Common Examples of Preventive Medicine and Why It Is Important

Preventive medicine is a holistic approach to healthcare that considers the whole patient and the myriad factors that influence their well-being. This medical specialty differs from traditional medicine in that its focus is proactive rather than reactive. Instead of treating illnesses, preventive medicine aims to detect and address health-related issues early—before illnesses develop or progress—when there are more treatment options available.

Preventive medicine is vitally important because it is known to reduce the risk of illness, which, in turn, improves general health outcomes and lowers the overall cost of healthcare. According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, some of the most impactful preventive care measures include:

Immunizations

Proven to be safe and effective through rigorous testing, vaccines are among the best ways to improve health outcomes by preventing many serious illnesses. The goal of vaccination is to boost the body’s natural immune response by training the immune system to recognize, target and destroy certain harmful invaders. Conventional vaccines work by introducing a small amount of a weakened or inactive antigen, such as a virus or bacterium, into the body. The vaccine triggers the immune system to produce antibodies to the antigen, responding in the same way it would if the body had been directly exposed to the antigen—but without causing illness. Traditional vaccines help prevent many diseases, such as measles, mumps, German measles (rubella), polio, smallpox, diphtheria, whooping cough (pertussis) and tetanus.

Contrary to popular belief, immunizations are not just for children. In some cases, the protective effects of a vaccine wear off over time and periodic “boosters” are needed to maintain the benefits through adulthood.

Blood Pressure Testing

High blood pressure (hypertension) significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart failure, stroke, chronic kidney disease and other serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses. Some people incorrectly believe that hypertension is a fleeting condition that can be felt; however, it usually does not produce symptoms. Instead, hypertension “silently” creates continual, damaging pressure on the heart and blood vessels. As a result, the heart must work harder with each pump to deliver essential oxygen and nutrients to cells throughout the body. When deprived of proper nutrients, vital organs can weaken and begin to fail.

Because hypertension can be easily detected during a routine blood pressure test, adults are advised to have their blood pressure checked regularly as follows:

  • Adults aged 18 to 39 – Once every three to five years
  • Adults 40 and older – Once per year

A physician may recommend more frequent screenings based on the patient’s present and past blood pressure levels and other risk factors, such as a family history of hypertension or heart disease, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, an unhealthy diet, a sedentary lifestyle and obesity. Blood pressure testing is important because, when detected early, hypertension can often be managed with weight loss, a sodium-restricted diet, regular exercise, stress reduction, smoking cessation and/or medication.

Cholesterol Testing

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance (lipid) found in the blood and every cell in the body. A certain amount of cholesterol is necessary to keep the cells and organs healthy, and the liver normally produces all the cholesterol the body needs. However, some foods contain saturated and trans fats that tend to elevate cholesterol levels, and other foods cause the liver to produce too much cholesterol.

If the blood contains more cholesterol than the body can use, the extra lipids will gradually build up and form plaque in the arteries. Over time, the plaque will narrow the arteries and reduce blood flow. As such, high cholesterol increases the risk of coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and stroke.

High cholesterol can be detected through a simple blood test called a lipid panel. Most healthy adults should have their cholesterol checked at least once every four to six years, and more often if they have diabetes, an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease or a family history of high cholesterol. In many cases, high cholesterol can be managed with a healthy diet, regular exercise and/or medication.

Diabetes Screenings

Diabetes is a chronic condition that interferes with the body’s use of blood sugar (glucose). Complications include increased risk of cardiovascular disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, vision loss and other serious health issues. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, which is the hormone that regulates blood glucose. The cause is unknown. Type 2 diabetes, which is more common, occurs when the body cannot effectively use the insulin produced by the pancreas. Usually, type 2 diabetes is related to a sedentary lifestyle and excess body weight, which can cause insulin resistance.

Diabetes screening is a relatively simple blood test that measures blood glucose levels. Because it can detect prediabetes and type 2 diabetes early, it is generally recommended for adults aged 35 to 70 who are overweight, obese or have other risk factors. Early detection of diabetes is key because it can prompt healthy lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, a nutritious diet and regular exercise, which in turn can reduce blood sugar levels.

STI Screenings

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a growing health threat to people of all ages and backgrounds. Many STIs—including gonorrhea and chlamydia—do not produce obvious symptoms, so it is possible to be infected and not even know it (and to inadvertently spread the infection). If undetected and untreated, some STIs can lead to serious health complications, including cancer and infertility.

The good news is that all STIs can be prevented, all can be effectively managed and many can be cured. Due to new STI screening techniques and technologies, healthcare professionals are now better equipped than ever to help prevent the spread of STIs and change the impact of these common infections. Anyone who is sexually active should be periodically screened for STIs to protect their health and the health of their partner.

Well-Child Visits

Well-child visits provide an opportunity for a medical professional to examine a child holistically, assess their physical and emotional needs, support their growth and development, detect health issues early and intervene quickly if necessary. Depending on the child’s age, the provider may:

  • Perform a comprehensive physical examination
  • Check and record the child’s height, weight and vital signs
  • Determine if the child is meeting the growth and developmental milestones established for their age group
  • Evaluate the child’s vision and hearing
  • Ask about the child’s diet, sleep patterns, behavior, social interactions and stress
  • Ask about any sudden changes in the child’s health, mood or usual activities
  • Assess the child’s mental health by asking questions about school, friends and family
  • Recommend appropriate immunizations

An important component of preventive medicine, well-child visits can help a child learn and adopt healthy habits that will set the stage for wellness for the rest of their life.

Talk With a Preventive Medicine Specialist

With extensive training in both clinical medicine and public health, preventive medicine specialists have the expertise necessary to understand and reduce the risk of illness. If you have questions, you can arrange to talk with an experienced preventive medicine specialist at Florida Medical Clinic by calling 813-780-8440. You can also request an appointment at our Watergrass office, which is conveniently located at 7760 Curley Road in Wesley Chapel.

About Anthony Esposito, DO

Dr. Esposito is a primary care physician and family medicine specialist who takes a special interest in preventive medicine. To help his patients actively protect, promote and maintain their optimal health and well-being, he offers a comprehensive array of services, including wellness checkups, physical exams, immunizations, diagnostic testing, nutritional and weight loss counseling, contraception, STI screenings and general pediatric care for children five and older.

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