Take Charge of Your Health: Five Tips from a Physician-Athlete

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 23, 2016

Healthy food and fitness background concept

Wellness includes healthy eating, exercise, and mindfulness.

Dr. Claire Twark is a third-year resident in the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Department of Psychiatry and a seasoned triathlete. In this post, she offers some valuable wellness strategies that she uses in her own work and training.

I believe that wellness is a lifestyle. It includes healthy eating and exercise, as well as mindfulness and wellness within relationships. I recommend proactively thinking about your own wellness and setting improvement goals for yourself. I often advise patients to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) goals, such as going to the gym for 30 minutes twice in the next week or increasing their daily step count by a few thousand steps.

Here are five tips to consider:

  • Wellness opportunities are all around you. We are all busy, so use the wellness opportunities that are readily available. Try walking to work, taking the stairs, and choosing healthy food options.

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What Can Genetic Sequencing Tell You about Your Health?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 21, 2016

Have you ever wondered what your genes can tell you about your health – today or in the future? Genes are instructions that tell the body how to grow and develop properly. Found inside each cell, genes are made up of DNA. The genome is someone’s complete set of DNA, including all of its genes.

Scientists examined DNA gel as it is used in genetics, medicine, biology, pharma research and forensics.

Genomic sequencing may indicate your risk for developing a disease in the future.

People have their genome sequenced for a variety of different reasons. They may be looking for the genetic cause of an existing disease, or they may be concerned about the risk of developing a disease later in life. Some people may want to find out if they are a genetic carrier for a disease that may be passed on to a child, or they may simply want to understand their ancestry.

When analyzing a person’s genome, geneticists examine the entire genome or look at certain sections of the genome for variants in the genetic code that have been tied to a specific disease. In about ten percent of seemingly healthy individuals who have their genome sequenced, geneticists find information that indicates someone is at risk for developing a particular disease. This genetic information can be used by the patient and their provider to take steps to address or reduce their risk of disease.

Establishing the likelihood that the individual may develop the disease, however, is challenging. For example, if genetic sequencing identifies a breast cancer variant, geneticists can say the patient is at risk because their genetic variant has been linked to disease in patients who already have the disease but they can’t estimate if the patient has a 10 percent chance, a 50 percent chance, a 90 percent chance of developing breast cancer because the healthy population with this genetic variant has not been studied.

In this video, Heidi Rehm, PhD, Associate Professor of Pathology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Director, Partners HealthCare Laboratory for Molecular Medicine, describes the Clinical Genome Resource (ClinGen) Program, funded by the National Institutes of Health. The goal of ClinGen is to help researchers, physicians and patients better understand the significance of genetic variants by performing expert review of variants collected from laboratories as well as directly from genetic test results. Any individual who has undergone genetic testing can share their test results through the ClinGen program.

Related links:

Jamie R.

Five Tips to Protect Your Feet During Summer

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 14, 2016

When walking outside in the summer, opt for shoes that offer more support and protection.

When walking outside in the summer, opt for shoes that offer more support and protection.

As summer approaches, the season for flip-flops and sandals also arrives. Although convenient and an easy option for both adults and children to wear, James Ioli, DPM,  Chief of Podiatry at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, advises caution when making the switch to sandals from closed-toe shoes. Here he offers some helpful tips to protect your feet during these warmer months.

  • Invest in your summer footwear.

“You get what you pay for,” says Dr. Ioli. “Instead of a cheaper pair of flip-flops, opt for sandals or flip- flops that offer more support.”  Look for a deep heel cup, arch support, and a metatarsal pad (under the balls of the feet), which helps protect and support the foot when walking.

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How to Plan for Your Healthiest Pregnancy

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 10, 2016

A pre-pregnancy exam is one of the most important steps in helping you prepare for a healthy pregnancy .

A pre-pregnancy exam is one of the most important steps in helping you prepare for a healthy pregnancy .

If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, it is never too soon to start taking healthy steps for you and your baby-to-be. There are things you can do today to help reduce health risks for the both of you and increase your likelihood of healthy pregnancy.

The first few weeks of pregnancy are crucial in a child’s development. However, many women do not realize they are pregnant until several weeks after conception. Planning ahead and taking care of yourself before becoming pregnant is the best thing you can do for you and your baby.

One of the most important steps in helping you prepare for a healthy pregnancy is a pre-pregnancy exam (often called preconception care) performed by your health care provider. This exam may include:

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Avoiding Bumps in the Road While Training for a Road Race

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 9, 2016

You also should add stretching to your daily routine, making sure your calves and Achilles tendons aren’t tight.

Runners should add stretching to their daily routine, making sure their calves and Achilles tendons aren’t tight.

Today’s post is from Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin, Surgical Director of the Women’s Sports Medicine Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Team Physician for Stonehill College Athletics, and Emily Brook, a research assistant in the Women’s Sports Medicine Program.

BWH is partnering with the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) this year to present the popular B.A.A. 10K road race on June 26. In order to get ready for this or any other long-distance running event, every runner should have a training plan that gradually builds intensity as race day approaches.

As any runner knows, there are almost always physical setbacks during training. Some injuries may go away quickly, while others may linger. Today we explain some of the most common running overuse injuries and what you should do to get back on track.

Runner’s Knee

What is it and why does it happen?

Also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, runner’s knee – which can occur in one or both knees – is one of the most common training setbacks. When your thigh muscles are weak, it causes your knee cap (patella) to be slightly displaced and rub against other structures. This can lead to pain around the knee cap during running or walking, grinding or crunching noises as your knee moves, and difficulty going up or down stairs or getting up from a chair.

