Saving your eyes during the solar eclipse


By Oregon State University, via Wikimedia Commons

On Sunday I am driving 430 miles from God’s country (Minneapolis) to just south of Lincoln, Nebraska to experience the total eclipse of the sun.  That’s right, I’m driving to the area of “totality” along with about half the US population because it is a super cool thing to do.  I’m totally pumped up for it!

Please no clouds in Nebraska, no clouds, no clouds . . .

I think we need a natural wonder to take our minds off our human-made conflicts right about now.  And since this happens once every almost never, off I go with other adventurers from my family.

Now if only I could get a table reservation at a Lincoln restaurant.  I’ve tried.  It wasn’t easy.  I have also heard that it may result in the first traffic jam in rural Nebraska history, complete with shortages of gas and bumper to bumper traffic.  Yikes!

And don’t get me started on the saga of obtaining eclipse-viewing glasses.  First set was perhaps counterfeit which led to a search for safe glasses only to find the entire country is sold out of them.  But it all ended well as I did snag a pair of paper glasses for a mere ten bucks.

But this is a health and wellness blog, so I thought I’d look into the commonly-known advice to never look directly at the sun.  I’m channeling my Bill Nye the Science Guy in this post.

We all know not to look at the sun.  Heck, your mother could tell you that.  But why is this so?

So I did my research . . .  Continue reading

Posted in Eyes and vision, Health in the News | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

As promised: Charlene’s dog run and brain injury research


Hey, friends!

You just gotta learn about this woman.  Her name is Charlene Barron and she sounds like an incredible woman.  I also never got the chance to meet her, but I learned of her just this past week and if you were listening to the Healthy Matters radio broadcast on WCCO last Sunday, you heard about her as well.

Charlene died of a traumatic brain injury while doing something she loved – riding her bike on a training ride.  She was also a runner and a triathlete, and a lover of dogs.  I love that dog-lover part!  Charlene was just 10o yards from the Boston Marathon finish line when the bomb went off.  She has completed dozens of marathons, 30 Birke XC ski races, and 9 Ironman triathlons.  And at age 60, she competed in the World Championship Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii.


To honor her, Charlene’s family has teamed up with the TBI program at HCMC (my healthcare organization) in a really cool event.  It is Charlene’s Dog Run, and it is a fun event for you (and your dog!) and is open to anybody who wants to get involved in TBI research and make a difference.  You don’t have to bring your dog, but you sure can if you want to!

Dr. Uzma Samadani is a neurosurgeon and colleague of mine at HCMC.  She does incredible research on TBI and the proceeds of this event go to the TBI research program at HCMC.  Dr. Samadani called in to the radio broadcast to tell us about Charlene and the Dog Run.  Click the link at the bottom of this post to get the podcast and listen to my brief conversation with Dr. Samadani.

TBI and related links

On the show, I promised to put some links to sites you may wish to visit.  Here they are:

  • The HCMC news article about Charlene and the Dog Run.  I recommend you start with this link to read more.
  • Podcast of the Healthy Matters broadcast (Healthy Matters show #449, August 13, 2017).  Listen to the first 5-10 minutes to hear my discussion with Dr. Samadani.  We talk about Charlene, brain injury research, and an interesting bit about neck strengthening as a protective measure for TBI.

Other related links:

That’s all for this post.  I hope you follow me on Twitter @DrDavidHilden.  It’s fast and easy!

Rest in peace, Charlene.  You are an inspiration to us all.

Healthy Matters friends, next Sunday is our 450th show!  My how time flies . . . tune in to WCCO 830 on your AM radio dial or stream it LIVE from anywhere in the world at WCCO.COM



Posted in Traumatic Brain Injury | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Why I’m not a big fan of vitamins and supplements


By Mark Buckawicki via Wikimedia Commons

In 2013, people in the United States spent nearly $35 billion on vitamins and supplements.  Something like 1 in 3 people take a multivitamin, and around half of people took some type of supplement in the past 30 days.

So why, on the Healthy Matters radio broadcast the other day, did I say that I am not a big fan of supplements?.  They’re supposed to be good for you, right?  Are all those people wrong?

