We want fries with that

The results are in: French fries made without trans fats can still taste good.

Consumer Reports checked out the fries at three major fast-food chains that now make their french fries without trans fats. The verdict: Taste-testers found that the fries from Burger King, McDonald’s and Wendy’s taste "as good as the old fries that contained heart-unhealthy trans fats."

Wendy’s and McDonald’s rose to the top, both earning a "very good" rating. The critique for Wendy’s fries: "Big potato flavor; light, crispy surface; soft inside. A little more browning would make them even better."

Here’s what the taste-testers said about McDonald’s fries: "Very flavorful, with crisp texture, but could be more potato-y."

Burger King fries received a "good" rating. They were deemed "decent, but coating detracts from the quality and makes texture a little tough, not crispy." They also tasted "more of oil than potato."

On the calorie and fat scale, McDonald’s performed the best. A 4.1-ounce serving of its fries contains 380 calories and 19 grams of fat. Wendy’s came in second, with 420 calories and 20 grams of fat in a 5-ounce serving of fries. BK offered the most generous helping of fries – 5.6 ounces – and came in at 480 calories and 23 grams of fat.

The taste-testers each tried a medium serving of fries at three outlets for each chain.

Even when they’re made without trans fats, french fries still contain plenty of fat, not to mention calories - but at least it’s the less bad kind of fat.

What’s a good fat? Monounsatured fats and polyunsaturated fats are considered good because they’re believed to help lower the risk of heart disease when they’re consumed in moderation. They can be found naturally in nuts, avocados, olive oil, and certain kinds of fish, such as salmon, to name a few. So-called bad fats, on the other hand, have been implicated in higher risk of stroke, heart disease and high blood pressure. They include saturated fats, which occur in animal products, and trans fats, which are typically manufactured by food companies to preserve foods and enhance the texture and taste.

Take this online quiz, created by the American Heart Association, to check your good fat/bad fat IQ. The AHA also has an entire resource center on dietary fat and how to manage how much fat you consume.

Photo credit: HealthBeat photo by Anne Polta

A cartoon’s-eye view of health care reform

Health care reform is a serious subject – in other words, prime fodder for the political cartoonists. With a single drawing and a little text, these artists can say a lot about politics, the health care system and the public.

Kaiser Health News recently added a collection of political cartoons to its online news site.

Here’s another gallery from About.com. There are more here at UClick.com.

And if you’d like a mega-dose of political humor, try the Cartoonists Group and its online collection of more than 300 political cartoons, all about health care reform.

My favorite so far: one of President Obama trying to herd a roomful of cats. Do you have favorites? Share it with readers by leaving a note or a link in the comment section below.

Alzheimer’s disease onstage

Alzheimer’s disease has taken center stage at the Guthrie Theater this month with a production of "My Father’s Bookshelf," which explores what it’s like to have Alzheimer’s and how families and society respond to the disease.

Live Action Set, a Twin Cities performance company, worked with the Alzheimer’s community, as well as with researchers from the University of Minnesota, to develop an innovative show that juxtaposes the world of neuroscience with the personal story of a man trying to live with Alzheimer’s.

It’s a difficult and weighty topic, yet reviewers also have found the show to be entertaining and even funny.

Alzheimer’s disease has a wide reach; an estimated 5 million Americans have it, and millions more family members and caregivers are affected by it in one way or another.

To engage the audience and encourage further discussion of the issues surrounding Alzheimer’s, the Guthrie is hosting discussions after each performance of "My Father’s Bookshelf." You’ll have to hurry, though, if you want to attend.  The final discussion, featuring guests from the Alzheimer’s Association of Minnesota and North Dakota, is Saturday night. The show ends on Sunday. For more information, including ticket availability and prices, visit the Guthrie Theater online.

If you can’t attend the show but would like to learn more about it, there’s a photo gallery here and clips from an interview with Minnesota Public Radio on the Live Action Set home page.

Pain vs. gain: Reality bites back on game shows

About 8 million viewers have been watching the slips and falls and splats each week on ABC’s Wipeout. I wasn’t one of them until recently, when I happened to catch a short segment of the show.

After 10 minutes of seeing hapless contestants getting smacked with the Plank in the Face and ricocheting off the Big Balls, I was wincing. It looked… well, really painful. In fact it looked like an injury waiting to happen.

What’s up with the game shows and reality shows these days? Increasingly, they’ve turned into ordeals of physical endurance - sometimes to the detriment of the contestants.

Take “I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!”, which just concluded this past week. Actor Stephen Baldwin bailed out of the show early, unable to take the Costa Rican jungle any longer. He told reporters he received more than 125 insect bites in eight days, leading to an allergic reaction that caused him to lose 22 pounds.

In the second season of “Survivor,” one of the contestants, Michael Skupin, had to be evacuated from the Australian outback after he blacked out and fell into a fire pit, sustaining third-degree burns to his hands. Last year another “Survivor” contestant was hobbled by a bad infection in his heel.

Then there’s “Dancing with the Stars,” which was plagued with injuries this past season – torn muscles, pinched nerves and, for one contestant, a separated shoulder.

It’s hard to know whether these are isolated incidents. Although safety standards do exist in the entertainment industry, there doesn’t appear to be any national reporting system that tracks and analyzes injuries, especially injuries involving civilian participants on game shows and reality shows.

One has to wonder whether the participants in “Survivor,” “Wipeout” and the like truly understand what they’re signing up for. In an interview earlier this year with People magazine, skater Kristi Yamaguchi offered her perspective on why so many contestants were getting hurt on “Dancing With the Stars”:

“The injuries aren’t surprising,” Yamaguchi says of season 8′s spate of injuries. “People don’t know how physical it gets. I think that’s one reason why athletes do well – they know how to listen to their bodies.”

The contestants on “Wipeout” don’t even have to be in particularly good physical shape to be considered for the show. According to the casting information, candidates ”must be able to swim, must currently live in California (huh?) [and must be] fun, strong-willed, outgoing, and have a great sense of humor.”

What is it like to be on “Wipeout”? An Associated Press reporter gave it a try last month. Derrik J. Lang writes:

From the vantage point of my sofa, the “Wipeout” obstacle course always seemed akin to a Disneyland attraction or a giant Slip ‘n’ Slide. In person, my perspective completely changed as I witnessed The Qualifier spit out beaten, bruised and – in one instance – vomiting contestants.”

The only safety equipment: “a lifejacket festooned with the splashy ‘Wipeout’ logo and some lace-up ankle covers.” The water was cold, and as for the mud, Lang writes, “it was cold and watery, not warm and gooey. It was also, as I learned after leaping with my mouth gaping open, very gritty.”

This season the show did away with safety helmets in order to give viewers a better look at the contestants’ faces. According to the show’s executive producer, helmets aren’t needed because all the surfaces on the obstacle course are foam-padded to prevent head injuries. Fair enough, but there seem to be plenty of other ways for contestants to get hurt on this show – and all for a shot at $50,000 and a chance to provide a few minutes’ worth of entertainment value to the TV-watching public.

Is it worth it? It almost makes one yearn for the days when game shows were primarily a battle of wits and the only thing you were likely to strain was your cerebral cortex.

Kids and glasses: the new cool?

Kids with glasses have long suffered from unfortunate, nerdy stereotypes. But there’ve been some signs recently that this might finally be changing.

With attractive frames and thinner lenses, glasses are becoming much more of a fashion statement for children and teens.

Many kids don’t even mind wearing glasses, Dr.Amy Walker, an optometrist with the University of Wisconsin Department of Ophthalmology, said in a recent news article.

"Only a small percentage of children who have to wear glasses are disappointed about it," she said. "Most children are accepting of needing glasses because their friends or siblings wear glasses."

A small-scale study, published last year in the Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics journal, found that pre-teen children perceived their glasses-wearing peers as smarter and more honest. The 80 children queried in the study also didn’t think children who wore glasses were less attractive, the study’s authors found.

The Supersisters blog at PBS Parents recently described the experience of a child getting his first pair of glasses:

All in all, school went well, a few comments that were not the greatest but nothing terrible. He seemed proud and just fine. We even went to our neighbors for a popsicle party to show off the new lenses. I think we are all seeing a whole lot more.

Readers added their own stories about kids and glasses. One person summed it up this way: "Glasses today are nothing like when I wore them in grade school – glasses are cool these days."

Dr. Amy Walker said she even sees some children who purposely try to flunk their eye exam so they can get glasses.

