(6/25/12) - Preventative care is extremely important in helping to keep you healthy and enjoying a better quality of life. The old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" describes how preventative care benefits you and the entire health care system.
Preventative care includes age and gender appropriate lifestyle changes, vaccinations, screening tests and other measures to keep you healthy. Physicians practice preventative care at the individual level proactively using examinations, screenings and other tools to address your individual health needs and to help detect illness or health risks early in life.
While the focus of preventative care is to keep you healthy, it also extends to people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer and others. For these people, preventative care is about managing symptoms and complications and improving quality of life.
Your physician can create a program designed to help you stay healthy by identifying which preventative services you may need depending on your age and medical and family history.
Preventative services can include the following:
• Tests or screenings to check your general health or the health of certain parts of your body. For adults, screenings that consider your age, gender and family history will help your physician spot problems. Early detection often means a better outcome for you and lower health costs. For example, colon cancer, heart disease, and other medical problems in close relatives may alter the timing of screening tests.
• For those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or other medical problems, your physician may recommend steps to reduce symptoms and improve your quality of life including regular measurements of weight and blood pressure, and counseling on issues including diet, tobacco, alcohol and drug use, and stress.
• Immunizations for both children and adults. For children, the pediatric preventative care and immunizations as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics are extremely important to keep your children health and safe from many infectious diseases.
• Special tests that may be needed for specific times during your life including pregnancy and age over 50 years.
Do my habits really affect my health? Yes, they very much do. All of the major causes of death, such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease and injury can be prevented in part by making healthy lifestyle choices.
What can I do to keep myself healthy? The choices you make about the way you live are important to your health. Here are some choices you can make to help keep yourself healthy:
• Don't use any form of tobacco. Smoking and tobacco use are very dangerous habits. Smoking causes 440,000 deaths in the United States every year. More preventable illnesses, such as emphysema, mouth, throat and lung cancers, and heart disease are caused by tobacco use than by anything else. The sooner you quit, the better.
• Eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet has many benefits. Heart disease, certain cancers, stroke, diabetes and damage to your arteries can be linked to what you eat. By making healthier food choices, you can also lower your cholesterol and lose weight.
• Lose weight if you are overweight. Many of us are overweight. Carrying too much weight increases your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, certain cancers, gallbladder disease and arthritis in the weight-bearing joints such as the spine, hips or knees. A high-fiber, low-fat diet and regular exercise can help you loose weight and keep it off.
• Exercise regularly. Exercise can help prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis and depression. It can also help prevent colon cancer, stroke and back injury. You will feel better and keep your weight under control if you exercise regularly. Try to exercise for 30 to 60 minutes, 4 to 6 times a week, but remember that any amount of exercise is better than none.
• Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. This means no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women. One drink is equal to one 12 ounce can of beer, a four ounce glass of wine or one ounce of liquor. Too much alcohol can damage the liver and contribute to some cancers, such as throat and liver cancer. Alcohol also contributes to deaths from car wreaks, murders and suicide. Also, do not use illegal drugs.
• Use seat belts whenever riding in a vehicle and make sure children are properly restrained in car seats.
See your physician regularly for preventative care and be sure to follow-up regularly on their recommendations for healthy lifestyle choices.
Dr. Prakash Beeraka is a Board Certified Family Medicine Physician at Jeter-Skinner Family Practice. Dr. Beeraka is currently accepting new patients. To make an appointment, please call (843) 662 - 1533. Jeter-Skinner Family Practice is located in McLeod Medical Park West Suite 160, at 101 S. Ravenel Street, Florence, on the McLeod Regional Medical Center campus.