The next foundational principle is prevention. Prevention is based on the idea that if you can find a disease state early in its progress, it is infinitely more easy to treat than when it has time to progress to the full blown condition. With this practice patient survival goes up. There are several traditional types of prevention.
First, primary preventions are methods to avoid the occurrence of disease or to help people resist disease. An example of this would be vaccination, healthy diet, exercise, and avoiding smoking. This is the area where the biggest gains can be made in a population. If people are pursuing a healthy diet and lifestyle, a disease (if not completely eliminated), can be prevented for many years more than if this prevention had not taken place. In the case of vaccination, over the last several decades this practice in the USA has all but wiped out polio, measles, mumps, and other conditions common to past generations. Cleaning up the public water supply is also a primary prevention that most of us don’t even think of, but this has also eliminated many waterborne diseases from our country.
Next, secondary prevention is designed to detect and address an existing disease before symptoms start. We measure your blood pressure when you come to the office and if we find too high a number we will offer treatment. If the blood pressure is up but you have not had any other symptoms or damage from the high blood pressure, treatment at this early stage could prevent or delay damage that would have occurred without it. Other examples would be yearly blood tests looking for elevated blood sugar, prostate cancer, or kidney disease. All are easier to treat that when they have had years to progress unnoticed.
Lastly, tertiary preventions are efforts to limit the negative impact of a disease a person already has. Rehabilitation programs after a heart attack or stroke would be an example of this type of prevention. They seek to maximize function and help the affected person find ways to regain as much as they can after an illness is suffered.
Each of these prevention categories is important. They have extended the life expectancy of people all over the world. So my message to the readers of this blog would be…first do as much as you can with your diet and exercise to prevent disease. Obesity and sedentary lifestyle is linked to so many of our most common disease states...cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, some cancers, depression…the list goes on and on. Get up, get out, and find ways to enjoy healthy food and activities. Next, come to your doctor for your preventative visits. It is one time each year to make sure you are doing all you can to prevent or find early disease so that it can be addressed before it becomes a bigger problem. And lastly, if you have a problem, please come for regular visits to monitor your condition and discuss with us ways to make improvements in your level of function.
Maria Motta FNP/BC