MANISTIQUE – For many of us, if we don’t have a fever and nothing hurts, we consider ourselves relatively healthy. While this medical model of health (seeking care only when ill or injured) is familiar and comfortable, most of us can live a healthier and better quality of life by taking a more active role in our health and the health of our families. The key lies in understanding and acting on three levels of prevention.
Undoubtedly, you have had a health professional mention such things as: quitting smoking, eating better, exercising everyday, and getting your flu shot. These are messages that are tied to primary prevention – behaviors which we can change to decrease our risks of developing diseases such as lung cancer, diabetes or even influenza. In this era, when most of the top ten causes of death are directly related to lifestyle behaviors, primary prevention must be our first course of action to reduce our risks and improve our quality of life. Primary prevention is also an important component of reducing the overall cost of health care.
While not all diseases can be prevented, in many cases, early detection of the disease can lead to a more positive outcome. An example of secondary prevention has been obvious throughout the month of October with all of the messages encouraging women to be screened for breast cancer during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Even the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions football players have been wearing pink shoes and gloves to help get the important message of early detection for breast cancer out to more people.
The focus of tertiary prevention is to help people manage long-term, complicated health problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancers. The goal in this level of prevention is to reduce or stop further physical decline and maximize quality of life.
The more effort put in to the first two levels of prevention, the less likely we are to need level three and the more quality of life we can enjoy. Obviously, not all diseases can be prevented or even detected in early stages, but the healthier and stronger we are, the more likely we are to have a better outcome and shorter recovery time if a disease or injury does come our way.
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Editor’s note: Check U.P. is a monthly column featuring doctors and staff from Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital, the Luce, Mackinac, Alger, Schoolcraft Health Department, and Kerry Ott. This week’s column features Kerry Ott, MA, CHES, and community coordinator for the Sault Tribe Strategic Alliance for Health Project.