Thursday, December 31, 2015

Memorial Sloan Kettering Masterminds the Future of Patient-Focused Care

NYC's Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center will open its outpatient surgery center in January.
Nobody likes going to the hospital—especially when it’s for something big and scary, like cancer. Sanitary white walls, humming machinery, woozy patients and worried family members—no thanks! But one hospital is aiming to make your visit quicker, friendlier, and more comfortable even if you’re suffering from a serious illness.

The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan’s Upper East Side will open its $200 million new outpatient surgery center this January. With the latest technology, room for future innovations, and a gorgeous design by Perkins Eastman and ICRAVE, the Josie Robertson Surgery Center will completely redefine what it means to go to the hospital.

Thanks to an active board including Bill E Ford (General Atlantic), James Robinson (RRE Ventures LLC), and Charles Sawyers (The Column Group LLC), the new Surgery Center will not only look great; it will comfort both patients and their families, as well as making use of the cutting edge of healthcare technology (think robots in surgery and iPads available for patient use!).

One big technological win is that patients will receive plastic tracking badges as soon as they arrive. These badges will collect data about how much the patients can move around after surgery and how well they’re recovering. That’s good not just for the patient and their doctor, but also for useful insight into future patient needs.

As for patients’ families, they’ll have plenty of support as well, including mobile device charging stations and an Xbox nook for fitness activities in the waiting room. The building design, inspired by hotel lobbies and co-working spaces, will put them at ease during a stressful time.

And we’re talking serious surgery here—say, a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction—performed with state-of-the-art equipment and in a healthy, soothing environment that gets patients in and out within a day.

JRSC exists partly because Memorial Sloan Kettering’s main campus is running out of room. But it’s also meant to be a place where medical staff can innovate and really serve their patients face-to-face and in a personal way.

“There’s nothing else like this that I’ve ever heard of,” said Brett Simon, and anesthesiologist and the JRSC’s director. He also pointed out his team’s dedication to meaningful patient interaction and support: “While it might not be that hard, medically, to get someone out the door, having them emotionally and spiritually happy and feeling supported is really a big deal.”

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Why Sweet Potatoes Are Awesome

Image: Shutterstock
With the holidays coming up, there are going to be lots of recipes to test out. While I advocate for indulging and enjoying food with friends and family, I also want to shine a spotlight on one of nature’s hardiest and most healthful creations: the sweet potato! This tasty tuber offers a lot of health benefits and is home to plenty of nutrients. It’s not pretty to look at, but the sweet potato is a healthy and delicious alternative to the ordinary russet!

They provide the good kind of carbs.
Some carbohydrates are actually good for you because your body has to work to process them. Sweet potatoes’ carbs are lower on the glycemic index so they don’t spike your blood sugar as much as regular potatoes, meaning no sugar crashes and better control for people with diabetes.

They’re high in potassium.
We need more potassium in our lives, guys. It helps the body regulate itself by promoting healthy digestion, nourishes nerves, and gives muscles the strength they need. Additionally, potassium can help offset some of the harm sodium, that ever-prevalent ingredient, does to blood pressure. “A high potassium intake is associated with a 20 percent decreased risk of dying from all causes!” says Mother Nature Network.

Sweet potatoes can fight some kinds of cancer.
Sweet potatoes, which are very high in beta carotene, can help ward off prostate and colon cancers. They contain a fat-soluble pigment the body converts into vitamin A, which can prevent the development of these cancers. Vitamin A can also help keep eyes healthy and prevent deterioration of vision.

They promote bone health.
Because sweet potatoes are also high in manganese, they help keep bones healthy and dense. Getting more manganese in a diet is especially healthy for women, as boosting daily intake can lessen the effects of PMS so that women suffer fewer cramps, mood swings, and discomfort.

Sweet potatoes have a lot of other benefits, too, but one of their most lively is the ways they’re cooked! Try this recipe for classic mashed sweet potatoes, easy maple-baked wedges, or a sweet potato and apple soup. Yum!

Monday, November 23, 2015

More Coffee Could Mean a Longer Life

Coffee is warm, delicious, and perfectly healthy to enjoy.

Happy Monday! Good news for coffee drinkers: the most recent studies suggest that drinking coffee can actually reduce the risk of premature death. Researchers collected data from 200,000 women and 50,000 men about their diets and coffee consumption, and the statistics suggest that people who drank less than three cups of coffee per day had between a 5% and 9% lower risk of dying prematurely than those who drank no coffee.

One to three cups reduced risk by 8% and three to five cups saw a 15% decrease in risk of death. Drinking coffee was linked to reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, neurological disease, and even suicide—but only for people who also did not smoke.  When they began the study, researchers didn’t see an apparent connection between drinking coffee and dying prematurely. But when they only looked at participants who said that they did not smoke, that relationship became clearer, and the percentage of early-death risk was significantly lower.

Ming Ding, a doctoral student at Harvard who worked on the study, suggested that the “lower risk of mortality is consistent with our hypothesis that coffee consumption could be good for you because we have published papers showing that coffee consumption is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.” Of course, this study likely studied coffee that was either black or taken with milk—sorry, those delicious, seasonal Starbucks lattes still aren’t good for you!

The study does point to an interesting correlation, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other factors to consider. It’s possible that people who drink more coffee lead healthy lives in other areas—more exercise, less soda, even though coffee drinkers are more likely to drink alcohol and eat red meat. But coffee’s ingredients could be helping, too: chemicals like lignans and chlorogenic acid can help reduce inflammation and control blood sugar.

