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What We Have Learned About Health in the Last Decade

Learning from the past can help build a healthier future.

You never think about your health until something goes wrong. Fortunately, there are people who think about it for you—all the time. Doctors, researchers and medical professionals have spent the last decade learning about how the human body works, and how to make it work better. As a new decade approaches, the Remedy asked those on the front-line what they've learned about health in the last 10 years.


Our Brain is Connected to Our Gut

Gut bacteria , gut flora, microbiome. Bacteria inside the small intestine

"Scientists have discovered that the mix of bacteria in our digestive system could impact our health to a far greater degree than previously imagined," says Dr. Pierre, a board-certified specialist in dermatology at the Pierre Skin Care Institute. "There is research demonstrating a potential link between our gut microbiome and obesity. There may also be an affect on how our brain functions. Microbiome therapy uses the body's bacteria to treat illness and has already been successful in treating certain forms of diarrhea, life-threatening gut infections as well as inflammatory bowel disease."

"Our guts do so much more than simply digest our food," adds Dr. Tiffany Caplan, DC, BCIM, Co-Founder of Caplan Health Institute and Central Coast Center for Integrative Health, "and now we are seeing a connection between the organisms that live in and on us and our own health and wellbeing. We can not survive without these beneficial organisms and we are seeing the direct impact our daily lives take on this delicate ecosystem of our body from the food we eat to the drugs we take and environment we live in and are exposed to."


Brain Tumor Treatment Can be Personalized Thanks to Genetics

Two Medical Scientists in the Brain Research Laboratory Discussing Progress on the Neurophysiology Project Curing Tumors.

"We now treat brain tumors based on their molecular genetic make-up and use their underlying genetic abnormalities to more specifically classify, discuss and treat them," says Jennifer Moliterno, MD, a Yale Medicine neurosurgeon. "At the Yale Brain Tumor Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital, every tumor undergoes sophisticated, state-of-the-art genomic testing, called whole exome sequencing, allowing us to understand the mutations, or genetic errors in the tumor, that have led to its growth and afford potential ways to stop it from coming back after surgery. This provides valuable information with regards to how we treat the patients after surgery and whether they should have additional treatment, such as radiation, chemotherapy (including clinical trials) or more personalized or precise oncological care (i.e. precision medicine) that targets the genetic abnormalities of the tumor."


You Can Check Your Blood Sugar Painlessly

Continuous Glucose Monitoring

"In this ear of cutting edge technology, Continuous Glucose Monitoring Technology (CGMs) has been introduced within this decade," says Anis Rehman, MD, ABIM Board-Certified in Internal Medicine as well as Board-Certified in Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism. "Multiple finger sticks are being replaced with a small sensor that checks glucose continuously. Hence no more painful finger sticks. This technology is now getting integrated into insulin pumps to deliver insulin to patients. The data from CGMis transmitted to a phone on a smartwatch, and in real-time, patients get feedback about their diabetes control."

RELATED: Don't Ignore These Silent Signs of Diabetes


HIV Treatment Models Have Improved

Doctor using test for HIV, Hepatitis B, C and Syphilis

"Combination drug therapy, a cocktail approach to treatment where drugs are combined in different ways or different sequences has been highly effective in transforming HIV/AIDS from a fatal illness into a chronic disease with survival stretching into the decades," says Dr. Pierre. "This has also dramatically reduced the mother-to-infant transmission of HIV. This same model is being used to treat other diseases ranging from lung cancer to heart disease."


The Opioid Epidemic Was Fueled by Marketing

White prescription pills spilled onto a table with many prescription bottles in the background

"The opioid epidemic arose through a confluence of well-intentioned efforts to improve pain management by doctors and aggressive marketing by pharmaceutical manufacturers," says Uzoma Vivian Nriagu, M.D., a Board Certified Emergency Medicine Doctor practicing as a staff physician at Memorial Village Emergency Room and St. Joseph's Medical Center in Houston, Texas. "Studies in the last decade showed that aggressive opioid marketing was associated with increased opioid prescribing which ultimately lead to increased opioid deaths."


Your DNA Can Save Your Life

Woman technician with multipipette in genetic laboratory PCR research

"In the past decade, with the rising interest in at-home DNA testing, we have learned that people want to learn more about their genetic health risks and want to take control over their health," according to data at 23andMe. "A new survey found that more than 75% of respondents made at least one positive change in their health behavior, including eating healthier, getting more sleep, and exercising more, after receiving their personalized genetic reports."

"The scientific community has made enormous strides over the last decade in understanding the role of genetics in human health," adds Othman Laraki, Co-Founder and CEO, Color, a genomics company. "Traditionally, we've used family histories as a proxy for risk—we waited for people to show symptoms of disease before accessing information in their genome. In the last decade, we've refined the tools that can prevent suffering and save lives. Now, clinical-grade genomic testing has become more reliable, affordable and accessible than ever before, and can help inform better medical decision-making."

RELATED: How To Get The Absolute Best Out of Your Genes


Medicine is No Longer 'One Size Fits All'

patient explaining issues to Asian doctor using tablet

"The past decade has proven that there is no longer any 'one size fits all' in medicine," says Dr. Amit Phull, Medical Director, VP of Strategy & Insights, Doximity."Although individualized medical therapies are not ready for prime time just yet, we are on the path to making significant life-saving strides in the very near future. Our ability to leverage a person's individual genome to create customized medical therapies will only improve, potentially enabling people to survive an even broader group of what are now terminal conditions. These and other forthcoming discoveries in healthcare hold the promise to unlock limitless potential for improving individuals' health."


There's Better Treatment for Certain Lung Cancers

doctor explaining results of lung check up from x-ray scan chest on digital tablet screen to patient

"A lot has been learned about cancer in the past decade. We have a better understanding of how cancer evades the immune system and how certain mutations lead to cancer development from normal cells," says Dr. Jacob Sands volunteer medical spokesperson for the American Lung Association and "In fact, we are now utilizing a tube of blood to detect cancer. This is currently done to look for specific mutations that guide cancer treatment options.  This is important because we have amazing treatments for lung cancer with some specific mutations. People often carry on with their lives for years without anybody knowing they have lung cancer (unless they're told about the cancer)."

RELATED: 30 Surprising Things That Affect Whether You May Get Cancer


Mental Health Treatments are Expanding

Medical doctor pointing with pen to the brain poblem on the MRI study result

"Research in the past decade has really illuminated additional options for individuals suffering from mental health disorders," says Ben Spielberg, M.S. is the Founder & CEO of TMS & Brain Health. "In the past, a person with depression and anxiety was only given medication and talk therapy. This worked for some, but many remained resistant to medications. We've learned that other modalities, including Ketamine, Express Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, Esketamine spray, and brexanolone are all extremely effective and safe alternatives to these traditional approaches."


Embryos Hold a Secret Code

The doctor prepares special media for growing embryos in the IVF laboratory

"The answer to this lies in early embryo development, and what we've been able to learn about how embryos grow into what will one day become a healthy baby, versus those that take a different developmental path and end up with an abnormal genetic code," says Dr. Thomas Molinaro, a urologist with Reproductive Medicine Associates (RMA), a national fertility network headquartered in New Jersey. "Clearly maternal age is the biggest predictor of pregnancy success but we are still searching for other explanations for why some genetically normal embryos develop while others do not.  A team like mine managed to grow human embryos past the first several weeks of development to understand patterns of development that give invaluable insight into genetics and health." And to live your happiest and healthiest life, don't miss these 50 Unhealthiest Habits on the Planet.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek