All posts filed under: Health

A Contrarian View of Digital Health

“The pursuit of health is a symptom of unhealth.” —Petr Skrabanek Picture Jim from Kentucky. A farmer, tall, Peterbilt hat. Just retired. He takes basic meds for high blood pressure and diabetes. Arthritis slows him but he has no cardiac symptoms. He plays cards, goes fishing and hangs out with his grandkids. Jim’s family bought him a smart watch, so he could improve his health. The watch kept telling him that his heart rate was low. Jim called his family doctor, who arranged an urgent cardiology visit. Jim’s electrocardiogram showed occasional premature ventricular contractions (PVCs). His cardiologist worried because PVCs can indicate trouble. Jim tried to reassure his doctor, saying, “I feel well.” The cardiologist insisted on further testing. One of the scans—known for its propensity for false-positives—showed an abnormality. So Jim, the asymptomatic happy man who met the cardiologist because of a smart watch, had a near-normal coronary angiogram—a test that requires placing a catheter in the heart. Soon after the procedure, Jim stopped talking, his face drooped and he could not move the …

How I Lost My Partner to a Parasite

I have given only the first rough outlines of a province of a great terra incognita, which lies unexplored before us, and the exploration of which promises a return such as we can at present scarcely appreciate. ~Johann Steenstrup, Danish zoologist, on parasites (circa 1854) This monster isn’t David. It’s a parasite of some kind. You see, another consciousness inside him. This thing burrowed into David’s brain … and has been there, feeding off him ever since. ~Loudermilk, FX Legion. Some lose a lover to a younger woman or an irreversible illness. I lost my partner to a parasite named Edwin. Imagine watching someone you love slowly die—except they’re still alive, still walking around, and still functioning. This is what it must feel like losing them to some kind of cult. Except that intervention and deprogramming can revert them back into the person you knew. And, although reversing a parasite invasion is possible, my now-ex ultimately didn’t care to do so. I often find it hard to believe myself, which is when I have become …

On the Eve of the Great Psychedelic Debate

Trippy “Medicine” Listening to some of the opponents of medical marijuana over the last few years, one could be forgiven for thinking that they have never heard of a psychoactive substance being used in medicine before. These people might be surprised to learn that in England the doctor can send you home with a prescription for pain called diamorphine, a fancy word for heroin. They might be equally surprised to learn that the anti-obesity prescription Desoxyn is nothing more than methamphetamine in a pill, or that the popular ADHD medication Adderall is very similar to methamphetamine chemically and physiologically. If you’ve had throat, dental or nose surgery there’s a chance the anesthetist used cocaine to numb your senses as it restricts the flow of blood more than any other local anesthetic (the cocaine alkaloid is extracted from coca leaves for medical use and the leftover de-cocainized extract sent to Coca Cola for flavoring). You won’t hear it put this way. No doctor says to the cancer patient, “I suggest you use smack from here on …

Women Needed a Magazine that Doesn’t Lie to Them. So I Started One

 As founder and editor-in-chief of a new web site aimed at women, I often get asked: Why do we need yet another publication in this already crowded media niche? It’s simple: Until now, all of the major players have had one common characteristic. Can you guess what it is? When Bryan Goldberg announced in a blog post that he had raised $6.5 million to start Bustle.com, a site for women, many competitors weren’t happy. “Isn’t it time for a women’s publication that puts world news and politics alongside beauty tips?” Goldberg wrote. A Jezebel writer, Hazel Cills, responded that such sites already exist. And she was right—perhaps more so than Cills knew: All the publications mentioned in her Jezebel article—The Hairpin, The Toast, Bust, Bitch, xoJane, Autostraddle, Refinery29, AfterEllen and Jezebel itself—push a liberal, feminist message. The same is true of older outlets such as Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour and Allure. Go ahead and find me a single successful, mainstream women’s lifestyle-and-culture publication that doesn’t regularly exhibit a bias against conservative points of view. There’s been …

Glimpsing Our Own Health Secrets: The Coming Revolution in Health-Care Transparency

It was a random flip through an old family binder that changed the course of Selina Brudnicki’s career. Brudnicki’s late mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer eight years earlier. A few months after her mastectomy, she complained to her doctors of new pain—a symptom that Brudnicki, a Program Lead of Digital Patient Experience based in Toronto, had assumed was being properly investigated. Brudnicki’s mother passed away of metastatic breast cancer shortly thereafter. It was in 2015, three years after her mother’s death, that Brudnicki came across that binder, which was tucked away with her mother’s belongings. There were medical test results, pathology and imaging reports, and a few oncologist notes. She also found a note her mother had written herself, commenting on a doctor’s report. It read: “[The doctor’s] report does not seem correct.  I always mention ‘pain’ not discomfort. I kept complaining about a new pain.” “While there are never guarantees, I always wonder: If [my mother] had access to her complete medical records and notes, would she have realized [sooner] that she …

