Understanding Your Health Literacy: Key Terms Doctors Want You to Know

In today’s complex healthcare landscape, understanding medical terminology is crucial for effective communication between patients and healthcare providers. Health literacy, the ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions, plays a significant role in promoting better health outcomes. To empower patients and enhance their health literacy, here are some common terms doctors want you to know:

1. Blood Pressure (BP): Blood pressure measures the force of blood against the walls of arteries as the heart pumps it around the body. It is expressed as two numbers: systolic pressure (the pressure when the heart beats) over diastolic pressure (the pressure when the heart rests between beats). Ideal blood pressure is typically around 120/80 mmHg.

2. Cholesterol: Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in the cells of the body and certain foods. It is essential for building cell membranes and producing hormones. However, high levels of cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

3. Diabetes: Diabetes is a chronic condition characterized by elevated blood sugar levels. There are two main types: Type 1 diabetes, where the body doesn’t produce insulin, and Type 2 diabetes, where the body doesn’t use insulin properly. Proper management of diabetes is crucial to prevent complications.

4. BMI (Body Mass Index): BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. It is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in meters squared. BMI is used to categorize individuals as underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese, and it helps assess the risk of weight-related health problems.

5. Immunization: Immunization, also known as vaccination, is the process of administering a vaccine to stimulate the immune system to develop immunity to a specific disease. Vaccines help prevent infectious diseases and their complications.

6. Antibiotics: Antibiotics are medications used to treat bacterial infections. They work by either killing bacteria or preventing their growth. It’s essential to use antibiotics only when prescribed by a healthcare professional and to complete the full course of treatment as directed.

7. Cancer Screening: Cancer screening involves testing for cancer in people who have no symptoms. Screening tests can help detect cancer early when it’s most treatable. Common cancer screening tests include mammograms for breast cancer, colonoscopies for colorectal cancer, and Pap smears for cervical cancer.

8. Hypertension: Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a condition where the force of blood against the artery walls is consistently too high. It is a significant risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular complications.

9. Asthma: Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition characterized by inflammation and narrowing of the airways, leading to symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. Asthma management includes medication and avoiding triggers.

10. Depression: Depression is a common mental health disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest or pleasure in activities. It can significantly impact a person’s quality of life and function. Treatment may include therapy, medication, or a combination of both.

Improving health literacy empowers individuals to take an active role in managing their health and making informed decisions about their care. By familiarizing yourself with these essential medical terms, you can better communicate with your healthcare provider and navigate the healthcare system more effectively, ultimately leading to better health outcomes.

Author: Monique Herb, Multi-Site Administrator, Orange County



The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.
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