Livin' on the MDedge

Today’s medical oxymoron: Healthy overconfidence


Doctor, doctor, gimme the news. I got a bad case of knowing better than you

Stop us if you’ve heard this before. One of your parents (let’s be honest, probably your ornery father) refuses to go to the doctor. You tell him it’s for the best, but in his words, “Doctors don’t know nothin’. I’m fine.” How many TV shows with grumpy fathers feature this exact plot in an episode as the frustrated child attempts increasingly convoluted traps to encourage the stubborn parent to get himself to the doctor?

superhero cartoon rudall30/

As is so often the case, wacky sitcoms reflect reality, according to a new study from the Journal of the Economics of Aging. In a massive survey of 80,000 Europeans aged 50 years and older, the researchers found that individuals who were overconfident and rated their health as better than it actually was visited their doctor 17% less often than did those who correctly judge their own health. Fewer medical visits leaves them more vulnerable to chronic disease, since they’re not getting the preventive care they need to catch illnesses early.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the inverse is also true: People who underestimate their health status visit the doctor 21% more often. On the one hand, regular visits to the doctor are a good thing, as is awareness of how healthy one really is. On the other hand, though, extra visits cost money and time, especially relevant in an aging society with high public health costs.

Nobody likes visiting the doctor, but it is kind of important, especially as we age and our bodies start to let us down. Confidence is fine, but don’t be overly confident. And if you do go, don’t be like a certain former president of the United States. Don’t pay a sycophant to look in your general direction and then declare that you are in very good (great!) condition on Twitter. That’s not how medicine is meant to work.

Your liver stays toddler age

Rapid cell regeneration might seem like something straight out of a sci-fi novel, but it happens to your liver all the time. So much so that the human liver is never a day over 3 years old.

toddler eating peanut butter Peter Gridley/Getty Images

How’s that possible? The liver deals with a lot of toxic substances in its job as the Brita filter of the human body, so it has a unique capacity among organs to regenerate itself after damage.

Dr. Olaf Bergmann and his team at Technical University Dresden’s (Germany) Center for Regenerative Therapies used retrospective radiocarbon birth dating to determine the age of the livers of a group of people who died at the ages of 20-84 years. The results were the same regardless of age.

This information could be a complete game changer for understanding cell regeneration. It’s important in determining cancer cell formation in the liver but also if new heart muscle cells can be generated in people with cardiovascular disease, which the researchers are looking into.

So sure, your liver may be totally capable of filtering those drinks at happy hour, but as old as it is, a juice box might be more appropriate.


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