Doctor's health habits affect patient counseling

September 21, 2010

Physician's confidence in their abilities to counsel patients on a healthy diet and exercise may be related to their own personal habits, according to a study by the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center.

Confidence in counseling depended on a doctor's own exercise time, being overweight, and if the doctor had adequate training in talking to about diet and exercise.

The study, published online ahead of print Oct. 1 in Preventive Cardiology, shows doctors' own health habits matter when it comes to patient counseling.

"Living a healthy lifestyle themselves translates into a more believable message to their patients," says lead author Michael Howe, M.D., chief medical resident at U-M Health System. "Physicians are busy, especially during their training; but eating healthy foods and exercising regularly may result in better personal health as well as improved patient care."

A majority of attending physicians, those who have completed their doctor training, talked to patients about a healthy diet compared to only 36 percent of trainees, young doctors still in internship or residency programs.

But in the survey, attending physicians reported taking better care of themselves than trainees whose diets were heavier in fast food.

Both attending and trainee physicians reported low levels of confidence in their ability to effectively counsel patients regarding healthy . However, greater degrees of self-confidence for counseling were seen with increased levels of personal exercise.

Attending physicians were more likely to exercise four or more days a week and more than 150 minutes a week than trainees. In the survey, 69 percent talked to patients about exercise compared to only 38 percent of trainees who gave exercise counseling.

Adequate training was the strongest predictor for confidence in talking about healthy eating habits, the survey showed.

Few trainees or attending physicians were confident in their ability to change patients' behavior even though it's well-known that weight loss can prevent or alleviate obesity-related diseases such as hypertension and diabetes.

With the prevalence of obesity among adults in the U.S. increasing, "many physicians lack confidence in their ability to counsel patients regarding lifestyle," says senior author Elizabeth Jackson, M.D., an assistant professor of internal medicine at the U-M Health System. "An emphasis on and exercise counseling is an important part of medical education for of all levels."

Explore further: Message to the elderly: It's never too late to prevent illness

More information: "Patient related diet and exercise counseling: Do providers own lifestyle habits matter?," Preventive Cardiology, Oct. 1, 2010.

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bottomlesssoul
not rated yet Sep 21, 2010
I think this is another example of why "Do as I say not as I do" is such a poor way to transmit knowledge. Every doctor who I knew smoked cigarettes that also consoled me about smoking uniformly described it as a choice not an addiction so validating it to me in some sense.

The same is true for obesity. When a fat doctor discusses obesity with you and you ask them why they don't act on their own advice you will most likely get a rationalization, no time or some such.

In my life I've had one really motivational talk about smoking from a doctor and he was a dentist. He apologized for having to delay an appointment because he had had to attend to his personal addiction. He advised me how bad it was to smoke, not only for the teeth but my whole body and how he knew it was really hard to fight against it but to never stop trying.

I still follow his advice on smoking but the whole flossing thing didn't stick.

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