Peter Wehrwein

Posts by Peter Wehrwein

Peter Wehrwein

MRIs may be safe for people with pacemakers and ICDs

People with pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) are often told that they can’t get an MRI scan. The worry is that the powerful magnetic fields and radio waves MRI scanners use might “fry” the devices, induce current so hearts would beat wildly or, in the case of ICDs, cause an unnecessary shock. A new study suggests that with the proper monitoring, MRIs can be safe for many people with pacemakers and ICDs. One of the biggest obstacles will be cost, since a specially trained nurse or a doctor would need to be present to reprogram the device and to respond in case of an emergency.

Peter Wehrwein

How to survive a tornado

The storms that have recently ripped through the South included dozens of tornadoes. And as the bad weather barreled north today, the National Weather Service declared a tornado watch for eastern parts South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland, and warned of severe weather as far north as Boston. Strong wind from any sort of severe weather can wreak havoc, but the speed and spinning winds of a tornado are especially destructive. In most years, tornadoes kill about 60 Americans, about the same number killed by lightning strikes. But this is not going to be an average year. The death toll from the terrible storms in the South is approaching 300 and the number is climbing. Advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center can help you survive a tornado if one is headed your way.

Peter Wehrwein

Kate Middleton’s pre-royal weight loss: stress, “brideorexia,” or the Dukan Diet?

One of many hot topics about the upcoming royal wedding of Prince William of Wales and Catherine Middleton is whether Middleton has lost too much weight in preparing for the ceremony. Prevailing theories about Middleton’s presumptive weight loss include stress, “brideorexia,” and a popular French diet. Harvard Health Letter editor Peter Wehrwein discusses all three possibilities.

Peter Wehrwein

How Boston Marathon runners can avoid hitting the wall

Perhaps up to 40% of runners in tomorrow’s Boston Marathon will end up “hitting the wall,” notes Harvard Health Letter editor Peter Wehrwein. This means that their bodies have run out of the carbohydrates needed to sustain intense physical activities like long-distance running. But one Harvard/MIT student and marathon runner has developed an online tool that allows runners to calculate just how many extra calories they should get from high-carbohydrate food or drink before a marathon to avoid hitting the wall.

Peter Wehrwein

Statin use is up, cholesterol levels are down: Are Americans’ hearts benefiting?

The latest annual snapshot of health in America, a report called Health, United States, 2010 offers hours of browsing and food for thought for anyone interested in health trends. Harvard Health Letter editor Peter Wehrwein connects the dots between use of cholesterol-lowering statins and fewer deaths from heart disease.

Peter Wehrwein

Play Ball: Will new rules for bats make baseball safer?

When a hitter makes solid contact with a baseball, the ball leaves the bat travelling very fast. The type of bat matters — ball speeds are higher with aluminum and newer composite bats than they are with wood bats. Why? Wood bats are solid. When one smacks a ball, the bat stays fairly rigid and the ball flattens out for a millisecond, absorbing some of the energy in the bat-ball collision. Aluminum and composite bats are hollow. When they strike a baseball, the bat gives. That means more of the energy of the bat-ball collision is transferred to the “bounce” of the ball off the bat. Harvard Health Letter editor Peter Wehrwein talks with experts in sports injury, the physics of baseball, and bat testing to explain connections between bat type and injury.

Peter Wehrwein

Update: Harmful radiation from Japan is not reaching the United States—no need for Americans to take potassium iodide

Minutes after I posted my article today about radiation from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant not reaching the United States in harmful amounts, I heard a news report about iodine-131 from the plant being detected in rainwater in Massachusetts. Iodine-131 is a radioactive form of iodine. It’s a byproduct of the reaction that […]

Peter Wehrwein

Harmful radiation from Japan is not reaching the United States—no need for Americans to take potassium iodide

Even though the situation at the earthquake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan remains unsettled, the likelihood that radiation released by the crippled power plant will reach the United States is slim. Harvard Health Letter editor Peter Wehrwein talks with Dr. Richard Zane, a disaster planning expert at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, about potassium iodide pills: what they can—and can’t—do, their benefits and hazards, and why Americans should not be stockpiling or taking them.

Peter Wehrwein

Radiation risk in Japan: an update

Several people who read my earlier post about radiation readings at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan pointed out that the time period over which the radiation exposure occurs is important. They’re right—the radiation dose and how long you are exposed to it determine how much radiation you are receiving. That is why […]

Peter Wehrwein