"I can tell if they are not trying hard enough when reading the eye chart," says Walker. "At the end of the exam, I give them plain lenses without a prescription, then have them read the eye chart again. Most of the time, they are able to read it better because they want to demonstrate to their parents the glasses helped them see better."

In those cases, Walker discreetly tells parents not to be concerned; their children do not need glasses. But she says these experiences are never a waste of time.

"I always mention this was a good time for an exam anyway," she says. "Sometimes, I do pick up something that may need attention."

Sometimes, of course, a child will resist getting glasses, or won’t wear them. Some suggestions from the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus and from All About Vision:

- Choose frames that are comfortable. The glasses should fit the child’s face.

- Choose lenses made from shatterproof polycarbonate.

- Allow older children to select their own glasses; they’ll be more likely to wear their glasses if the eyewear is a style they like.

Pass the herbs; hold the salt

Picture yourself making dinner. But instead of reaching for the salt shaker, you step outside and snip a few leaves of fresh herbs growing in your garden.

Americans love their salt. In fact, most of us love sodium far more than we should. The average American consumes more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day – almost twice as much as the recommended daily amount for healthy adults, which is 2,300 milligrams a day. People with certain risk factors, mainly individuals who have high blood pressure and/or are middle-aged or older, should consume even less; 1,500 milligrams a day is recommended.

What’s the big deal about sodium? Historically, salt was a valuable commodity and an important preservative for food. And a certain amount of sodium, of course, is necessary for overall health. When the body’s level of sodium drops too low, hyponatremia can be the result. Too much sodium, on the other hand, has been linked to elevated blood pressure and the twin risks of heart disease and stroke.

There’s some disagreement on whether too much dietary salt is indeed bad for our health. Although many studies have documented the association between sodium and high blood pressure, it’s not entirely clear how to interpret this. If you consume less salt, will this alone reduce your risk of hypertension, or do you need to make other dietary and lifestyle changes as well?

More importantly, high sodium intake is often a marker for overall eating habits. Most experts believe it isn’t salt per se that’s the villain; it’s Americans’ reliance on fast food and processed and packaged foods which are high in sodium. The salt shaker, in fact, accounts for only about 5 or 6 percent of the typical American’s daily salt intake; all the rest comes from processed foods. Check out the sodium content here for common foods such as bacon, ketchup and processed cheese.

Cutting back on sodium is hard, though. It’s especially difficult for people who’ve recently been diagnosed with high blood pressure or congestive heart failure and must change long-standing eating habits. One of the biggest complaints, not surprisingly, is that low-sodium food is often bland, monotonous and unappetizing.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you want to cut down your salt intake without sacrificing flavor, many nutrition counselors suggest trying herbs and spices instead.

You can buy dried herbs just about anywhere, of course. And many supermarkets sell fresh herbs year round. There’s no substitute, however, for growing your own.

I’ve grown herbs for years. (The picture above is of my chives when they were in bloom earlier this month. Both the leaves and the flowers are edible.) This summer I’m raising rosemary, mint, lavender, catnip, parsley, coriander, bee balm, calendula, oregano, sage, thyme, chives and two kinds of basil.

Herbs are among some of the easiest plants to grow. They’re relatively pest-free and, other than routine watering, don’t require a lot of fussy maintenance. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t have room for a garden. Many herbs adapt well to containers and can continue to grow indoors during the winter months. I especially like container herbs because 1) they don’t need to be weeded; and 2) the containers can be set on a deck or balcony or windowsill, within convenient reach of snipping off a sprig or two.

If you don’t know how to use fresh herbs, fear not. A Google search of “cooking with herbs”will easily generate hundreds of references. Your local public library is another good place to go for information.

Maybe you’ll discover, as I did, that growing your own herbs will encourage you to find ways of using them. There’s something inspiring about the scent of freshly cut mint or the soft pebbly texture of a leaf of sage. Before you know it, you’ll probably find yourself cooking at home more often and using fresh, rather than processed, ingredients. It’s a strategy that not only will help you cut down on your sodium intake - and benefit your health – but will make the process less painful and actually even enjoyable.

Photo credit: HealthBeat photo by Anne Polta

Oncology on canvas

There are times when the visual arts convey stories, emotions and truths in ways that the written word cannot.

