Issue 18: Barbershops, Male Breasts, Marijuana Smoke, and Lyft

Barbershops and Blood Pressure
Listen to your barber

Who do you listen to the most regarding your health? An interesting study done in Los Angeles published in the NEJM looked at blood pressure reduction in two groups of African American patients in barbershops. Yes, barbers -- those people we trust to wield scissors and razors on our heads. In the study, one group was assigned to receive recommendations by the barbers to see pharmacists in the barbershops to get their blood pressures checked. On the other hand, the control group just had the barbers talk about improving their health and lifestyle. The results were impressive. The group that met the pharmacists saw a whopping drop of 27mm on average in their systolic pressure, while the control group saw a drop of 5mm. Identifying and tackling social determinants of health to improve medication compliance and lifestyle changes can take a whole different approach if we could work with the community influencers. The approach must be two-pronged; providers must build rapport to guide patients in the right direction, but utilizing the influencers in the community will be key. The cutting-edge move is perhaps to bring the care to where the people are, like barbershops.   

Tree Oil and Man Boobs
Essential oils are not as harmless as you think

If you were looking for something to blame for your Man Boobs, essential oils might be something to consider. Essential oils are ubiquitous. Grooming products like lotions, soaps, shampoos, aftershave, and hair products often contain oils derived from plants. Fueled by increased reports by consumers regarding male breast growth, or gynecomastia, after continued use of these products, a new study in North Carolina looked at eight important chemicals. The results showed that all eight of the chemicals either promoted estrogen or inhibited testosterone properties on cancer cells. And to nobody’s surprise, they recommended further large studies to demonstrate the relationships between these essential oils and gynecomastia. If you have stocks in lavender or tea tree oil, maybe you can also look into investing in pharma companies that make the anti-anti-male hormones. But first, perhaps consider scrutinizing your diet and exercise regimen for your Man Boobs.

Risks of  Secondhand Marijuana Smoking
Need a better design. Image Credit: Emedco.

It is not uncommon to smell a whiff of marijuana secondhand on the streets of major U.S. cities nowadays. While smoking has been gaining social stigma and getting banned in many public places, marijuana has enjoyed more social acceptance. But regarding its effects of secondhand smoking, there has not been enough research to date. I mean, is smoke, smoke? Recently, science may have made some headway determining whether all smoke is the same, and the answer might be more intuitive than we think. Springer and his lab at UCSF have shown that secondhand marijuana smoke inhibits the rats’ arteries from expanding, and that is not good for anyone's lungs. And according to some authorities, those who are in support of the widespread use of cannabis are following in the footsteps of tobacco; the old excuse of ‘No research, no rule’ perhaps deserves more scrutiny. We’re not too far from talking about potential occupational risk hazards and using tax revenue for marijuana research, and maybe even a new graphic designer for a No Smoking sign. 

BCBS working with Lyft to reach patients
BCBS + Lyft

Uber and Lyft recently made splash about providing transportation for patients to and from clinics and hospitals. It looks like Lyft is in the lead with a new $600million funding and a new partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), a major health insurance provider that insures over 100 million total members. BCBS made big claims that it really wants its plan holders to make it to their doctor’s appointments, and that they will pay for those Lyft rides. Although it is only offered for plan holders through their employers for now, we will see whether the new benefit will expand for people with insurance through Medicaid or Medicare. We are living in an era where technology is redefining care. And this is just one example how a common goal of removing barriers to receiving care can bring a pink smartphone app and a giant insurance company together. The caveat is that we are not sure how these Lyft rides will affect the premium. Will patrons be charged for every minute the driver waits, like the standard app does? 

Cardiologists are #TeamiPhone
Image courtesy of Getty Imamges

Imagine wearing a watch that could literally tell you if you were sick or not. With Apple’s Smart Watch, this is theoretically possible. The current model of the watch can test heart rate and even alarm users if they have atrial fibrillation. This early prevention can prevent stroke. However, after being tested for effectiveness, it was found that the current model was only 8% effective at sensing AFIB. With this news, Apple set out to improve their appliance. The company announced they were teaming up with researchers from Stanford University to perfect the smart watch to double as a mobile heart monitor. As the device is perfected, doctors can better rely on the watch’s detection. This will help save time and money in healthcare.

Mississippi's Abortion Law Halted

No, the debate is not going to go away anytime soon. Before we get into what went down in Mississippi, remember that those who are pro-life and want to ban abortion want to get the minimum age of the fetus as low as possible. Mississippi and several other states banned abortion after 20 weeks amidst a push for federal law, while Planned Parenthood and others find this unconstitutional. President Trump supported the bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks, but was halted by the U.S. Senate two months ago. With this in mind, Mississippi’s Governor Phil Bryant this week signed the even stricter abortion law, to ban abortions after 15 weeks. Swiftly, Judge Carlton Reeves halted the bill for 10 days to hear more about it. Whether the Governor expected this to get through the judge we are not sure, but it is obvious that this debate will continue for a while. The medical community will serve an important role here to define what makes a fetus viable and what point cells become life. And even after more scientific definitions, our country will probably still fight about pro-life or pro-choice.