An ounce of prevention

I’ve been thinking a lot about preventive health lately. Like, mostly how you don’t see a lot of it in the U.S. healthcare system.

“What is she talking about? What about all those screening exams…blood pressure, mammograms, etc.”

News flash: Getting your blood pressure checked doesn’t help prevent high blood pressure. Getting your blood sugar tested doesn’t help prevent diabetes. Getting a mammogram doesn’t help prevent breast cancer.

“Preventive” health screening exams don’t prevent problems. They spot problems. Sooner rather than later, hopefully. But is this the best we can do, people? Sure, I would much rather find out my blood sugar is a little bit high (“pre-diabetes”) than to suddenly find out that I have a raging case of full-fledged diabetes. (And don’t think that can’t happen…there are an awful lot of health problems, diabetes and high blood pressure included, that don’t have obvious symptoms. Most people with diabetes had no idea they had it until they happen to get tested and their doctor says “you have diabetes.”)

Screening exams are often the only way to spot certain health problems early, when they are easier to treat successfully. But here’s the rub: If you’ve been running around for a while with blood pressure or blood sugar that’s “a little high,” your body has already been damaged. Not to go all “your body is a temple” on you, but seriously…you only have one body and it has to see you through from birth to death. Why would you want it to become damaged, if you could prevent it?

So get those screening exams. If you don’t know what exams you should be getting, based on your age, your personal health history and your family’s health history, ask your doctor, for Pete’s sake! If you have access to a nurse phoneline, that can also be a good resource for getting you pointed in the right direction.

Then, make it a goal to get a clean bill of health every time you get screened. In other words, practice true preventive health. Eat right and exercise.

  • Avoid or seriously limit foods that are high in fat, sugar, white flour, salt and little else. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Don’t eat more calories than your body can burn in a day. If you already have, and you are overweight, start working on reversing that trend.
  • Move your body, both with “exercise” and with simple general activity. Get up from your desk regularly to stretch or walk around a little. Do some house cleaning. Garden a little. Actively play with your kids. Our bodies are meant to move, pure and simple. When we don’t move them enough, we help set the stage for disease.

Remember: Spotting disease early is better than spotting it late, but preventing disease from ever happening trumps all. Plus, preventing disease comes with too big bonuses. First, you’ll look and feel better from all that moving and healthy eating. Second, true preventive health does not require prescription medication with potentially icky side effects.* Hooray!

*Seriously…do you ever listen to the list of potential side effects at the end of the prescription drug ads on TV? Things like death, irreversible coma, uncontrolled muscle movements (that may become permanent), thoughts of suicide, uncontrolled urination and bowel movements. OMG!!!