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In the Spotlight

Why Prevention?

Contributed by Dr. Linda Kinsinger

Man eating healthy foodMost Americans live with one or more chronic health conditions. These include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Many of these chronic diseases can be prevented. Prevention includes lifestyle changes and getting preventive services. These services include screening tests and immunizations. Getting routine adult and childhood vaccinations prevents millions of diseases each year.

Unhealthy lifestyle behaviors that lead to most chronic diseases include smoking, not being physically active, not eating healthy foods, and drinking too much alcohol. The World Health Organization says many diseases can be prevented. This includes 80% of all heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. This also includes over 40% of all cancer. Stopping smoking and changing physical inactivity and poor eating prevents common health conditions. Preventing disease means many of us will live longer, healthier, more fulfilled lives.

What can you do to stay healthy or improve your health? Here are several suggestions:

  • Be physically active
    Aim for 150 minutes or more of physical activity each week for at least 10 minutes at a time, to the best of your ability.
  • Eat a healthy diet
    Eat a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and foods that are low in fat, added sugar and salt.
  • Maintain a healthy weight
    If you are overweight, losing even a few pounds makes an important difference.
  • Do not use tobacco products
    Avoid any form of tobacco and avoid second-hand smoke.
  • Limit alcohol use
    Drink no more than 2 drinks per day for men or 1 drink per day for women.
  • Get suggested clinical preventive services
    Talk with your health care team about what tests and other services are suggested for you.
  • Be safe
    Follow recommendations about limiting your time in the sun, avoiding insect bites, driving safely, wearing helmets, practicing safe sex, and doing other activities safely.

By following these suggestions, you may avoid some of the common chronic diseases. If you have a chronic disease, you may keep it from getting worse. If you change your lifestyle to healthy living and follow prevention suggestions, you will feel great!

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, "If one-tenth of Americans began a regular walking program, $5.6 billion could be saved in the treatment of heart disease."


Learn more:

  • Track Health (My HealtheVet) allows a registered user to record and track your health information in one convenient location. Record your screening tests and immunizations for reference. Record and monitor your blood pressure, body weight and more in the Vitals section. Even see a graph of your progress. You can also journal your exercise routine and food intake in the Journals section. Using the Medical History logs, you could print out your entire record in a handy doctor's sheet. My HealtheVet has provided dozens of way to manage your health care. Start tracking your health today!

  • Move! is a VA national weight management program designed to help Veterans lose weight, keep it off and improve their health.

  • Health Care and Prevention for Consumers and Patients (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) provides videos, podcasts, and consumer versions of clinical practice guidelines

Updated/Reviewed: January 19, 2010

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