Where do you get your health information?

Recently there was something in the news about roughly half of the information in the shows “The Doctors” and the Dr. Oz show was correct (actually it was 63% of the time in “the doctors: and correct about 49% on the Dr. Oz show). See an article reporting on this here. Often times people will have looked things up on the internet when they come into the office.

Now I’m not bringing this up to knock Dr. Oz or the doctors who appear on “The Doctors”, nor looking things up the internet. However it’s important to ask several questions when evaluating health claims.

1) Does the claim have any scientific basis?
2) Has the study (if a study is being quoted) been replicated with the same or similar results?
2a) Who funded the study? Was it reported in a reputable journal?
2b) If it is a product being touted, did the company making the product fund the studies of the product?
3) Does the person ‘reporting’ the results, or pushing the product have a connection with the company? If there is, what is the connection? Just because someone is employed or funded by a company doesn’t necessarily mean they’re biased, but it is something to take into account.Well you get the picture.

Looking up things on the internet may be just as hard, given that websites may not be what they seem. If a patient asked where to look for information I’d give the following advice:

Lean toward sites that end in .edu, .org (though it doesn’t totally eliminate the possibility of bias..) or .gov
Examples of places like this to start include:

Centers for Disease Control

Health information at the NIH

Harvard Medical School health information

the Mayo Clinic
for things like diet, organizions like the Oldways Preservation Trust

WebMD does appear to be a commercial site with decent information

When on a site, look for a statement that indicates if they get funding from a source, and where that source is. Ask where is someone getting his/her data from (or if they’re willing to say).

Perhaps the best place to start is with your own physician.

Lost Posture: Why Indigenous Cultures Don’t Have Back Pain.

Lost Posture: Why Indigenous Cultures Don’t Have Back Pain : Goats and Soda : NPR.

I see a lot of people with back pain in my office. There are times I think it’s the common cold of pain. Though I don’t consider things like the radio, newspapers, TV  my main source of medical information (I prefer journals like “The Annals of Internal medicine” and “The New England Journal of Medicine” and things like grand rounds [a form of continuing medical education for doctors]), sometimes I come across things like this are interesting.

Often times if something is common one might forget to ask why it’s so common.   With a lot of people developing  back pain finding ways to prevent it or treat it before it becomes chronic is important. If this theory holds up, It’s worth pursuing.

Surviving Old Age (AKA: Aging Well, part two)

One of my first posts in this blog was titled “Aging Well”. In that post I wrote mostly about staying healthy and how to (hopefully) age well and arrive at being an older adult being relatively healthy. In this post I’m  going to talk about things to think about or do once you get there  – and perhaps people to think about family members that are older. For the purposes of this post, the definition of older is 65 and above, despite the line that “65 is the new 40”.

Initially I would like to summarize a bit of what I said in the first post:

1) Be active! Both socially and physically (more on this later).
2) Control as best you can the health problems you do have.
3) Keep mentally active as well. Whether it’s taking adult education classes, daily crossword puzzles or playing cards with people often, do it!
4) Use a healthy eating pattern. For a fuller summary, go here to see the original post: aging well

For he remainder of this post I’ll talk about other things worth doing.

Firstly, if you haven’t already, sign a health care proxy form, and give copies to your primary care physician as well as a friend/relative. You may never need to use it but it is important to have if you develop a health issue that prevents you from making decisions about health care.  I have seen too many people admitted to the hospital with dementia that is so advanced that they were unable to make competent decisions for themselves in any capacity and did not have any family or friends who could speak on their behalf (legally I think family is given precedence over friends unless noted in the health care proxy or other similar legal document). There is a form called “five wishes” that not only, once filled out and properly signed, acts as a health care proxy but also gives your health care proxy and physicians more knowledge about your wishes regarding your wishes/goals/etc should you not be able to speak for yourself. Find the link here : aging with dignity – five wishes 

Secondly, take a good look at your finances. Long term care is expensive and if you have a lot of assets, such as owning your own home, medicare/medicaid might not pay for living in a nursing home should that be what you need. Long term care at home might also be out of your reach. Hence it is important to talk to a financial planner or lawyer with experience in elder affairs or elder law respectively. If you have a disorder like dementia , it’s even more important to do this because you’re more than likely to need someone to make decisions for you at some point.

Elder abuse is also a concern, especially if there are cognitive or  severe mental health issues. This also makes it important to have someone to talk to or know where to go (for more information, go here: National Center on Elder Abuse ).

Thirdly, as I mention above and in my earlier post, be socially active. This is potentially helpful in a number of ways. one is that people are social animals. There are likely multiple benefits to mental and cognitive health by having a lot of social interaction. Also, being part of a community means there are people who could be called upon to help with food shopping, transportation to and from doctors offices (among other things), and so forth if you happen to be unable to do these things yourself – even temporarily such as due to an illness.