English Spanish     

Evaluating Health Information

Millions of consumers get health information from magazines, TV or the Internet. Some of the information is reliable and up to date; some is not. How can you tell the good from the bad?

First, consider the source. If you use the Web, look for an "about us" page. Check to see who runs the site: Is it a branch of the government, a university, a health organization, a hospital or a business? Focus on quality. Does the site have an editorial board? Is the information reviewed before it is posted? Be skeptical. Things that sound too good to be true often are. You want current, unbiased information based on research.

NIH: National Library of Medicine

Personal Health Records

You've probably seen your chart at your doctor's office. In fact, you may have charts at several doctors' offices. If you've been in the hospital, you have a chart there, too. These charts are your medical records. They may be on paper or electronic. To keep track of all this information, it's a good idea to keep your own personal health record.

What kind of information would you put in a personal health record? You could start with

  • Your name, birth date, blood type, and emergency contact information
  • Date of last physical
  • Dates and results of tests and screenings
  • Major illnesses and surgeries, with dates
  • A list of your medicines and supplements, the dosages, and how long you've taken them
  • Any allergies
  • Any chronic diseases
  • Any history of illnesses in your family

Health Literacy

What is health literacy?

Health literacy involves the information that people need to be able to make good decisions about health. There are two parts:

  • Personal health literacy is about how well a person can find and understand the health information and services that they need. It is also about using the information and services to make good health decisions.
  • Organizational health literacy is about to how well organizations help people find the health information and services that they need. It also includes helping them use that information to make good health decisions.
Which factors can affect health literacy?

Many different factors can affect a person's health literacy, including their

  • Knowledge of medical words
  • Understanding of how the health care system works
  • Ability to communicate with health care providers
  • Ability to find health information, which may require computer skills
  • Reading, writing, and number skills
  • Personal factors, such as age, income, education, language abilities, and culture
  • Physical or mental limitations

Many of the same people who are at risk for limited health literacy also have health disparities. Health disparities are health differences between different groups of people. These groups may be based on age, race, gender, or other factors.

Why is health literacy important?

Health literacy is important because it can affect your ability to

  • Make good decisions about your health
  • Get the medical care you need. This includes preventative care, which is care to prevent disease.
  • Take your medicines correctly
  • Manage a disease, especially a chronic disease
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle

One thing that you can do is to make sure that you communicate well with your health care providers. If you don't understand something a provider tells you, ask them to explain it to you so that you understand. You can also ask the provider to write down their instructions.

Family History

Your family history includes health information about you and your close relatives. Families have many factors in common, including their genes, environment, and lifestyle. Looking at these factors can help you figure out whether you have a higher risk for certain health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

Having a family member with a disease raises your risk, but it does not mean that you will definitely get it. Knowing that you are at risk gives you a chance to reduce that risk by following a healthier lifestyle and getting tested as needed.

You can get started by talking to your relatives about their health. Draw a family tree and add the health information. Having copies of medical records and death certificates is also helpful.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Diabetes Type 2

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Glucose is your main source of energy. It comes from the foods you eat. A hormone called insulin helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. If you have diabetes, your body doesn't make enough insulin or doesn't use insulin well. The glucose then stays in your blood and not enough goes into your cells.

Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause health problems. But you can take steps to manage your diabetes and try to prevent these health problems.

What causes type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes may be caused by a combination of factors:

  • Being overweight or having obesity
  • Not being physically active
  • Genetics and family history

Type 2 diabetes usually starts with insulin resistance. This is a condition in which your cells don't respond normally to insulin. As a result, your body needs more insulin to help the glucose enter your cells. At first, your body makes more insulin to try to get cells to respond. But over time, your body can't make enough insulin, and your blood glucose levels rise.

Who is at risk for type 2 diabetes?

You are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you

  • Are over age 45. Children, teenagers, and younger adults can get type 2 diabetes, but it is more common in middle-aged and older people.
  • Have prediabetes, which means that your blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes
  • Had diabetes in pregnancy or gave birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more.
  • Have a family history of diabetes
  • Are overweight or have obesity
  • Are Black or African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander
  • Are not physically active
  • Have other conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or depression
  • Have low HDL (good) cholesterol and high triglycerides
  • Have acanthosis nigricans - dark, thick, and velvety skin around your neck or armpits
What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

Many people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms at all. If you do have them, the symptoms develop slowly over several years. They might be so mild that you do not notice them. The symptoms can include

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Feeling tired
  • Blurred vision
  • Numbness or tingling in the feet or hands
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Unexplained weight loss
How is type 2 diabetes diagnosed?

Your health care provider will use blood tests to diagnose type 2 diabetes. The blood tests include

  • A1C test, which measures your average blood sugar level over the past 3 months
  • Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test, which measures your current blood sugar level. You need to fast (not eat or drink anything except water) for at least 8 hours before the test.
  • Random plasma glucose (RPG) test, which measures your current blood sugar level. This test is used when you have diabetes symptoms and the provider does not want to wait for you to fast before having the test.
What are the treatments for type 2 diabetes?

Treatment for type 2 diabetes involves managing your blood sugar levels. Many people are able to do this by living a healthy lifestyle. Some people may also need to take medicine.

  • A healthy lifestyle includes following a healthy eating plan and getting regular physical activity. You need to learn how to balance what you eat and drink with physical activity and diabetes medicine, if you take any.
  • Medicines for diabetes include oral medicines, insulin, and other injectable medicines. Over time, some people will need to take more than one type of medicine to control their diabetes.
  • You will need to check your blood sugar regularly. Your health care provider will tell you how often you need to do it.
  • It's also important to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels close to the targets your provider sets for you. Make sure to get your screening tests regularly.
Can type 2 diabetes be prevented?

You can take steps to help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes by losing weight if you are overweight, eating fewer calories, and being more physically active. If you have a condition which raises your risk for type 2 diabetes, managing that condition may lower your risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases