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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Illness

In Elemental. More on Medium.

‘Illness and disability are not ways to measure the value of a human life’

Close-up of a reflected pill on a reflective surface. Colorful lights background.
Close-up of a reflected pill on a reflective surface. Colorful lights background.
Photo: Aitor Diago/Getty Images

There is a common, problematic way that many of us conceive of “health.” Too often we equate the absence of illness with morality. This leads down many troublesome paths both on a personal and a policy level. It seems we need to be reminded periodically that health is not a moral virtue.


A helpful game plan to get through it

Photo: Roos Koole/Getty Images

On March 18, a couple of weeks before his 40th birthday, Fil Vocasek spiked a fever. He knows the exact date of onset because the single, asthmatic, Manhattan-based graphic designer had started taking his temperature every day as the number of New York Covid-19 cases began ticking upward. “I have a delicate respiratory system to begin with, and I thought chances were good that I’d get it,” he says. “I always get whatever’s going around.”


Most young people infected with the virus will survive, but what’s different in the ones who won’t?

A man waves from a bus in a neighborhood in the Queens borough, which has one of the highest infection rates of coronavirus.
A man waves from a bus in a neighborhood in the Queens borough, which has one of the highest infection rates of coronavirus.
Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The novel coronavirus primarily afflicts the elderly, with people over 65 at a higher risk for severe disease and death: At least that was the message coming out of China and Italy, lulling people who don’t fall into that category into a false sense of complacency. But as the virus has besieged U.S. soil in recent weeks, topping 200,000 cases and over 4,500 deaths as of April 1, more and more stories have emerged of young people in critical condition and, in rare cases, even dying from Covid-19.


One man’s take on why dudes avoid check-ups like the plague

Photo: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

Nine years had passed since I’d had health insurance, though it was at least 15 since my last routine check-up. I didn’t even know how to find my medical records. Because I just turned 40 and got insured through the Affordable Care Act, I decided to finally establish primary care and get blood pressure, cholesterol, and cancer screenings. “While you’re there,” my girlfriend Rebekah advised, “have them check your toe.” I had a bum toe. It hurt but I’d worked around it for two years. …


From paging a doctor to radioing one on the ground, airlines have ways of coping with illness. But none of them are ideal.

A collage illustration of a plane, air sickness bag, a first aid kit, a bandaid, pills, and a flight attendant.
A collage illustration of a plane, air sickness bag, a first aid kit, a bandaid, pills, and a flight attendant.
Illustration: Arabella Simpson

It was a moment straight out of a movie. Cyrus Komer, MD, was flying on Delta Airlines from Boston to Vancouver, Canada, on a ski vacation, when a flight attendant asked a question over the PA system: “Is there a doctor onboard?” Komer, a physician specializing in internal medicine, who had never before been confronted with an in-flight medical situation, hesitated. “I had to think about it,” he says. “I worried about trying to help someone without any of the tools with me that I normally relied on.”


An “invisible illness” that changes everything

Art by Jessica Siao

If you saw me now, you wouldn’t think I was ill. I don’t look ill. I have an “invisible illness” called lupus.


Touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound can improve your well-being in all sorts of surprising ways

Illustration: Tatjana Prenzel

About a quarter of the human brain’s mass is devoted to processing information from the five senses. Given that the brain plays such a central role in health, it’s not surprising that the five senses are closely tied to well-being.


A new way to think about stress and health

Credit: Pixologicstudio/Getty Images

You’ve probably been taught that the human body is like a thermostat: It measures whether something is above or below a certain set point, and if so, will employ some tactic to return it to its set point. For example, if it’s too hot, the body sweats to cool off — too cold, and the body will shiver to warm back up. The theory extends to other physiological features like blood pressure and blood sugar. This process — detecting a change and returning the body to some baseline — is called homeostasis, which comes from the Greek words for “the…


“I came to discover that when you want an answer and you can’t get one, you can bury yourself in the delusion that one exists.”

Illustration: Lucy Sherston

“If you’re going to continue eating gluten, I cannot continue working with you.” The face staring back at me from FaceTime was smooth and dewy, but her eyes were cold. It belonged to a wellness coach I’d paid $300 for a phone session to change my life. She promised me that together we could break my bad habits around food and heal the damage I’d been doing to my gut for years — damage that, according to her, was exacerbating my autoimmune conditions.


The Nuance

More Americans have the disease than ever, but its scope and symptoms remain controversial

Photo by Bernard Weil/Toronto Star/Getty

Every week, the Nuance will go beyond the basics, offering a deep and researched look at the latest science and expert insights on a buzzed-about health topic.

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