National Health Education Week 2015

Since 1995 the third week in October has been designated National Health Education Week.

In honor of that, and being an advocate of empowering patients to make more informed health care decisions—and save money along the way—I’m posting a list of some of my favorite health care books.

Look “Up” – Health benefits of positive thinking

positive outlookDo you think of yourself as an optimist or a pessimist? Or, like me, a hybrid of the two (hope for the best, but plan for the worst)?

I just finished reading Up: How Positive Outlook Can Transform Our Health and Aging by Hilary Tindle, MD, MPH, and found it an engaging look at how our outlook can drive our behaviors toward better or poorer health.

Dr. Tindle began her career as a primary care doctor. What she found were “relentless days of chronically ill” patients who suffered from obesity, depression, anxiety, insomnia, smoking, drinking, loneliness and isolation.

…it

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Want to live longer? Think young!

My husband sent me a link to a short Ted Talks video about aging. After watching it, I’m wondering if I’ve been going about aging the wrong way.

The video is about an inspiring woman, Olga Kotelko, who took up amateur track and field at the age of 77. At age 91, she was competing in the long jump! She had more than 50 world records!

How did she think about growing old? And how might our own perceptions or biases about aging affect us physically?

What if age is just a state of mind?

What nurses know (and you don’t)

nursesThere is a new book I can’t wait to read: The Nurses: A Year of Secrets, Drama, and Miracles with the Heroes of the Hospital by Alexandra Robbins.

The author wrote a preview of the book for Politico this week.

If you want to know what’s really happening in a medical building, don’t ask a doctor. Instead, turn to the best-informed, hardest-working and savviest professionals in health care: Nurses.

Many nurses call their profession—3.5 million strong in the United States and more than 20 million worldwide—a “secret club.” In the years I spent going behind the scenes in hospitals, I

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Atul Gawande – Overtreament, “Overkill”

A friend of mine who is an avid reader of both The New Yorker and my blog sent me the following link: Overkill: An avalanche of unnecessary medical care is harming patients physically and financially. What can we do about it?

The author is Atul Gawande, MD, one of my favorite surgeon/writers. It’s a long article, but if you are interested in saving money on your health care (and possibly saving your health), I encourage you to take time to read it.

I have posted many times about America’s obsession with overtreatment—too many tests, too many specialists, too many … Continue reading

End of life – “The Conversation”

end of life the converstation angelo volandesI’ve been AWOL on the blog for a couple of weeks because my 93-year-old father has been hospitalized with multiple health issues. Each day brings us a mixed bag of improvement and decline.

As a family, we are in agreement that we don’t want Dad to suffer. We don’t want him to linger with a low quality of life. Although he is confused and unable to communicate with us, we know he doesn’t want that for himself, either.

With good communication and constant re-assessing of Dad’s condition and options, we will make it through this period in our lives. I … Continue reading

Ken Burns films “Emperor of All Maladies”

I read a lot of medical and nursing history, and I loved the Pulitzer-prize winning book “Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer” by Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, PhD.

And I love the PBS films by Ken Burns, such as The Civil War and Baseball.

So I was excited to find out that Ken Burns has produced a new PBS documentary based on the book. The six-hour special, Emperor of All Maladies, will air in three, two-hour parts on March 30. March 31, and April 1.

For more about the book, here’s the … Continue reading

“Being Mortal”

being mortalHere’s a link to the PBS Frontline special Being Mortal, based on the book of the same name by the brilliant surgeon/author Atul Gawande.

The hour-long report shows Dr. Gawande talking with patients and colleagues about difficult end-of-life issues. Both doctors and patients have trouble managing their expectations about death and the process of dying. After all, doctors want to fix things and patients believe there is always “something more” that can be done.

But as Dr. Gawande says, “The two big unfixables are aging and dying. You can’t fix them.”

Overall, Being Mortal asks, “What matters to you Continue reading

Obamacare: “America’s Bitter Pill”?

obamacare america's bitter pillTwo days ago, author Steven Brill was interviewed on 60 Minutes about his recently published book, America’s Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Back-Room Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System.

Brill came to the nation’s attention two years ago when he wrote a lengthy article for Time magazine titled “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills are Killing Us.” He introduced us to the term “chargemaster”—the hospital pricing list that is kept hidden, perhaps because the prices are outrageous and irrational.

But his book reads like a season of House of Cards; Brill even says in the 60 MinutesContinue reading

The DASH diet – boring but it works

the DASH dietUS News & World Report published another one of their ubiquitous “Best of” lists this week. This one focused on diets. January, after all, is the month of diet resolutions  😉

For the fifth year in a row the winner was the DASH diet.

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (or High blood pressure). It was a study implemented in the early 1990s and funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

It’s really more dietary guideline than diet, and emphasizes whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables (especially those high in minerals such as calcium, potassium … Continue reading

More ways to save money on generics

I posted a couple weeks ago about how the prices of many generic drugs have been rising to crazy heights over the last 18 months.

Here’s another post by a health care advocate with some more tips for trying to save money on generics.

Unless your health plan’s drug formulary covers your medication, you might be out of luck. A drug formulary is a list of prescription drugs, both generic and brand, that are preferred by your health plan.

If you’re shopping for health plans now during open open enrollment (November through February, 2015) you might ask if the medications

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Healthy kids: “Lunch Lessons”

kids nutrition lunch lessonsSchool lunch is important

Since the school year began last month, I’ve been watching and listening with some bemusement to the furor over the new school lunch standards in this country. Kids and parents are Tweeting and Instagramming (is that a verb?) pictures of some pretty unappetizing fare.

Cupcakes are banned! Kids who share their lunch get detention! What, no pizza?

Well, I can afford to be amused because I don’t have kids depending on the public school system for a healthy and satisfying lunch.

But childhood obesity—which leads to adult chronic disease—is not funny. And while … Continue reading

Disease outbreaks and vaccinations

book vaccinationsLast week there was another warning in our local newspaper that a person diagnosed with measles had traveled through our airport. The article advised anyone who was at the airport during that particular time frame, and who might not be vaccinated and/or might be pregnant, to talk to their health care provider.

Measles is very contagious and can be especially dangerous to pregnant women.

In light of continuing misinformation about vaccinations, and the possibility that more unvaccinated children will be in our schools due to the influx of immigrants from Mexico and Central America, I decided to republish this post Continue reading

Hospitals can be dangerous to your health

Controlled chaos

I have many friends who are doctors and nurses, and we all moan among ourselves about the state of health care and how we hope we are never the patient. We know hospitals are chaotic, the staff is stressed, and electronic health records are only making patient care harder.

I read a blog post by another doctor, Val Jones, MD, who agreed. She blames the problem on “frequent turnover,” or the large number of mostly uncoordinated care providers weakly connected by glitchy computer systems.

If you (or a loved one) have been admitted to a hospital recently,

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“Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep”

dreamlandThe big business of sleep

As someone who has always had trouble sleeping, I find solace in the fact that I am far from alone. The last statistic I saw was that about 60 million Americans complain of some form of sleep trouble. And I suspect that number is under reported.

Sleep experts recommend we get 7-9 hours of sleep every night, and popular media are quick to point out all the ill health effects due to lack of sleep that will kill you.

It’s scary enough to give you nightmares—if you could get to sleep.

Insomnia and fatigue are … Continue reading