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Health Illiteracy Could Spell Doom for Heart Failure Patients

iStock/Thinkstock
iStock/Thinkstock

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — Despite all the advances in treating heart failure over the past 20 years, there is a certain class of people in the U.S. who are at a great disadvantage, even after receiving life-saving care.

Dr. Candace McNaughton of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville says that many of the millions of people who experience heart failure are “health illiterate,” that is, they have a hard time understanding medical instructions following a discharge from the hospital.

This difficulty in filling out forms and following general do’s and don’ts after heart failure means they’re a third more likely to die during the 21-month follow-up period than people who follow instructions, take all their medications and change their lifestyles appropriately.

According to McNaughton, those who are “health illiterate” are often older, male high school dropouts who receive government health insurance.

However, McNaughton says even so-called “intelligent” people may still have problems following sometimes complicated medical information, putting them at risk of premature death after a bout of heart failure, which occurs when there’s not enough blood delivered to other organs.

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