No, they’re not all wrong.  But I do have opinions on the use of vitamins and supplements, and I do think that for most people, they are a waste of money.  Allow me to explain . . .

But first, to hear me pontificate about supplements on the radio broadcast, download the podcast by clicking the logo here and fast-forwarding to 28:54.

(Healthy Matters show #448, August 6, 2017)

Continue reading

Posted in Health and wellness, Preventive care | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Summertime emergencies are no fun


Summertime, and the livin’ is easy

Admit it, I look cool

Hey, friends, this is Part 2 of 2 posts about emergencies.  You may wish to check out the first post, “An insider’s view of the emergency department” which gives a look at a major Level I trauma center.   This post will cover just a few tips for staying safe this summer.






For no reasons other than to get you in the summertime mood and because you never really need a reason to listen to Ella Fitzgerald, you may want to listen to this tidbit of musical perfection:

Holy cow. Magical.  Check out her voice at 1:00 – 1:05.

Meet Dr. Simpson (again)

Dr. Nick Simpson joined me on the Healthy Matters radio broadcast last week to talk about summertime injuries.  Here is an index to the podcast, which you can listen to right here and fast forward to the “time stamp” to listen to each particular topic:

(Healthy Matters show #444, July 9, 2017)

Podcast index

  • Training to be a paramedic (14:40)
  • What you can do at your home to help emergency responders (23:30)
  • Bike and motorcycle safety (24:40)
  • Bugs and mosquito bites (27:20)
  • Heat-related injuries (31:00)

I recommend simply listening to the podcast!  But if you prefer to read the text, here are some short blurbs about what we talked about on the podcast.

What can you do at home to help emergency responders?

Two people texted related questions to the show on Sunday asking about steps they could take to assist emergency responders should the need arise for them to come to their house.

Dr. Simpson had some good tips for this.  Among them:

  • Have your house well-marked so the paramedics can see your house number and not waste time getting lost.
  • Have your house accessible.  If possible, have the door unlocked, or have someone with you to answer the door and let them in.  They can’t help you if they can’t get in!
  • If you can have a list of your medications, or the medications themselves, ready for the emergency help, that is really good.

It is understandable that you may not be able to do these things – it is an emergency after all which doesn’t lend itself well to preparing for visitors – but if you can do these things it can help you get the care you need.

Wear your helmet!

I’m just not playing around here.  Wearing a helmet when biking or riding a motorcycle should be automatic.  Just do it.  Dr. Simpson points out that the biggest preventable injury is from people not wearing helmet when riding bikes and motorcycles.

If you need reasons for this, here are some from the podcast:

  • Minor things become major problems.  Minor or moderate falls may not be a big deal, but if you are not wearing a helmet and you crack your head on the pavement, you may have a significant concussion or worse.
  • For motorcycles it is especially important.  Dr. Simpson reports seeing motorcycle accidents in which the person was wearing a helmet, perhaps “broke some bones” but did OK.  He’s also seen the same type of motorcycle accidents where there were “devastating injuries” when the rider did not wear a helmet.
  • One caller to the show noted that motorcycle riders without helmets are often considered by emergency doctors and nurses simply to be potential organ donors.  Think about that.

When an emergency doctors says “I wish more kids and adults wore their helmet” it is because he has seen the worst.  I’d listen to his advice.

Minnesota’s state bird:  mosquitoes

For most of us, mosquito bites are a nuisance (at least those of us not living in parts of the world where malaria is a problem which is something more than a nuisance!).  For those folks, we talked about simply taking a Benadryl (brand name for generic diphenhydramine) for the itching.  You can use it topically or in a pill form.  But for some with allergic reactions, bug bites or bee stings can lead to a severe allergic reaction – a condition we call anaphylaxis – which requires emergency care.  This is usually done with a medication called epinephrine.  If you have bad allergies to bug bites and stings, you should carry epinephrine with you when you are outside.  Get one from your doctor or allergist.  Like this guy.

