By Jane Sandwood
Up to 40% of US deaths as a result of the five leading causes are preventable.
Lifestyle factors play a big part, particularly fitness and diet. More worryingly, inactivity itself is a risk factor for developing various diseases. Exercise is beneficial for both physical and mental health and can help to maintain a healthy body weight that dramatically reduces the risk of many diseases.
A good diet can reverse some health conditions, such as diabetes, showing the powerful effect food can have. Exercise and a healthy diet combined with not smoking or drinking excessively can prevent many illnesses in the future, avoiding the need to treat.
Types Of Healthcare Prevention
There are five levels of preventive healthcare. The first is primal and primordial prevention that focuses on helping future parents provide their child with a secure environment between conception and the first birthday, along with measures that risk factors developing.
Primary prevention is avoiding diseases or increasing your resistance to a disease, such as vaccinations, not smoking and leading a healthy lifestyle.
Secondary prevention is methods that try to detect an existing disease before symptoms appear, such as cancer screenings and treating hypertension before a coronary event occurs.
Tertiary prevention tries to reduce the harm of a disease you’ve been diagnosed with, for example having surgery to stop or slow its progression.
Finally, quaternary prevention aims to avoid the consequences of unnecessary or excessive medical intervention and keep interventions ethical.
Effects Of Exercise And Inactivity
Exercise is one of the best preventative medicines for a multitude of illnesses, but more than half of physicians trained in America receive no formal education on the advantages of physical exercise. Exercise has the most far-reaching effects as it works for almost every system in the body, such as the brain and heart, and can also help memory, concentration and mood.
One of the most expensive diseases in the US in type 2 diabetes, which is commonly caused by lifestyle factors, meaning most cases are preventable with a healthy diet and exercise to control weight. One meta-analysis involving over 14,000 participants found that exercise was more effective than anticoagulants and antiplatelet medicines in preventing strokes.
Importantly, inactivity and sitting for long periods at a time increase your risk of developing chronic diseases and therefore leads to a reduced lifespan.
There are plenty of foods linked to good and poor health, from superfoods full of antioxidants and cancer-fighting vitamins to processed meats and sugary snacks that offer very little nutrients. What you choose to eat on a regular basis will directly correlate with your health, whether it’s immediate or in 50 years time.
A poor diet often leads to obesity, which the World Health Organization has declared as an epidemic. Being overweight or obese puts pressure on your entire body, makes it more difficult to exercise and can often lead to type 2 diabetes. Diabetes in turn increases the risk of heart disease, kidney disease, stroke and infections.
Eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables and decreasing the amount of saturated fat, salt and sugars in your diet will improve your health but maintaining a healthy body weight is also important.
Diet And Smoking’s Impact On Oral Health
91% of Americans adults between 20-64 years of age have dental caries in permanent teeth. A bad diet can contribute to countless health problems, including issues with your teeth that you may not have even considered. Cleaning your teeth regularly, using mouthwash and flossing can help to remove plaque from them and keep them healthy.
However, even if you do all these you still have a chance of your teeth and gums becoming damaged if you consume sugary and acidic foods and drinks. Being a smoker will also contribute to poor oral health, including staining of the teeth, exacerbating gum disease and cause infections in the gums that take a long time to heal, as well as oral cancers.
The Overall Effectiveness Of Preventative Healthcare
Many people believe that preventive healthcare will save lives and money in the near future, making it a worthy investment. A study in 2010 found that vaccinating children, not smoking, using aspirin daily and screening for breast and colorectal cancers had the most potential to prevent premature death.
The Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group conducted a study in 2012 that found that lifestyle changes saved no money when compared to taking Metformin but was still cost-effective as it increased the quality of life for patients. Despite the effectiveness of preventive health care, Americans use prevention services at around half the recommended rate, often due to financial barriers.
The benefits of preventive medicine are countless and offer zero side effects, which is something no drug can offer. Exercise, diet, smoking and drinking are lifestyle choices that everyone has control over and can use them as prevention measures to benefit their health.
Too many people wait until it is too late, opting for treatment over prevention, but the damage has already started at this point.
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