Preventive Medicine refers to preventing medical illness and disease instead of treating a disease after it exists. I continue to be amazed at how many patients I see a day who are physically suffering from diseases that can be prevented (referred to as primary prevention) or at least managed better to have fewer complications (referred to as tertiary prevention). For a doctor this is an important and sometimes overlooked area of practicing good medicine. It’s becoming a more and more recognized part of quality medical care as people are searching for ways to provide good care at a more economical cost. There is even a new field of medical training referred to as preventive medicine. As a patient, I invite you to become more proactive in taking part in your own preventive medicine. YOU are the one that lives your life everyday! You know what you eat and what bad habits you have. Being honest with yourself and your doctor about the effect those habits can have on your health is the first step in looking for ways to stay as healthy as you can.
If our country successfully adopted healthy lifestyles and reduced the incidence of obesity, heart disease and diabetes, our cost of medical care would plummet. Education about healthy diets does not seem to be working. I notice that taking a deeper look at what is driving people to turn to unhealthy food or physical inactivity despite their knowledge about what is good for them is more important. Studying the social determinants of health (for example, those that don’t believe they can afford healthier options or have transportation to get it) and the mental determinants of health (for example, poor coping skills causing a anxious person to turn to food for comfort) I believe is the answer. I invite you to take a look at your own life, what is holding you back from making the lifestyle changes you already believe you should make?
Addressing that is true preventive medicine.
Brooke Uptagrafft, MD
Dr. Brooke is a family medicine doctor.