Everyone knows that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Thousands of people in our local communities, and millions of people around the world, will be going on runs, walks and bike rides to raise money for breast cancer research and encourage women to have regular mammograms. Throughout the month, we’ll see pink ribbons everywhere.
I applaud the individuals who work tirelessly to support these efforts, and my heart goes out to anyone who has lost a loved one to breast cancer.
October is also Health Literacy Month. I think it’s fair to assume you’ve probably never heard of that one.
According to the Affordable Care Act, health literacy is defined as “the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions.”
I believe health literacy goes beyond having the capacity to get the information we need to make smart health decisions.
Health literacy means we must also have the willingness to become educated and use this knowledge in our everyday lives. As adults and parents, we must view health literacy as our responsibility, not just something we have the capacity to achieve.
A person who is health literate knows that breast cancer and other forms of cancer are highly preventable. We know that a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, obesity and excessive alcohol increase the risk of cancer, so we work to decrease that risk by making smarter health and lifestyle choices.
When we have the willingness to be health literate, we read food labels and avoid dangerous, manmade substances like high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated corn oil. We use glass containers instead of plastic to reduce exposure to carcinogens and toxins. We feed our kids whole, natural foods instead of junk from a box, a can or a drive-thru.
We avoid high-stress situations as much as possible. We don’t view 18-hour workdays as a badge of honor. We exercise regularly, and we follow an exercise program designed for us instead of doing what everyone else at the gym is doing.
Health literacy is the key to longevity. Period.
When you attend breast cancer awareness events this month and donate money to worthwhile organizations, I encourage you to become more health literate and use your health literacy to help others.
The ultimate goal of every breast cancer awareness organization or event is to make more people aware of the facts behind the disease. All of us can do our part by using our health literacy to reduce the risk of cancer, and becoming more aware is a great first step.
Remember, October is Health Literacy Month. Let’s remember what that means and make better health choices – not just for one month, but every single day, all year round.