The Impact of Low Health Literacy on Heart Disease

health literacy and heart diseaseOctober is Health Literacy Month. Let’s learn more about the importance of health literacy and how it impacts patients with heart disease.

Health literacy is the ability of patients and the general public to understand health information. This includes information told to patients by healthcare professionals or given to them in writing. This is important because an understanding of health information is necessary in order for patients and their families to make appropriate and informed healthcare decisions.

Health literacy directly impacts the quality of life of all Americans. The Agency for Health Care Research and Quality reports that people who do not understand their medical condition or the health information shared with them use more health resources. Such patients visit the emergency room more often and have a greater risk for hospitalization. These additional healthcare costs are responsible for an estimated 100-200 billion dollars spent annually in the US.

Self-care is important to the management of heart disease. For this reason, understanding your medical condition may have a significant impact on your health. For example, one recent study measured health literacy and examined health outcomes of 1,379 patients hospitalized with acute heart failure. The average age of patients was 63 years and about one quarter of these patients did not understand medical information (low health literacy). The results showed that patients hospitalized with acute heart failure who did not understand medical information (low health literacy) were 32 percent more likely to die within 90 days than those who understood their medical condition (higher health literacy).

As this study suggests, health literacy is a critical component of improving your health. Be proactive and increase your health literacy to improve your own health.

Here are some tips to begin:

  • Prepare for your doctor’s appointment.
  • Review the doctor discussion guide.
  • Bring a written list of questions to your appointment and ask them!
  • Write down the answers to your questions or record the answers so you can review them later.
  • Bring a list of current medications and any other information you think the doctor should know.
  • Ask for a person (name and phone number) you can contact with questions you might have after your appointment.
  • Use reputable print and digital resources to educate yourself about healthy lifestyle choices and your specific medical condition(s).

Improve your health by increasing your health literacy. Health Literacy Month is the perfect time to get started. This October, be sure to look online for Health Literacy Month events taking place near you.

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