Opinion: Here's how to avoid dangerous medical misinformation

Not long ago, a young man at the pool asked me, “Why does our blood get thick as we age?”

He had just come out of the steam room after chatting with a number of older adults, all of whom were taking “blood thinners.”

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Our blood doesn’t get thick as we age. Some adults acquire an irregular heart rhythm, called atrial fibrillation. The irregular contractions of one chamber of the heart, the atrium can result in blood clots, and to reduce the risk for strokes, blood thinners or anticoagulant medications are prescribed.

The young man was another victim of medical misinformation – provided by a common source: well-intentioned, but unlicensed practitioners in the community, usually neighbours, friends and family.

There’s also no shortage of medical information available through print, radio, television and the internet. Unfortunately, much of it is biased and even some of the best-known TV doctors are trying to sell you something other than good health.

How is the average person able to get objective, evidence-based information and make the right choices for healthy living?

The best place to start is with the family physician you trust. Though we’re always ready to help you manage acute and chronic conditions, we’re also your health advocates over a lifetime.

To provide all members of the public with the unbiased, objective medical information they need to live well and get the care they need when they need it, the family doctors of Burnaby created the Empowering Patients health education program.

Over the past six years, I’ve been giving free talks at our community centres, libraries and schools on topics including the four foundations of self-care (healthy eating, physical activity, emotional wellbeing and healthy relationships), practical medical ethics, communicating with healthcare providers, getting the care you need in the hospital and the community, and chronic health conditions (such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease). The same information is available online as posters, handouts, slides and videos.

The New Year and new decade are opportunities to take advantage of the “fresh start effect.” Psychologists have discovered that we are better at taking on our goals - for example, the healthy new habits of being more active, eating better and beating our bad habits – with temporal landmarks.

The start of a new decade, year, month or even a week can help us psychologically dissociate from our past behaviour or failures.

On Feb. 3, I’ll start the new year of our Empowering Patients program with a free talk at the Tommy Douglas Library near Edmonds and Kingsway. My topic, The Keys to Positive Change: Transforming Our Bad Habits Into Healthy Ones. I’ll translate modern neuroscience into practical strategies for lasting change.

For more information, contact Leona at lcullen@divisionsbc.ca or 604-259 4450.

What is your personal vision for 2020?

As we start the new 20s, recall that the 1920s (a decade of relative prosperity and cultural growth) were known as the roaring 20s and the 1930s (the decade of the Great Depression) the dirty 30s.

What will we call this new decade?

At this great temporal landmark, we can collectively create our future.

I’m hoping the new twenties will be the We Decade in which we learn to build bridges, collaborate on common goals, and share responsibility for the health of every member of every community and our planet.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician. For more on achieving your positive potential for health, read his blog at davidicuswong.wordpress.com.



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