Revealing Personal Health Info: The Dos and Don’ts

Filling Out Medical Forms
How much do you really need to disclose on medical forms? And, how can your health history affect insurance rates?

The medical information bureau (MIB) is a database used to obtain information about insurance applicants, such as medical conditions and lifestyle elements including smoking, high-risk sports involvement or depression. If an applicant has a risky medical history, insurers can charge higher rates or deny coverage.

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However, withholding medical information to obtain lower insurance rates can harm your health in the future.

“Your doctor is obligated to keep track of your medical conditions,” E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork says. “[For example], if you have high blood pressure, you can’t ask your doctors not to document it, because it could kill you someday down the road.”

While some personal information in one-on-one conversation with your doctor may be kept private, he or she is obligated to record information that’s pertinent to your health, such as heart disease, diabetes or other medical conditions.

“We live in an imperfect society, and we have an imperfect healthcare system,” Dr. Travis says. “But we truly believe the doctor-patient relationship is a sacred one, so don’t withhold information, because that information could save your life.”

Privacy laws vary by state, so be sure to check the National Association of Insurance Commissioners for additional information.

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Vegans vs. Meat-Eaters
Would you consider a major change in your diet? Sisters Kelly and Kaitlin are in a constant battle over their differing diets. Kelly is vegan while Kaitlin eats meat, and they want to know if one is healthier than the other.

Kelly says she wants Katilin to experience the same health benefits she’s seen since going vegan, such as an improvement in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), clearer skin and feeling healthier over all. 

President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Dr. Neal Barnard, who is also vegan, discusses the effects of diet on health.

Dr. Barnard says that many people who go vegan lose weight without cutting calories or reducing carbohydrates. They can consume blueberry pancakes, spaghetti and bread in unlimited portions and still shed pounds.

”A plant-based diet can actually unclog arteries and reverse heart disease and diabetes, as well,” he says.

Studies comparing different diets’ affects on people’s health show that vegans have a lower body-mass index, since fiber controls their appetites and increases metabolism. They also show a lesser frequency of type 2 diabetes as compared to meat eaters, and may live longer.

However, meat from grass-fed animals has nutritional benefits as well. Grass-fed meat contains less saturated fat, less cholesterol and more vitamins E, C and omega-3s as compared to factory farmed meat. Eating lean, cooked red meat in moderation has shown to break up the body's protein chains, making it easier for stomach enzymes to digest, resulting in increased energy. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids which promote heart and brain health.

Dr. Lisa explains that pregnant women on plant-based diets are advised to take supplements to compensate for the vitamins they’re lacking from the absence of meat in their diets.

Pregnant women need about 30 milligrams of iron everyday, which is absorbed by the body more easily by animal products than plant foods.

“I grew up eating beef, and I eat a lot of plant products too,” doctor of psychology Wendy Walsh Ph.D. says. “But for me, when I tried to go vegetarian, I was so anemic.”

“In the end, what is best for you may not always be what’s best for someone else,” Dr. Travis says. “Figure out a healthy diet that works best for you.”

Decoding Your Teen’s Texts
Studies show that half of American teenagers 12 to 17 years old send more than 50 text messages per day. While they may have a lot to say, is what they’re saying safe? Some kids are texting in code to cover their tracks. Learn what yours may be hiding.

“If your teenagers are speaking a different language, don’t separate from it,” pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears says. “Be involved in your teen’s life.”

From “GNOC” to “CD9,” the team translates your teen’s digital dialogue.

Howver, it doesn't stop at texting -- teens are talking online as well.

“You have to be your kid’s Facebook friend and Twitter follower,” Dr. Wendy says.

“It’s snooping if you go between their mattresses,” she adds. “But it’s not snooping if they’re yelling through a megaphone, which is what the Internet is.”

Decipher more of your teen's internet acronyms at Safe Internet Surfing.

First Date: How Much Should You Divulge?
Improv actors George and Michelle go on blind dates with unsuspecting singles, and give it all away on first meeting. Dr. Wendy explains what’s OK to share, and when a little mystery can earn you points in the dating game.

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OAD 10/26/11