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Dr. Bernardo Fernandez, president, Cleveland Clinic Florida

Last week: Dolphins, your wins mean a lot more than you may think. A recent article by Pierre Chandon in Forbes Magazine brought to light how much we need our sports teams to win ... for our health. The article cites a study by Cornil and Chandon that compared the outcomes from two seasons of National Football League games with the food-consumption habits of people, not just fans in 30 cities. A day after the home team lost, the communities ate a whopping 16 percent more saturated fat, and 10 percent more calories. Conversely, if the home team won, fans ate healthier meals with nine percent less saturated fat, and five percent fewer calories. In cities without a professional sports team, no effect was noted. We need our team to win. Come on Dolphins, make us healthy!

Sept. 1

Looking ahead: Choosing the right health plan is probably the most important decision that we can make for ourselves and our family. Unfortunately many of us do not take the time to understand what's covered, what’s not, and our individual responsibilities such as co-payments, co-insurance or deductibles. As the Health Insurance Exchanges go live in 40 days, it is important to begin to gather information that will help you make the right plan decision. Keep in mind your age, past medical history and anticipated healthcare needs. Begin by visiting the online resources available now by visiting healthcare.gov.

June 23

Last week: We are what we eat. A University of Washington study monitored the blood sugar levels of non-diabetic patients for seven years. They found patients who did not have diabetes at the beginning of the study — but had higher blood sugar levels at the end of the study — had an 18 percent greater risk of developing dementia than those with lower blood sugar levels. They also found that patients who had higher blood sugar levels at the beginning of the study were 40 percent more likely to develop dementia. Another study published in Diabetes Care demonstrated that a Mediterranean Diet rich in olive oil reduced blood sugar and lipid levels in patients with a genetic predisposition toward diabetes and lowered their risk of stroke. Let’s not forget the benefits of exercise. Now please pass the olive oil and the red wine, in moderation, of course.

June 30

Last week: A commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine this week read “Residency shortage leaves docs with no place to train.” Medical classes are projected to reach 21,000 students by 2017 and there will not be enough residency slots to accommodate graduates. Compounding the issue is that graduate medical education positions haven’t grown because Congress capped the funding for advanced medical training in 1997. As we all know, the Affordable Care Act will bring millions into the healthcare system. We must look for alternative ways of delivering high quality healthcare to meet their needs. Utilizing nurse practitioners and physician assistants are two ways we can do this. Otherwise the healthcare crisis we’re now experiencing will grow from to a tidal wave into a tsunami in the very near future.  

July 23

Last week’s headline: The story of the week was last week’s Supreme Court’s ruling that human genes isolated from the body cannot be patented, but genes modified outside the body can be patented. This story has far-reaching implications for patients and consumers. Myriad Genetics had long held patents for BRCA genes. Mutations in these genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, have been associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Myriad’s patents allowed them to dictate the cost of genetic testing and prohibit other laboratories from entering the market and offering the test at a lower cost. I applaud the Supreme Court’s ruling, which opens the door for improved access for breast, ovarian and various other types of cancer screenings in the future. Competition among laboratories will lower cost and make genetic testing accessible to all consumers. Screenings, coupled with genetic counseling, will allow many more patients to make medical decisions that are right specifically for them and outline strategies for earlier detection or preventative treatment.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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