Burnout is where we experience the physical and psychological consequences of persistent, chronic Toxic Stress

Burnout series: Toxic stress is at the root of burnout. Tackling it may require serious change

A study found of those who had a heart attack, married patients were 14% more likely than single patients to survive after the event

Follow a low-salt high-olive-oil diet and enjoy some dark chocolate

The oral contraceptive pill  is associated with many non-contraceptive benefits

A long-term study suggests a protective effect for women taking oral contraceptives

The demonstrable reduction in tumour size following treatment with nitrogen mustard was a landmark in the history of medicine

A wartime mustard gas explosion led to the development of a life-saving treatment

My personal view is that there is a need for greater regulation of telemedicine

Or do they have a role in modern healthcare, asks Muiris Houston

People sun themselves  in Belgrade, Serbia: southern Europe and the Balkans are experiencing a heatwave with temperatures reaching more than 40 degrees. Photograph:  Pedja Milosavljevic/AFP/Getty Images

The threat to human health from weather is rising, as heatwaves increase across Europe

It’s the way you tell them: Positive psychological and physiological responses to laughter have been shown in a variety of settings

Research suggests that humour has a positive effect on patients, so here goes

Crispr technology: critics say gene editing could lead to eugenics and to so-called designer babies. Illustration: iStock/Getty

Scientists have used Crispr-Cas9 to repair disease-causing mutations. Here’s a guide

Urban life expectancies are increasing at a faster rate than rural life spans. Photograph: Frank Miller

When you you look at trends, urban life expectancies are increasing at a faster rate than rural lifespans

From a patient’s perspective, the fact that over half of the trainee doctors said fatigue had impaired their ability to do their job is frightening

Sleep-deprived junior doctors are unable to look after patients safely

People with a history of suspected penicillin allergy spend more time in hospital and have poorer clinical outcomes than those without such a history

The most commonly reported drug allergy may be misdiagnosed in 90% of cases

“Of all the categories of fake news, health news is the worst” ran a recent headline in the Atlantic. Photograph: Mandel NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Statements of ‘absolute certainty’ from self-styled health experts are dangerous

Prof John Kennedy, chair of the cancer strategy steering group, at the launch of the 2017-2026 strategy in Iveagh House. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

Analysis: Ring-fencing of cancer drug funding may be necessary in future health budgets

The nocebo effect has been shown to reduce quality of life in cancer patients

Telling a patient that a drug has side-effects can bring on that very problem

Dr Mary Wingfield’s book is an essential read for couples facing infertility

Practical help for the sometimes lonely infertility journey

“The BMJ is seeking to stimulate debate on what is acceptable or unacceptable terminology in today’s world.” Photograph: iStock

The medical lexicon is littered with phrases that can feel top-down and demeaning

“Anecdotal evidence tends to suggest that documents prepared by patients with the aim of refusing future treatment are not infrequently ignored by doctors.”

Why has CPR become a reflex response in hospitals rather than allowing nature to take its course?

‘New England Journal of Medicine’ found that altitude-related discomfort was worse in younger age groups

Why flying can be an unpleasant experience for young children

Studies have shown that when people are told that a food item is ‘healthy’, they feel less full after eating it

Techniques like framing and using the placebo effect can make us more effective healthcare professionals

An analysis of 171 child-vehicle heatstroke fatalities in the US found that in 75 per cent of cases the child was unattended in a car.

High ratio of surface area to body mass makes children vulnerable to heatstroke

In the study when everyone was told they were taking statins, the incidence of muscle aches jumped by 40%

It’s placebo vs nocebo as new study casts doubt on muscle pain effect of statins

For most of us, the lack of  high blood pressure symptoms  is probably why the condition is often underdiagnosed.

Medication can control nearly all cases, but too few people are diagnosed

While fatty livers in geese might be desirable for foie gras, they pose serious problems for humans

There’s an epidemic of fatty liver disease in this country, and teetotallers aren’t immune

For babies whose mothers take anti-seizure medication, the risk of major birth defects is 4 to 6 per cent (compared with a rate of 2 to 3 per cent for all babies). Photograph: iStockphoto

Seizures can be more harmful to your baby than the medication

Protests in Paris two days after a  chemical attack in the northwestern province of Idlib in Syria. At least 86 people, including 27 children,  were killed, with  postmortems  pointing to possible exposure to the nerve gas sarin. Photograph:  AFP Photo/Lionel Bonaventure

Modern chemotherapy can be traced back to military chemical agents

Chocolate contains flavonoids, substances known to have anti-inflammatory effects and whose anti-oxidant properties help mop up disease-causing agents in the body. Photograph: iStock

As you bask in the good feelings induced by eating an Easter egg, what is the evidence for the health benefits of chocolate?

