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Preventive health care refers to actions and lifestyle choices that serve to prevent future health complications or reduce the likelihood of serious illness and disease. This can include daily actions such as regular washing of hands and avoiding contact with people showing obvious signs of communicable illness, or larger decisions such as eating healthily, finding time for exercise, and having regular screenings and checkups for common or likely illnesses. Preventive health care may initially seem like it requires a great deal of time, especially for someone who changes his or her lifestyle in an effort to remain healthy. It can, however, save a great deal of time and money if it effectively prevents illness or disease and reduces the need for expensive treatment.
While preventive health care may take many different forms, they all have the same basic goal: to prevent illness and disease before they occur, rather than only treating a problem after it is found. Preventive health care includes four basic means of preventing or treating diseases and other illnesses. These are avoiding the development of a disease or illness, promoting early detection of diseases, reducing the effects of an already established illness, and avoiding the potential negative impact of unnecessary interactions with the health care system.
Basic preventive health care steps include frequent hand washing and covering the face with the inside of the elbow when sneezing or coughing. This reduces both a person’s exposure to other people’s illnesses, as well as lessening his or her output of potential illness into the environment. Similar preventive steps include vaccination, immunization, and early and consistent testing and screening for illness and disease, especially those a person may have a genetic inclination toward as evidenced by family history. If a disease or illness is found, then preventive health care administrators seek to begin treating the illness promptly to reduce the negative impact it may have on a person’s life. Through reduced exposure to hospitals and other places of illness, preventive medicine seeks to reduce opportunities for contagions to spread.
The decline of deaths due to heart disease in the United States (US) is one area that proponents of preventive medicine point to as evidence that preventive measures work. According to the American Heart Association® (AHA), coronary heart disease is the number one cause of death among citizens in the US. While treatments for heart disease do exist, they are expensive, not guaranteed to work and cannot always be utilized in time for a serious heart condition. Preventive health care seeks to ensure that such treatment is not necessary by promoting a healthy diet and lifestyle that will help prevent the buildup of arterial obstructions that cause most common heart problems.