Why Prevention is Better Than Treatment

“America’s health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.”
~ Walter Cronkite

I read an funny article on the Medscape web site recently. Medscape is the “doctor-only” website from WebMD.com.

The article began with the question, “What role, if any, should the hospitalist play in preventive medicine?” (FYI, a hospitalist is a doctor who only treats patients in a hospital. Yeah, I’d never seen the word before either.)

“If any”? Do you think they value prevention? Not so much.

Of course patients in the hospital are often already past the point where prevention makes a big difference. At the same time, it is then that the life-threatening illness has got their attention. The patient might finally be motivated enough to make changes.

But why wait that long? There are lots of reasons prevention makes sense right now. Here is a short, but potent list of why:

  • Cardiac Arrest. Unlike a heart attack, cardiac arrest happens suddenly. Often the first symptom is death. Not much you can do after that. Prevention is the only useful approach.
  • Arthritis. Joint pain comes largely from lifestyle stressors. And the medications used to treat it cause other problems, sometimes including death. In addition, the medications only mask symptoms. They never cure it. Prevention is better.
  • Cancer. Many people get cancer multiple times in their life. But usually their body stops the process before it turns into big symptoms. It’s only when the body’s ability to stop the cancer breaks down that it turns into a diagnosable illness. If you are practicing good prevention, you increase the odds you will never get cancer.
  • Alzheimer’s. If you’ve ever known someone with dementia, you know it’s horrible. Loss of memory. Loss of ability to think clearly. Forgetting loved ones. And because it comes largely from lifestyle choices, it is preventable. Do you want to wait until it shows up? Or would you rather nip it in the bud.
  • Osteoporosis. One of the biggest contributors to death in older people is broken bones. The break doesn’t usually kill them, but the subsequent immobility and treatment often does. How do you prevent it? Exercise and good diet are key.

This list isn’t complete. You can add to it any chronic illness. And you should include depression, anxiety and chronic stress. All of these diseases can be avoided, or at least greatly delayed, by practicing prevention.

The added bonus is that you won’t end up on a pile of pills in the attempt to manage symptoms. That means you will avoid the inevitable side effects of drugs.

Next week, what does prevention look like?

All the best to you for your health and happiness,

Dr. Bruce Eichelberger

Dr. Bruce

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