Heat injuries

Everyone is at risk for heat-related injuries, including:

  • Athletes, both the professional and elites and the weekend warriors
  • People who work outside
  • Elderly folks
  • Infants and children
  • Your average backyard gardener

On the podcast Dr. Simpson talks about the continuum of heat-injuries.  It can range from a bit of dehydration to heat exhaustion to heat stroke and even death.

Symptoms of heat injury include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness and passing out
  • Acting confused or agitated
  • Seizure
  • Coma

The idea is to prevent problems before they occur rather than treat heat stroke after symptoms set in.  Do this by moderating your activity in the heat, stay out of the direct sun, drink plenty of water, and if symptoms occur, get cooled immediately by getting out of the heat, applying ice to the body, misting with cool water, and getting professional help.  It only takes a few minutes of a body temp > 104 to lead to serious problems and even death.

And as I pointed out on the show . . . it if is hot outside, go check on your neighbors and friends and family, particularly if they are elderly or very young kids.

For really solid info about heat-related problems, I recommend this site from the CDC.

There are lots more summer injuries to talk about, but those are some highlights from this month’s show.   That’s it for my two-part summer emergencies series.  Thanks for stopping by!

Have a listen to the podcast of this topic or any previous topic by clicking here:

And subscribe by e-mail if you wish!

Happy Summer!

David     @DrDavidHilden  #healthymatters

Posted in Tips from Healthy Matters radio broadcast, Trauma and emergency, Traumatic Brain Injury | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

An insider’s view of the Emergency Department


I have a colleague at Hennepin County Medical Center who is into cool stuff.  He does a lot of biking, he does backcountry skiing in British Columbia, he raises bees in his Minneapolis backyard and makes honey from those bees – honey which has won awards at the Minnesota State Fair, no less.

And he tells a good tale.  His name is Aaron Rutzick.  One time he told me this one about a bike crash he had when in real-time he realized that his helmet was saving him as he hit the pavement with his head . . .

“I was riding down 3rd Ave in south Minneapolis at night, I think I hit a pothole or something in the road because I was going pretty fast and just went over my handle bars.  there I was, upside down, and yes … using my helmet.  I slid to a stop in front of some hipster bikers drinking beer.  They were sympathetic and seemed to have a keen understanding of that moment.  I was OK and took off for home before everything started hurting.  I’d say in general, I’m a pretty experienced commuter, riding most days in all seasons to get to work since 2001.  Thankfully, no car was involved, but it was a reminder that a bike crash could happen in a split second – so BE CAREFUL.  It didn’t keep me from riding, I’m certainly aware that you have to be on your game, especially with cars.  The Twin Cities has really developed its bicycle lanes over the last 10-15 years, and is one of the leading cities in the nation for supporting safe biking and bike culture.  Great place to live for this.”   – Dr. Aaron Rutzick

I especially like the image of Aaron flying over his handlebars in front of “hipster bikers drinking beer.”  Sort of sums up Minneapolis life.  I wonder if any of the hipsters looked like this:

By Lorena Cupcake [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Anyway, you should wear your bike helmet like Dr. Rutzick so you can live to tell about it. Continue reading

Posted in HCMC, Trauma and emergency | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Finding the ordinary among the extraordinary


Hi, Healthy Matters friends!

I have been steadily moving toward more writing in my career and specifically I’ve been working in an area called “narrative non-fiction.”  My writings are mostly based on medicine, health and wellness.  Big surprise there – sort of like what I do on this blog. I hope to collect them into a book at some point if I get any good at it.

A venue for publishing narrative non-fiction in the medical field is an online journal called Intima and I had an essay posted there in April.  It was called Don’t worry, at least we will die together!” and it was about my experience with medical students in Jerusalem.  If you missed it, you can access the piece in this blog post below.

The editors encourage writers to interact with other writers on the site, and so I wrote a very short post in response to an essay by Margot Hedlin, a newly minted doctor whom I have never met.  Her essay was called, “There’s a limit to your love” and it was really thought-provoking.  She’s a terrific writer and she masterfully got me thinking about the mundane and the not-so-mundane parts of medicine.

