FRIDAY, Oct. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors who take care of
themselves may be more likely to recommend healthy lifestyle habits
to their patients than doctors who gobble down fast food a couple
of times a week and rarely hit the gym, according to new
Additionally, the study found that more experienced doctors and
those who felt they'd been well-trained to counsel their patients
on lifestyle changes felt more comfortable doing so.
"Physicians who exercised more were more likely to counsel their patients on the importance of exercise," said the study's senior author, Dr. Elizabeth Jackson, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor.
Ironically, the researchers also found that physicians who were
overweight were more likely to counsel their patients on the
importance of lifestyle changes, probably because they were working
on making such changes themselves, the authors theorized.
Results of the study were published online Oct. 1 in the journal
The study included survey responses from 183 doctors; 102 of the
doctors were trainees (residents and fellows) and 81 were attending
physicians, meaning they had completed their medical training.
About 21 percent of the trainees were overweight and nearly 6
percent were obese, while 27 percent of the attendings were
overweight and over 8 percent were obese. Most of the physicians --
both trainees and attending -- reported having had their blood
pressure and cholesterol levels checked during the past year.
Both groups of doctors reported low intake of fruits and
vegetables, fast food consumption at least once a week and not
getting enough exercise. Attending physicians were far more likely
to report exercising four or more days a week.
Seventy percent of attending physicians reported counseling
their patients on healthy lifestyle behaviors, while just 37
percent of trainees did so, according to the study.
Physicians also reported that they didn't have a great deal of
confidence in their ability to affect change in their patients'
lives. Just 11 percent of doctors-in-training, and 17 percent of
attending physicians felt they could help their patients change
Part of the problem, said Jackson, may be that doctors "tend to
see people who are sick. We don't really see the patients who are
going out there and exercising."
Factors that made it more likely that a physician would counsel
a patient about the importance of exercise included the physician
exercising more than 150 minutes a week or having been trained well
in counseling. The researchers also found that overweight doctors
were more likely to advise their patients to exercise.
"Every time we see a patient is an opportunity to counsel them for risk factors that kill us, like heart disease and lung cancer. We can educate and empower patients," explained Dr. Jonathan Whiteson, an assistant professor and the medical director of the Cardiac and Pulmonary Wellness and Rehabilitation Program at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.
"But, this article reinforces the idea that we need to do a much better job counseling our patients," he added.
Both Whiteson and Jackson said that better training of doctors
might make them feel more effective when it comes to counseling
their patients. Whiteson said that role-playing exercises in
medical school can be very helpful.
The bottom line, said Jackson, is that "behavior is hard to
change. We can't just give you a pill and make you change. But,
talking with your patients can help. You may have just seen someone
who found a way to make lifestyle changes work, and you can share
that with your other patients."
The American Heart Association has lots of advice on
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