The GP's View: A good GP can inspire better habits

Patients need their doctors to be able to take the time to get to know them
Dr Martin Scurr

ONE of the greatest difficulties doctors face nowadays is how to persuade patients to change their lifestyles.

Whether it's dietary advice or the dangers of smoking, many people seem hell-bent on ignoring what we tell them.

When someone does want to change, however, it can save their life. Stelios, a friend of mine who lives in Athens, recently told me how he had stopped his 60-a-day smoking habit.

He was having a coffee with one of my friends from work, a cardiologist, when my colleague commented on the fact that Stelios had smoked three cigarettes over the course of one espresso. He said this was dangerous, asked Stelios his age – 42 – and told him he'd be lucky to reach 50.

Stelios had just had his first child, a baby girl, and the combination of being proud parent and having his early demise predicted by a complete stranger – albeit a respected cardiologist – triggered ‘a magic moment', and Stelios stopped smoking that day.

But he started snacking instead, and when he gained 21kg (more than three stone) over the next year, colleagues encouraged him to start jogging.

He began with just five minutes, and then 10. Within a year, he had lost all that weight and now he runs a marathon every month in less than three hours – highly respectable for a man in his mid-40s.

Yes, change is possible, but patients can't wait for serendipitous encounters, like Stelios's, for that to happen.

They need their doctors taking the time to get to know them; it's the sort of relationship that comes from long-term continuity of care – not health apps and online GP services – that unearths such ‘magic moments'.

© Solo dmg media

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