The internet is a convenient information source for all your health concerns. It’s empowering to do your own research, but you must use discretion; not every site is a credible one.
Finding information about your particular health condition generates a feeling of being in control, which, in itself, can be healing. Self-diagnosis and curing yourself, however, is not advised. There is no “one-size-fits-all” list of symptoms or remedies for any health challenge. In addition, most remedies are not universally successful – for some of us they may not work. We are all individual in our needs.
Take your internet findings to a health care provider, to have it explained and clarified. Some of what we find online is frightening. Talking it over with a health professional can be reassuring! Talk to your doctor before starting any new medical therapies including supplements. Your doctor knows you, your medical history and your individual needs; a website doesn’t.
Beware the sales pitch. If a website is promoting a particular product or service, the information may be biased. Be cautious with any site offering miracle cures with no research to back their claims. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid sites that have “secret ingredients” or contain compounds “that your doctor won’t tell you about.”
Check the source. Visit the “About Us” page on the website to learn who publishes the site. Websites from the government, universities, and non-profit organizations like The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Cancer Society usually have credible websites. The “About Us” page may also reveal who reviews the material. Be suspicious if the reviewer is not a specialist in that particular area. For example, a registered dietician should review information about nutrition; a cardiologist about heart disorders, etc.
Verify when the information was posted or last updated. Be wary of anything older than four years. Policies and research change constantly.
Look at the contact information. Be suspicious if the website doesn’t provide an easy way to contact them. Also, reputable sites will back their information with a list of the exact sources they used, so you can verify the information yourself.
Look for the Health On the Net Foundation (HON) logo, displayed on a health website’s home page. This is a non-profit U.S. organization, which accredits health websites that stick to certain principles to assure the information is reliable.
Do not trust spam emails. And don’t perpetuate sending misinformation. You may want to forward your friends the email you just received about putting raw eggs on burns (a myth), but do your research first to separate fact from fallacy. Before you hit that send button, verify authenticity with www.snopes.com or www.urbanlegends.about.com
SEPTEMBER 2013 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE
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