Sleep – The Third Pillar of Good Health

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 29, 2014

Charles Czeisler, PhD, MD, Professor of Sleep Medicine

Most of us understand that good nutrition and exercise are essential to good health; however, many of us overlook the importance of sleep. Dr. Charles Czeisler, Chief, Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, explains that sleep is essential to both our brains and our bodies.

During sleep, the brain is flushed of toxins and new learning experiences are integrated, says Dr. Czeisler. Inadequate sleep, he continues, can have wide-ranging effects on our physical health, including a dampening of the immune response, disruption of hormones that regulate weight, reduction in the effectiveness of insulin metabolism, and increased risk for calcification of the arteries. Dr. Czeisler also describes how artificial light exposure can lead to shortened sleep cycles or insomnia by disrupting our circadian rhythms.

Watch a video of Dr. Czeisler discussing the impact of sleep on health and innovative sleep research being conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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Too Young for a Knee Replacement?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 24, 2014

For younger patients, cartilage repair may be a viable alternative to knee replacement surgery.

While knee replacements are occasionally performed in some patients as young as in their 40s, there are many patients with cartilage damage in their knees who are too young or active for a knee replacement.

“For younger, active patients with isolated damage, repairing cartilage in the knee may be a good alternative to partial or total knee replacement,” says Dr. Andreas Gomoll, an orthopedic surgeon in the Cartilage Repair Center, directed by Dr. Tom Minas, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “The average age of our patients is mid-30s, but we’ve also treated many teens and some patients in their 50s.”

In autologous chondrocyte implantation, or ACI, healthy cartilage is surgically harvested from the patient’s knee, cultured to grow additional cells, and then surgically implanted in the area of diseased cartilage to regenerate. ACI is often combined with procedures to address the root cause of cartilage damage, such as malalignment of the knee cap.

“Cartilage transplantation essentially helps build healthy cartilage in the knee to reduce pain and increase mobility in patients, but we also identify and correct any underlying causes of the damage first,” explains Dr. Gomoll. “We have performed many cartilage repair procedures – even among elite athletes – and have seen excellent results.”

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Five Myths about Breast Cancer

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 23, 2014

Talk to your doctor to avoid misinformation about breast cancer.

Cancer experts from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute work together to provide cancer patients the latest therapies, including access to innovative clinical trials through Brigham and Women’s/Dana-Farber Cancer Center.  Today’s post originally appeared on Insight, the blog of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

There’s a broad range of news and information about breast cancer online. That creates wonderful opportunities to learn about prevention, treatment, cures, and recurrence. But it also means you may run into confusing misinformation and oversimplifications.

Here are some popular misconceptions:


Most breast cancer is hereditary. While it’s true that a woman’s risk factor for developing breast cancer doubles if a first-degree relative has the disease, this statistic doesn’t tell the whole story.

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Watch This Video: Stress and Your Health

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 22, 2014

Helene Langevin, MD, CM, Director, Osher Center for Integrative Medicine

Are you stressed out? Well, you are not alone. Unfortunately, for most of us, stress is a part of everyday life – fighting traffic in the morning, rushing to bring your kids to their various activities, constant worrying about finances or the health of a loved one.

But did you know that stress also has a major impact on your health and its effects are different for women and men? Recently, an expert panel from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) met to discuss this very topic – how stress effects us and how gender plays a role.

In this video, “Demystifying Stress: An Integrated Approach for Women”, cardiologist Paula A. Johnson, MD, MPH, Executive Director, Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology, and Chief, Division of Women’s Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, leads the discussion about the impact of stress on women’s mental and physical health as well as medical and non-medical approaches for relieving the symptoms arising from stress. Joining Dr. Johnson for this informative and insightful discussion are Martin A. Samuels, MD, Chair, Department of Neurology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Miriam Sydney Joseph Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, and Helene Langevin, MD, CM, Director, Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School and Bernard Osher Professor in Residence of Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies, Harvard Medical School.

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Public Smoking Bans Associated with Health Benefits in Children

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 17, 2014

Passive smoking is linked to premature births, birth defects, asthma, and lung infections.

Nearly half of the world’s children are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke. Passive smoking is linked to premature births, birth defects, asthma, and lung infections. Studies also have suggested that being exposed to second hand smoke during childhood may have long-term health implications, contributing to the development of chronic diseases, like heart disease and diabetes, in later life.

