Researchers in Denmark have once again proven the old adage that “seeing is believing.” The small study found when cardiac patients were shown images of their diseased arteries during follow-up, it influenced them to make significant and life-altering changes their diet and other habits.
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Nearly half of the participants who identified as regular smokers quit after seeing these harrowing images. Almost two-thirds were able to successfully stick to a prescribed heart healthy diet.
Most People are Visual Learners
You can talk ’til you’re blue in the face and many patients just won’t change. This could be due to the fact that most humans, around 65%, are visual learners. Perhaps showing patients their own calcified coronary arteries is a more effective way to stimulate change.
The small study included 355 patients diagnosed with hyperlipidemia referred for screening which included a CT scan of the coronary arteries and had been subsequently diagnosed with non-obstructive coronary artery disease. Of those, roughly half were shown pictures of their calcified coronary arteries during evaluations with nurses and doctors.
While some patients in the quit smoking and changed their eating habits after diagnosis — without seeing the images, there was a marked difference in the group who did see the images. In follow-up, researchers found 22% of people who had not seen their arteries kept smoking, versus 9% of those who’d seen the images, and 64% of people who had not seen scans of their arteries continued eating an unhealthy diet, as opposed to 44% of people who’d seen them.
“We found that patients who looked at images of their calcified coronary arteries were more likely to stop smoking, lose weight, eat a healthy diet, take recommended statins and reduce their plasma cholesterol levels,” said Rikke Elmose Mols, a PhD student in the Department of Cardiology at Aarhus University Hospital-Skejby in Denmark.
What this Means
The results of the study seem to suggest when we visualize our own health threats we are motivated to make changes to reduce our risk factors.
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