Mar 29

Have a Heart for Health Literacy

Have a Heart for Health Literacy

(St. Charles, MO) – The times they are a-changin’, especially when it comes to how our health care system affects us in the Show Me State.

That’s the focus of the latest “Missouri Viewpoints.”

Whether you like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – more commonly known as “ObamaCare” – or not, it’s likely here to stay and it’s changing how we interact with doctors, hospitals and insurance. That means we need to change our approach to being a health care customer.

Health Literacy Missouri’s Katina O’Leary explains why Missourians need to take more of a MWSnap052consumer mindset when it comes to going to the doctor.

“We all have a different set of choices, depending on our employment status, where we live and who we are and all kinds of things. People need to learn how to get informed about those choices.”

One of the reasons many people aren’t well-informed when it comes to managing their health care is the confusion often associated with it. From private insurance to government coverage to pharmaceutical benefits, the process and the benefits aren’t always easy to understand.

“Ask questions if you can’t understand those forms.” O’Leary adds “None of us really understand them clearly…but there are people around you who do also understand and there are people around who are paid to understand.”

While the dust continues to settle on the new health care system we have under the federal law and while some states continues to push back against the law in court, it’s more important than ever for Missourians to take control of their health care.

O’Leary says that means having the courage to ask questions, having the discipline to research your health care options and not giving up when you don’t understand or you disagree with the answers you’re getting – even from your doctor.

Of course, as the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and that staying healthy can save you time, money and headaches by avoiding the emergency room or surgery table.

Dr. Kimberly Perry from BJC Christian Hospital joined Mike Ferguson on the set to talk about MWSnap053one of the leading killers of Missourians: heart disease.

While genetics plays a major role in your heart health, Perry says we can control other factors like diet and fitness. Sometimes, we aren’t doing as well as we think we are.

“People say they’re active and they exercise a lot. Exercising twice a week is not being physically fit.”

While high-intensity exercise at the gym can be a help, Perry adds that you can build more activity into every day.

“Exercising is parking further from the door so you can walk. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.”

While you’re looking for ways to burn more calories, keep your nutrition in mind, too. Perry recommends avoiding processed foods and sticking with fresh foods that you prepare at home.

That will reduce specifically the amount of sodium in your diet, which is a contributor to heart problems.

The lack of fitness, which increasingly starts in childhood now, is adding to the frequency of heart problems in Missouri and throughout the nation. That’s part of our culture that Perry hopes will change. She hopes to see parents setting the example of getting out of the house and getting active.

Hopefully, that will reduce both our collective waistlines and, eventually, our cost of health care.

On the web:

Health Literacy Missouri http://www.healthliteracymissouri.org/

American Heart Association (St. Louis): http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Affiliate/St.Louis/Missouri/Home_UCM_MWA028_AffiliatePage.jsp

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