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  • Medical Students and Mental Health



    We’ve talked a lot about coping with stress on Wellness Wednesdays. The AAMC recently published an article that uses some startling numbers to give credence to our assumption that you all are stressed! They note that while the mental health profiles of students entering medical school are similar to those of college students, many end up dealing with a mental illness during their four years. To make things worse, the most depressed among us are the least likely to reach out for help given the stigma.

    Another factoid gleaned from a 2005 NEJM article was that the suicide rates among physicians is higher than the general population: 40% higher for males, and 130% higher for females.

    The AAMC highlights three medical schools that are countering this known phenomenon with school-wide curricular implementations from year one. Read on to find out what Creighton, St. Louis, and Vanderbilt University Schools of Medicine are doing as a service to their students. Could this work at your school?

    To hear more, join us next Monday for the first day of Health Equity Week of Action (HEWA). At noon on Monday, January 20th, Michael Kavan, PhD, will lead a webinar to discuss mental health issues among medical and pre-medical students! Log on here

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  • 7 Common Myths of Losing Weight



    The New England Journal of Medicine may not be the first source you would think to look at for the latest in diet tips. The renown evidence-based journal, however, made quite a stir with its recent article debunking 7 common myths of losing weight after an extensive literature search for supporting findings and clinical expert opinions.

    The study, conducted by physicians as well as dieticians, was funded by NIH. 

    Myth: Having sex burns a ton of calories. 
    Fact: According to this study, the average person will burn only 21 calories - only 14 more than if they were watching TV!

    Myth: If you want to succeed, set reasonable, attainable goals. 
    Fact: Bigger goals = bigger results. People who set more ambitious goals often lose more weight. 

    Want to read more - check out the entire study here

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  • Welcome to Wellness Wednesday!

    Welcome to our first Wellness Wednesday Blog! Visit AMSA On Call each Wednesday to get tips and advice on living a healthy lifestyle during your medical training. We will focus on physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being. If you have ideas for us, email pr@amsa.org.  

    The writers of this blog consist of the members of the American Medical Student Association Wellness and Student Life Action Committee. We hope you enjoy our first post!


    Exercise and the Brain

    By Dasha Nesterova
    AMSA Wellness and Student Life Action Committee

    As a student interested in becoming a physician, I have always been well aware of the benefits of an active lifestyle for overall health. Yet knowing how exercising daily, for example, could help protect me from developing heart disease later on in life has not always helped me make the best decisions during moments when I have needed to study for a set of exams. Rather than maintain my fitness schedule, there have been times that I have decided to skip a trip to the gym or an outdoor jog just to get an extra hour of studying in. I’m sure many students have faced similar decisions not just once in a while, but almost daily. As we move up in our careers it becomes especially difficult to balance our own health needs with the demands of our various commitments. Rarely do we receive grades on how often we go running, eat healthy food, or get enough sleep. 

    Yet, what if going on that run actually helped you study better?

    Research on both mice and humans has begun to show that exercise helps to generate new neurons in the hippocampus, the area of the brain vital to memory development. Mice and rats that have undergone weeks of aerobic exercise have been found to have about twice as many neurons in their hippocampi as their sedentary counterparts. Yet, not only have researchers seen an increase in the number of neurons, they have also witnessed an increase in brain-derived neurotrophic factor BDNF, a protein responsible for supporting existing neurons and helping form new synapses between them as well as sparking neurogenesis. After exercising, humans have been found to have higher levels of serum BDNF. This may indicate that after exercising, you may become better at making neural connections, improving your ability to remember new information. More importantly, it appears that even walking can help increase the size of your hippocampus, with aerobic exercise being associated with increased verbal memory in older adults.

    So, instead of skipping that run, it could be to your benefit to hit the trails!  Study smarter, not harder.

    For more information on some of these findings please feel free to look through the links below:

    New York Times article by Gretchen Reynolds on “How Exercise Could Lead to a Better Brain”

    Scientific American article by Stephani Sutherland on “How Exercise Jogs the Brain”

    Physical activity improves verbal and spatial memory in older adults with probable mild cognitive impairment: a 6-month randomized controlled trial

    Spatial memory is improved by aerobic and resistance exercise through divergent molecular mechanisms

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