The 16,000 Tsimane people who hunt, fish and farm on the Maniqui River in the Amazon rainforest in the Bolivian lowlandshave the healthiest hearts

The Amazon’s Tsimane tribe's diet is made up mostly of fruit and nuts and they walk up to 17,000 steps a day

Why are we continuing what I and many other doctors consider a barbaric practice?

Many elderly patients are being inappropriately resuscitated. Let them die ‘ordinary deaths’

One of the best things doctors could do for patients is to listen to them

Setting our clocks forward in spring is a real challenge to our bodies. Photograph: iStock

For some, the October and March clock changes trigger profound sleep disturbance

Secondary school students   at the launch of the Aviva Schools Cervical Cancer Vaccination Catch Up Programme. The programme is offering what Aviva says are accessible and affordable cervical cancer vaccinations to girls in third to sixth year. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Emotional distress and fear of pain are cited as reasons for reduced adherence to cervical screening, US review finds

 Downing Street officials claim  President Trump has a phobia of stairs and slopes. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

From spiders and clowns to stairs and slopes, phobias, like people, come in all shapes and sizes

Empathy is the ability to share and understand the emotions of others

It is argued that the continuous sharing of other people’s pain is not good for doctors

A protester holds a placard  during an anti-Trump rally in Berlin, Germany. Photograph: EPA/Clemens Bilan

As authoritarianism rises, indicators of health fall

Patients who saw the same GP a greater proportion of the time had fewer admissions to hospital for ambulatory care-sensitive conditions than other patients, research in the UK has found.

Arguments in favour of better incremental care in US and UK are also pertinent to HSE

Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that manifests itself most often during the growth spurt just before a child reaches puberty. The term comes from the Greek, scolios, meaning bent.

Cause of condition unknown in most cases but symptoms include uneven shoulders or hips

People just above the income threshold for a medical card see medical care as a luxury

Less well-off face reduced life expectancy of 2.1 years, new research shows

A doctor increases the likelihood of a test being accurate when s/he uses this ‘prior knowledge’ to decide when and what type of test to order in each case

‘Technology drives diagnosis, but it often merely substitutes our fears of uncertainty with delusions of certainty’

Dr Muiris Houston on his own experiences of taking a prescribed drug, and the mail he got from you

Part of the the Irish Cancer Society’s ‘I Want To Get Cancer’ billboard campaign at its Offices in Dublin’s City Centre. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

The Irish Cancer Society's campaign may be a social-media success. Medically, it's anything but

Actors Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds, who died within 24 hours   of each other after Christmas. Photograph: Paul Buck/EPA

‘She said she really wanted to be with Carrie and, within 15 minutes, she faded out’

According to a 2015 Healthy Ireland survey, half of those attempting to quit smoking in Ireland do so without help

There are more than 5,400 deaths in Ireland each year due to smoking

“While the long-term effects of using e-cigarettes have not yet been established, data from Healthy Ireland reveals that 29%  of smokers currently use e-cigarettes as an aid to quitting smoking.” Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Irish report is the first in Europe to examine the cost effectiveness of e-cigarettes

Here’s a small goal tip that might work for weight loss: reduce the size of your dinner plate

Oh no – 88 per cent of those who set New Year resolutions fail!

A foolproof hangover cure? There’s only one and it is distinctly non-festive: avoid alcohol

From hair of the dog to Mexican prawn salad, seasonal over-indulgers seek best cure

Bernadette Scully pictured leaving the Central Criminal Court in Dublin after she was found not guilty of the manslaughter of her daughter, Emily Barut (11), in September 2012. Photograph: Collins/Courts

How appropriate was it for Dr Bernadette Scully to act as GP to an ill family member?

Drinking too much fluid can have serious consequences when sick. Photograph: Jose A Bernat Bacete/Getty Images

Drinking too much water can lead to abnormally low levels of sodium in the body

When the severe thunderstorm hit Melbourne, the city’s ambulance service responded to more than 1,870 cases of acute breathing problems.

Thunderstorm asthma may be related to the sudden and widespread breaking open of pollen grains in the atmosphere

Cannabis for medicinal use is legal in the Netherlands, Spain, the Czech Republic, Australia, Canada and some US states. Photograph: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg

A doctor writes: Drug can help patients who are suffering but evidence is unclear

Listening with a stethoscope to the carotid arteries in the neck as part of routine physical exam may not benefit patients: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

Some routine medical practices, long viewed as essential, are now being questioned

With less than two weeks to go before the first babies are to be injected with Men B vaccine here, there is no agreement on how that is to happen

Muiris Houston: The good news is that a vaccine against meningitis B is due to be introduced to the free childhood vaccination pro(...)

Michael Bublé and wife Luisana Lopilato with sons Noah and Elias in an Instagram photograph.

The news that Michael Bublé’s son, Noah, has been diagnosed with cancer is a shock

There were tales of  babies born to women who had been left for dead.

Premature burial was an understandable fear in centuries past. It happened.

A slipped disc: the painkiller pregabalin, marketed as Lyrica, is used for  neuropathic pain. Photograph: iStock

‘Mother’s little helper’ was, in fact, a highly addictive drug that was overprescribed

A French coroner has confirmed Anthony Foley died from pulmonary oedema brought on by heart disease. Photograph: Inpho/Morgan Treacy

A doctor writes on the cause of Foley’s premature death aged 42

Researchers have found that patients given the longer consultations had a drop in ‘negative wellbeing’ and scored more highly for quality of life

Dr Muiris Houston: Minister, modify doctors’ payments to include longer consultations

Atsugi Higashiyama  accepts the 2016 Ig Nobel Prize in Perception for “investigating whether things look different when you bend over and view them between your legs” during the  Ig Nobel prize ceremony at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters

Alternative prizes find those most receptive to bullshit were ‘lower in cognitive ability’

Bruce Springsteen on stage in London in 2013: thanks to psychotherapy and medication the singer  found  calm and stability. Photograph: Matt Kent/Getty Images

Medical Matters: You won’t find a better male depression narrative than Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography

Hand in glove: more than 3,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in Ireland every year.  Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto Hand in glove: more than 3,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in Ireland every year.  Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

How to be a Man: undergoing a prostate cancer test fills many men with fear – but it can be life-saver

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone and Minister for Health Simon Harris with Bisi Atelade (11) and Charlie McCormack (10). Photograph: Dave Meehan

Analysis: Ten-year plan is well-researched and ambitious but it fails to mention funding

Members of the Czech quick reaction forces take part in an anti-terrorism drill. According to a 2014 study, people with poor self-reported health were less likely to show sympathies for terrorism.  Photograph: David W Cerny

The better we treat potential lone terrorists for depression, the safer we are likely to be

US Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton waves to the press as she leaves her daughter’s apartment building after resting on September 11th, 2016, in New York. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP

Despite advances, pneumonia remains a potentially fatal illness, especially in the elderly

“We urgently need to engage in a national debate about the controlled distribution of scarce resources.” Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Under planned UK health policy, smokers would have been denied surgery until they quit

The Olive (Olea europaea) is a species of small tree in the family Oleaceae, native to coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean region

Italian study finds high consumption of vegetables had the greatest impact on survival, followed by oily fish intake

Don’t you hate it when [doctors] ask you what you think is wrong? Photograph: iStock

Breaking the ice that threatens the doctor-patient relationship

App translates heart rate data from any physical activity (eg walking, swimming, dancing, cycling) and personal information (age, gender, resting and maximum heart rate) into one simple score. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

App allows you personalise exercise needed to cut risk of death from cardiac events

HRT is used to treat symptoms of the menopause such as hot flushes, mood changes and disrupted sleep. It increases the levels of female sex hormones that have reduced in menopause. File photograph: Getty Images

Hormone replacement therapy can almost triple risk of breast cancer, research shows

Medical research: just because it is original research doesn’t mean it is of a uniform quality. Photograph: iStockphoto

Even professionals who use health information daily haven’t been trained to appraise research critically

Reliance on a feeding tube and needing around-the-clock care were rated by over half of those surveyed as being intolerable. Photograph: iStockphoto

Study finds 70% of people rank incontinence and inability to get out of bed as being as bad as or worse than death

Doctors’ prescriptions can leave patients at a loss. Photograph: iStockphoto

There’s no doubt abbreviations, in Latin or English, are a source of healthcare error

Cannabis has been shown to reduce pressure in the eyeball that leads to glaucoma. Photograph: James MacDonald/Getty

CBD oil reduces seizure activity without side effects of cannabis yet its use is restricted

The announcement that Mick Jagger’s 29-year-old girlfriend is expecting has led to some internet ribbing. Photograph: Reuters

The best sperm quality is found in men who have never smoked and never drank alcohol

What happens if you overheat and what can you do to stay safe in the sun?

