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Low Health Literacy Ups Mortality Risk Post Heart Failure Admission

Mortality rates may be higher for those lacking clear understanding of doctor's instructions

THURSDAY, April 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with low health literacy hospitalized for acute heart failure have an increased mortality risk, according to a study published online April 29 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers tracked mortality among 1,379 patients who had been hospitalized for acute heart failure between 2010 and 2013. All the patients filled out a questionnaire that rated their health literacy, asking about their confidence in filling out medical forms independently and their ability to read and understand medical information.

The researchers found that heart failure patients with low health literacy -- scoring below 10 on a scale from 3 to 15 -- were one-third more likely to have died during the average 21-month follow-up period than patients with higher health knowledge. Those with low health literacy tended to be older, male, covered by government health insurance, and high school dropouts.

But even people "who are highly literate or highly educated in other areas may have difficulty reading and understanding health care information," lead author Candace McNaughton, M.D., M.P.H., told HealthDay. McNaughton is an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.

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