According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, six out of every ten people in the United States live with a chronic disease. Conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cancer, chronic kidney disease, stroke, chronic lung and cardiac disease affect many citizens in this country. In addition, four out of every ten people have two or more of these chronic diseases (1). Sadly, while the effects of these diseases leave people sick and debilitated, most are related to lifestyle risks, such as smoking, poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, and excessive alcohol intake (1).
As devastating as these chronic diseases are for individuals, families, and communities, fortunately, there is a means of possibly breaking the cycle of some of the most significant health risks Americans face. As the name implies, the goal of preventative medicine, sometimes called preventive medicine, is to put a stop to disease and illness before it begins, and it feels as if prevention is needed now more than ever as our country faces a continued rise in the incidence of these diseases. In this article, we will discuss preventative medicine– what it is, the importance of it, and the top five benefits of utilizing preventative medicine.
What is preventative medicine?
As we touched on above, the name gives away its primary focus and approach to treatment. Preventative medicine aims to prevent illness before it even begins, which means it uses methods such as routine check-ups, counseling and recommendations, and vaccinations to maintain optimal health. Having started in the mid-19th century with Louis Pasteur, who discovered the connection between living microbes and illness, preventative medicine quickly began to encompass all measures of treatment that sought to cut the connection between causation and disease. Some examples include the development of antibiotics like Penicillin to treat bacterial infections and using x-rays to diagnose conditions such as tuberculosis and cancer (2).
While preventative medicine focuses on individual health, there is also a focus on the health of whole groups or communities as is the case for occupational medicine, aerospace medicine, and, of course, the widely-known form of preventative medicine, public health (3).
Why is preventative medicine critical?
Preventative medicine is essential for several reasons. First, with so many people who have chronic diseases, it is clear that something needs to be done to break the cycle between the risk factors and disease development. The high prevalence of these diseases here in this country not only results in an increased number of premature deaths but also wreaks havoc and places burden on families who have to care for sick family members.
Second, preventative medicine can help reduce the impact that a chronic disease has on one’s life. For example, diabetes is often associated with chronic kidney and cardiac disease. Through preventative measures, the risk of someone developing these secondary health issues is minimized (4).
Lastly, the care required for people with chronic diseases accounts for a large portion of the 4.1 trillion dollars spent on healthcare each year (1). But, more than this, preventative medicine modalities, such as public health, strive to address barriers to care that prevent people from being able to access the care they need to maintain their health. Public health focuses on identifying and addressing these barriers to care to make healthcare accessible to everyone.
How does preventative medicine compare to holistic medicine?
As we’ve reviewed in a few of our past articles, holistic medicine considers the whole patient, which includes all aspects of health, from mind, body, and spirit. With functional medicine, patient assessments and treatment plans consider factors such as environment, epigenetics, and genetics when searching for root causes of illness; however, while complementary therapies meant to support a patient’s mind and spirit are welcome in the functional medicine paradigm, it is not always on the forefront. The same is true with preventative medicine; however, it seems that there are those who feel that complementary therapy should play more of a role in preventative medicine (5).
What’s more, while both functional and preventive medicine strives to prevent disease by addressing risk factors, it seems that functional medicine takes a broader view of health, whereas preventative medicine focuses heavily on specific diseases (6).
What is a preventative medicine physician?
In reality, most doctors practice preventative medicine as most recommend vaccines, health screenings, and other preventive measures that promote and restore health. However, some doctors specialize in preventative medicine. So, what does this mean?
Preventative medical doctors begin their medical career by receiving education and training to become either a (3):
- Medical doctor (MD)
- Doctor of Osteopathy (DO).
These providers then provide preventative care using what they know in areas such as (3,7):
- Biostatistics: Statistics of living organisms and how they relate to public health.
- Epidemiology: The study of causation and spread of disease across space and time
- Planning and evaluation of health systems
- Management of healthcare systems
- Preventative medicine practice in clinical settings
In preventative medicine, there seems to quite a focus on epidemiology as this science helps doctors understand trends as they related to health risks that their patients may face.