Laws that prohibit smoking in public places, such as bars, restaurants, and workplaces, are proven to protect adults from the health threats associated with passive smoking. In the first comprehensive study to look at how anti-smoking laws are affecting the health of children, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, the University of Edinburgh, Maastricht University, and Hasselt University found that the introduction of new laws that ban smoking in public places in North America and Europe has been followed by a decrease in rates of premature births and hospital visits for asthma attacks in children. These findings were published in March 2014 in The Lancet.

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Double Arm Transplant Candidate Hoping for Independence

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 16, 2014

Will Lautzenheiser has been approved as a candidate for a bilateral (double) arm transplant.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) announced at a recent press conference that Will Lautzenheiser, 39, a former professor of film production and screenwriting at Boston University and Montana State University, has been approved as a candidate for a bilateral (double) arm transplant.

Will became a quadruple amputee in 2011, when doctors in Montana removed his limbs due to necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease), a life-threatening Group A streptococcal infection. Since that time, Will has struggled to manage with prosthetic (artificial) limbs.

“After losing my limbs, I haven’t been able to do anything spontaneously,” said Will. “It might take me 20 minutes to get dressed using prostheses.” He added that often “other people have to be my hands.”

A successful arm transplant, however, has the potential to significantly restore a patient’s self-reliance. “What we are hoping to provide is independence, something that no prosthesis really can achieve at the present time,” explained Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, Director of the BWH Plastic Surgery Transplantation Program.

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Osteoarthritis – Learn about the Most Common Form of Arthritis

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 15, 2014

Rheumatologist Antonios Aliprantis, MD, PhD, diagnoses and treats patients with osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the United States, affecting roughly 12 percent of Americans aged 25 – 74. It’s a chronic joint disease that breaks down cartilage in the neck, lower back, knees, hips, shoulders, and/or fingers. Common symptoms are pain, stiffness, and limited joint movement. Read on for other important information about this chronic condition.

What is the difference between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis both cause joint pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion, but the two diseases are distinct in their root cause and treatment.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition where a person’s own immune system attacks their joints, causing inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis typically affects many joints simultaneously, especially in the hands, wrists, and feet, and is treated with medications to suppress the immune response.

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Another Reason to Encourage Your Girls to Eat Their Fruits and Vegetables

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 10, 2014

Researchers have found yet another reason for girls to eat their fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are an important component of a healthy, well-balanced diet, and, now, Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers have found yet another benefit for young girls.

A recent study, led by Caroline Boeke, a postdoctoral fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health, found that girls who ate the most fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids (a particular type of phytonutrient) were less likely to get benign (non-cancerous) breast diseases, some of which raise the risk for cancer.

Carotenoids, the pigments that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors, are believed to have antioxidant properties that protect our bodies from disease by absorbing substances called free radicals that can harm our cells.

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Understanding Bariatric Surgery Treatment Options

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 9, 2014

After having a sleeve gastrectomy, Chuck achieved optimal cholesterol and blood pressure levels, his sleep apnea was cured, his diabetes went into remission, and he welcomed his first child.

Obesity is a major public health problem in the United States and throughout the world. In the U.S., it is estimated there are up to 20 million morbidly obese people (body mass index (BMI) greater than 40). Morbid obesity can lead to many other health issues, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea. These patients also may be at increased risk for certain types of cancer, endocrine problems, skin problems, and joint and bone pain.

Bariatric surgery (weight loss surgery) can help patients with a BMI greater than 40, or a BMI greater than 35 with co-existing health conditions, lose weight  and improve their overall health, including remission of type 2 diabetes, reductions in high blood pressure, and improvement in female fertility.

Dr. Scott Shikora, Director of the Center for Metabolic Health and Bariatric Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital discusses bariatric surgery options for weight loss and metabolic treatment in obese patients.

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Community Health Worker Guides and Supports Patients in Need

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 8, 2014

Katie Dawson supports high-risk, complex patients at Brigham and Women's Advanced Primary Care Associates, South Huntington.

Katie Dawson has walked around Boston with a homeless patient to help her find a place to live. She has visited other patients in their homes and accompanied them to nearly 100 primary care appointments. She has guided many more in applying for food assistance or obtaining a social security card. She is currently connecting one patient with resources to learn how to read.

Katie is the first community health worker at Brigham and Women’s Advanced Primary Care Associates, South Huntington, in Jamaica Plain, a practice designed as a patient-centered medical home. With this model of care, wellness and preventive care are as important as sick care. The goal is to help patients improve their overall health.

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