October 31, 2018

Will your advance directives be honored?

There was a time (the 1970s) when we were most concerned that the medical profession would keep us alive artificially--using feeding tubes and ventilators--against our wishes. Now we have advance directives to spell out instructions for the use of life-extending measures. But do health care professionals always understand what we want?

In a series of "TRIAD" studies, Dr. Fred Mirarchi of the University of Pittsburgh has shown that a great majority of Emergency Department personnel are confused about what it means when a patient has a "Living Will" and when it is appropriate to forego CPR for comfort care only.

Watch Jo's VERY SHORT video on advance directives in the ER to understand how important it is to have an effective advocate with you in every health care situation, in case you are unable to think or speak for yourself. Words matter.

October 8, 2018

What the heck is "White Coat Hypertension"?

Have you ever noticed that your blood pressure seems to be elevated when you're at the doctor's office? Watch this video for a possible explanation:  Jo's VERY SHORT video on White Coat Hypertension

It's a push for me, but I work hard to go to my Zen place while I'm in the waiting room and then stop gabbing while my blood pressure is being taken.

Guess what? It works. Who knew? 

September 25, 2018

Be honest: Have you ever asked Siri or Alexa a medical question?

You know I am all about using the World Wide Interweb for health care research, as long as you know who you're dealing with as a resource. Northeastern University did a study on the reliability of Siri and Alexa for health care advice. JO'S VERY SHORT VIDEO on SIRI and ALEXA.

Busted, gals. The key to accessing reliable health care information as a building block of health literacy is the reliable part. 

August 29, 2018

Osteopenia is not just a chick thing

Think osteoporosis is a chick thing? Think again. Jo's VERY SHORT video on osteoporosis.

The risks for osteopenia and osteoporosis are not exclusive to women. Check out this Mayo Clinic guide to see if you should be keeping an eye on your bone density levels:  
Mayo Clinic Guide to Bone Density tests.

For an overview of bone density issues (whether or not you have a known risk), this comprehensive guide is available from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ): GUIDE TO BONE DENSITY ISSUES.

Praemonitus, praemunitus: To be forewarned is to be forearmed. 

August 27, 2018

Sorry, but no ancestor shaming allowed on this one

Sometimes ancestors can be the convenient scapegoat for bumps in the road. It's tempting to look at family members and think, "Well, it's easy to see where I got my [fill in the blank]." But having a chronic medical condition is not one of those times.

Watch my short video to see what I mean: Jo's VERY SHORT video on genetics vs. lifestyle choices.

August 6, 2018

Is COPD really the third leading cause of death?

Chronic respiratory disease is the third leading cause of death in America if you don't include the 251,000 people who die from medical errors every year--and the National Centers for Disease Control don't.

It's frustrating that almost all medical errors could be prevented using the tools of health literacy, such as sharing accurate information, being medication aware and practicing effective advocacy--for yourself or someone else.


Take a moment to watch and share this short video: Jo's VERY SHORT video on preventing medical errors

July 20, 2018

Wondering whether to buy green bananas?

Google's artificial intelligence group, "Medical Brain," has developed an algorithm that analyzes a person's entire medical records to make all sorts of interesting--and potentially crucial--predictions about health care outcomes and even life expectancy. Jo's VERY SHORT video on predicting your expiration date.

I am all about using every credible tool in the box to practice fully informed and shared decision making--as long as we remember that the computer only knows what humans tell it, so health literate decision making still comes down to effective patient-doctor communication. 

June 25, 2018

Have a modesty issue?

I just might have landed on a solution for you. You know, we are about to experience a dramatic increase in the health care labor shortages already being felt. Check this out: Jo's video on the robot dresser

June 18, 2018

The secret to a long life? Don't fall.

It's one of those things that seems too simple to be true, but it is: falling is a leading cause of death as we age. And it's getting more prevalent, not less. Now, you would expect the numbers to go up, just because of our aging population, but guess what? The rate is also increasing, as shown in this brief video: Jo's video on falls.

June 11, 2018

Overnight epidemic of High Blood Pressure

This may be hard to believe, but the number of American men under age 45 with high blood pressure has tripled--over the past six months! For women under 45, the number has doubled.

