What is Health Literacy? 10 Essentials They Don’t Teach You in School
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Many schools today have cut health education programs to focus more on core content. Unfortunately, millions of Americans lack regular, affordable access to health care. Knowing what health literacy is can help you stay fit and healthy in the future. If you don’t learn what you need to know in school or from your doctor, where can you turn?
Fortunately, you have internet access, and you can research to improve your knowledge. What is health literacy? Here are ten facts you might have missed in school — but need to know.
1. You Need to Eat Healthfully
You may have heard the saying, “food is medicine.” The cliché holds because your body breaks down everything you consume into its component chemicals. Some of these, like vitamins and minerals, benefit your well-being. Others, like salts and trans fats, can lead to elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
You can find more diet plans on the internet than books in many libraries. However, following a healthy and balanced meal plan requires only basic knowledge:
- Eat tons of fruit and veggies: Fruits and vegetables in various hues contain phytonutrients, chemicals that benefit health in ways researchers continue to discover. Plus, these are low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals.
- Avoid ultra-processed foods: Any food you alter from its natural form is technically processed, but ultra-processed foods contain high levels of salt, sugar, artificial and natural additives and chemicals. If you can’t pronounce most of the ingredients on the label, the product probably qualifies as ultra-processed.
- Cut back on red and processed meats: Both of these substances can increase your cancer risk, and saturated fat clogs your arteries. You can get all the protein you need from plant-based sources. If you choose to eat meat, opt for lean cuts of chicken and fish. Save the steaks and pork chops for rare occasions — no more than one serving weekly.
2. Like Handwashing, Sanitizer Takes Technique
At this point in the pandemic, you have probably sung “Happy Birthday” so often, you never want another piece of cake. You also know hand sanitizer helps in a pinch — but only if you use it properly. You need to use enough product to cover all surfaces and rub it in for 20 seconds or until it absorbs.
3. Going Without Coverage Can Hurt You
Have you heard about the Seattle man who received a $1.1 million medical bill for his COVID-19 hospital stay? Fortunately, this gentleman had insurance coverage, but if he didn’t, that price tag would likely bankrupt him. You should take this event as a cautionary tale and learn what you can about how health insurance works, so you never have to go without the care you need.
It costs money to declare bankruptcy, and the resulting ding to your credit can make it problematic for you to rent an apartment or buy a car. Going without medical coverage can shatter your life and make it impossible to recover — plus, the stress from financial woes can further deteriorate your health. When it comes to health literacy, buying a policy is the best place to start.
4. Your Teeth Are More Than Luxury Bones
Researchers recently discovered the bacteria associated with periodontal disease in the brain tissue of people with Alzheimer’s disease. They also suspect that it can spur inflammation elsewhere in the body. As expensive as dental care is, try to get cleanings every six months. At the least, floss once and brush your teeth twice each day.
5. Smoking Causes More Than Lung Cancer
Fellas, please listen up — smoking can hurt more than your lungs. The lack of blood flow down there can lead to erectile dysfunction and even penile shrinkage. Ladies, you don’t get off the hook reproductively. The habit can decrease your egg supply and make it more challenging to conceive.
6. Protect Your Peepers for Fewer Headaches
If you work on a computer all day, find your device’s “twilight” function and live and love it. This setting cuts down on blue-light emissions that can cause headaches from staring at your screen. You might also consider a pair of specialized glasses meant to cut this frequency, which can strain your vision and upset your melatonin balance.
7. Exercise Builds More Than Muscles
In one study of 120 adults, researchers discovered that regular cardiovascular exercise increased hippocampus size by 2%. This part of your brain is associated with memory and focus, but it tends to shrink as you age. However, getting your body moving for at least 30 minutes most days can prevent this effect.
8. Alcohol Messes With Your Mind Big Time
Did you ever notice how you feel depressed or anxious after a bender? That’s because alcohol affects levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in your brain. In the short term, drinking acts like valium — it eases your anxiety by increasing sedation. However, when you stop, the rebound effect makes you desperately crave more. If you give in, you could fall prey to addiction.
9. Your Thoughts Do Affect Your Health
Research into biofeedback reveals that your thoughts influence automatic body functions, like your heart rate and blood pressure. You don’t necessarily need access to fancy equipment, though. You can reap many benefits from a mindfulness meditation practice, and you can find ample free videos on YouTube to get you started.
10. You Need to Honor Lights Out
When you don’t get enough sleep, it makes you more accident-prone. Over 300,000 motor vehicle accidents happen each year due to drowsy driving. Sleep deprivation also upsets your hormonal balance and can increase cortisol levels, a stress hormone that spurs you to eat more. The best remedy? Keep a regular bedtime, even on weekends.
Improve What You Know About Health Literacy — ICYMI in School
If you missed out in school, you need to teach yourself what you need to know about health literacy. What is health literacy? It might look different to different individuals, but you should learn everything you can about your health so you can better advocate for yourself and live your best life possible. Let the ten tips above serve as your daily apple to keep the doctor away.
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