Research says it’s not healthier
I’m always conflicted at the grocery store.
Should I spend the extra money on fruits and vegetables labeled “organic”? Or should I just buy “conventionally-grown” produce at the lower price?
I don’t mind paying premium for the best flavor, such as fresh peaches or tomatoes from local growers that boast organic and sustainable farming practices.
But broccoli, apples, bananas? Can anyone really tell the difference?
More importantly, if I choose to be more frugal, am I hurting myself and my family?
I’ve never been one to buy into marketing hype; I want facts! So … Continue reading
The latest report
Most of my nursing career was in breast cancer, so I like to stay current on the most recent research on screening, diagnosis and treatment.
Earlier this week, the British Medical Journal released a pretty stunning report:
In conclusion, our data show that annual mammography does not result in a reduction in breast cancer specific mortality for women aged 40-59.
In normal language that translates to “annual mammograms don’t save lives.”
Aaron Carroll, MD, writes on his blog:
This study is going to make a whole lot of people upset. It’s a large, well designed
… Continue reading
Nuts associated with longer, healthier lives
Last November, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published the results of a huge observational study that showed a lower death rate among people who ate several servings of nuts (including peanuts) every week.
Previous studies have pointed to other health benefits of nuts: reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The NEJM is the first study that looked specifically at death rates.
Over 115,000 people (nurses and other health professionals) were followed for 30 years. Diet questionnaires were filled out every 2 to 4 years. That is a lot of people … Continue reading
For most, multivitamins are a waste of money
I’m always trying to do two things:
- Save my money
- Be healthy
It’s not easy when everything about health care costs so much.
So I really don’t want to throw money away on expensive drugstore products that are poorly regulated (if at all) by the FDA, and whose benefits are not supported by the latest scientific research.
Related post: The Quack Miranda Warning
I’ve written several posts about the lack of demonstrated benefit (and possible harm!) of several supplements:
And now the multivitamin is the latest … Continue reading
Screening guidelines often don’t agree
One of the mandatory benefits of health insurance, thanks to Obamacare, is that preventive or screening services are covered without charging copays or coinsurance.
Preventive care is not really “free,” of course, because we pay higher premiums and higher copays and deductibles for other health care. It’s more like pre-paid.
(Oh, and make sure the doctor and testing facility (lab or radiology) are in your network, or the care won’t be covered.)
But I’ve found it more and more confusing to know which screening exams are covered, and how often, because different medical “authorities” seem … Continue reading
I don’t consider myself old, but we are all aging, aren’t we?
One of my personal irritations with our for-profit health care system—and the main reason I started this blog—is its predilection to market and sell screening tests and prescription medications of questionable value to the aging population.
In his book Rethinking Aging: Growing Old and Living Well in an Overtreated Society, Dr. Nortin Hadler scrutinizes some of the most over treated aspects of aging, and rigorously reviews the scientific literature that does—or doesn’t—support those treatments.
Like many doctors that are thankfully pushing back against the current … Continue reading
The blockbuster drug
My husband has had mildly elevated cholesterol for years. At several points in time, his doctor has recommended that he start taking one of the cholesterol-lowering drugs, like Lipitor (atorvastatin), the best-selling prescription drug of all time. In 2006, Lipitor sales peaked at $13.7 billion—that’s just one year!
Because my husband has no other risk factors for heart disease—he is not overweight, he doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t have high blood pressure (if anything, it’s low), he has no family history of heart attacks, and he eats a low-saturated fat diet and exercises regularly—I have always … Continue reading
Buy healthy food and skip the vitamins
Last week two news stories caught my attention.
First, medical experts have (once again) come out saying that the evidence does not support taking supplemental vitamins to reduce your risk of heart disease or cancer.
The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), the government panel that provides guidelines to the public on such things as preventive care and screening tests, has recently updated its recommendations for vitamin and mineral supplements.
Looking at a large number of smaller studies (what’s called a meta-analysis), the researchers at the Kaiser Permamente Center for Health … Continue reading
The canary in the coal mine
Late last week I read the troubling story about a recent polio outbreak in Syria. Although polio, thanks to the vaccine, has been almost eradicated in most parts of the world, it is still present in several middle eastern countries.
Because of political unrest and the huge numbers of refugees fleeing to Europe, world public health officials worry about more widespread outbreaks of this crippling, and deadly, disease.
Outbreaks of highly contagious, but preventable, diseases have become more common because of the anti-vaccination movement. And as these like-minded individuals tend to settle … Continue reading
What they said about vitamin D then…
A few months ago I posted about calcium supplements and vitamin D supplements. I’m not a big fan of taking a lot of pills (or any, actually), so I did a little more research into what the most current evidence-based studies recommended.
Regarding calcium, I found that it’s best to get calcium from foods in my diet, such as dairy products and certain vegetables. I’ve been trying to do that.
And what about vitamin D? Calcium supplements often include vitamin D because it helps with absorption of calcium. Low vitamin D levels … Continue reading
As someone who advocates for less medical care, I’m always thrilled to see physicians and others in the health care industry step forward to protest over-testing, over-screening, over-diagnosing, over-treating and over-charging.
Here are some of my favorite health care blog posts and news articles from the last week.
Dr. Lamberts is embracing the newest trend in primary care: the direct-pay model. He does not accept health insurance, but rather charges a modest (age-based) monthly fee per patient. Booting the insurance companies not only lowers his overhead costs considerably, but frees him from so many … Continue reading
Physicians have a role in lowering health care costs
The Mayo Clinic has been busy this month.
Last week researchers published a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) titled “Views of US Physicians About Controlling Health Care Costs.”
Also last week, Mayo Clinic Proceedings published its conclusion that nearly 40% of current medical practices are of no net benefit and needlessly contribute to high health care costs.
The first study surveyed physicians’ attitudes about their role in reducing health care costs. Do they believe they can and should help rein in the cost of health … Continue reading
The “sleep supplement”
I am a chronically poor sleeper, and I have tried melatonin, the sleep supplement, in the past. I have friends that swear by it, but it never worked for me.
Plus, I could never get a straight answer from any source about the therapeutic dosage – 1 mg, 3 mg, 5 mg, 10 mg? Should I only take it as needed, or is melatonin safe to take every night, forever?
As a supplement (it’s actually a hormone), melatonin falls under the extremely loose guidelines of the Dietary Supplement Health And Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994. It … Continue reading
Last week a small child flew on an overseas flight from China to Sea-Tac International Airport in Seattle.
A few days later, the child was diagnosed with the measles. Local public health officials were notified, and they began the task of contacting anyone who might have been exposed to the virus while on the plane or in the airport.
Because measles is easily spread by coughing or sneezing, all passengers on that plane, and many in the airport, were exposed. Anyone who had been previously vaccinated was at low risk of contracting the highly-contagious disease.
But people … Continue reading
Baby boomers get another screening test
I was annoyed when the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) announced last week that baby boomers, those born between 1945 and 1965 (myself included), should be tested for the liver infection hepatitis C (HCV) regardless of risk factors.
I think my age group is already subjected to too many screening tests of questionable value.
Related reading: Check and check again
Just last November the USPSTF issued a statement that only people at an increased risk of HCV—mostly IV drug users and anyone who received a blood transfusion before 1992—should be tested. Anyone … Continue reading