Bed rest: Nowadays, for most conditions, a doctor is far more likely to tell you to ‘take up thy bed and walk’, rather than rest in bed. Photograph: iStockphoto

Bed rest was mostly prescribed for women and became a popular treatment for hysteria, writes Muiris Houston

 Starting a person on aspirin immediately after a TIA reduces the risk of a stroke within the coming weeks by up to 80 per cent. Photograph: iStockphoto

Jim came to see me after some tingling in his hand. It was a TIA – a recognised stroke warning

 James and Maureen,  siblings of Julian Cuddihy, speak to reporter Eoin Reynolds as they leave the Central Criminal Court in Dublin. Photograph: Collins Courts

Muiris Houston: We're all complicit in stigma that indirectly led to deaths of Cuddihy couple

Joe Frazier, left, in a boxing match against Muhammad Ali at Madison Square Garden in New York, in 1971. Photograph: Larry Morris/The New York Times

When Ali announced he had Parkinson’s aged 42 , people blamed the boxing ring

A person might quite reasonably say “no thank you” to cancer treatment, having considered the pros and cons. File photograph: Getty Images

Report shows striking gap between best and worst off on lung, stomach, cervical cancers

A 2014 survey found that, among Irish adults, forgetfulness is the most common reason cited by patients for forgetting their medication. Photograph: iStockphoto

Expecting ‘buy in’ for 10 years or indeed a lifetime of treatment is probably unrealistic, says Muiris Houston

For new, more expensive drugs to be approved for any illness, a cut in services must be made elsewhere in the system. And that, surely, merits a substantial national debate. File photograph: Getty Images

Melanoma patients told State to cover Pembro, while CF drug Orkambi ‘too expensive’

Given the relationship between increased weight, and diabetes and heart disease, you would expect that a rising BMI would be associated with increasing mortality but that is not the case

Is it time to move away from a BMI-focused approach at the level of the individual?

Women who attended religious services more than once per week had a 33 per cent lower risk of death during the 16 years of follow-up compared with women who never attended. Photograph: iStockphoto

Harvard study shows beneficial effects for women of attending religious services

The World Health Organisation endorses the use of traditional herbal remedies. Photograph: iStockphoto

The very ‘naturalness’ of herbal medicines reinforces the idea that they are safe

One of the best ways to treat, and indeed prevent, sarcopenia is exercise. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

If we are physically inactive, we can lose up to 5 per cent of our muscle mass per decade after age 30

Opiates are compounds found naturally in the opium poppy plant Papaver somniferum.

US opioid sales quadrupled from 1999-2010, but there can serious side effects even when taken as directed

Test tubes with blood samples from patients who have been tested for Zika  at the maternity ward of the Hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Photograph:  Reuters/Jorge Cabrera

Medical matters: There is currently no medication or vaccine that can prevent the virus

The amygdala is a tiny structure buried deep in the limbic part of our brains. It fires the body’s stress system and gets it to flood the body with adrenaline. Illustration: Thinkstock

Medical matters: Dr Harry Barry’s book contains much to put our busy brains to rest

If the pressure from a blood clot on the brain cannot be relieved by a surgical procedure then the person may die.

Blood clots can interfere with the respiratory centre in the brain, writes Dr Muiris Houston

“I have been thinking about the Proclamation from the perspective of the health of the nation.”  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Visionaries would focus on local care and try to embed health as a social movement

Medical Matters: house calls by doctors give extra insight into the patient’s condition

Impaired function: Enough alcohol  to affect your driving  could be present the morning after an evening session of drinking three pints of beer or three double whiskeys. Photograph: Thinkstock

Several variables, including pace of drinking, weight and gender, affect alcohol absorption

Turning clocks ahead an hour in the spring or turning them back again in the autumn is associated with a temporary increased incidence of stroke. Photograph: iStockphoto

An increased stroke risk around daylight saving time changes probably relate to interrupted sleep patterns

 Leigh Bagnell, a patient with cystic fibrosis who received Ireland’s first ex-vivo lung perfusion transplantation at the Mater hospital. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Mater hospital team breaks new ground with innovative surgical process

Dr Conrad Murray, who was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, at his trial in 2011 in connection with the death of pop star Michael Jackson in Los Angeles. Photograph: Kevork Djansezian/Reuters/Pool

Medical Matters: Were blurred professional boundaries a factor in the deaths of Elvis and Michael Jackson?

While side effects from medication are rarely due to prescribing errors, most are a known risk that will affect a very small proportion of those prescribed the treatment. Photograph: Thinkstock

Medical Matters: Sir William Osler certainly wouldn’t be impressed with the current trend to overdiagnose and overtreat

In all cases the injuries occurred during the tackle phase of play. Photograph: Thinkstock/Getty Images

Type of hip fracture associated with violent trauma found in players at Tallaght hospital

The most common use for ECT is in the treatment of severe depression, for which it is a safe and effective treatment. Photograph: Thinkstock

Medical matters: Change to Mental Health Act will make ‘little difference in practice’

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