McFarland Clinic

How To Make Preventative Health Your Priority

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January 27, 2020

A nurse takes a man's blood pressure in an exam room

Making preventative health a priority can help you reach your health goals. McFarland Clinic Family Medicine Physician Valerie Torgerson, DO talks about why preventative health should be everyone’s goal and how breaking bad health habits can help.

What is Preventative Health

Preventative health is the measures taken for disease prevention. Dr. Torgerson said disease prevention is important because it opens possibilities for health solutions.

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“The earlier a disease process is caught, there are more treatment options available to us including lifestyle changes,” she said. “Take type 2 diabetes for an example. If caught early through routine blood work, we can adjust our diet and exercise and often delay the start of medication or insulin.”

Reaching Your Healthcare Goals

The best way to reach your preventative health goals is to seek and find a primary care doctor that you can have a good working relationship with. Once you have created that working relationship, make sure to schedule yearly exams with them even if you feel well.

“This is the opportunity to do your vaccinations, update your family history, review your lab work and schedule any preventative cancer screenings,” Dr. Torgerson said.

Primary care providers can make preventative health recommendations that are tailored to you because they get to know you and your family history.

Understanding Bad Health Habits

A primary care provider can also help educate you on the negative effects of bad health habits. Bad habits form because there is some type of reward involved, Dr. Torgerson said. 

“For instance, you have a glass of wine after a stressful day and it relaxes you. A week later you may have another stressful day and recall that the glass of wine took the edge off, and you have another,” she said. “Pretty soon your alcohol intake for the week has doubled.”

Dr. Torgerson said to keep in mind that these rewards may have the risk of becoming addictions to things like cigarettes, alcohol and food.

Changing Your Health Habits

Once you understand how your habit is affecting your health, you and your provider can work as a team to develop new behaviors to replace the old, unhealthy ones. Dr. Torgerson said a new positive behavior needs to replace an unhealthy behavior, or you will slip back into your old ways.

“For smokers, if they are used to having a cigarette after a meal, we replace that reward with a new one such as a walk with the dog, a square of dark chocolate or time allocated to do the crossword puzzle,“ she said.

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