“It’s Just Life”

The United States isn’t the only country that is burdened with too much medicine (and subsequent out-of-control health care costs).

I belong to a network of health care professionals around the world who are having a dialogue about overscreening, overdiagnosis, overtreatment, and what to do about it.

A physician from Spain shared this amusing YouTube video, “Así es la Vida” (It’s Just Life):

The subtitles are in English, but I had to translate for myself the words on the “prescription” box of medicine given to each patient:

No little pill can solve the reality Continue reading

Smoking pot hurts your brain

A couple years ago my state, Washington, legalized pot.

It’s been a boon for tax revenue, for sure (almost $83 million in the first year). And the state reports that it has saved millions of dollars by freeing up law enforcement resources.

Judging from the lines in front of the pot stores (green crosses are everywhere!), pot is really popular here, across a wide range of ages.

But apart from its commercial success, and the fact that it’s given us more stoned drivers, the law concerns me because it seems to promote the idea that smoking pot … Continue reading

Are artificial sweeteners bad for you?

A friend and I were discussing the documentary That Sugar Film the other day and she asked me about the claim in the movie that artificial sweeteners were bad for you, too, because they actually made you eat more.

I couldn’t recall exactly what was said in the film, but decided to do a little research on my own to answer her question.

The FDA-approved artificial sweeteners are saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low), aspartame (Equal, Nutrasweet), neotame, sucralose (Splenda), acesulfame K (Sweet One) and stevia (Truvia).

Because they are “low-energy” sweeteners and don’t contain any calories, it seems a no brainer … Continue reading

Traveling overseas? Get vaccinated!

In the dreary days of winter many people choose to travel overseas, especially to sunnier and warmer locations, such as Southeast Asia, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.

If you’re planning such a trip, take a moment to learn more about what health risks you might face in a particular country and if any vaccinations are recommended before you go. Some vaccines take several weeks to be most effective, so plan ahead.

Related story from Live Science: Many Americans don’t get recommended vaccines before travel

The most useful vaccine for everyone, I think, for is the Hepatitis A vaccine. … Continue reading

Do “brain games” prevent dementia?

I like playing the brain games of Lumosity online and on my phone.

I like puzzles and words games in general, and Lumosity offers a fun and convenient way to play and keep track of my improvement in a variety of challenges.

I’ve never paid the costly $15 a month subscription, because I’ve never bought into the idea that playing these “brain games”—Lumosity calls it “brain training”—by themselves is enough to prevent dementia as I age.

But many people, apparently, were influenced by Lumosity’s advertising.

Two weeks ago, the creators of Lumosity settled a $50 million lawsuit with the Federal Continue reading

PBS – “In Defense of Food”

If you’re interested in starting out the New Year with a better eating plan, check out the PBS production of Michael Pollan’s best-selling book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.

What is Pollan’s manifesto? Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Advice for healthy eating doesn’t get much simpler than that.

In Defense of Food premiers Wednesday, December 30th. Check your local listings for the time. Here’s the trailer:

Michael Pollan hosts the program himself and examines how the typical high-calorie, low-nutrient American diet came to pass and what we can do to reclaim … Continue reading

“That Sugar Film”

that sugar filmIt probably wasn’t the best idea to watch this documentary just a few days before one of the most sugar-laden holidays of the year.

On the other hand, I will definitely be more conscious about how much sugar I eat and will hopefully avoid a huge sugar hangover—that slightly sick, tired, yucky feeling I get after eating too many sweet foods.

That Sugar Film is one of several sugar documentaries that have come out recently that attempt to show us just how bad sugar is for our health.

Related story from Time: Sugar is definitely toxic, a new study saysContinue reading

Health benefits of coffee and tea

Now that the days are dark, wet and cold, I find myself drinking a couple extra cups of coffee or tea every day.

Luckily for me most evidence supports the health benefits of both coffee and tea (black or green). Dr. Aaron Carroll over at Healthcare Triage recently made two videos to reassure us coffee lovers that moderate consumption of both coffee and tea is a good thing!

Coffee! It’s Not Bad for You, and It might Even be Good!

Is Drinking Tea Good for You?

As always, Dr. Carroll … Continue reading

I love my Fitbit Zip!

fitbit zipI’m not a gadget person, and I don’t embrace the “quantified self” movement, which seeks to keep track of everything measurable about the human body—weight, body mass index, blood pressure, heart rate, calories consumed, miles walked, jogged, biked, etc.

But ever since I wrote the post Why sitting is bad for your health I’ve been more committed to racking up 10,000 steps every day.

Now, the 10,000 steps a day recommendation is not an exact science, but it’s a reasonable goal for a healthy adult. Also, to reach that goal, I have to move a lot throughout the … Continue reading

The high cost of dementia

November is Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.

It’s hard to find anyone who isn’t aware of—and scared of—dementia**. Or who hasn’t had a family member or friend stricken by it.

Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease that damages not only the individual, but family and friends, as well, especially the primary care giver—most often the spouse.

Adding insult to injury is the incredible cost of getting help. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine confirms what many already know—Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia cost families way more than almost any other disease.

Why? Cancer is one of Continue reading

Adults coloring books for stress relief

adult coloring bookA few weeks ago I posted about some simple ways to deal with stress and panic attacks, and I mentioned that I had received an adult coloring book from a friend and thought it was a great way to focus and relax my mind.

Apparently other people think so, too!

I just read this article in The Atlantic: The Zen of Adult Coloring Books

Several trend pieces about adult coloring books lump them in with other “childish” activities that grown-ups are apparently engaging in to regress back to their simpler youth, like adult preschool and adult summer camp. But

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How chronic stress affects your body

Ted-Ed Talks just posted an excellent video on YouTube explaining How stress can make you sick. Occasional stress is normal and even helpful, but chronic stress can lead to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Because of the “brain-gut” connection, chronic stress can also affect digestion and lead to conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and obesity.

Even worse, chronic stress can cause chromosomal damage and shorten our lives!

I’m sure this isn’t news to most people, but it’s a reminder that we need to regularly “check-in” on our emotional health and make … Continue reading

The overuse of antidepressants

I know so many people taking antidepressants. And they talk about it quite openly, with me and with each other.

“What are you taking? Zoloft? Oh, I tried that but didn’t like it. Celexa works better for me.”

I’m sure none of these people went to his or her (mostly her) doctor and got a prescription for no reason whatsoever. But it’s pretty hard to deny that antidepressant use in this country has skyrocketed over the last two decades, which begs the question: Is everyone really that depressed?

No. A recent study in The Journal of Clinical Psychology looked at Continue reading

Don’t self diagnose food allergies

When you go to the grocery store is your cart full of “free” foods, such as soy-free, dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free, peanut-free, etc.?

With so many of these products being heavily marketed, and poor health information being widely spread on the internet through Facebook, blogs and other social networking sites, it’s easy to make assumptions about food allergies for your and/or your children.

Common symptoms that everyone gets occasionally—nausea, diarrhea, acne, fatigue, weight gain, rashes, and sinusitis—are frequently misdiagnosed as food allergies or intolerances.

I have had many friends over the years who have told me they or one of … Continue reading

Home remedies for panic attacks

I read a good article on BuzzFeed last week that offered simple tips to deal with anxiety and panic attacks: 31 Actually Helpful Tips For Dealing With Panic Attacks

I won’t list them all here, and you can check out the article for more details, but here are a few I thought especially helpful. (And I have suffered from panic attacks in the past, so I know what works for me.)

  • Listen to songs with a slow rhythm to help control your breathing. Look through your playlists for music in the range of 60-70 beats per minute. Create a playlist
Continue reading