The Uncharted Territories of Medically Transitioning Children

In medieval times, maps warned adventurers away from unexplored territories with drawings of mythological beasts and a warning that read, “Here be dragons.” Are we venturing into dragon territory with the transitional therapies increasingly made available to transgender youth? 12-16-18 Twelve-sixteen-eighteen isn’t a date, it’s a program developed in Holland for treating children experiencing gender dysphoria, the condition of feeling there is a mismatch between one’s experienced gender and one’s biological sex. When Dr Norman Spack, pediatric endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, learned of the approach, he decided, “I’m going to do this.” And he did. In 2007, Dr Spack co-founded the hospital’s Gender Management Service (GeMS), the first clinic in North America devoted to treating transgender children. There, he implemented the 12-16-18 program, which has since been adopted by clinics nationwide. (Dr. Spack did not respond to an interview request.) Hormones are the tools of the endocrinologist’s trade, which is why, in 1985, a transgender Harvard graduate sought Dr. Spack’s assistance. The patient, born female, had lived as a male named “Mark” throughout his …

In Defense of Male Stoicism

I dealt with the most stereotypically feminine of mental illnesses in the most stereotypically masculine way. After acknowledging that I was anorexic, and deciding that I had no wish to be, I put my head down and tried to recover with the minimum of fuss. I told almost nobody about my condition, and almost never discussed it with the people I had told. I had two sessions with a therapist—almost missing the first after getting myself lost and terrifying pedestrians by running up to them, wild-eyed, to ask for directions to the mental health center—and then abandoned them out of embarrassment and reticence. I did not want to talk, and I did not cry, and I had no wish to hold anyone’s hand or be hugged. As a means of recovery, I would not recommend this. I was fortunate enough to have a family who supported me as I recovered, and someone less privileged would need additional support. Had I been more open to professional help, meanwhile, I might have made a quicker and more comprehensive recovery, …

A Surfeit of Empathy and an Absence of Compassion

As a parent of an ROGD teen, it has been so disheartening to see so few mainstream sources publishing balanced views on this topic. We have glowing “protransition” pieces in the left-wing press, and (often) angry, and even anti-trans pieces in the right-wing or religious press. These articles are just what we need to open up a more balance, less hate filled dialogue. More, please.  ~comment from parent, Psychology Today. I am an anthropologist and professor of Psychiatry at McGill University. I have published and been mentioned in the media widely on the study of cultural evolution, social media addiction, new internet subcultures, social dimensions of cognition and mental health, and the impact of recent cultural shifts in gender norms on the wellbeing of young people. As an essayist and popular science commentator, I have written extensively on the evolutionary basis of contemporary issues, from tribalism in politics to cultural paranoia in the wake of #MeToo and nocebo effects in the medicalization of everyday problems. So far, I’ve managed to avoid scandal and outrage almost entirely by …

Anthony Bourdain vs. the Tyranny of Wellness

In Kitchen Confidential Anthony Bourdain wrote: “Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” Bourdain encouraged us to travel to far-flung regions to experience other cultures through the communal act of eating. In Bourdain’s philosophy, food brings strangers together, so eating unfamiliar foods is a way to embrace other peoples and cultures and to welcome the unknown. Food—like life—is adventure and risk. Eating with others is choosing to live while we can. Bourdain was at the height of popularity in an age defined by the sometimes perverse pursuit of health and longevity. Modern diet and health culture has become exactly what Roland Barthes predicted in a 1980 Playboy piece: its own religion and mythology. For perhaps the first time in history, fasting is more readily associated with the concept of “intermittent fasting” (which promotes autophagy, or cellular cleansing to increase lifespan) than with the idea of prayer. Put another way: we fast to cleanse our cells, not our souls.  Bourdain, on the other hand, represented a refreshing escape from the religiosity of the wellness movement, and …

Exterminate Mosquitoes for the Sake of Humanity

A Plea to President Trump:  Save Millions of People by Exterminating Some Annoying Bugs A hundred species of beetles will go extinct unless we eliminate 830,000 people each year to protect the insects’ habitat.  Tiny poison-filled drones can do the killing.  The drones’ automation will free us from any moral burden arising from their actions.  Fortunately, since the threatened beetles live in impoverished areas, most of the dead will be poor people in poor countries whose demise will attract little media attention.  Yes, all human life is in theory precious but to preserve a few species of insects on our sacred mother earth shouldn’t we be willing to sacrifice a mere 0.01 percent of us each year? Okay, I made up the parts about the beetles and drones, but mankind really does face a similarly weighted tradeoff between insects and humans.  Mosquitoes kill around 830,000 people each year mostly by spreading malaria in underdeveloped nations.  Mosquitoes sicken and cause lifelong debilitation in many who don’t die.  By decimating human capital, mosquitoes do much to keep …