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Brandon Sun - PRINT EDITION

The Doctor Game -- What I learned while on the road

What’s it like to be a medical journalist? It’s a combination of hard work, deadlines and loneliness. After all, computers are hardly good company. This is why, for several months, it has been exciting meeting and greeting live humans across Canada. And what was the No. 1 question and worry of readers?

I wasn’t surprised to find that health consumers today are confused about medical care. Countless numbers of readers handed me a list of prescription drugs they were taking. Most had only a vague knowledge of why they were taking them. I wondered, too, and was concerned about adverse drug interactions and their unintended consequences.

The long lists of drugs being consumed reinforced what I have written in the past. Namely, North Americans have become the most over-drugged society in the world. Moreover, rather than becoming healthier they’ve become obsessed about medication. The scene reminded me of the U.S. Constitution that states the right of everyone to the pursuit of happiness. Little did its framers realize that everyone’s happiness would become the pursuit of perfect health.

It quickly became apparent that “cholesterolphobia” is a primary concern. It’s understandable, as pharmaceutical companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars linking cholesterol-lowering drugs (CLDs) to the prevention of heart attack. I believe history will show this is a colossal error. Now people worry needlessly that their blood cholesterol has increased from 5.1 to 5.4. Or that their good cholesterol has decreased slightly, figures that mean nothing.

Many people had read my columns about Medi-C Plus, a powder containing high doses of vitamin C and lysine. Studies show this natural combination can prevent heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular problems caused by atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries). They asked, “Can I stop CLDs and take this non-toxic, inexpensive and effective remedy?” This is a decision to discuss with your doctor. But since both vitamin C and lysine are natural substances that we all obtain in food, increasing the amount should not be a problem. Since my heart attack 15 years ago, this has been my only medication. Capsules of Medi-C Plus or the combination powder, which I find easier to take, are available at health food stores.

The next most frequently asked question was about possible complications from prescription drugs that treat osteoporosis. Many were taking calcium along with vitamin D, but were unaware that vitamin K2 directs blood calcium into bone, rather than into coronary arteries, where calcium can cause problems.

It was distressing that many people were worried about the health effects of prescription drugs. But they repeatedly told me it was impossible to question physicians about medication. Due to this frustration, they were resorting to health food stores for advice and not telling their doctors.

So I have come to a couple of conclusions during the past several weeks of travel. If I had the power to improve the nation’s health, I’d prohibit TV commercials that daily tell us that something is wrong with us. I’d do this because we’ve reached a point where a well person is someone who simply hasn’t been examined by enough doctors, or had a battery of tests done! Then we could dump at least half the pills in the trash to the benefit of mankind.

I also came to the conclusion that it will be a horrendous task to stop the epidemic of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. These two problems will bankrupt the health-care system in the years ahead. But the scientific evidence is available to stop the No. 1 killer heart attack. If I had my life to live over again I’d start taking Medi-C Plus as soon as I could afford it. It would have saved me from a heart attack 15 years ago and could save others. So I wish more young people had attended my talks.

Adding it up, being on the road and talking to so many readers was a great experience … Now I’m back to work, lonely again, staring at the computer screen.

» Dr. Gifford-Jones is a graduate of the University of Toronto and the Harvard Medical School. He took post-graduate training in surgery at the Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, McGill University in Montreal and Harvard. During his medical training he has been a family doctor, hotel doctor and ship's surgeon. His medical column is published by 70 Canadian newspapers, several in the U.S. and the Epoch Times which has editions in a number of European countries.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 5, 2013

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What’s it like to be a medical journalist? It’s a combination of hard work, deadlines and loneliness. After all, computers are hardly good company. This is why, for several months, it has been exciting meeting and greeting live humans across Canada. And what was the No. 1 question and worry of readers?

I wasn’t surprised to find that health consumers today are confused about medical care. Countless numbers of readers handed me a list of prescription drugs they were taking. Most had only a vague knowledge of why they were taking them. I wondered, too, and was concerned about adverse drug interactions and their unintended consequences.

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What’s it like to be a medical journalist? It’s a combination of hard work, deadlines and loneliness. After all, computers are hardly good company. This is why, for several months, it has been exciting meeting and greeting live humans across Canada. And what was the No. 1 question and worry of readers?

I wasn’t surprised to find that health consumers today are confused about medical care. Countless numbers of readers handed me a list of prescription drugs they were taking. Most had only a vague knowledge of why they were taking them. I wondered, too, and was concerned about adverse drug interactions and their unintended consequences.

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