What is Prevention?
When you hear the word prevention, it's sometimes hard not
to conjure up images of diseases being all but wiped from
existence. And while there are certainly some examples of
this -- like the eradication in developed nations of once-common
diseases like polio and small pox -- prevention today refers
mainly to lowering the risk of disease.
This is largely because the most common diseases in developed
nations today are chronic disease -- like heart disease and
cancer. And chronic diseases tend to be caused by a combination
of many different factors, some of which are under a person's
control (like diet), some of which are out of person's control
(like age), and some of which are still unknown. With so many
factors driving risk -- only a portion of which can actually be
changed -- the realistic goal of prevention becomes lowering
the risk of disease, not eliminating it.
It's similar to putting in a cross walk at a dangerous
intersection. The new cross walk will certainly cut down on
the number of pedestrians who get hurt while crossing the
street, but it will not totally eliminate the problem because
there are many other factors that also come into play -- like
the experience of the drivers, the weather, and the alertness
of the pedestrians.
So although the risk of most chronic diseases can't be totally
eliminated, it can still be significantly reduced. If everyone
in the United States led a healthy lifestyle, 80 percent of the
cases of heart disease and diabetes could be avoided, as could
70 percent of the cases of stroke and over 50 percent of all
cases of cancer.
Use Disease Risk Index to see what healthy changes you can
make to lower your risk of these diseases.