11/11/2016 This Week's Top Health Articles

By Eva Martin, MD of Elm Tree Medical, Inc.

No matter how we spent this past week, we can all agree on one thing: sometimes a hug is all we need to feel better. By far the favorite health article of the week is applicable for men and women: hugs were associated with 32% decreased risk of getting a cold. Other popular article topics for the week included: birth control for men, the cost of healthcare in America, preterm labor & multiples, and the TOLAC calculator.

1. Hugs and Your Health

While struggling to overcome a cough of my own, I was particularly delighted to read a Better Homes & Gardens article on the best ways to avoid and overcome a cold. My top-rated medical articles don't usually come from BHG, but the following stat garnered lots of love: people were 32% less likely to catch a cold if they gave and received hugs. You can find the original (scientific) study here.

2. Birth Control for Men

Have you ever wondered why most birth control options are for women only? A new study enrolled men to trial a hormonal birth control shot, with mechanism of action similar to that of female hormonal contraception (except for male hormones, physiology, etc). The investigators terminated the trial early due to side effects in a small portion of participants: depression, mood changes, and increased libido. I found this particularly interesting given that the drug showed 96% efficacy and 75% of participants reported that they would want to stay on the drug. 3% of men in the study reported depressive symptoms; up to 30% of women on hormonal birth control experience depression. The termination of this trial left me wondering, why are the thresholds so different for men and women?

3. US Cost of Care

With all the talk about the future of healthcare in the US, it's especially interesting to hear that the cost of healthcare in the United States currently is double that of peer nations, clocking in at about $9,000 per person. One approach to curbing this cost, while bettering our health outcomes, is taking advantage of all we've learned in the global health arena and applying those lessons at home.

4. Preterm Birth and Multiples

Preventing preterm birth is one of the greatest challenges facing obstetrics. As such, it's of the utmost importance to identify and develop preventatives for at-risk populations. One of the highest-risk populations are multiples (twins, triplets, and beyond). Multiples have a 6 times increased risk of preterm birth, and multiples account for 20% of all preterm births. Unfortunately, interventions that have reduced the risk of preterm birth in other populations have not shown efficacy for multiples.

5. TOLAC Calculator

This is an oldie but a goodie. This calculator is a popular way to estimate a woman's chance of turning a TOLAC into a successful VBAC. Factors that go into the calculation include age, height & weight (to calculate BMI), African-American race, Hispanic ethnicity, history of a previous vaginal delivery, history of a vaginal delivery since the cesarean delivery, and whether the prior cesarean was performed for the indication of arrest of dilation or descent (arrested labor). After admission to the Labor and Delivery unit, additional information in a second calculator (like dilation and gestational age) can increase the reliability of the estimate.

I hope you enjoy the above articles, and as always, I love to hear your comments below! Thank you for reading!