Steps to Prevention

"Currently, about 95 percent of health care dollars in the United States are spent on treating diseases, with relatively little attention paid to preventing diseases, which should be a national priority,” states former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., PhD

People working to reach their prevention goals have three major tools from which to choose. One tool is establishing a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating a healthy diet, getting some physical exercise, wearing sunscreen, and not smoking.

Another tool is getting vaccinated to prevent infectious diseases such as influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia.

A third tool is participating in screening efforts so that diseases such as high blood pressure and cancer are detected early.

Lifestyle and disease are clearly linked. The three leading causes of death in the United States; heart disease, cancer, and stroke are more likely to occur in people who make poor lifestyle choices, especially eating a diet high in saturated fats, trans fatty acids, and cholesterol; not exercising regularly and smoking. By having informative discussions with doctors and other health care practitioners, you can make good decisions and establish healthy habits.

Some people believe that adopting a healthier lifestyle would take all the fun out of life. Others fear the cost of putting a healthier lifestyle into practice. Establishing a healthy lifestyle, however, need not lead to drudgery and unmanageable costs. Taking responsibility for one's own health can prove to be exciting, rewarding, and affordable.

As evidenced by the many health crises, many people are waiting too long to begin thinking about preventive care.