This is the case with Oncology on Canvas, a biennial traveling national exhibit that will be in Paynesville this week. The juried competition, sponsored by the Eli Lilly and Co. pharmaceutical company, began as a creative forum for women with cancer to express themselves artistically. The first competition, in 2004, had 500 entries from 23 countries, and made its debut at the Royal College of Art in London.

In 2006 the contest was broadened to include anyone – families, caregivers, health care professionals - affected by cancer. The second global competition that year had more than 2,000 entries.

This year’s competition was open to artists in the United States and Puerto Rico. The winners included patients, family members and health care professionals. First place overall: an acrylic painting whose title is "As I Am, Beautiful and Whole." Among the other winning entries are a photo montage titled "Traces," an oil painting titled "Memorialized," and watercolors titled "Hold Me… Release Me" and "My Healing Exercise." You can see more of the gallery online here.

Oncology on Canvas will be at the Paynesville Area Health Care System today through Thursday and can be viewed from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. An evening reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday. The exhibit also will be displayed at the Paynesville Relay for Life Friday and Saturday.

There won’t be many other chances to see Oncology on Canvas. The exhibit’s visit to Paynesville is one of only three stops being made this year in Minnesota. Selected paintings were at St. Francis Cancer Center in Shakopee for three days during April and will be at Fairview Lakes Health Services in Wyoming, Minn., Oct. 5-30. The full tour schedule is here.

Notes from the stork room

The role of dads in the birth of their children is so well established, it’s hard to remember there was a time when fathers were firmly relegated to the waiting room.

Just in time for Father’s Day, Judith Leavitt, a professor of medical history and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin, has published a book about how men’s role in childbirth has evolved:  "Make Room for Daddy: The Journey from Waiting Room to Birthing Room."

Leavitt originally planned to write about childbirth from a woman’s perspective. Then, while doing research among the archives at a Chicago hospital, she came across a stack of journals from the 1940s and 1950s, filled with reflections and worries written by men as they sat in the waiting room.

In an online interview, Leavitt describes how these journals captured her attention:

In these books, the men wrote entries in which they poured their hearts out with the emotion of the time. They prayed to God and wished for male children; they gave each other advice. Then, when other men came into the room, they read what the men before them had written and wrote their own poignant messages. These books made me realize the importance of men’s roles in childbirth and enticed me to write their stories.

The new focus of her book became the evolving role of fathers in childbirth. Besides the journals, Leavitt sought out oral histories, interviews, men’s writings and writings in medical and nursing journals and the popular press.

Today, most fathers accompany their wife or partner through labor and delivery, Leavitt said. But many of them feel ambivalent about being there. She notes that "as men participate more, they find that some of their own needs around impending fatherhood are not yet satisfied by the hospital experience." As a result, many hospitals are starting to take steps to help fulfill the father’s expectations about being part of the labor and delivery experience, Leavitt said.

Q and A: Health care and the economic meltdown

Health care and the U.S. economy are intertwined. How does this relationship work, and what is the impact on consumers and the current recessation? For a closer look, here’s a series of questions and answers from the Associated Press, part of its Meltdown 101 series.

By LINDA A. JOHNSON
AP Business Writer
In pushing for health care reform, President Barack Obama has said problems with the current health care system are a big cause of our economic troubles. He’s even called the system, with its spiraling costs and inconsistencies in the amount and quality of care people get, a “ticking time bomb” for the federal budget.

Just how serious is the problem? How big a role does health care play in the nation’s economy?
Here are some questions and answers about the economic impact of health care.

Q: How big a part of the economy is health care?
A: It accounts for about one-sixth of the entire economy — more than any other industry.
Spending on health care totals about $2.5 trillion, 17.5 percent of our gross domestic product — a measure of the value of all goods and services produced in the United States. That’s up from 13.8 percent of GDP in 2000 and 5.2 percent in 1960, when health spending totaled just $27.5 billion — barely 1 percent of today’s level, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health policy group.

Q: What’s included in that spending?
A: It covers money paid to health care providers — hospitals, outpatient centers, Veterans Affairs and other clinics, doctor and dentist practices, physical therapists, nursing homes, home health services and on-site care at places such as schools and work sites.
Also included are retail sales of prescription and nonprescription drugs, premiums paid to health insurers, and revenues of makers of medical devices, surgical equipment and durable medical equipment such as eyeglasses, hearing aids and wheelchairs.
It also counts out-of-pocket payments by consumers for health insurance premiums, deductibles and co-payments, along with costs not covered by insurance and “medical sundries” like heating pads.

