It’s the new buzzword going around, it’s the thing we health professionals like to harp on about. It’s the latest fad. But it’s important. Health y literacy. Let me tell you something.
It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on this blog. But here and now, it’s time I started posting more. I’m a nurse and a midwife, I work in acute care in the Northern Territory. And health literacy is what I am on about.
When you present to me in the ED, I take your vital signs, and whether your vital signs are abnormal or not, I tell you. I tell you about the high number of your blood pressure and that 160 is too high, I tell you when your blood glucose level is above normal limits and why that’s a problem. I explain to you why it’s not ok to have a heart rate above normal, and I explain to you what I am worried about. I’ll even tell you that your weight is too high and that you should really think about doing something about that.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not perfect. I am not perfect weight, my blood pressure isn’t always normal, nor is my pulse or my blood sugar. In fact, my vital signs have been outside of normal limits. But that’s just it: they are MY vital signs, they are pertinent to only me.
I know what it is that my stats should be. I know what is going on with my body, and I understand what the worry is when things are not right. My patients should know and understand too. I don’t expect them to know on a indepth level like I do as their nurse. But I think if people took as much interest in their health as they do in the functions and features of the latest iPhone or android whichever it is you prefer, then the world might be moving in a better direction.
Here are the vital statistics to work on in my opinion. So weight is one to keep on track, my issues with weight are well documented on this blog. I have spent much of my life chasing that number. I am not coordinated or sporty. But I am active most days of the week. I’m not good at it, but I beat me. That’s all I set out to achieve. Beating me. The other vital statistics include resting heart rate, depending on your age, this should be somewhere between 50-75bpm. Of course, approach your health care professional for more information on your specific goal.
Blood pressure is also one to keep an eye on. Again, this is specific to age and other characteristics which may be individual to you. But aiming for something around 120/80 mark is a good start.
Take care of you: with the exception of the time you are in my care and I need to do something about your vital statistics, I don’t care what they are. But you should. I just don’t have the energy to care beyond the time I am responsible for you as a caregiver.
While this may come across as callous and horrible. I do care, because I know that the more little details you learn about yourself, the more you will want to know, the more you will want to learn. This will turn you into the greatest consumer of health care. You will ask questions of your doctors and nurses, you will ask them why they are doing the tests they are doing and force them to question whether they are really necessary. Medical professionals pride ourselves on working within an evidence-based framework. When patients question why we’re making the decisions we are it forces us to tie our actions to evidence, rather than to work with fear of litigation. And we owe our patients that.
What it’s worth knowing is what of these statistics you can change, and what you have control over. I think the key message here is: take notice of your body, keep it as healthy as you can. You only get one body: it’s easier to keep it healthy than it is to fix problems after they arise. Prevention is better than a cure.
Health literacy is the most important thing you can do for yourself and for your family.