My response to Dr. Hedlin’s piece has now been published in Intima.  It is called Finding the ordinary among the extraordinary.”  It has my musings about the need to sometimes find normalcy even in utterly abnormal situations.  Like medicine.

I encourage you to read Dr. Hedlin’s piece first in the “Field Notes” section, then my short response in the “Crossroads” section.  Maybe as a trio these pieces will pull together some themes that resonate with you.

Here are quick links to these three pieces:

I’d love to foster dialogue, so please feel free to share these pieces on Facebook, e-mail, Twitter, or wherever you spend your social media time.  Or simply share this MyHealthyMatters blog post and let people do their own clicking!  (Buttons to share are at the top and bottom of every post I do).

And the editors at Intima encourage a wider conversation, so maybe you could leave a comment on the site with your reaction to any of these pieces.

For the main Intima site, click the logo here:

Happy reading and happy contemplation!


Posted in Dr. Hilden's reflections, Humanities and Medicine | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Can you exercise your way to a lower weight?


Hey friends!  Back in April I had just returned from “doctor college” in San Diego and I intend to share bits of what I learned there.  Previous posts in this vein have been:

This post is about exercise and weight loss.  Specifically:  Is exercise an effective way to lose weight?

Hmmm . . . . donuts.

Anybody else have a somewhat idle piece of exercise equipment in your house?  The picture at the top of this post is my actual basement treadmill.  On the plus side, it is a terrific place to hang shirts while ironing.  On the negative side, I’m delinquent in my ironing duties.

It is a pretty rare bird indeed who doesn’t sometimes want to lose some weight.  I’m in this group.  Although I’m a rather skinny, lanky guy – I do have that bit of a gut that hangs out more than I’d like.  And I’m a runner, at least much of the time, so I’m thinking . . . WHAT GIVES?  How can I exercise as much as I do and still have weight in places I don’t want it?

I have been told it is not a dearth of exercise that is leading to a big belly, but it is an abundance of donuts.

And who am I kidding, if there is anything that ought to be in abundance, it’s donuts, I say.

Eat less, Move more

I have often relied on this phrase to sum up my advice to people about weight loss.  it is pithy and makes sense.  If you have to lose weight, you simply have to take in fewer calories than your burn.  It’s simple physics.  Eat less, move more.

When I tell people this, I usually launch into my sermon of ways in which we eat poorly:

  • Portion size.  There is no way on God’s green earth that the size of the soda at the movie theater is good or normal or OK in any way.  Or the popcorn.  Or the huge platters of food at the big restaurants.
  • Calories.  I always say eat fewer calories.  We eat too much!
  • Types of calories.  Traditional wisdom says that we should cut back on saturated fats and carbohydrates.  That, too, makes sense.

The truth is that the actual proven science behind what we eat isn’t so clear cut.  My advice to “Eat less” is good, I think, but it is not the whole story.  We need to take in fewer calories, eat more of the healthy foods, and less far less of it.  And eating a diet more reliant on plants is probably good for us and also the planet.  But beyond that, there is very little evidence that one “diet” is better than another “diet” when weight loss is the goal. That being said, paying attention to what you eat is the most important first step in weight loss.

For more of my thoughts on diet and weight, check out these previous posts I wrote:

I eat too much butter: motivating for healthier living

Just a spoonful of sugar . . . is really not good for you


So what about exercising the weight off?

Given the challenges in losing weight with diet and food alone, lots of us look to exercise to lose those extra pounds.  But does it really work?

This is what I learned at doctor school in San Diego this spring:

Short answer:  you can’t count on exercise alone to lose weight.  What really matters when you are trying to lose weight is to focus on your diet.  Simply starting an exercise program without changing your diet will not be sufficient for most people.

Longer answer:  exercise is an important part of long-term weight loss maintenance and overall fitness.

Photo: PH Kenny

No, that’s not me in the picture.

But it is my problem, I think.  When I am at a weight I like, exercise is a good way to stay there.  Going for a run 3 or 4 days a week for a few miles each time not only keeps me happy and fit, but it puts my body in a good balance of calories in = calories out and so I stay about the same weight.