Q: Why does Obama say the health care system must be fixed first to repair the economy, and is it true?
A: It’s absolutely correct, for a host of reasons, experts say.
“Health care is the economy,” and fixing it would free up money for other priorities, such as education and industrial innovation, said Meredith Rosenthal, a Harvard University professor of health economics and policy.
The health care system is dysfunctional and full of waste — as much as 30 percent of all spending, she said. Unlike most other markets, consumers rarely know which doctors, drugs or treatments are best for them, don’t price shop and, if they’re insured, don’t know the full cost of care. That all can lead to unnecessary spending.
Kaiser’s president, Drew Altman, said health care costs have become pocketbook issues for businesses and both insured and uninsured Americans. Kaiser’s periodic polls on what consumers worry about find the cost of health care and insurance are equal with job security, gas prices and being able to pay the mortgage.
“People make the link, not just the president,” he said, adding that they’re most concerned with how reform will affect them personally.

Q: How do health care costs drag on the economy?
A: Growth in overall health care costs, including spending on the huge Medicare and Medicaid programs, is out of control, said Robert Laszewski, president of consultants Health Policy and Strategy Associates. That limits how much money the federal government and businesses have to invest in solving the energy problem, developing products that can be sold to other countries, creating technology that can bring medical breakthroughs, building infrastructure and more.

Q: How do rising health costs affect workers and businesses?
A: Health insurance premiums have skyrocketed, making it ever-tougher for workers and employers to afford them. From 1999 through 2008, annual health insurance premiums jumped 119 percent, according to Kaiser data. The average family premium paid by workers rose from $1,543 to $3,354 a year, and employer payments per worker jumped from $4,247 to $9,325.
During that span, worker earnings rose only 34 percent and overall inflation was just 29 percent. So worker income has barely kept pace with inflation, more of the paycheck is going to health costs, and there’s less left over for things like vacations, dining out, home improvements or a new car — especially for low-wage workers and retirees. That represents a huge drag on the economic growth, considering that consumer spending powers about 70 percent of the economy.
For employers, particularly small businesses, rising insurance premiums mean there’s far less money for new equipment, better facilities, research or expansion. That means fewer new jobs, plus smaller raises and higher health premiums for workers, further limiting consumer spending.

Q: What’s the impact of 50 million Americans having no insurance?
A: Ira S. Loss, senior health care analyst at Washington Analysis, puts it this way: “We’re paying to take care of those people.”
Hospitals, particularly in inner-city and rural areas, charge patients with insurance more to help make up for those who can’t pay their bills. And we’re all paying more in taxes to cover extra payments by federal and state governments to hospitals that have large shares of uninsured patients.

Q: Isn’t health care one of the few parts of the economy that’s growing?
A: Yes.
Employment in the huge health care sector has grown by about 427,000 jobs — nearly 3 percent — since the recession began in December 2007, and totaled 15.5 million jobs in April, the latest month for which U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures were available.
Most of the increases came in ambulatory care services (up 254,400 jobs) and hospitals (up 148,400 jobs). That was partly offset by job declines at pharmaceutical companies, drug wholesalers and pharmacies.
However, only 42,900 jobs have been added since January. That’s because the steady growth in jobs throughout the recession in ambulatory care, hospitals and, to a lesser extent, health insurers, has slowed dramatically over those months, with hospitals adding only 7,700 jobs and insurers just 1,000.
Obama and Congress are trying to reduce the rate at which health care spending is growing, by eliminating waste and fraud, improving efficiency and increasing preventive care, so it’s unlikely jobs at health care providers will decline. In fact, more caregivers will be needed for aging baby boomers, plus the millions who could get coverage under health care reform and presumably would seek care more regularly.
So despite the system’s faults, there’s an economic silver lining: As Altman of the Kaiser Family Foundation explains, health care has been “one of the few engines of job growth during the recession.”

Safer surgery: Getting the site right

If you or someone in your family is scheduled to have surgery, expect to have the surgery team ask the same questions over and over again. It may be redundant, and even annoying, but it’s all part of the increasing emphasis on developing systems to ensure safe surgery, as Rice Memorial Hospital and the Willmar Surgery Center have done.

