Tuesday, April 30, 2013

An Open Letter to Oprah Magazine

To my beloved Oprah:

Girlfriend, you know I love you. I mean I really, deeply love you. I love your shows, your gurus, your magazine, your network. I love you but I gotta call you out on something I just read in the May 2013 issue of O Mag that was not characteristic of your endless perfection.

In a skippable one page article called "4 Health Checks You May Not Need" writer Jessica Girdwain points out that "28% of primary care physicians admit to overtreating patients" then outlines four common tests/procedures that "may do more harm than good."

Number 1 on this list happens to be the ECG or Electrocardiogram. I'm 100% biased as this test helped me discover a previously undiagnosed and serious heart condition just a few short months ago. Girdwain suggests that you "might want to skip" this test because "there's no evidence that an ECG will reduce your risk of having a heart attack" and that you're better off just managing your blood pressure via the traditional methods like eating right, exercising and not smoking cigarettes.

Ok first off, I understand that she's not telling us definitively NOT to take the test or even claiming to be a medical expert. I'm not like one of those litigious cattle attorneys trying to sue you for a sudden reduction in the number of ECG's performed this quarter. However, let's discuss the logic she has presented.

Suggesting that an ECG would reduce the risk of a heart attack is like saying a blood test is going to reduce your risk of contractin HIV or that getting a mammogram will make you less susceptible to breast cancer. It would be amazing if all of this was true, but unfortunately it's not. The validity of a test does not lie in its ability to prevent a condition but simply to diagnose it.

Take me for example. I'm 99% vegan, do yoga/exercise 5 or more times per week, don't smoke cigarettes, sleep on average 6.5-7 hours per night and have a husband and a pet. I've never had any serious health issue in my entire life. According to Girdwain's logic, I'm doing everything I should be doing to prevent heart disease and an ECG isn't going to help me out at all. And I should skip it.

She then goes on to argue that false positives are often prevalent in ECG testings and that could lead to "surgery- even angioplasty- you don't need." Is this for real? After my first abnormal ECG with my primary care physician, I got 2 more ECGs at 2 different cardiologists' offices. Then I wore a holter monitor for 5 days. Then I saw a genetic specialist. Then I took a few more tests. Then I got another ECG. Then I saw a psychiatrist. Then they put me on one medication to try. And then another. Then I went in for an ultrasound of my heart. Three months later after countless appointments, tests, expert opinions, and hypotheses I was finally advised to get surgery and get it quick. I find it absolutely implausible than any patient would make it all the way to the operating room based on one "false positive" on an ECG that their primary care physician administered. That's an insane suggestion, right?

Insurance/financial issues aside, I can't think of one gosh darn reason why ANYONE should skip an ECG. In fact, I'd like all your readers to schedule one immediately. I promise they won't shove a scalpel in their chests unnecessarily. Of course there are terrible doctors out there who prescribe tests or medications just to profit off of insurance companies, but there are plenty of other fabulous, scrupulous doctors who recommend ECGs to seemingly healthy 28 year olds who claims to feel no symptoms and save their lives. 

So Oprah, my darling...I don't think Jessica was trying to give bad advice but I honestly and truthfully think that she did. I have learned so many wonderful things from your magazine and feel like this is not representative of the typically brave, insightful, and sound lessons they teach young ladies like myself. Not suggesting that you would retract it just for little old me, but maybe you should.

With my undying love, respect and infatuation forever,
Amanda Smear Baudier

P.S. I hope I didn't offend you by questioning your magazine. I love you. Did I mention I love you? OPRAH!!!!!!!!