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

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My first experience with overseas treatment was A+

Photo: Michael Browning/Unsplash

I love my dentist. He’s a family friend, and a visit to his office on Staten Island, where I am from, is an easy and pleasant experience. I’m not one of those people who hates the drilling and the poking and the scraping. It’s not my favorite activity in the world, but a dental cleaning is just one of those things you’ve got to do, like paying your taxes or replacing the odd broken pipe — not always fun, but always necessary. Or else. In matters of the mouth, dare you not and you’ll risk an unpleasant smile, halitosis, and…


Pandemic Reflections

After we settle into a new normal, we shouldn’t forget the lessons of the past year

Photo: John M Lund Photography Inc/Getty Images

As I look back on the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, I can’t help but wonder why many of us weren’t more unsettled at the start of it all.

In early January 2020, my editor messaged me about the reports of a mysterious pneumonia-like illness out of Wuhan, China. As a science journalist, I’m careful to avoid hype in my writing. I wondered if I’d do more harm than good reporting on the outbreak. But my editor had been a foreign correspondent for TIME magazine in China when SARS was first identified in late 2002. He had reason to be…


Why he’s optimistic about the future of the pandemic

A woman receives a Covid-19 vaccination as part of a vaccine trial on August 13, 2020. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

This article is adapted from a new live-event series called Medium in Conversation. Andy Slavitt is a former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Barack Obama, host of the pandemic podcast In the Bubble, and author of the forthcoming book Preventable — a behind-the-scenes look at the U.S. coronavirus crisis and response. Sarah Collins is the editor-in-chief of Elemental. Slavitt and Collins spoke in front of a Zoom audience on December 8 about incoming Covid-19 vaccines and what people can expect in the coming weeks and beyond.

Elemental: Since day one of the pandemic, [you…


The Election & Your Health

A look at what’s at stake for America’s gaping health disparities

Illustration: Olivia Fields

As the country careens towards a presidential election in the midst of a raging pandemic, the dueling headlines on public health and politics are a stark indication that, no matter who wins in November, this election will have profound, far-reaching consequences for your physical health and well-being. All this week, Elemental is running a series of stories detailing what’s at stake, from insurance coverage to plans for a pandemic still in progress. Here’s what you should know about the implications of the election on health for people of color and the LGBTQ+ community.

Social determinants of health — including education…


Let’s be careful about how we define ‘progress’

Eat for your health and the next generation. Illustration courtesy of the author

This is a story of another time, of a plausible future 30 years from now, give or take, in which the human experience of life and health (and perhaps even of who we are) will unfold unlike anything known before. The citizens of this future will learn early in life — through some combination of next-next-next-generation genetic testing and intelligence gleaned from their smart accessories — whether they are heading toward disease: depression, dementia, diabetes, what have you. More important, they will be offered an exit strategy.

This is the opening of a January 2020 article in UCSF Magazine. It…


A chiropractor explains YouTube’s addictive ‘crack’ videos

Photo: tdub303/Getty Images

Sound can be many things, take on many forms, and conjure a vast array of emotions. Sound can bring us to rage or laughter, or it can calm our nerves, invoking an almost sedative, relaxing quality. While chiropractic work is known for many therapeutic things, soothing sounds aren’t primary among them.

I am a practicing chiropractor. And no less than once a week, I find myself speaking to a patient — in person or over the phone — asking for what I call “the Youtube special.” Can you do that thing I’ve seen on Youtube? That “thing” they’re referring to…


Scientists fear an exhausted nation will let down its guard just as cooler weather raises risk of a twindemic

Photo: picture alliance/Getty Images

“Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are. We. There. Yet?” That’s how Andrea Taylor, PhD, describes her own growing exhaustion with the Covid-19 trip we’re all on right now, the frustrating and inconvenient detour in the journey through the longest year ever.

While the growing and horrific U.S. coronavirus death toll exceeds 200,000, Covid-19 fatigue is spreading even among people least affected by the pandemic, according to more than a half-dozen experts interviewed for this article.

The common sentiment: “Boy, do I really need some contact with people, and some normalcy,” says Taylor, a clinical psychologist and assistant…


Illustrations: Ariel Davis

Who believes and why, and whether conspiracism is really getting way worse

Wild and seemingly crazy conspiracy theories can spring from any stressful or disruptive event or phenomenon, as people seek tangible explanations for the invisible or the inexplicable.

Belief in ideas such as “the U.S. government covered up its role in the Twin Towers destruction” or “global warming is a hoax designed to diminish American manufacturing prowess” can be widespread. About 30% of U.S. adults think the coronavirus was created and spread on purpose and that the threat of Covid-19 has been exaggerated to damage President Trump. …


Doctors can prescribe medicine for health conditions. What can they do for homelessness, food insecurity, and other social determinants of health?

Photo: Ariel Skelley/Getty Images

As a bright-eyed family medicine physician fresh out of her residency, Laura Gottlieb expected to face challenges as she cared for low-income Seattle residents. She steeled herself to confront the ravages of addiction and HIV. Gottlieb knew many had histories of abuse and trauma, and they also had to manage chronic conditions such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, and kidney failure.

Gottlieb had tools, however imperfect, to address her patients’ direct and immediate medical needs. She could prescribe insulin for diabetes, inhalers for asthma, and statins for high cholesterol. What she couldn’t do was ensure that the people she treated had…


For young people whose developmental task is to connect with other people, the pandemic can feel like life is on pause

The silhouette of a young man looking outside a window alone.
The silhouette of a young man looking outside a window alone.
Photo: Sasha Freemind/Unsplash

During the pandemic there’s been plenty of public service announcements to check in on your elderly neighbors. Especially now, in an era of coronavirus-driven quarantines, they may be feeling isolated and alone.

However, you might want to redirect some empathy to those quiet young adults living in their studio apartments or parents’ basements. It turns out they are more likely than their grandparents to report feeling lonely.

According to a spate of recent studies, loneliness is a plague of its own, one that predates the pandemic and has hit the young particularly hard. …

Elemental

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

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