To prevent disease, you have options that include lifestyle, medical screening tests, immunizations, and preventative medications.
Lifestyle. The magic of disease prevention.
We’ll keep saying it. Your health is highly influenced by nutrition. Physical activity is a wonder drug. We can place stacks of scientific proof of this at your feet. With a personalized healthy diet and physical activity plan, your energy level will improve, your sleep will be more restful, your meals will taste better, your relationships will be happier, and you’ll dramatically drop your risk for heart disease, stroke, dementia, cancer and depression. I see it happen all the time. For most diseases, your genes are less than 25% of your risk. The rest depends on how you choose to live your life.
Medical Screening Tests
Screening for important disease risk factors is your next defense, particularly against heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some cancers, and some infections. The concept is appealing: if we detect your disease in its earliest stages, before it causes you symptoms or when it is “pre-cancerous” but not yet cancer, then we have a greater chance at cure. Of course it is not always that simple. The conversation quickly becomes both statistical and personal. The side-effects of screening need to be considered, including the risk of revealing harmless abnormalities. Population averages and other statistics related to screening tests can be difficult to grasp, for patients and physicians alike. The Wise Patient approach to screening tests includes informing you of the relevant statistics using plain language, and helping you to personalize them to your specific situation. This will give you greater confidence when making decisions about your screening tests.
Screening tests don’t always involve blood tests or complex medical procedures. For example, simple questionnaires can be used to screen for mild depression and anxiety, two issues often neglected in primary care medicine. The first step to treating a problem is to know the problem exists!
The reason for vaccines is straightforward: maintenance of immunity is an essential part of preventing infections. Common vaccinations available to adults include influenza, pneumococcal pneumonia, tetanus, diptheria, pertussis (whooping cough), shingles, HPV (associated with warts and cervical cancer), hepatitis A, hepatitis B, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Varicella. At Wise Patient, we offer you practical guidance about how and why vaccines are important in your day-to-day life, an informed discussion of vaccine risks and benefits, and further assessment of your personal situation that may be important (e.g., people with immunocompromised states, in close contact with children, planning international travel, holding religious views on vaccinations etc.).
Some medications can prevent some illnesses in some people. This is unlikely a new concept for you. You may know someone taking daily aspirin for their personal risk of heart disease, folate to protect against birth defects, a statin for high cholesterol, and so on. As with medical screening tests, personal decisions about preventative medications can get complicated quickly.