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

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A doctor warns about the impact of overprescribing

Photo: Towfiqu barbhuiya / Unsplash

Seven percent of individuals in the United States are prescribed levothyroxine, a synthetic version of the hormone, thyroxine, which is the main chemical produced by the body’s thyroid gland. The supplemental hormone consistently ranks among the top three prescriptions in the U.S. each year. In the past few days working at the hospital, I noted that one-sixth of the patients I saw were taking levothyroxine. This finding wasn’t terribly surprising to me and seemed like a fairly average sampling based on prior experience.

What has been surprising to me, however, is the mounting evidence indicating that most levothyroxine prescriptions, as…


The Nuance

A prominent U.K. psychologist believes we should change the way we talk about depression, anxiety, and other forms of psychological distress

Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

In 2013, the British Psychological Society published a position statement that raised alarms about “the increasing medicalisation” of mental health care.

In particular, the BPS took issue with the language and criteria outlined in the American Psychiatric Association’s newly updated Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — the DSM-5 — which psychiatrists and many other mental-health experts around the world rely on to guide their work.

The BPS called the DSM-5’s classification models “flawed” and unreliable.

It argued that the DSM-5’s current approach to identifying and labeling mental health problems lacks consistency and scientific rigor, over-emphasizes biological factors and…


Will circulating variants of Covid-19 “boost” immunity in vaccinated populations?

As the first group of people to receive Covid-19 vaccines reach the 6 month mark, the natural question in many people’s minds is: how long will this vaccine protect us against the virus? While research shows lasting and powerful protection, there is still concern that that immunity will fade with time. This raises the question of whether boosters are needed to prop up immunity.

With variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus still actively circulating amidst easing restrictions, many vaccinated individuals will likely be exposed to the virus. So the question is, will post-vaccination exposure to Covid-19 serve as a natural booster?


Age Wise

Either we have a natural shelf life, or mortality plateaus and the sky’s the limit

Image: Pixabay/analogicus

If you can just make it to 105, your odds of surviving each subsequent year of life seem to level off at about 50/50. That much scientists largely agree on. Yet one of the oldest arguments in longevity research is whether this statistical curiosity represents an actual “mortality plateau,” which would mean there’s virtually no limit to how long any one of us might be able to hang around, biology be damned.

“Death rates, which increase exponentially up to about age 80, do decelerate thereafter and reach or closely approach a plateau after age 105,” scientists reported in a 2018…


The Nuance

NDEs may be a byproduct of an important survival instinct

Photo: Timon Studler/Unsplash

In 1843, the Scottish explorer and missionary David Livingstone was attacked by a lion.

“I heard a shout . . . and looking half round, I saw the lion just in the act of springing on me,” Livingstone later recalled. The lion clamped its jaws around his shoulder and shook him “as a terrier dog does a rat.”

But then a curious thing happened. The shock of the attack produced what Livingstone described as a sort of dreaminess. “There was no sense of pain nor feeling of terror, though [I was] quite conscious of all that was happening,” he said…


The U.K.’s controversial plan shouldn’t be discarded as stupidity

Photo: Mangopear creative/Unsplash

For the third time since the pandemic began, the U.K. is betting against the rest of the world.

The first time brought catastrophic consequences. The U.K. flirted with the idea of herd immunity and delayed a decision to go into a full lockdown despite the world urging it to, a step that ended up costing the lives of thousands.

The second time was less of a failure. The U.K. was the first western country to start a Covid-19 vaccination campaign. It later decided to take yet another controversial step and was the first to extend the period of time between…


The hard-to-capture research is in: children’s birthdays were linked to higher infection rates in counties that already had more cases

Photo: Sergei Solo/Unsplash

Epidemiologists regularly warned of the risks of small group gatherings, particularly indoors, during the pandemic before vaccines were available. News stories about superspreader family events popped up now and then, and infectious disease experts warned that these small indoor gatherings were a substantial driver of infections.

But the evidence was limited because this phenomenon is an incredibly difficult one to study. It’s hard to know how many gatherings are happening, and people may not be forthcoming about having hosted or attended a gathering when local policies advised against it or outright forbade it.

Recently, a group of researchers figured out…


Even before someone is fully vaccinated against Covid, their likelihood of passing the virus on is far lower

Photo: Steven Cornfield/Unsplash

People not vaccinated against Covid-19 are twice as likely to pass the infection on to others in their household as people who have Covid-19 but have gotten one dose of a vaccine, according to a new study. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine June 23, looked at the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines.

No vaccine can prevent 100% of all infections, so there will always be some “breakthrough cases” in vaccinated people — Covid-19 infections in people who received a Covid vaccine. …


Coping With Death

Changing grief rituals for a post-Covid world

Photo: Raimond Klavins/Unsplash

A procession makes its way along a high ridge in the mountains. Dressed in bright colors, a group of Buddhist mourners beat hand-held drums by turning them side to side in rhythm. The steady plok-plok is accompanied by the ringing of bells and the singing of chants that echo in the thin air of high altitude.

Above them, as if in expectation, soar a host of griffin-vultures. This slow-marching party and its feathered heralds head for a sacred cliff at the roof of the world; for this is Tibet, and this is a sky burial.

For most Westerners, the idea…


Three factors to consider when deciding

Photo: Arturo Rey/Unsplash

In the United States, most adults are now fully vaccinated, and hundreds of thousands more people are getting vaccinated every day. Covid case counts are falling, often dramatically, in communities with high rates of vaccination. The risk-level tracker that our group, Resolve to Save Lives, developed with the New York Times now shows many areas of the country in yellow or green — low or moderate risk of Covid — for the first time since the pandemic started.

People have started traveling again, many businesses, schools, and offices have reopened, and large gatherings are being held. In New York City…

Elemental

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

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