7 Steps for Disease Prevention and Healthy Living

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Staying current with recommendations for how to prevent disease can be a challenge. You are likely bombarded with messages on what to eat, necessary physical activity, healthy habits, and more. However, the basics of disease prevention are actually not that complicated. You will reap the benefits physically, emotionally, socially, and financially if you can keep acute or chronic diseases out of your life or under control.

Tips for Healthy Living and Disease Prevention

There are seven things that you can do to live healthfully, prevent disease, increase your longevity, and improve your wellbeing. You may already do some of these things, but chances are you can improve in each one. This disease prevention checklist is based on the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s (USPSTF) evaluation of the scientific literature on which health care, health screenings, and healthy living guidelines really work.

Get Recommended Health Screening Tests

Health screenings for women or health screenings for men are groups of tests specifically chosen to help uncover illness early on, which can make a huge difference in treatment and can even work as disease prevention. You can use the MyHealthFinder.gov site to get the current recommendations for your age and sex. The recommendations come from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

Don't Smoke

Smoking shortens both the length and quality of a person’s life. It causes many diseases and is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. If you do smoke, quitting is your number one health priority. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends that healthcare providers counsel their clients to stop smoking, and for those who are not pregnant, suggest FDA-approved smoking cessation medications.

Be Active

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has physical activity recommendations for every age group, from children to seniors. Keeping yourself healthy means moving and using your body. Exercise has a number of benefits in reducing your risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and some types of cancer. Work exercise into your daily/weekly schedule for a longer, more active life.

Adults should perform at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity (or a combination) each week. They should also do strengthening activities at least twice per week.

Eat Healthfully

Building healthy eating habits can protect your health, prevent disease, and minimize the severity of conditions you already have. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion notes in their Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020 that the evidence is strong that you reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by healthy eating habits. The evidence is of moderate strength that you can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, or being overweight or obese.

A healthy diet has these characteristics:

  • Higher intakes of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts
  • Lower intakes of meats (including processed meats and processed poultry), sugar-sweetened foods (particularly beverages), and refined grains

Eating fruit and vegetables can also increase your life expectancy. A 2017 review of studies found an average 5% reduction of risk of mortality from all causes with each serving of fruit or vegetables, up to five servings per day. Talk to your healthcare provider about counseling or programs that can help ensure you are getting the nutrients you need for good health.

Lose Weight If You Are Overweight

If you are overweight or obese, losing weight is another way to prevent disease or manage conditions you already have (such as diabetes, arthritis, or high blood pressure). Even a modest weight loss of 5% to 10% can be beneficial. If you switch out processed foods for fresh produce and skip sodas and other sugary foods, you can save hundreds of calories a day while also making more room on your plate for more fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Take Your Medicine

While a healthy diet and physical activity are the first lines of prevention and management for heart disease, your doctor may recommend preventive medications as well. A statin might be recommended if you have high cholesterol, diabetes, are over 40, or have other risk factors. Medications to control blood pressure may also be used. Taking a daily low-dose aspirin was once standard for men over age 45, but research has been changing that view. Talk to your healthcare provider about what might be best to reduce your health risks.

Keep up With Immunizations

Immunizations are not just for children. Current recommendations state that everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every year, and Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) should be given every 10 years. Other vaccines are given when you reach a certain age, such as zoster vaccine to prevent shingles, and pneumococcal vaccine to prevent pneumonia. Talk to your healthcare provider to ensure you are up to date with your vaccinations.

A Word From Verywell

Pick one of these seven steps each week. Work on it for the whole week and get it as best you can, then move onto the next. Keep repeating the seven-week cycle until you have mastered each step. With most of these steps, you may have immediate benefits in sleeping better, having ​more energy and just plain feeling good.

Of course, you should talk to your doctor about these recommendations—bring this article with you and discuss each point! There may be additional things for you to do based on your family history, health condition, and other factors. But this is a great starting place for navigating health care and disease prevention.

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