Doctor…What’s my risk?

For the most part, humans are a poor judge when it comes to estimating statistically small risk.  One example chance of death in an airplane vs car.  When you get behind the wheel of a car, you are more likely to die in a car crash than when you board a plane.

Similarly in medicine we have the same problem.  Last week in my office, a patient came in to address her weight.  There are certain drugs that are FDA approved to address weight loss and so we discussed the risks and the benefits of each one.  Towards the end of our conversation I scrolled through her medical file and notice that the patient smoked about 1/2 pack of cigarettes a day.  I causally asked if she had thought about quitting.  It didn’t occur to the patient that her continued smoking carried a far greater risk of death than her weight.

Robert Wood Johnson Health Foundation established a new tool this year to help visualize health problems http://www.vishealth.org.  

I will include some of these graphs in future articles

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