What are the benefits of preventative medicine?
As we highlighted above, six out of ten people in the United States suffer from one or more chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, and chronic kidney disease. And anyone who knows someone dealing with one of these diseases can tell you that they are not always easy to live with. This insight, or simply the knowledge that unhealthy habits are not long sustained, that leads people to consider how preventative medicine might be helpful. So, what are the benefits of preventive medicine?
Preventative medicine not only focuses on the prevention of infectious diseases, such as flu, diptheria, measles, mumps, and rubella, through vaccines, preventative medicine also helps to prevent chronic diseases through the recommendations of healthy lifestyle choices, such as good nutrition, regular activity, smoking cessation, no alcohol consumption, and regular check-ups. What’s more, there are now many health screenings available that help with early detection of diseases, such as cancer (8).
Preventative medicine helps save money both in the present, and in the long run. Since there is such a focus on disease prevention, money spent on screenings and regular check-ups helps to maintain health now, not to mention, these appointments are more cost-effective than xrays, procedures, and hospitalization that may be required to address a more serious health concern. But also it helps save money long term as the goal is that fewer health issues will arise, hence, less healthcare money is spent (8).
Better quality of life
This benefit is a two-for. Between preventative screenings, such as regular breast exams, prostate checks, and colonoscopies, and healthy lifestyle habits, such as routine activity, good nutrition, avoidance of unhealthy habits like smoking and excess alcohol, not only does preventative medicine lead to improved quality of life, but you can expect to stay more active as you age (8).
One of the primary goals of preventive medicine is to improve our quality of life and its length. Because preventative medicine doctors recommend vaccines, age-appropriate screenings, and healthy lifestyle habits, your chances of living longer free of illness are increased (8).
Better management of health risks
Lastly, while prevention of illness and disease is the primary focus, health issues may still arise. When health issues do come up, the focus becomes preventing complications and minimizing the impact these issues have on one’s overall well-being. For example, diabetes is linked to chronic kidney and heart disease (1). Preventive medicine specialist advise someone with diabetes to make lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, to reduce the risk of developing these other severe health conditions later.
To conclude, preventive medicine is, as the name suggests, a way of maintaining health through preventative measures, such as regular screenings, immunizations, and healthy lifestyle choices. The ultimate goal with preventive medicine is to avoid illness before it even begins. While preventive medical doctors are prepared through medical school to become MDs or DO, it is their knowledge of biostatistics and epidemiology and other areas of healthcare that help them care for their patients in a way that promotes vitality and longetivity. While there are many benefits of preventative medicine, the top five include disease prevention, longer lifespan, improved quality of life, better management of health risks, and saving money.
Preventive Medicine Doctor Maryland
At Shakthi Health and Wellness, preventative medicine is apart of the health services offered by Dr. Rao-Mahadevia in the Mt Airy and Elkwood areas of Maryland. With board certifications in both internal and anti-aging medicine, Dr. Rao-Mahadevia understands the importance of using tests and screenings to optimize the care you are receiving. Not only this, she focuses on ways to support your body’s natural systems to enhance vitality and well-being. Through testing to determine your exact needs to recommendations for healthy living options that are easily incorporated into your daily life, Dr. Rao-Mahadevia seeks to support you in your journey to health. To learn more, contact us at (301)703-5061 or visit www.raowellness.com.
- Chronic Diseases in America | CDC
- Preventive medicine | Definition, History, & Approaches | Britannica
- What is Preventive Medicine? | ACPM
- What Is Preventive Medicine? A Look at Proactive Providers (sgu.edu)
- Is There a Role for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Preventive and Promotive Health? An Anthropological Assessment in the Context of U.S. Health Reform – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Functional vs. Preventive Medicine (6med.co.uk)
- What is the Role of Biostatistics in Public Health? | FDU Online
- 7 Benefits of Preventive Health Care | Gowda (norwoodmedicalma.com)