How can that be?  Just watch this: Jo's video on high blood pressure
Well, in November of 2017, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association adjusted their guidelines for the treatment of high blood pressure ("hypertension"). They started by lowering the threshold for "high blood pressure" from 140/90 to 130/80. Overnight, nearly half of all American adults were classified as having high blood pressure.


So, when was the last time you had your BP taken? You know that funny looking machine at your pharmacy? Have a seat and check it out. 
To make sure you get an accurate reading, follow these steps:  GETTING AN ACCURATE BLOOD PRESSURE READING

If your numbers are high (and the machine's chart may not have been updated with the new guidelines), make a doctor's appointment to see what's what.

June 5, 2018

Good news for those with chronic medical conditions

There are 117 million Americans with two or more chronic medical conditions. Of those aged 65 and older, 75 percent are dealing with the multiple specialists, medications and lifestyle adjustments that come with chronic disease. 

A recent survey* showed that only half of physicians are aware that Medicare will reimburse their services as the care coordinator for qualifying patients with chronic diseases. And yet we know that when we monitor patients' compliance with medication and treatments, it pays off big time in improved health care outcomes. 

If you or a loved one has a chronic condition, such as high blood pressure, COPD, diabetes or depression, visit with your primary care provider about how you can make sure that patient and providers are all rowing in in the same direction!

* "Hidden Hazards", Quest Diagnostics, as conducted by Regina Corso Consulting, February 2018, www.QuestDiagnostics.com

May 11, 2018

How to get an accurate Blood Pressure reading

Here's my HEALTH LITERACY 101 nugget for the day:  The American Heart Association has this simple guide to getting an accurate blood pressure reading: STEPS TO GETTING AN ACCURATE B.P. READING.

Now that I think of it, the first thing the nurse and I do is start talking about how I've been, why I'm there, any changes in meds, etc. How about I try having quiet, relaxing time while I wait to be seen, then ask that my BP be taken as soon as the nurse or doctor comes in the room? We can start yakking about my health care once we have an accurate BP.

Blood pressure is a vital sign-type important reading. It will determine whether you start a new medication--or don't start one you should have. Let's give it the respect it deserves!

May 10, 2018

Older Americans' Month--proud originators of the Hula Hoop Phenomenon

To be honest, I'm not excited about being a member of a group that calls itself "Older Americans," but so be it. As they have always done, the Baby Boomers are causing a seismic shift in the economy, and this time it's the health care sector.

I call it the Hula Hoop Phenomenon. Isn't it incredible that in just a four-month period, someone was able to get 25 million people to each part with $1.98 ($15.84 in today's dollars) for a plastic tube?  Consider that at the end of the Baby Boom (1964), 40 percent of the U.S. population was 18 and younger (there did seem to be a lot of us around, but yikes.) The vendors of Barbie, the Pet Rock and Gerbers can be equally grateful.

Baby Boomers are a force to be reckoned with, and just wait until we reach full throttle high-maintenance. My dear Boomer friends:  Celebrate still being here and aim to be an engaged and empowered health care consumer going forward--it will be more important than ever before. Be well, be careful, be health literate.  

May 5, 2018

Choosing the right doctor for you

How did your family choose a doctor when we were growing up?  A friend, a referral from a friend, the doctor all your friends went to?  Life was so simple. Now it's about insurance coverage, hospital affiliation, specialty certifications, yada, yada, yada.

I'll also throw in the importance of having a primary care provider who is willing and able to act as your care coordinator if you have a serious diagnosis that requires the involvement of one or more other providers.

I'm proud to be a contributor to this great article in St. George's University Medical School blog on how to go about finding a provider whose skills, availability--and let's face it--style of practicing medicine is a good fit with you:  HOW TO CHOOSE A DOCTOR

April 17, 2018

National Health Care Decisions Week

It's National Health Care Decisions Week, so you'll hear a lot of noise about planning for the last days or weeks of your life. I'm straying from the pack and declaring that informed health care decision making is a lifelong pursuit, not something you bring out just on your way out.

Shared decision making is the key to being an informed and health literate patient, and that applies to preventive, routine, emergency, and--yes, of course--end-of-life care. My op-ed in the Des Moines Register says it all:  Iowa View on Health Care Decision Making.