Sunday, December 19, 2010

So who should I trust, and who is full of it?

It can be hard to determine which sources are the best, and who exactly you should listen to. I know I said “without naming names” in my last post, but that is precisely what I intend to do in this one. I think it is important for people to know where their medical information is coming from and whether it is credible or not.

Never believe anything they say:
  • Infomercials! – these are the guys I was talking about in the first part of my last post; these are the ones who want your money, even if it puts your health at risk. While some of what they say is based on facts, they twist it and add stuff to make you believe their lies. Things like diet pills on infomercials are usually full of nothing, or very dangerous drugs like ephedrine. Similarly, things like miracle cleansers will usually do nothing but clean out your bank account. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, I can make a whole post on it, leave me a comment.
  • People who ask/answer questions on sites like Yahoo Answers, or – some of these people are knowledgeable professionals, most are not. Many are those people who take the infomercials as fact, they are likely exposed to most of the bad sources of information on this list and remember bits and pieces, then regurgitate a fractured version in a way that may or may not make any sense. Sometimes they are people who want only to fool others and get as many people as possible to believe their lies. This can be a way to get some direction for further research, but should not be taken for fact.
  • Anyone who does not cite their source – if there is no reference as to where the information came from, then you can assume they are making it all up, if there are references, check them out! You may discover they are complete crap, or they may be much more informative and helpful than the explanation you were originally given. (I will attempt to provide as many alternate sources as possible to allow you to do your own research if you want to look further in to what I have presented, and of course, if you want to learn more, just ask.)

Most of the info can be trusted, but be careful..
  • TV shows like “The Doctors” or “Dr. Oz” – these shows are what I was talking about in the second part of my last post. It is not limited to television; radio shows, websites, magazines, and other media are guilty of unintentionally distorting good medical information into less than truthful advice. For the most part what they have to offer is good, awareness about diseases, teaching the public what warning signs they should recognize for various conditions, what to do in the event of a medical emergency, ways to prevent disease, all good stuff. Sometimes though, they create a bit of a misconception due to their over-simplifications. Also, sometimes they manage to induce some form of paranoia or hypochondria since many diseases and conditions present with common innocuous symptoms. Do not write these guys off altogether, just take what they have to say with a grain of salt, and if you are curious or skeptical, just look it up!
  • Wikipedia – many people would classify this in the “Never believe anything they say” category, but that’s not where I put it. It is true that Wikipedia can be edited by anyone on the planet and they can say whatever they darn well please, no matter how truthful it is. But in reality the majority of information on Wikipedia is true, and most people cite their sources! This does not mean that everything is true; it is like a minefield of lies dispersed between the facts. I recommend using Wikipedia to get an idea about the topic you are interested in, and directions you might like to investigate further, then go straight to the references part at the bottom and check them out, they are usually much more thorough, and can often be used as citations for your work. That is not to say that any citation in Wikipedia is great and full of truth; it may not be, so again, take it with a grain of salt.

ALMOST always credible information:
  • – this is a great website with tons of helpful information on conditions, diseases, drugs, and general health information. They have a nifty ‘symptom checker’ that can help you zero in on what is ailing you. Not to be used as a substitute for your doctor, but it can give you an idea of whether you should schedule a visit, or something you might like to mention while you are there. If you know of another website you think may fit here, let me know and I can check it out.
  • Web sites from trusted organizations and universities – Mayo Clinic, Harvard, Cornell
  • Government sites - National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, Center for Disease Control
  • Scholarly Journals – these can be found on PubMed through the NIH – scholarly journals are the research articles published by scientists. All the information contained in them has been thoroughly reviewed and double checked by a number of individuals. They are written by experts for experts and may not be easily understood by a lay person, so this is not helpful for everyone.
  • Text Books – Definitely my favorite source of information! Text books are compilations of all the information that has been published in the articles above, with all the background information to help it make sense to you. The information is presented clearly and with nice diagrams to illustrate things in a more dynamic way. The more advanced the textbook the more background knowledge you need, so start with general topics and work up. (Books I may use in my posts include: Human Anatomy by McKinley and Olaughlin, Human Physiology by Silverthorn, Brody's Human Pharmacology by Wecker, Basic and Clinical Pharmacology by Katzung, and Basic Pharmacology by Hernandez and Rathenavelu.)
  • Your doctor – trust no one more than a good doctor, they have gone through years of training to be able to diagnose and treat any health problem you have, and to answer all your questions. Find a good one, one who is approachable and explains things to you, one who is compassionate and asks your opinion. If you don’t like your doctor, get a new one, find the perfect doc for you and stick with them. Always remember to tell them full details and keep them informed of any vitamins, supplements, or anything else you may be taking. There is no substitute for your doctor!

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