaine combined.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC Director told reporters that “Narcotics prescribed by physicians kill 40 people a day.” He continued by stating “Prescription painkillers are meant to help people who have severe pain. They are, however, highly addictive.”

The report states that increased prescribing of pain medications by doctors is a significant cause of this growing number of deaths. However, the situation is far more complicated than this report presents. Poor pain management and prescription drug abuse has become Read more »

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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