Monday Medical: Cardiac news: Fact or fiction?
January 31, 2011
Is there a link between a deficiency of vitamin D and a higher risk of cardiac disease?
The answer is a qualified maybe from Steamboat Springs cardiologist Dr. Will Baker, of Heart Center of the Rockies.
Two years ago, publication of a study sent people dashing to drug stores and supermarkets to buy vitamin D supplements. The rush was caused by publicity about research that indicated a higher risk of cardiovascular disease among people who had a vitamin D deficiency and high blood pressure.
"Now, some people are taking massive doses of vitamin D, even though the Institute of Medicine has reviewed the study and recommended there is not strong evidence about vitamin D and its role in heart health," Baker said.
"We need further research to determine whether vitamin D deficiency actually increases cardiovascular risk and if correcting this deficiency would result in a reduction in cardiovascular risk."
In our fast-paced world of instant news, it is becoming harder to separate fact from fiction, particularly when it comes to medical information. Too often, Baker said, publicity triggers actions that may not improve health and may cause harm.
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"There is so much medical information hitting the media, and all of a sudden doctors are bombarded with questions," Baker said. "We don't want incomplete, misleading or conflicting information to lead our patients away from good, sensible medical decision-making."
Baker will address some recent cardiac-based news reports in a February talk called News Flash or Trash? Separating Fact From Fiction. The free program, part of Yampa Valley Medical Center's Taking Care of Me community education series, will be presented Feb. 8 at the hospital.
"We'll take on topics that look interesting but aren't necessarily areas of definite information," Baker said.
"For example, we'll talk about alcohol, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, vitamin D and calcium supplements. All of these have been mentioned in connection with cardiovascular disease."
Baker cautions against randomly searching the Web for health information.
"If you Google any health topic, you'll get a lot of listings, articles written by whoever, that may be selling something," he said. "Just remember that anyone can blog or post anything they want. I would be very, very careful to use only reliable Internet sites.
"WebMD has balanced, well-thought-out information. You'll also get that at the Mayo Clinic and National Institutes of Health websites."
Yampa Valley Medical Center provides the latest, reliable medical information through its Community Health Resource Center. Under the direction of Nancy Bretz, an all-volunteer research team oversees a lending library and does free Internet searches, using specialized subscription sites, on any requested health topic.
The resource center serves hospital physicians and staff as well as the public. It is located near the main lobby at YVMC, across from SportsMed, and can be reached at 970-870-1173.
Baker recommends getting the most current information, because medical recommendations can change over time.
"There is a tendency in our country to think that we can buy our way to good health," Baker said. "That's why there is such enthusiasm about medical information that hits the news before there is good evidence one way or the other."
In Baker's view, no supplement can take the place of leading a healthy life.
"In reality, there is no easy fix. But if people make small, healthy changes that they can commit to, they will receive big benefits over the long run."
Christine McKelvie is public relations director at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at email@example.com.