Stop taking health advice from non-health professionals: Dr Manidipa Majumdar

Dr Manidipa Majumdar, MBBS, MD, DM (Cardiology) is a highly skilled medical professional with a distinguished career in the field of cardiology. With nearly 9 years of experience, she is currently serving as an Assistant Professor at Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences. Dr Majumdar brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her role. With a deep commitment to advancing cardiac care, she is actively involved in research, teaching, and patient care, aiming to improve outcomes for individuals suffering from cardiovascular diseases.

What is the best thing you enjoy about treating patients?

The sense of fulfilment and gratification to see a person talk and smile normally after surviving a heart attack or heart failure is unmatched. Additionally, what truly excites me is the unique opportunity doctors have to translate scientific knowledge into practical application.

When is a patient easy to treat?

Treating a patient becomes easier when certain conditions are met. Firstly, when patients possess a degree of awareness about their condition or display a genuine willingness to listen and comprehend medical information, it greatly facilitates the treatment process. Secondly, individuals who actively strive to modify their lifestyle and actively participate in shared decision-making and disease management contribute to smoother medical care.

When is a patient difficult to treat?

Treating patients can become challenging when they, or their families, rely on unverified and potentially incorrect information gathered from the internet, social media, or local rumours. This not just leads to doubts and questioning of healthcare professionals’ decisions. It may also result in self-medication or discontinuation of essential medications and procedures, such as stopping blood thinners after heart stenting or refusing necessary treatments like hemodialysis.

How helpful is it to the treatment course, if the patient is knowledgeable about the treatment procedure, benefits, risks etc.?

If the patient has done their research well, it’s easier to explain the benefit, risks and alternate options. On the other hand, some people might be too invested in gathering all possible information from the internet, social media, and opinions of others, that they overestimate risks, or have undue expectations. For example, a heart transplant may be cited as an option for terminal heart diseases theoretically, but it’s not appropriate or allowed for all diseases and patients of all ages and with comorbid conditions. These finer details are not possible for a layperson to know, and they should appreciate an expert’s knowledge and experience over a few hours of research.

How can a patient improve their knowledge about the treatment procedure?

Patients can refer to self-help books on nutrition, exercise or healthy living in general. They can also gather information from websites of official medical organisations like WHO, the American Heart Association (AHA), and certain other health websites, etc. For further guidance, patients can always discuss with and ask for sources from their doctors, nurses and nutritionists.

How does medical misinformation act as a problem in the overall treatment procedure?

Medical misinformation is undeniably dangerous as it can lead to delayed or confused diagnoses, accelerating the deterioration of diseases in numerous cases. Specifically, pregnant women who rely on unverified or contraindicated local remedies promoted through health programmes on TV or the internet run the risk of causing birth defects in their babies or even experiencing pregnancy loss. Additionally, indigenous medicines that claim to treat conditions like diabetes or kidney failure can actually worsen the disease while providing only temporary relief. The interaction between certain herbs and blood thinners can disrupt their intended effects, potentially causing bleeding or stroke. In situations where a patient exhibits symptoms of undiagnosed infection, opting for steroids in lieu of appropriate medical treatment or locally available remedies may offer temporary symptom improvement but can significantly exacerbate the infection, potentially leading to hospitalisation. Alarmingly, the misuse of steroids by unqualified individuals aiming to ‘cure everything’ has resulted in uncontrolled blood pressure, elevated blood sugar levels, and weekend bones in many patients. These instances highlight the grave consequences of medical misinformation.

A few pieces of advice that you always give to your patients…

I am never a keen believer in a too-strict lifestyle, but I do advise everyone on regular aerobic exercise, a high-fibre low-fat diet and the importance of taking prescribed medications very diligently. I also urge people to avoid following crucial health advice from non-health professionals.

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