“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” — Proverb

In medicine, it’s more important to prevent disease rather than treat it. Many of our medications, therapies and procedures are aimed at managing diseases and conditions instead of preventing their occurrence.

Physicians recommend healthy dietary choices, regular exercise and good emotional care to keep our patients at their optimal mental, physical, spiritual and psychological health.

I’d like to share with you a few things we can do to help prevent disease rather than treat it.

Diet: In Michael Pollan’s book “Food Rules,” he gives three rules for a healthy diet. I regularly share these rules with my patients as the basis for healthy eating. The rules are: 1. Eat (real) food. 2. Not too much. 3. Mostly plants. While these rules sound easy, they can be pretty tough to implement.

Exercise: If you’ve read Dr. Victor Sierpina’s articles for any length of time, you know the phrase, “Motion is lotion.” It’s recommended to get 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week. That’s just a 22-minute brisk walk every day. I also recommend you add some strength training a few times a week to keep bones at optimal health.

Cancer screening: There are a number of preventative services that are recommended depending on your age. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. If you’re a woman older than 40 years old, you may need an annual mammogram. Most women also need pap smears either yearly or every three to five years based on their age and risk factors.

Colon cancer screening starts at age 50 and can be done either by colonoscopy or special testing of your stool for blood (if the stool test is positive, you will need a colonoscopy). Colon cancer is very slow growing and by the time patients start showing symptoms, they already have advanced disease.

For men, prostate cancer screening should be considered starting at age 55. Finally, lung cancer screening should be done for those between ages 55-80 who have smoked for at least 30 years and either still smoke or have quit in the last 15 years.

Immunizations: Immunizations should be considered and updated yearly. To further complicate our lives in this pandemic, flu season is right around the corner. You can receive your yearly flu shot at your local pharmacy or physician’s office.

There are also a number of other vaccines recommended depending on your age. These vaccines include shots for shingles, pneumonia, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis to name a few. These immunizations can help improve your body’s ability to fight off these diseases if you’re exposed to them.

I will leave you with an old Chinese proverb, “The superior doctor prevents sickness; the mediocre doctor attends to impending sickness; the inferior doctor treats actual sickness.”

Help your doctor be superior; talk with him or her about any preventative measures that may be due to keep you in the best possible health. Stay happy and healthy.

Dr. Samuel Mathis is an assistant professor in UTMB’s Family Medicine Dept.

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