Geriatrician, Hospitalist, Patient Advocate, Healthcare Educator

Practice Safety During the Solar Eclipse

Photo by Jongsun Lee

The Great North American Solar Eclipse is coming on Monday, April 8, 2024. While there is much excitement and planning taking place with some people even traveling to areas of totality to experience this event, it is first and foremost important to practice safety. Keep in mind that looking at this total solar eclipse, untraviolet and infrared solar rays can cause direct serious, permanent eye damage to the retina. Some of the vision changes that can occur are blurry vision, headache, a blind spot in the central vision, sensitivity to light, changes in color perception, and distorted vision.

Here are some safety tips:

  • Safest way is to avoid looking at the sun directly and instead viewing it indirectly, either through a pinhole projector, colander, or on a television or computer screen
  • If you do plan to watch the solar eclipse directly, use specially designed eclipse glasses. Eclipse glasses must comply with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 12312-2 standard. They screen out 99.99 percent of the light, about a thousand times the blockage of standard sunglasses. Do not use damaged eclipse glasses with scratches or tears.
  • Find a safe place to watch the eclipse
  • Have headlights on while driving during the eclipse and beware of vehicles that may be pulled over on the side of the road to watch
  • NASA advices against looking at the sun through regular sunglasses, camera lens, telescope, or binoculars with eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewers as the concentrated solar rays will burn through the filter and cause serious eye injury
  • Remember to protect your skin-wear sunscreen, protective clothing/hats

AI Healthcare Agents

NVIDIA is partnering up with the healthcare startup Hippocratic AI to develop AI-powered “agents” for the healthcare arena. These AI nurses are intended to provide basic medical advice for $9 per hour which is less than the average pay of about $40 per hour for a “human” nurse. Everyone is different with unique healthcare needs so I cannort see this replacing nurses but may be a back up or extra layer for simple things like providing education to patients. As the healthcare worker shortage continues to loom, it will be interesting to see what the future holds and what role these AI healthcare agents take on.

Take Care of Your Kidneys

Photo by julien Tromeur

Kidney disease affects about 10% of the global population and about 1 in 7 Americans. In addition, 1 out of 3 US adults are at risk for kidney disease. As the early stages of chronic kidney disease are aysmptomatic, most people don’t even know that they have it. March is National Kidney Month so a good time to talk about these 2 fist-sized bean-shaped organs.

What do kidneys do?

  • Filters wastes and toxins from the blood
  • Regulates fluid levels in the body
  • Activates Vitamin D which is needed for healthy bone
  • Helps in production of red blood cells
  • Keeps minerals in balance
  • Regulates blood pressure

Who is at risk for kidney disease

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • Family history of kidney disease
  • Age >65 years

Work on a kidney healthy lifestyle

  • Eat healthy foods
  • Drink plenty of water-about 48-64 oz a day, this will also help to prevent kidney stones
  • Aim to stay active for about 30 minutes a day
  • Get some good quality sleep-about 7-8 hours/night
  • Get your risk factors in control-quit smoking, take your medications, and work with your doctor to get chronic diseases controlled

Pig Kidney Transplant

The kidneys are the most transplanted organ in the US and about 92,000 people are on the wait list awaiting a kidney transplant. Many others are on dialysis which affects their everyday quality of life. Today markes a day of promise for the future.

Walking 15,000 Steps a Week Can Add Up to 3 Years to Your Life

Per Kate Pickles in “Walking just 15,000 steps a week could add three years to your life, claims study”.

“Getting inactive people to walk just 5,000 steps three times a week could save the NHS £15billion, new research suggests.

Replacing lazy lifestyles with moderate levels of activity would make a significant difference to the nation’s overall health, a study found.

Research conducted by insurers Vitality and the London School of Economic suggests adopting habitual exercise can also add up to three years to life expectancy.

Major positive impacts were seen at all age groups, but it was particularly true for older generations.

There was a 52 per cent reduction in mortality risk for over-65s who regularly undertook 7,500 steps three or more times a week, they found.

Sustaining a healthy physical activity habit — at least 5,000 steps three times per week for two years — can add between 2.5 years for men, and 3 years for women to life expectancy, they found

It also led to lower rates of type 2 diabetes and reduced the death risk in those who already had it by 40 per cent.“

The gist of it……get walking!

Blood Test for Colorectal Cancer Screening

Per Allison Aubrey in NPR “A simple blood test can detect colorectal cancer early, study finds”.

“At a time when colorectal cancer is on the rise, a new study finds the disease can be detected through a blood test.

The results of a clinical trial, published Wednesday, in The New England Journal of Medicine, show that the blood-based screening test detects 83% of people with colorectal cancer. If the FDA approves it, the blood test would be another screening tool to detect the cancer at an early stage.

The test, developed by Guardant Health, can be done from a blood draw. The company says its test detects cancer signals in the bloodstream by identifying circulating tumor DNA. “

This study showed the blood test is less effective in detecting the earliest signs of colorectal cancer and only found 13% percent of earlier stage polyps. It would be nice if it could pick up on earlier stages but the test works by detecting tumor DNA making it harder to detect precancerous polyps. Regardless, this would be a much more easier test to get than what we have available. Although the gold standard for screening is colonoscopy, this blood test, if gets FDA approval, may provide an alternative to colonoscopy and stool testing in some individuals.

