In this interview, Dr. David Pong discusses preventative health care - what it is, why it's important, and how to get started living a healthier life.
Watch the video below or read on for some takeaways from the interview.
What Exactly Is Preventative Care?
Preventative care is shifting the way we think about medicine. For a long time, medicine had been something that was done to you. Historically, medicine started with the barber surgeons and physical procedures. Around the time when we developed antibiotics, it became easier to use medicines to treat issues that used to have to run their course naturally. As people began living longer lives, medicine took a turn toward treating disease, but many issues were actually a result of us living longer. We are now dealing with diseases that accumulate as we age, like heart disease, plaque building up in arteries, arthritis or degeneration of tissues. Preventative care is shifting that focus again, so instead of taking pills or having surgery, it’s helping to prevent those things and teaching us to live in a way that allows us to avoid or delay the onset of some of those illnesses. Most of the illnesses that we struggle with, in America particularly, are degenerative illnesses that can be treated easiest by prevention.
Why Is Preventative Health Care Important?
Something many people are concerned about these days is how much health care costs. We know that healthcare costs are rising 10-30% percent a year and insurance costs seem to be rising just as fast.
One way to think about preventive care is that it helps us avoid getting sick. The cheapest form of health care is being healthy, so a lot of the focus on prevention is learning how to live in a way that achieves that; where you don’t actually have to see doctors as often. There's a lot of benefit in preventative care because it allows you to take more control over your own life and to achieve better outcomes. We’re fortunate because it turns out that most of those lifestyle choices really have to do with patterns that prevent heart disease and cancer, and help us lead functional lives.
For example, there's the recommendation that we should exercise for around 150 minutes per week, or 30 minutes 5 days per week. I think that's very good for helping us to maintain weight. It helps us with cholesterol and disease but it also turns out exercise is good for cancer prevention.
Similarly, there are dietary recommendations. We recommend that people eat protein with every meal. We recommend lots of produce. Right now with such a rising tide of diabetes in this country, we recommend trying to minimize carbohydrates in our diets. It turns out, again, that this type of eating also tends to have benefits in cancer prevention. So we're choosing ways of living that help prevent lots of different illnesses.
Finally, we need to think about stress management. These days, life is stressful and we need to find activities that help reduce those stresses. Some people find exercise helpful - things like yoga and meditation. With people who are taking these steps, we see lower rates of heart disease and we see better outcomes in cancer. We’re really encouraging a healthy lifestyle that seems to achieve these things.
How Do I Get Started?
In terms of getting started, it's like a lot of things, it's important to know where you are. I encourage you to come see one of us. Come get a physical exam and learn what your cholesterol numbers and blood pressure look like. You need to know something about your family as well. A lot of the risk we face comes out of our genetics and so if you know certain things run in your family, it would be good to tell a doctor about that.
From there, we can design a plan for you to try to minimize those risks. We can see what you can do on your own and we can add medicines if they’re necessary to try to treat what you can't do on your own. We feel that most of the important things that people are able to do, the things that really matter in preventing illness, are the choices that you make. This includes your level of activity, your exercise, the dietary approach that you take, rather than just the medicines that you’re prescribed.