For those proactive in health care choices, ‘Hype’ is a book to have

Published 6:56 am Saturday, June 9, 2018

“Hype: A Doctor’s Guide to Medical Myths, Exaggerated Claims and Bad Advice – How to Tell What’s Real and What’s Not” by Nina Shapiro, MD with Kristin Loberg (c.2018, St. Martin’s Press/$26.99/304 pages)

For the last few days, you’ve had a tickle in your throat.

It’s not much, just a hrrumph that’s gone from occasional to annoying. You’ve looked it up online and, well, it’s either allergies, a cold, or you’re going to die. But, as author Nina Shapiro, MDsays in her new book, “Hype” (with Kristin Loberg), be careful what you think you know.

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Your doctor may be rolling her eyes at you.

But don’t worry. Says Shapiro, showing up at an appointment armed with sheaves of print-outs, having “done… research” is often a good thing; most physicians are glad to serve better-educated patients. The problem is that some of your new education may be false and some of it may be dangerous.

So how do you know the difference?

To start, if you’re looking for information online, be super-specific in your search and bear in mind that websites with colorful ads are often “exaggerated.”  Pay attention to what comes after the “dot” because it matters in a web address. And just because the website looks authentic doesn’t mean its information is.

Remember that we tend to panic about that which is newsworthy, while ignoring what’s good for us; you may worry about Ebola, for instance, (a threat that’s truly small) but you don’t use your seat belt. Learn how to assess risk and remember that sometimes, not acting is the riskier choice. Also remember that even the most benign substances can kill you if they’re consumed in excess.

In this book, Shapiro explains how to tell if a “study” is really of any use for you, and how to properly use the information you’ll get from genetic testing. Find out why there is no “best” diet or exercise. Get the final word on vaccinations. And that handful of supplements you were about to take?

Hold off a minute…

Lie-ins and thyroids and scares, Oh, My! What do you do when you’re feeling poorly? “Hype” lets you separate the help from the hooey.

Don’t, however, think that this is just another voice in the medical jungle. Author Shapiro (with Loberg) doesn’t tell readers what to do; instead, she offers the tools to figure out the best next step based on calm truth, not rumor. Shapiro doesn’t hyperventilate in her writing, which is handy and reassuring when you’re faced with a lot of decisions or too much conflicting information.

On that conflict, Shapiro is careful to show both sides to a medical coin — few things, as she points out, are all good or all bad. To that point, she reminds readers that there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to health care; she’s also refreshingly candid about her own medical superstitions and practices.

For anyone who wants to be extra proactive in their health care choices, this is a book to have. Even though it’s pretty no-nonsense, it’s got a breezy feel to it and sometimes, the authors have a little fun with readers, too. “Hype” is down-to-earth, informative, and your funnybone may even be tickled.