But when I get lazy and stop exercising 3 or 4 days a week but continue eating donuts and beer, my weight goes up about 10 pounds.  And it shows up right where I don’t want it:  the belly.  So exercise helps me maintain a healthy weight.

Take home point:  once I’ve put on those 10 pounds, I do need to start exercising more, but more importantly, I need to alter my diet.


  • Diet + exercise = weight loss.  
  • Exercise alone = weight maintenance.

Sure, it’s an oversimplification.  Being overweight (Body Mass Index, or BMI > 25) or obese (BMI > 30) is complicated with many ways to address it (diet, exercise, medications, surgery for some).  But as for exercise: keep it up to maintain a healthy weight, and couple it with dietary changes to lose weight.

Oh, and here’s a good thing to do:  find out your BMI with this BMI calculator from HCMC.

For a lot more about diet, exercise, and weight loss, you may wish to check out “What works well for weight loss” from the American College of Physicians.

Some of this is just common sense.  But given the overwhelming amount of stuff we hear in the media, online, and anecdotally from our friends and neighbors, it’s tough to know what is good advice.  And so if anyone tells you that you simply need to exercise and you’ll lose weight, without also telling you to change your diet, you may be disappointed.  That’s the real advice!



Posted in Diet and exercise | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

10 questions to ask your doctor: my interview in the Star Tribune


Hi, friends,

I was recently interviewed by Allie Shah of the Minneapolis Star Tribune for an article titled “10 questions you should ask your doctor.”   As I mentioned on the Healthy Matters radio broadcast last Sunday, I am posting the link to the article.

Check it out if you wish by clicking the underline link above.  Share or post as you want!



Posted in Primary Care | Tagged | Leave a comment

Cool event in Minnesota: “Science: Why Don’t Facts Seem to Matter?”


Hey, gang, just a quick post about an event I want you to know about.  It is called “Science in Society:  Why Don’t Facts Seem to Matter?” and it is happening this Thursday, June 15, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Central time at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul.


The event is hosted by Valery Forbes, Dean of the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota and is co-sponsored by the ARCS Foundation and the Science Museum of Minnesota.  I’m excited to share a panel with outstanding people who have keen insights on science and communication.

Joining me on the discussion panel are:

  • Patrick Hamilton
    Director of Global Change Initiatives
    Science Museum of Minnesota
  • Maggie Koerth-Baker
    Senior Science Writer at FiveThirtyEight
  • Kris Ehresmann
    Director of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention, and Control Division
    Minnesota Department of Health

There is a networking portion over light snacks in which promising young scientists will be present to share their work and be recognized as ARCS Scholars.  So we get a glimpse of the future of science through these incredible scholars.  The way I see it, we need to promote science and those who pursue it as a career – now more than ever.

Register at the ARCS Foundation site here.  You get free parking and admission to the Science Museum as part of your registration so make an afternoon and evening out of it!

If you’re a person who likes to think, learn, ponder, question, explore –  and tie it all together with our collective life as a society, then join us at the Science Museum this Thursday.

And if you do attend, be sure to introduce yourself to me!



Posted in Getting medical information | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Falls: Humpty Dumpty was just like you and me



Sobering facts about falls in the elderly:

  • The leading cause of injury that leads to death in people over age 65 is falling.
  • That means 27,000 older adults in the US will not survive a fall in a year.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 older adults will fall in a given year.
  • That adds up to 29,000,000 (yes, that says 29 million) falls in a single year, resulting in 7 million injuries.

Ouch.  So we, like our egg-shaped friend on the wall, need to be careful!

On the radio program last week, my colleague, HCMC Geriatrician Dr. Larry Kerzner joined me in the WCCO studios for a conversation about falls.  If you missed that show, check out the podcast (without commercial breaks!) and listen on your computer or mobile device.  Click the logo here to get to the podcast:

(Healthy Matters show #439, June 4, 2017)

For now, let’s move beyond the grim statistics and learn a bit . . .

Continue reading

Posted in Geriatrics and aging | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments