If you or a loved one is facing heart disease, the Internet can feel like your best friend. One quick search can yield a wealth of great information about preventing, diagnosing, treating and managing heart disease.
But with over 700 million results from a Google search of “heart disease,” it’s easy to be overwhelmed by information. It can also be difficult to discern what’s credible—especially when you factor in everything shared on social media.
We previously shared 5 Tips for Managing and Treating Heart Disease in the Information Age. During Heart Month, information will be more prevalent than ever on the Internet. So we’ve rounded up five more tips for researching heart health.
1. Don’t tell me how to feel!
Be wary of headlines that prompt a specific emotional response. Sometimes you’ll see headlines that read, “You won’t believe what doctors discovered about ___” or “Heart disease patients are shocked to discover ___” That inflammatory language is often a red flag that the publication cares more about you clicking on the headline than giving you good information.
Also, be wary of headlines that make outrageous claims. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
2. What’s the full story?
Once you’ve read the headline and determined it’s not designed to lure you in, keep reading! In many cases, headlines are not written by the person who wrote the article. If you only read the headline, you might miss critical information or context.
For example, a headline may read: “Study Finds Link Between Eating Kale and Heart Health.” What you don’t see in the headline is that the study was performed on mice and hasn’t been studied in humans yet. That’s not to say that the researcher’s findings are wrong; it’s just not as clear-cut as the headline suggests.
3. Says who?
Look for articles that attribute their findings to named clinicians. Avoid articles that only quote vague sources, like unnamed “researchers” or “scientists.” A medical professional should be in the piece as either the author or a quoted resource.
You might even want to Google that medical professional or researcher to find more about their expertise. If a researcher has published a lot of studies about one topic, that’s a good indication that they’re truly an expert in that issue.
4. I know you!
Ask yourself if you recognize the name of the website or Facebook page sharing the information. Is it a reputable newspaper? Is it the blog of a hospital you know and trust? If not, consider looking for the same information in one of these more trustworthy places.
This is especially true for social media. Unless a reputable organization or publication is sharing it on their own social media page, it can be hard to determine whether something is reliable.
Even if the information sounds true, don’t share Facebook posts or tweets on your own profile unless you trust the source.
5. Who put you up to this?
If you spend any time on the Internet, you’ll come across “sponsored content.” This is usually an article that an organization is paying to be presented to you. Essentially, it’s an ad—but what’s being advertised is information, not a product.
Sponsored content isn’t always misleading. Sometimes it’s just as accurate and reliable as any other trustworthy resource. But in other cases, sponsored content can be inaccurate, designed to persuade, or missing key context and facts. Look for the words “ad” or “sponsored” before you click on or share an article.
Don’t forget that your cardiologist is one of the most valuable resources at your disposal. It’s always better to ask questions and have a discussion with the medical professional most familiar with your individual case rather than relying on information that is meant for the masses.