Dont Believe Everything You Read

Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014

How cardiologists keep up with the latest research and information, and how you can, too.

Getting sprayed by a skunk is good for your heart; sound suspicious? There are lots of things on the internet--yes, the same world wide web you're using now--that may appear to be true, but are actually false claims, misconstrued conclusions or just plain bad information.

James Kmetzo, MD is a cardiologist with the Heart Institute of Doylestown Health and chairman of the hospital's CME (continuing medical education) committee. He knows how to find the best information possible when it comes to the latest research, treatments and heart health guidelines. We asked Dr. Kmetzo how he stays on top of all this, and how the average person can also stay informed.

How do you stay on the leading edge of new technologies, devices and treatments?

I read peer-reviewed literature in cardiology journals and other medical publications such as the New England Journal of Medicine. I also participate in clinical research, attend cardiovascular conferences and take classes to maintain continuing medical education (CME) credits.

How can I keep current on heart health?

Education is key to preventing heart disease. Read as much as you can on reliable websites such as WebMD, American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association. The news media can bring scientific data to the public instantaneously, so read and watch as much as you can and confer with your physician about what's best for you.

We hear about a lot of "new" things when it comes to heart health – a new drug or supplement, a new diet. How can people make sense of all this?

Drug companies spend a lot of money on advertising, so it's no wonder we get bombarded with all these messages, but consumers need to be wary. Not every new drug is right for everyone. People should always consult with their cardiologist about changing medication, adding supplements or overhauling their diet or exercise program. Cardiologists know which medications and guidelines are proven effective through clinical trials and extensive research and can counsel patients on their specific needs and lifestyle.

You have the inside track on lots of new treatments. What are some that you see changing the landscape?

There are new families of blood thinners that work like Coumadin and new antiplatelet drugs to keep stents open. There are new wireless monitoring systems to pick up heart failure early, and new types of coronary stents, techniques to insert prosthetic aortic valves without open heart surgery, novel methods to eradicate symptomatic heart rhythm irregularities, and the list goes on. These are exciting times in the treatment of cardiovascular disease.

Additional Helpful Tips To Evaluate Online Health Information

The number of health related websites has grown tremendously over the past few years. Information is being consumed at record numbers through these websites, emails, social media and on our smart phones. With the volume of information we come across now, it's hard to decipher what's credible and what's not. Below are questions to help guide you to reliable and credible health information.

Is the Website Credible?

Always try to see who is managing the website by visiting their About section. If the website lacks an About section, what is the top level domain (.edu, .gov, .org, .com)? The domain can tip you off as to whether they are educational sites or for-profit companies.

  • .edu - education
  • .gov - government
  • .org - non-profit organization
  • .com - commercial

Many commercial sites do have credible information and they should disclose who manages or sponsors the site, but be mindful that some, not all, .com sites are out there to make a profit.

What is the Purpose of the Website?

Is it to sell a product, educate, raise money? This should help you determine the purpose of the site. Be skeptical if you see these red flags:

  • Miracle cures or secret ingredients
  • Outdated
  • Poorly written, grammatical errors or misspellings

Use your best judgement in evaluating online health information and familiarize yourself with some of these key points. Before you know it you will be able to a quack from true medical professionals.

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