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Health News Round-Up: To Improve Health, Learn About Your Disease

Study Your Condition to Improve Your Health

Recent health news from across the web: the case for getting informed, health care decision-making aids, a wake-up call for night owls, and more.

Giving a patient access to his or her medical records used to be unheard of — but times are changing. With electronic records enabling better sharing among providers and with patients as well, there’s a growing trend toward better-informed and -educated patients. Large-scale evaluations are showing that patients who are given access to their test results, medication information, and even doctors’ notes from previous visits report improved understanding of their own health picture. They also have more success at following doctors’ orders and making healthy lifestyle changes.

This article follows the story of a young scientist who was told he had a brain tumor and began to collect massive amounts of his own data, as well as conduct copious research on his condition. When he suspected something had changed with his tumor, he was able to push for more tests — and his suspicions were well founded.

(The Healing Power of Your Own Medical Records; New York Times)

The scientist’s story above is an extreme example, but it demonstrates the potential benefits of the informed patient. Decades ago, some doctors withheld cancer diagnoses from patients; even now, surveys show that diagnoses of Alzheimer’s may not be adequately communicated. Together, these reports make a case for requesting information, learning about your disease, and understanding your own health picture — all important components in the pursuit of your own best health.

(Many Doctors Who Diagnose Alzheimer’s Fail To Tell The Patient; NPR)

Medicaid Expansions Escalate Diabetes Detection

One of the changes enabled by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was an expansion of Medicaid programs, which was carried out in 26 states. Now, five years after the ACA was implemented, a new study indicates that Medicaid expansion corresponded with increased rates of diabetes diagnoses.

This is not to say that the incidence of diabetes went up in those states. Quite the opposite: the results suggest that more people who had been living with undiagnosed, uncontrolled diabetes were identified and given access to treatment. Because diabetes can be a manageable condition with proper medication, lifestyle changes, and clinician oversight, early diagnosis and intervention are promising events indeed.

(Expanding Medicaid under ACA helped to identify 23 percent more people with previously undiagnosed diabetes; MNT)

Accessible Videos Soften Difficult Conversations

With National Healthcare Decisions Day coming up on April 16, we’re reminded of the importance of creating and communicating health care decisions such as advance directives. Some states are reaching out to patients by creating short explanatory videos, and they’re finding that these relatable tools help seniors and their caregivers begin the vital process of making end-of-life decisions.

(Videos On End-Of-Life Choices Ease Tough Conversation; NPR)

Other News

  • It seems the early bird gets not just the worm, but also better metabolic health. The results of a large study indicate that evening people show higher rates of diseases such as diabetes and obesity. (Metabolic problems ‘more likely in evening types than morning people’; MNT)
  • At the end of life, letting go can be incredibly difficult. But as this essay reminds us, with this release comes affirmation and relief, for the patient and loved ones alike. (Giving Permission May Be The Greatest Gift; Pallimed)
  • Preventive measures are the best way to reduce fall risk. But if a fall does occur, a recent study has shown that both exercise and vitamin D supplementation can reduce the extent of injury. Each was effective independently, but the best results were when both were used together. (Ways to Prevent Injuries in Falls; NYT Well blog)
  • When health declines, the demands of medical care often move to the forefront, but financial matters need attention as well. You might consider turning to a financial planner or medical social worker for advice. (Medical Bills Linger, Long After Cancer Treatment Ends; NPR)
  • New research finds that for patients undergoing surgery for a fractured ankle, those with diabetes faced longer hospital stays and greater associated costs. The study’s authors hope this insight can lead to better health care protocols to drive these costs down. (Diabetics with ankle fractures have longer lengths of stay, more health care costs; MNT)
  • This recent study suggests that the immediate effects of air pollution can raise a person’s stroke risk. The study’s lead author calls for cleaner-air measures, but also cautions seniors to stay indoors on smoggy days. (Air Pollution Raises Stroke Risk; NYT Well blog)