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Men’s Health – What You Should Know 

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 7, 2016

June is Men’s Health Month, a time to address important health issues that impact men’s lives. Read the stories below to learn the latest about prostate cancer, testosterone therapy, erectile dysfunction, and other factors that affect men’s physical and mental health.

Healthy-Men-1Hormone Therapy for Prostate Cancer May Increase Risk of Depression

A Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) study has found a significant association between depression and patients being treated for localized prostate cancer with androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). When compared to patients who did not receive ADT, patients who received ADT had higher incidences of depression and inpatient and outpatient psychiatric treatment.


Healthy-Men-2Testosterone’s Effect on the Heart and Quality of Life

Testosterone use among men doesn’t appear to increase their risk of developing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), a critical risk factor for heart attack and stroke. However, research also shows that men using testosterone fail to realize the quality of life benefits that are often the primary goals of testosterone therapy.


Healthy-Men-3Treatment Options for Erectile Dysfunction

Age, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease contribute to a higher risk of erectile dysfunction (ED), which affects about one half of American men over age 40 at some point in their lives. Most men experiencing ED respond to nonsurgical treatments, such as oral medications or self-injection therapy. However, if these treatments don’t work, surgery may provide another option.


Healthy-Men-4Breakfast Makes a Man’s Heart Healthy

Research shows that men who skip breakfast have a 27 percent higher risk of suffering a heart attack or developing heart disease than those who start the day with something in their stomach. These men who forego breakfast also indulge more heavily in other unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking, exercising less, and drinking alcohol regularly.


Healthy-Men-5Prostate Cancer Screening – Who Recommends PSA Testing?

BWH-led research finds that a patient’s likelihood of getting prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing for the early detection of prostate cancer depends on the type of physician he sees. According to the study’s lead author, the findings highlight the need for physicians to reach a broader consensus on the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening and the importance of patients discussing their care options with their physicians.

Tips on Managing Back Pain

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 2, 2016

An intrathecal pump is an implantable device that manages back pain by delivering medication directly to the spinal fluid.

An intrathecal pump is an implantable device that manages back pain by delivering medication directly to the spinal fluid.

Managing back pain can be challenging, because it is non-specific and may be the result of many different conditions. In this post, Dr. Jason Yong, an anesthesiologist and pain management specialist in the Comprehensive Spine Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, offers some guidance for people suffering from back pain.

Seeking Treatment

Not all back pain requires treatment from a physician. Patients with acute low back pain (lasting less than three weeks), for example, can often get sufficient relief by using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain medications, physical therapy exercises, and temporary restrictions on lifting while the body heals itself. Generally, treatment by a physician is advised when pain is limiting a patient’s ability to walk, sit, or stand for prolonged periods of time, or if pain is greater than a 6 (on a scale from 0 to 10). Spinal surgery is usually considered for patients with intense, unrelenting pain (10 on a scale from 0 to 10), weakness, incontinence, or structural instability.

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Stroke Prevention and Treatment

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 31, 2016

Each year, stroke impacts approximately 750,000 to 800,000 individuals in the United States. A leading cause of disability, many stroke survivors are left with significant speech, motor, and memory difficulties. More than half can’t return to work. For American Stroke Month, we’ve gathered our blog posts about stroke prevention, recognition, and treatment.

Stroke-1Do You Know Your Risk of Stroke?

Though you can’t change risk factors such as age, gender, and family history, you can reduce your risk of stroke. Pay attention to health measures (such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and body mass index), eat healthy foods, and develop healthy lifestyle habits (such as exercising regularly for 30 minutes or more each day). Learn more about reducing risk of stroke.


Stroke-2Stroke – Five Things You Need to Know

When it comes to stroke, think FAST. The acronym FAST (face, arms, speech, and time) is a quick way to determine if someone is having a stroke. Difficulty smiling, lifting both arms, and repeating a simple phrase are warning signs of stroke. If you observe these symptoms in someone, note the time and call 911 immediately. Learn more about the symptoms of stroke.

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Walk from Obesity – Raising Awareness

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 26, 2016

This year's Boston Walk from Obesity winds through the Arnold Arboretum.

This year’s Boston Walk from Obesity winds through the Arnold Arboretum.

This year’s Boston Walk from Obesity, sponsored once again by the Brigham and Women’s Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (CMBS), will take place on Saturday, June 4, from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. The walk begins and ends at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital (BWFH) and winds through the beautiful Arnold Arboretum. Everyone is invited to participate by either walking or cheering on the walkers. Funds raised through the event will be used to support obesity-related research, education, and awareness programs promoted by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Foundation.

Sheila Fitzgerald, 57, of Dedham, MA, will be participating in the Walk from Obesity again this year. Last year, she was among the top fundraisers in the country. Her focus this year, however, is more on raising awareness than raising money.

“I think it’s important to talk about obesity and educate people,” says Sheila.

She wants others to be more informed than she was. A lack of understanding is why it took her so long to consider weight loss surgery, she explains. The need for a knee replacement, however, pushed her to learn more about surgical options for weight loss.

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Brain Cancer Patient: Can Access to Medical Data Save Lives?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 24, 2016

The MRI image above shows a tumor in Steven Keating’s frontal left lobe.

The MRI image above shows a tumor in Steven Keating’s frontal left lobe.

After participating in a brain research study, Steven Keating avidly collected and examined his personal medical data. Steven’s curiosity ultimately helped to identify his own brain tumor, a glioma, which was removed in the Advanced Multimodality Image Guided Operating Suite (AMIGO) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in 2014.  Based on this experience, Steven is now a vocal advocate of providing patients with open access to their medical information. In this video, Steven shares the incredible story of how his life-long curiosity helped identify his brain tumor – and how curiosity about medical data also can help others.

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