- Preventative care is more important than ever, especially right now. Here's why preventative care is so vital in these current times
What have you done to tend to your physical and mental health today? If you had to pause and scratch your head, you’re not alone. However, your ability to perform is your ultimate asset, and you can’t do that when you’re sick. Preventative care is one of the best ways to maintain peak performance, but sadly, many Americans neglect it. While you might do so for valid reasons — you have a busy schedule or a crisis to manage — that doesn’t make it less crucial. Here’s what you need to know about safeguarding mental and physical health and the habits you should adopt for maximum well-being.
What Is Preventative Care?
Preventative care refers to a series of habits and behaviors that promote positive health outcomes. On the individual level, it takes the form of eating right, exercising and mitigating stress. It also includes things like seeing your doctor for annual checkups and seeking therapeutic care for mental illness. Many people neglect to take optimal care of their health for valid financial reasons. Nearly half of all Americans visit the emergency room because they have no other place to go for treatment due to a lack of health insurance coverage. The problem is, by the time an issue reaches the stage where these individuals have to seek help, treatment costs several times more than it would if they had taken preventative measures. The drain on societal coffers is significant, and for the patient, the bills they receive can lead to long-term economic distress that further damages their health. Chronic illnesses often spur these visits, but many of those are avoidable. According to the Centers for Disease Control, seven out of ten Americans die from preventable chronic diseases each year. Improved health education can go a long way, as can expanding access to non-emergency treatment for all. However, until that day arrives, individuals without coverage must take preventative measures independently. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to improve your health without necessarily visiting a slew of doctors. Watching your weight helps improve outcomes, as does avoiding substances like tobacco, alcohol and excessive amounts of junk food.
How Can You Practice Preventative Care
If you want to improve your health, you can take many of the measures outlined below.
1. Quit Smoking
Smoking cigarettes is one of the worst things you can do for your lungs. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that vaping is safer — the chemicals are as harmful, if not worse. If you tried to quit in the past and returned to the habit, don’t despair. Many former smokers took multiple attempts to kick the butts. You can find free stop smoking resources online to help you on your journey.
2. Eat Healthfully
You may or may not believe that food is medicine, but an unhealthy diet can lead to Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and a host of other ailments. You can maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of several diseases by following these eating practices.
- Reduce your intake of saturated and trans fats: Saturated and trans fats clog your arteries and can lead to heart attacks. They’re also high in calories, increasing your risk of becoming overweight. The consumption of red and processed meats increases your risk of several forms of cancer, so save steaks and hoagies for rare treats.
- Lower your salt intake: Excess sodium can elevate your blood pressure and lead to heart disease.
- Eat more fruits and veggies: Plant-based foods contain vitamins, minerals and an array of phytonutrients necessary for human health.
Exercise benefits both your physical and mental health. Some studies suggest that working out is as effective as antidepressants at improving your mental state. Getting moving also enhances cardiovascular health, decreasing your heart attack and stroke risk.
4. Reduce Stress
Excess stress can spur the development of anxiety disorders. If you feel discriminated against in the workplace, the pressure can lead to social anxiety as you withdraw into your shell. Too much tension also impacts physical health. Studies suggest that chronic stress can rewire your brain to keep your blood pressure high, elevating your heart attack risk.
5. Get Adequate Sleep
Without adequate rest, you increase your risk of getting in accidents. Drowsy driving is dangerous, and if you work with machinery, you could get careless on the job. Your body produces molecules called cytokines that fight inflammation while you sleep as well. Without these, your immune system becomes compromised.
6. Manage Your Mental State
Your thoughts spur your behaviors, and poor mental health can affect your physical well-being by making you prone to substance abuse and poor life choices. If you have coverage, seek a qualified therapist to help you. Those without care can find support groups that offer free membership.
7. See Your Doctor
Your annual checkup can catch minor health issues before they balloon into massive problems. If you don’t have insurance, seek community health clinics that offer services on a sliding-scale basis. You might find out you are at a high risk of Type 2 diabetes, for example, and your provider can suggest lifestyle changes to manage the condition.
Preventative Care Is Vital — Take Care of Your Health Today
Preventative care is vital because your health is your ultimate asset. Do what you can to safeguard your well-being by following the tips above.