So for now, it seems like drinking coffee is a good thing for your health—cheers to that!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Foods for Bone Health Change with Age

Healthy bones are good bones!
You probably already knew that eating well, and chowing down on calcium, are not only good for bones, they’re necessary for aging comfortably. But did you know that your bones actually have different needs as you get older? A new scientific review published in the medical journal Osteoporosis International suggests that a change in diet as you age may be the best way to keep your bones strong and healthy.

The review suggests that as we get older, we need to focus on getting more and more protein, vitamin D, and calcium into our diets through the food we eat. And keeping our bones healthy doesn’t just affect us, it affects our children before they’re even born. The better the bone health of the mother, the better the bone health of her baby will be!

Most adults don’t get the amount of calcium recommended to them by national guidelines. Conditions for your bones are made worse by excessive drinking, smoking, or being very under- or overweight. So make sure you’re getting the right amount of good nutrients (dark leafy greens, cheese, tofu, and oatmeal are good sources of calcium) to prevent bone loss or the onset of osteoporosis. Calcium supplements can help, too, but if you find they upset your stomach, take them at mealtime.

As you get older, you will need to consume more things like those listed above. We want to prevent bone loss and promote good health early rather than have to work hard to try and slow the onset of problems. The review proposes dietary changes depending on where you are in life: for young people, diet should promote peak bone mass as good as it can be; for adults, the goal is to avoid premature bone loss to maintain a healthy skeleton; and for the elderly, the review outlines prevention and treatment for osteoporosis.

Now, go eat some cheese!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Dan Loeb Increases Support of Healthcare Sector

Baxter International website - saving and sustaining lives
Dan Loeb's Third Point has increased its investment in Baxter.
Dan Loeb’s Third Point has announced an increase in its investment in Baxter International Inc., a medical equipment and supplies company. Though Baxter’s stock has dropped 15.48% over the past year, Loeb’s Third Point now ones an additional 11.97 million shares at an average price of $32.69—so obviously Loeb sees the company is going somewhere. In fact, just the announcement of Loeb’s increased involvement with Baxter sent the stock price on a rise to the tune of 1.3%. That’s likely a good sign for the consumer.

Dan Loeb is somebody who knows a good deal when he sees one. Known for aggressively restructuring the companies that come under his influence, Third Point’s investment in Baxter is a good sign that it’s about to rise farther in stock price and in the marketplace.

Baxter’s homepage touts the company as one that is “saving and sustaining lives” around the world. Inspiring stories like that of Yin Le, who was forced to leave school after she was diagnosed with end stage renal disease (ESRD) as a fifth grader. But through peritoneal dialysis (PD) therapy, she was able to treat the disease – and get back to life as a kid. Baxter provided the equipment that allowed Yin to treat her disease from home and continue living her life.

“I was so excited that I was finally able to have lunch at school,” she said. “I surprised my friends when I showed up in the cafeteria for the first time, and in that moment, I was filled with happiness.”

It’s a good sign that big companies such as Third Point are working hard to promote health care services—naturally, the more funding the sector gets, the more likely people are to receive the services and goods they need to stay happy and healthy.

And now that Third Point owns a total of 53.85 million of Baxter’s shares, the board of the company has plans to expand to 12 directors. Additionally, Third Point partner Munib Islam has been appointed to Baxter’s board of directors. He believes that Baxter now has the chance to focus on improving profit margins as well as increasing its market share.

Loeb, expert investor that he is, operates under a fairly simple business philosophy: he believes in having “talented management teams, strong and growing free cash flows, and a proven track record of smart capital allocation that drives significant increases of intrinsic value per share,” a philosophy he will no doubt bring to Baxter.

Third Point has had an active hand in the health care sector lately. The health sector now comprises 12% of the company’s equity portfolio. Now, if more companies who could afford to do so actually invested in healthcare, the stronger the sector—and all of us—would be.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Demi Lovato Talks Mental Illness

Mother and duaghter pose for a photo
Andrew Solomon says people feel that mental illness in a child "reflects
their failure as parents" - which is simply not true.
Mental illness isn’t really something we like to talk about. No one wants to hear about depression, anxiety, schizophrenia--they just aren’t pretty topics. But that doesn’t mean we can simply not address them; in fact, one of the problems facing mental illness today is that we don’t talk about it, and so the surrounding stigma never dissipates. The good news is that more and more people seem to be willing to join the conversation, and even celebrities, who hold a lot of social influence, are opening up about their experiences.

Pop star Demi Lovato isn’t shy about her struggles with mental illness. As the current voice for a mental wellness campaign called Be Local, Lovato encourages people to discuss mental illness frankly and honestly. "I think the taboo around mental illness will get to a better place because the conversation is becoming more common, even in the media," she says. The more we open ourselves up to the presence and problem of mental illnesses, the more likely people are to get the help they need.

But there is work to do yet. According to a Ted Talk by journalist Andrew Solomon, “people still think that it’s shameful if they have a mental illness. They think it shows personal weakness. They think it shows a failing. If it’s their children who have mental illness, they think it reflects their failure as parents.” Of course, simply none of this is actually true. One in four people suffers from some kind of mental disorder, mild to severe. But given such a rate that high, there is no reason for anybody dealing with a disorder to feel like they are alone in it.

Lovato speaks out because she says that it helps her. By giving voice to her feelings, they lose some of their power, and she hopes that speaking similarly will help other people, too. She believes that opening dialogue about mental illness is the best way to deal with it, but she doesn’t want people to think that they can only be happy if they overcome their mental illnesses: she wants them to know that they can live a full and happy life in spite of one.

The singer advocates for getting help and getting educated. So if you are struggling or you just want to help, maybe now is the time to join the discussion.