Dear Savvy Senior: What are the best websites for finding reliable health information on the Internet? I usually do a Google search on a symptom, drug or health condition when I want to research something, but with so much information out there I’m not sure what I can trust. — Untrusting Senior
Dear Untrusting: You’re wise not to believe everything you read, especially when it comes to health and medical information on the World Wide Web. To help you sort through the online clutter and locate reliable, trustworthy medical information, here are a few tips to follow, along with some top-rated sites you can always turn to with confidence.
HOW TO VERIFY
As a general rule, health and medical information websites sponsored by the U.S. government, not-for-profit health or medical organizations, and university medical centers are the most reliable resources on the Internet, while sites supported by for-profit companies, such as drug or insurance companies that may be trying to sell you their products, are usually not your best option.
To find out what’s sponsoring a site and where the information came from, click on the “About Us” tab.
Also look for the red and blue “HONcode” seal at the bottom of each page, which means the site has credible information and is certified by the Health On the Net Foundation. However, government-sponsored health sites don’t have the seal.
Also be aware that good health and medical information changes all the time so check the date that information was published to make sure it’s current. And, if you’re doing research online before seeing a doctor, print your findings out on paper, including the site you got your information from, so you can review it together.
TOP HEALTH SITES
Although there are dozens of great websites that provide reliable, trustworthy, unbiased health and medical information, two of the best all-purpose sites are easy to use.
■ Medlineplus.gov: Sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and managed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus provides information on more than 900 diseases and conditions in its “Health Topics” section, and links to trusted resources.
It also provides a directory of hospitals, clinics and health care providers, a medical encyclopedia and medical dictionary, tutorials on common conditions, tests and treatments, extensive information on prescription drugs, supplements and herbs, and links to thousands of clinical trials. It even offers a senior-specific health site (nihseniorhealth.gov) that makes age-related health information easier to get.
■ MayoClinic.com: Owned by the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, this site is produced by more than 3,300 physicians, scientists and researchers from Mayo Clinic, and provides in-depth, easy-to-understand information on hundreds of diseases and conditions, drugs and supplements, tests and procedures. It also offers a nifty “Symptom Checker” tool and “First-Aid Guide” for fast answers to all types of health conditions, along with medical blogs, expert answers, videos and links to additional resources.
DISEASE SPECIFIC SITES
There are also dozens of other sites dedicated to specific diseases and conditions. Here are some top-rated sites as listed by the Medical Library Association on cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
■ Cancer: American Cancer Society (cancer.org), National Cancer Institute (cancer.gov), Association of Cancer Online Resources (acor.org) and Cancer Care (cancercare.org).
■ Heart disease: American Heart Association (americanheart.org), National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (www.nhlbi.nih.gov) and Congenital Heart Information Network (tchin.org).
■ Diabetes: American Diabetes Association (diabetes.org), National Diabetes Education Program (ndep.nih.gov), Joslin Diabetes Center (www.joslin.harvard.edu), and Diabetes Monitor (diabetesmonitor.com).
■ Alzheimer’s disease: Alzheimer’s Association (alz.org), Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation (alzinfo.org), and Alzheimers.gov.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC “Today” show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.