Being In The Know About Your Health

October is Health Literacy Month and we want to encourage you to arm yourself with the knowledge you need to work within the healthcare system and become an informed consumer.

  • How much at risk are you or your family for heart disease?

  • Do you know what your cholesterol levels should be?

  • How about what good vs. bad cholesterol is?

  • Do you know at what age women should start having mammograms?

  • Do you know at what age men should have their prostates checked?

  • When it comes to managing your blood pressure, some foods are better than others. Do you know what they are?

  • When you leave your doctors office, do you feel that you understand all of his or her instructions about your medications, tests, lab results, and other vital statistics?


Health care reformers have developed The National Action Plan To Improve Health Literacy because they want to close the gap between what health care professionals tell patients, and what patients understand about how to use this information to improve their health.


Theres a wealth of information out there, but most adults - nine out of 10, in fact - dont know how to use all of this data to prevent disease or maintain their current state of health.


Many medical practitioners are making strides to meet us halfway by learning how to communicate with patients in simpler, easier-to-understand language, and to bridge the gap when there are language barriers between them and non-English speaking patients.


Theyre also developing patient education tools including written materials and videos. Some health educators are also developing curricula in conjunction with elementary and secondary school administrators to give children a head start on learning how to stay healthy into adulthood.


But its really up to each of us to become advocates for our own health. You can start with your primary care physician. Prepare for your next appointment by writing down all of the medications youre taking, including those that are herbal and over-the-counter.

Make a list of questions to ask and take a notebook with you to jot down notes.


If you dont understand the purpose of a drug or exactly how it is to be administered, dont leave until you know exactly what you are to do. Make sure you know the names of each medicine and look them up online, if need be, so that youre clear about any potential side effects.


Talk to your doctor about alternatives to prescription drugs. For example, you might discuss dietary changes you can make to improve or maintain a specific medical condition.


And by all means, find out when you need a prostate exam or a mammogram. Ask to have your cholesterol checked. Find out what you need to know to take the best possible care of yourself. If you wise up now, you may live a healthier, longer life.


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