In health we tend to think in terms of black and white. Sore throat equals a bug equals antibiotic. High blood pressure or high cholesterol equals heart attack.

This black-and-white thinking assumes all questions in medicine would have to be answered with a “yes” or a “no.” For example, “Doc, I am overweight and don’t exercise — am I going to have a heart attack?” As this question, like all questions regarding health, has too many variables to answer with a “yes” or “no,” allow me to give you the best answer a medical provider can offer when asked such a question: “It depends.” As an important side note, this answer also works for parents responding to kids.  

Using this wonderful reply, however, requires use of the preposition “on” in the response. For example, the question “Will I have a heart attack?” is best answered, “It depends on your lifestyle choices.” When answering a more detailed question, such as “With the way I eat, how long until I get diabetes?” I must respond with, “It depends on how important avoiding diabetes is to you.”

 And finally, the words in the statement below come in very handy for a number of particular questions, like, “Doc, I want to keep doing what I’m doing, and if I have a stroke, so be it.” To this, my answer would be, “That’s fine, if you don’t mind having to wear Depends in the near future.”

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