Navigating Daylight Savings Time


Daylight saving time is the practice of setting clocks forward one hour in the spring to make better use of natural daylight during the summer months…and then the time is set back one hour in the fall. Daylight saving time begins on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November.

Losing that one hour of sleep can have consequences:

  • The risk of heart attack increases in the first 3 weekdays after switching to daylight savings in the spring according to a Swedish study. The American Heart Association also points to studies that suggest an increase in heart attacks on the Monday after daylight saving time begins and in strokes for two days afterward.
  • Increase in traffic accidents on the Monday following start of daylight savings
  • Increase in workplace injuries on the Monday following the start of daylight savings

Tips to prevent negative consequences:

  • Try to head to sleep earlier around 2 days before dayight savings kicks in. This will make it easier to get up Monday morning and prevent feeling tired.
  • Move up daily routines such as dinner time or work-out/excercise time a few days before
  • Get your morning sunshine-this will help jump start alertness and help in adjusting your body’s internal clock
  • Eat a healthy breakfast to tell your body it’s time to start the day
  • Do not use caffeine to compensate for feeling tired

See Your Life Better

Per Tali Sharot and Cass R. Sunstein in Time “Your Life Is Better Than You Think”.

“The undeniable popularity of self-help books, wellness podcasts, and happiness workshops reflects the constant human desire to make life better. But could it be that many of our lives are already better than we recognize?

While we may have a loving family, a good place to live, and a decent job, we often fail to notice those things. It’s not because we are ungrateful or stupid. It’s because of a basic feature of our brain, known as habituation.

Habituation is the tendency of neurons to fire less and less in response to things that are constant. You enter a room filled with roses and after a short while, you cannot detect their scent any longer. And just as you get used to the smell of fresh flowers, you also get used to a loving relationship, to a promotion, to a nice home, to a dazzling work of art.

Like the front page of a daily newspaper, your brain cares about what recently changed, not about what remained the same. And so, what once took your breath away becomes part of life’s furniture. You habituate to it—you fail to notice and respond to elements of your life which you previously found enchanting.

….A delicate balance must be struck here. On the one hand, without habituation (and dare we say some boredom, restlessness, and greed), we might have remained mere cave dwellers. But on the other hand, habituation can lead us to be unsatisfied, bored, restless, and greedy. Perhaps then, rather than focusing completely on how to better our life we need to also learn how to see our life better—to notice the great things we have habituated to a little bit more. “

This is a great reminder that “Your life is better than you think”. Although it is good to strive to be better, it is also important to take note of your everyday “routine life” and be appreciative of things you take for granted….be it your family, a home, a career, an amazing view, etc.

Cherries Have Health Benefits

Photo by Quaritsch Photography

February is National Cherry Month as well as Heart Month making it a good time to showcase this rounded slightly heart shaped tiny fruit and the many health benefits it offers.

Nutrient facts of 1 cup or about 20 cherries on an average:

  • Calories-90
  • Protein-1.5 grams
  • Fiber-3 grams
  • Carbohydrates-22 grams
  • Sugar-17 grams
  • Sodium-0 mg
  • Cholesterol-0 mg
  • Vitamin C -9.7 mg
  • Potassium-300 mg
  • Calcium-17.9 mg
  • Magnesium-15.2 mg
  • Copper-0.08 mg

Benefits of cherries:

  • Heart healthy as it contains potassium and polyphenol antioxidants which help reduce blood pressure, protect against cellular damage, reduce inflammation, and reduce risk of heart disease
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Helps reduce cholesterol
  • Reduces inflammation(which helps in arthritis)
  • Rich in antioxidants(anthocyanins which imparts deep red color of cherries, polyphenols, beta-carotene, vitamin C) so reduces oxidative stress
  • Improves blood sugar as has a low glycemic index
  • Improves quality of sleep due to anti-inflammatory compounds, melatonin which regulates sleep-wake cycle, and serotonin which makes melatonin
  • Reduces exercise-induced muscle soreness due to anti-inflammatory effect and helps in recovery

Cherries are versatile and can be used as an addition to a nutritious diet. You can eat them as a snack, in a smoothie, add them to your salad, yogurt, or oatmeal, or enjoy in a savory dessert.

Prioritizing Work-life Balance

Per Lauren Edmonds in Business Insider “American hustle culture is dying. Millennials are willing to take a 20% pay cut for a better work-life balance.”.

“American millennials are over hustle culture.

Ford’s 2024 trends survey, which conducted 16,086 online interviews in 16 countries, found that millennials in the United States were ready to step back from their desks.

About 60% of surveyed American millennials said they would take a 20% pay cut “to achieve a lifestyle that prioritizes my quality of life,” which is 5% more than the global average.

US millennials were the most willing among their generational cohorts. Just 33% of Baby Boomers were willing to take that salary cut, while 43% of Gen X and 56% of Gen Z agreed."

This survey shows that US millennials have gotten something right. The United States is the most overworked developed nation and we need to start looking at achieving a better work-life balance.