Today is National Time-Out Day, an occasion for surgery professionals to call attention to safe practices and reinforce the importance of the final time-out in preventing wrong-site surgery. (If you’ve always wanted to see how a time-out is conducted, paste this URL into your Web browser to see an example: http://www.saferpatients.com/Time_Out_Correct.wmv.)

Wrong-site surgery has always been one of the risks whenever a patient goes under the scalpel. It’s only been in the last decade, however, that hospitals have begun to address it more openly and more systematically.

Among the lessons learned: Avoiding wrong-site surgery sounds like it should be easy, but in reality it’s not. In Minnesota, surgery errors are one of the most common mistakes reported under the state’s Adverse Health Events Reporting Law.

When the Joint Commission, the accrediting organization for U.S. hospitals, undertook a review in 2001 of 126 wrong-site surgeries that had been voluntarily reported, this is what it found:

- 41 percent of wrong-site surgeries involved orthopedic or foot procedures. Another 20 percent involved general surgery.

- 76 percent involved surgery on the wrong body part or site, 13 percent involved surgery on the wrong patient and 11 percent were the wrong surgical procedure.

- Risk factors that contributed to the likelihood of wrong-site surgery included emergency cases, unusual time pressures to start or complete a procedure, unusual equipment or set-up in the operating room, multiple surgeons involved in a procedure, and multiple procedures being performed during a single surgery. Patient characteristics, such as physical deformity or severe obesity, also played a role.

Often there was more than one reason for wrong-site surgery errors, the Joint Commission found:

The root causes identified by the hospitals usually involved more than one factor; however, the majority involved a breakdown in communication between surgical team members and the patient and family. Other contributing causes included policy issues such as marking of the surgical site was not required; verification in the operating room and a verification checklist were not required; and patient assessment was incomplete, including an incomplete pre-operative assessment. Staffing issues, distraction factors, availability of pertinent information in the operating room, and organizational cultural issues were also cited as contributing risk factors.

Fast-forward to 2007, when the Joint Commission held a summit on wrong-site surgery and developed an updated set of guidelines that went into effect on Jan. 1 of this year.

The collective knowledge on the best and most effective ways to prevent wrong-site surgery is still evolving. A few years ago, for instance, the patient’s surgery site was often marked with an X. But there was still room for confusion: Did X mean “cut here” or did it mean “don’t cut here”? Should a nurse mark the site or should the surgeon do it? When should the site be marked?

It’s now believed that the safest practice is to have the surgeon mark the site with his or her initials, preferably after the patient arrives at the hospital but before anesthesia commences.

Even this doesn’t have 100 percent agreement, however. Not too long ago a lively discussion erupted on the National Patient Safety Foundation’s discussion board about who should mark the site. Was it OK if a physician assistant did the marking? What about marking the site during an office visit the day before surgery? What about allowing patients to do their own marking? Just to show that you never know what can go wrong, one of the physicians on the listserv recounted an experience with a nervous patient who had her surgery site marked a day ahead of time and then went home, had a drink and accidentally spilled vodka on the surgeon’s marking.

A study conducted last year by the University of Minnesota for the Minnesota Department of Health was revealing. Observers found that even when surgery teams were marking the site and conducting a final time-out, they often didn’t get the details right. In some cases the surgical site wasn’t properly marked. Some teams conducted the final time-out before the surgeon arrived, or recited the patient’s information from memory instead of relying on the medical chart. The upshot of the study is a new, detailed set of recommendations for Minnesota hospitals and surgery centers to help them strengthen their procedures for preventing wrong-site surgery.

Although the final responsibility rests with the surgery team, patients also have a role to play in preventing wrong-site surgery. Here are some things you can do, or have a family member or trusted advocate do on your behalf:

- Be sure to ask questions if you don’t understand everything or if something doesn’t seem right. Write down your questions and bring the list to your pre-surgery doctor visit. Use the Internet to help you learn more.

- When you arrive at the hospital or surgery center, read the consent form carefully. It should list your name, the type of surgery you’ll be having, the risks of the surgery, your discussion with the doctor about your surgery, and your agreement to have the surgery. Make sure everything on the form is correct. If you don’t understand something, speak up.

- Ask questions about any medicines you’ll be given, especially if it’s a medication you haven’t had before. Tell your caregivers about any allergies you have.

You can find more tips here and here.