How You Can Prevent Illness

Most Americans do a quick cost-benefit analysis before going to the doctor. Usually, the main barriers to health care are affordability and accessibility. If you can’t pay for an appointment, aren’t located near a good doctor or can’t get time off work, you’re much less likely to get the care you need.

This is a shame, since research shows us that preventative medicine – or getting ahead of a disease – can be far more cost-effective and healthy for us in the long run. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that chronic diseases account for 70 percent of deaths and 75 percent of health care spending in the U.S. Many of these diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, could be caught early on with preventative medicine.

First Steps
Doctors typically recommend the following practices to prevent disease and maintain health:

  • Eating a well-balanced diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Not smoking
  • Keeping body fat down

However, a measly three percent of the U.S. population actually follows all four recommendations. If you’re having trouble sticking to these guidelines, a nutritionist or physician could help you become part of that three percent, reducing your risk for illness.

Other Types of Prevention

More specific preventative measures have been tested and graded by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF), an independent group supported by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

The USPSTF ratings tell us how helpful a preventative screening or medicine is likely to be and whether it provides a significant “net benefit.” Here’s the breakdown of the grades:

  • A – a recommended service that very likely provides a large benefit
  • B – a recommended service that likely provides a medium to large benefit
  • C – a service that may or may not be recommended depending on the patient’s situation and doctor’s judgment, as it likely only provides a small benefit
  • D – a service that’s discouraged because it likely provides no benefit or does more harm than good
  • I – a service that has insufficient research and evidence behind it

This is the current list of A and B recommendations. The following services are just a few of the preventative screenings they recommend.

Blood Pressure Screening

  • Age 18+
  • Every year or every other year

During this quick and painless process, a medical professional places a cuff around your upper arm and inflates it to measure your blood pressure. The test will determine if you have low blood pressure (hypotension), normal blood pressure (below 120/80) or high blood pressure (hypertension). Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke and chronic kidney disease. Your doctor may prescribe medicine to get your blood pressure within the normal range.

Colorectal Cancer Screening

  • Age 50 to 75
  • Frequency depends on the test
  • People are most familiar with colonoscopies, procedures where a scope is used to examine your rectum and colon for any polyps or other signs of trouble. However, your physician may also recommend flexible sigmoidoscopy, which checks just the lower part of the colon using a scope, or CT colonography, which uses computer imaging. Stool tests can be used every one to three years to check for blood and cancer cells.

    Depression Screening

        • Age 12+

    Unlike other tests, a depression screening doesn’t require any poking or prodding. Instead, you will be given a questionnaire that asks how often you act or feel a certain way. If the test indicates you may have depression, your doctor may recommend counseling or medication.

    Diabetes Screening

        • Age 40 to 70
        • Those who are overweight or display symptoms
        • At least every three years

    This quick blood test measures your blood glucose levels. You may be asked to fast for eight hours beforehand, or you may be allowed to eat as normal, depending on your doctor’s preferences. A blood glucose level greater than 126 mg/dL or 200 mg/dL, depending on the test, may indicate type 2 diabetes.

    STD and HIV Testing

        • Age 15 to 65 for HIV
        • Frequency depends on STD and level of risk
        • Those who are at risk or pregnant

    STD tests can take many forms, depending on which disease you’re screening for. This may include swabs from your mouth or genitals, a urine test, a blood test or an examination of your genitals. It’s a good idea to get tested at least once in your life, and again whenever you may be newly exposed to an STD, including HIV.

    Preventative Screenings at St. Hope Foundation

    The medical professionals at St. Hope Foundation are dedicated to providing prevention programs for everyone in the greater Houston area. We offer free and low-cost screenings for:

        • HIV
        • Syphilis
        • Chlamydia
        • Gonorrhea
        • Hepatitis C
        • And much more!

    We also offer a wide range of preventative services, from diabetes testing to well-child visits to dental cleanings. Call us at 713.778.1300 to schedule your screening today!