I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a fan of going to the doctor. They usually use a bunch of terms that I don’t understand and end up wanting to run tests for everything. However, I’m not one to stay in the dark. After years of watching medical shows like ER and those on the Discovery Health and Learning Channel, I’ve learned quite a bit of medical lingo. From such terms as GSW, CBC, MRI, aschemia, edema, to the understanding several diseases and medications, I would say that I have become health literate over the years. For those terms that I do not understand, I research them. I pay attention to the side effects or risks that comes with taking certain medications. And probably most importantly, I take the necessary precautions to prevent many illnesses.
Low health literacy contributes greatly to the incidence of disorders such as hypertension, smoking, obesity, and other diseases. Many people fail to understand how their actions or inactions can impact their health status. When people smoke, the may only think of lung cancer. They may not consider throat and mouth cancer or emphysema as possible effects of their smoking. Aside from smoking, the stressors and habits in our lives can put us at risk for health problems and diseases down the line. Many people fail to realize that certain medical conditions can put them at risk for more serious diseases down the line. For instance, high blood pressure is one of the risk factors of developing cardiovascular disease or kidney problems.
Having good health literacy involves having knowledge about health information as well as being proactive with your own health. There are many proven remedies for better health which includes having regular physical check-ups, getting a balanced diet and exercise, getting enough sleep, and being screened for any disease or illness you may be at risk for due to heredity or your own lifestyle habits. If you have questions about something your doctor has said to you or about suggested treatment, don’t be afraid to ask questions. It may also be a good idea to get a second or third opinion on diagnosis or seek alternative treatments rather than just taking any medicine your doctor prescribes to you. In some cases the side effects fro the medicine may make you feel worse than the illness itself. If you become literate about your own health issues, you may lessen your chances of needing to take a prescription in the first place.
Three main points you should discuss with your healthcare provider is what your main problem is, what you need to do about it, and why it’s important for you to do that. Becoming more knowledgeable about your medical conditions and treatment options helps you to better manage and prevent your health issues. Health literacy involves a lot more than knowing how to read a prescription correctly, it’s incorporating what you do know and educating yourself on the things you don’t in order to live a healthier life.