Why Visiting the Doctor Is Worth Your While

doctor-patientI know how busy life can get. Between the patients I see and the guests on my show, I’m constantly amazed with how much people are squeezing out of their lives. But too often I meet people who fill their days with things that seem important while neglecting their health in a way that undermines the work they’re putting into their future and their families.

I was reminded of this by Taylor Swift’s recent post on her unusual Christmas present request from her mother and her mother’s subsequent cancer diagnosis. I’ve always been floored by the strong relationship Taylor obviously has with her mom and I can only imagine how hard her mom has worked over the last few decades to ensure the health and success of her family. But it also sounds like all of that work may have caused her to neglect her own well-being. So I want to take some time to talk about why a visit to the doctor is worth your time, even when it seems like you’re too busy to make an appointment. Read more  »

Food Recalls: Why They Happen and Why We Should Care

food rotten smells badIt’s a fact of life that bacteria are everywhere around us. They’re on our clothes, in our guts and all over the food we eat. Most of those bacteria don’t do any harm. In fact, many of them help us. But occasionally we come across a few bad apples that can do us some serious damage. On the show, I’ve covered several cases of food-borne illness and Sabra’s recent hummus recall is just one more in a very long list that just seem to keep getting longer. I think it’s important we all know how our food is made, tested and kept safe, which is why I want to take a few moments to talk a little about the food safety.

Who regulates food production?

The modern food industry has mostly shifted production away from local making of food to industrial production of food that then gets shipped to locations across the nation. While farmer’s markets are making a comeback in a big way, they don’t come anywhere near competing. When this move to industrial food production took place, factories weren’t always the cleanest of facilities. You might have read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle at some point in school, which talked in part about the unsanitary practices of meat preparation. Read more  »

Why Talking About Race Is Still Important in Health Care

women weights exercise happyOne of the things I’ve been most proud of about my show is the way it reaches people from all different backgrounds. I’m always amazed by the way my audience cuts across all racial groups, social groups and economic classes. That broad interest has shown me time and again that all Americans, no matter where they come from, want to improve their health and are ready to take steps toward a healthier, fitter version of themselves.

Unfortunately, we’re not all given the same opportunities to do that. Study after study has shown that race still plays an enormous role in your risk for several diseases and in your ability to access services that will keep you healthy. Medicine is still lagging behind in treating everyone equally and ensuring that all people, regardless of their race, status or resources, get what they need to get the most out of their health. It’s National Minority Health Month, and I want to take a moment to talk about why this is an important topic. Read more  »

3 Myths That Shouldn’t Fool You This April

women friends smiling laughingI’ve been a part of my fair share of pranks over the years as well as the target of many. But don’t worry, you’re safe from pranks today, or here on the blog at least. Instead of throwing a joke or two your way, I thought I’d dispel three myths that I find to be particularly persistent when I talk to patients to help you get the most out of this great spring weather.

Myth #1: Eating healthy is hard.

This is the myth I hear the most from my patients. They tell me everything from “fresh fruits and vegetables don’t taste good” to “the recipes are too complicated.” I get it. During the years that I spent in medical school and residency, I found myself short on time and often chowing down on the easiest, fastest thing I could get into my mouth. Read more  »

Knowing Your Options When You’re Diagnosed

doctor with patientThe time of diagnosis can be a terrifying one. As a cardiothoracic surgeon, I’ve had to deliver diagnoses that I know will change a person’s life forever. Some will need to change their lifestyle, others will need drastic surgery, and still others may face imminent death. But what I’ve always loved about being a physician is that patient care is rarely the same even in cases where the diagnosis is identical. One patient might decide to go for medications while another goes vegan. One patient might elect for surgery while another decides to get their affairs in order and pass away surrounded by loved ones.

