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Health & Balance

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When Health Fears Are Overblown

Experts discuss the fine line between appropriate health concerns and hyped-up fears.

Fear: A Poor Motivator continued...

And some people want the messages to be even scarier. "Younger people, especially," Gruman says, "say show the bloody lung, the person breathing through her throat. Some people are moved by fear, some are not."

Paul Jellinger, MD, is the former president of the American College of Endocrinology. He tells WebMD that even if people with diabetes are careful of their diet and sugar levels, they can still suffer some complications. "Eating right is only a piece of the puzzle," he says. On the flip side, he adds, people who are poorly controlled sometimes escape all complications.

"I think it is a bad tactic to bombard people with gruesome conclusions," Jellinger says. "There are ways to address the issue better. I say, 'There is recent evidence that reducing blood sugar leads to fewer complications.'"

Jellinger doesn't say, "Do you want to live to see your grandchildren?" He says, "I am sure you want to enjoy your children growing up."

For a younger person, he adds, he tells a "positive" tale of the great tools of control we have today, which was not always the case. "I talk about their fertility and pregnancy and how we have come so far. I tell them their life span will be very little reduced by having this disease, if they handle it."

Educating is better than striking fear, he says.

"I believe," Jellinger says, "in being positive, but positive with fact behind it."

"We all believe and hope," Gruman adds, "that there are things we can do to protect ourselves and our family. The way to control fear is with good information. Otherwise, fear takes over."

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