For better or for worse, the internet offers a great deal of health information.
Eating a healthy diet, exercising, following up with your cancer screenings and taking care of your skin are all ways to help lower your cancer risk. Just a simple online search can you give tons of information about any of these topics. But it’s crucial to make sure that the information you’re getting is correct so you can make the best decisions for your health.
We spoke with Wendy Griffith, a senior social work counselor at MD Anderson Cancer Center, to learn how to find the best health information. Here are her tips.
Don’t spend too much time searching.
When it comes to health information, too much isn’t always a good thing.
“The more websites you look at, the more information you’ll find, and it may start conflicting,” Griffith says. “You can find literally anything on the Internet.”
Instead of reading everything, just read information from a few sources you trust.
Consider the source.
To make sure the information you’re reading is reliable, consider where it comes from. Is it a government, hospital or well-known organization? Is the author a doctor or another health care professional, or does the article mention one? If you’re looking at a new diet plan, is there proof that it works? Does the medical community support it?
If you can’t find this information right away, look for an “About Us” page that may provide more information. When it comes to your health, it’s best to go straight to the experts.
Does the website address end in .org, .gov or.edu? “.Org” sites are maintained by nonprofit groups. The federal government’s sites end in “.gov”. And universities or medical schools run sites that end in “.edu”. These sites are often more reliable for health information than “.com” sites.
“There are plenty of good ‘.com’ websites out there, but you have to be more careful,” Griffith says.
Find out when the information was published.
Make sure the information is up to date. Health recommendations can change based on the latest research and studies. In many cases, information that is more recent is better. Griffith recommends making sure the health information you’re relying on is no older than three to five years.
Check with your doctor.
Share the information you find online with your doctor. That way you can learn if it’s correct and if it’s right for you. Because health care is so specific, what is right for one patient may not be right for others. Even if you are just exploring a new diet or exercise routine.
“Accurate health information can help you make sure that you’re doing the best thing for your body,” Griffith says.