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How To Navigate Confusing Health Headlines

It seems every day we read a new headline that has an elaborate claim. “Chocolate helps you live longer!” or “Coffee is killing you!” Naturally, we’re intrigued but also have to be a little skeptical.

A 2016 study found that 80% of Americans search for health information online. While online resources are a great tool, it’s important that you know how to fact check what you’re reading.

Oftentimes, we find information about health that is contradictory. This is because information and discoveries about health are ongoing. What science had previously shown, may not be accurate anymore. Likewise, everybody is different, which means that exceptions always exist.

Of course, when it comes to health everyone wants access to the most accurate information possible. So how do you navigate confusing health headlines?

  1.  Do your research. If the claim seems outrageous or far-fetched, it probably is. See if any other sources are reporting the same thing.
  2. Check your source. Make sure all information is coming from a reliable and credible website or database. If the information is coming from a medical journal, make sure the source is peer-reviewed.
  3. Reality check. If it seems too good or too bad to be true, it probably is. Don’t let your judgment be clouded by an overly pessimistic or optimistic view.
  4. Look at history. Major medical discoveries do happen and when they do they’re documented widely. A new study doesn’t have a lot of implications unless it has been widely tested. It should also have been tested on humans, not just mice or other animals.

Keep in mind that what you read online may not always be applicable to you as an individual. For example, certain chronic conditions, genetics, health history and risk factors all influence your own symptoms and what the cause may be. The internet doesn’t know you or your health history, so the information on it is not a substitute for medical advice.

It’s also important to note that good health is a journey. There is no magic cure to get your body in perfect condition. It’s a process of making healthy decisions each and every day.

Remember, if you are confused, the best source to go to is your doctor. They know you and your health history and can direct you to the appropriate resources to keep your health in check.

Keep these tips in mind so you can better understand the plethora of health information you come across each day.

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Photo credit: Jun

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