It’s for that reason that I think Angelina Jolie’s recent article on her ovary removal is so powerful and so important for all of us to hear. Read more  »

Prepping Yourself for Spring Allergy Season

sick woman allergies sneeze tissueThe weather is changing for the better outside, but not everyone is pleased. If you’re like millions of other Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies, the warming weather also signals the coming of pollen season along with itchy eyes and a running nose. To help you get a jump on your seasonal allergies, I’ve put together a few pieces of information that I think will be helpful in getting you well prepared.

Where do seasonal allergies come from?

Our body’s immune system has a variety of different cell types to combat various invaders. The cells that trigger allergies are mast cells and basophils and they’re supposed to fight foreign invaders that can infect our bodies. In the case of allergies, these cells get tricked into thinking that pollen found in the air is a foreign invader. They respond by releasing a variety of inflammatory compounds to fight off the pollen, which leads to the itchy eyes and runny nose that you get during seasonal allergies. Read more  »

Why Checking Your Colon Could Save Your Life

488264177When I talk to audience members, a lot of them comment on the props we use on the show and the sometime “gross” topics we talk about together. No doubt you’ve seen a fan or two climb through a rarely discussed body part to illustrate how disease can affect that body part and why you should pay attention to it. That’s often been the case for colon health and I even went so far as to get a colonoscopy on television to show you how that it’s a straightforward procedure you shouldn’t be afraid of.

In spite of all those efforts, one in three adults still don’t get the lifesaving screening they need, and more than 50,000 people died from the disease last year alone. On top of that, many people are missing out on some of the things they could be doing to lower their risk overall. Since it’s Colon Cancer Awareness Month, I wanted to spend a few moments talking about what colon cancer is, how you can lower your risk and who needs to get screened. Read more  »

Getting Ready to Spring Forward

woman-sunset-arms-upWhile the weather hasn’t been that great in New York as of late, hints of spring are already upon us. The weather is starting to warm up and daylight savings time is about to give us all an extra hour of sunlight in the evening. Here’s how to get a head start on that spring forward by prepping yourself for the warming weather.

Revisit Those New Year’s Goals

It might be painful to pull out that list of what you hoped to achieve this year, but the beginning of spring is a good time to look at those goals you set to see how you’ve been doing. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Chances are good some of your goals will look overly ambitious with two months of hindsight. Reassess those goals and use your experience so far to shape them into something to reach for that’s still achievable. If you’ve fallen off of the bandwagon entirely, take this as an opportunity to get back on and try again. Try and find an accountability partner who will help keep you on track and also give you encouragement when you hit your milestones. Read more  »

Why Eating Disorders Are Concerning No Matter Who You Are

woman-on-scaleOver the years that I’ve been doing the show, I’ve had a number of guests who have come to bravely share their struggles with eating disorders. I’ve always been struck by how consuming and devastating these illnesses are. Those who suffer from them often struggle with them for decades and, in tragic cases, may die from the illness.

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week and I wanted to take some time to talk about eating disorders. I think addressing the topic is important not just because these illnesses are so damaging, but also because many people have a distorted sense of who is at risk for developing an eating disorder. Read more  »

Developing a New Understanding of Obesity

Doctor with Stethoscope Holding Red Measuring Tape.Many patients come through my office that are overweight or obese trying to drop weight to lower their risk of heart disease. For the most part, they’ve seemingly tried everything. Following the traditional advice, they try to cut back on their calories and up their exercise. They’ve tried increasing protein, cutting out bread, juicing everything they eat and everything in between. I see them at their most desperate, close to disease, knowing that their weight is a problem and yet seemingly unable to lose their extra pounds.

A number of research studies have come out recently examining where obesity comes from and why people become obese. They’re emphasizing what most physicians are only now beginning to acknowledge: that gaining weight and losing weight isn’t just about calories in and calories out. Obesity is the result of a complex list of changes that happen in the body, some of which we have little control over. But don’t feel like your weight is written in stone. There are some steps you can take whatever your weight to get your health back on track and some new possibilities on the horizon that might completely change the weight loss game. Read more  »