Tips for preventing chronic disease with preventive care
If you skipped a visit to the doctor’s office last year, you’re not alone. Nearly 40% of Americans delayed care in 2022 due to cost, while others struggled to find primary care appointment openings due to long waits.
But why is this such a big deal? Because when patients aren’t receiving preventive care and screenings, they risk allowing non-serious conditions to worsen. Preventive care is incredibly important when it comes to maintaining good health and preventing chronic health issues such as heart disease (the leading cause of death in the U.S.), hypertension, diabetes, stroke, obesity and cancer. Preventive care can also help to highlight environmental factors, disease agents and lifestyle choices that could cause or exacerbate these illnesses. Additionally, regular screening tests can detect illnesses early on and allow for timely treatment, which can also help avoid more serious health conditions down the line.
We’ve teamed up with Dr. Allison Edwards, MD, Sesame’s medical director, to highlight some key preventative care lifestyle changes and self-management tips you can start today from the comfort of home!
Maintain a balanced, healthy diet
Research has shown that dietary choices have a monumental impact on your health. There’s a direct relationship between poor diet and specific cancers, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, vision loss, dental disease, kidney stones and even birth defects. Implementing some of the following healthy eating tips within your diet can help prevent chronic disease and improve your well-being:
- Eat your fruits and vegetables: It’s easy to roll your eyes at this boilerplate statement, but sufficient fruit and vegetable intake is an evidence-based way to reduce the risk of many illnesses, including coronary artery disease and stroke.
- Limit your sugar intake: According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), high sugar intake and other highly-processed foods can put people at higher risk of at least 13 types of cancer, including endometrial (uterine) cancer, breast cancer in postmenopausal women, and colorectal cancer. Reducing sugar intake also reduces your risk of prediabetes, type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions.
- Reduce your sodium intake: Eating and drinking too much sodium can raise blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and
- Reduce saturated fats: Saturated fats contain low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, also known as bad cholesterol, which causes heart disease. Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats (think omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in salmon) can prevent CAD and other conditions.
- Be a smart consumer: Consumers in today’s world are constantly bombarded by marketing tactics for unhealthy food, and it can be especially tricky to make smart purchases when unhealthy options are often cheaper in the short term. Planning healthy food recipes ahead of time, buying store brands, or buying frozen or dried foods are cost-effective ways to ensure you’re getting the nutrition you need.
Engage in regular physical activity
Obesity is one of the country’s leading public health issues, and regular physical activity is a proven way to avoid the health conditions associated with a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy weight, such as coronary artery disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, colon and breast cancer, osteoporotic fractures, osteoarthritis, depression and even erectile dysfunction. Some of the following healthy living tips can come in handy when trying to improve your regular physical activity:
- Avoid screen time: It’s easy to get caught up in social media scrolling or Netflix binging, but studies show that these activities can be detrimental to your physical and mental health. Getting outside for some sunshine and fresh air is a healthy alternative.
- Find an activity you enjoy: Enjoying an activity can go a long way towards ensuring you keep up with it. Even walking just 30 minutes a day has proven health benefits!
- Get creative: Mix things up by trying out different activities or varying your routine from time to time. This is a great way to stay engaged and motivated.
- Take breaks: Make sure to give your body plenty of rest in between workouts to ensure that it can recharge and heal properly.
- Share your journey: Connect with friends or family who can support and encourage your efforts. Having someone join you on your journey can make all the difference in an active, healthy lifestyle!
Quitting smoking is one of the most direct ways to avoid chronic health problems. According to the National Institutes of Health, tobacco use is estimated to kill about 5 million people per year worldwide, accounting for 1 in every 5 male deaths and 1 in 20 female deaths of those over age 30. Smoking tobacco can cause cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and other respiratory diseases. Luckily, data also shows that smoking cessation works: adults who quit smoking tobacco before middle age avoid almost all the associated hazards. Try some of these self-management tips if you’re in the process of quitting:
- Try nicotine replacement: Talk to a healthcare provider about nicotine replacement therapy, such as nicotine gum, prescription smoking cessation medications, or other prevention programs.
- Avoid triggers: If you know that certain situations (such as parties or stressful environments) cause cravings, do your best to stay away from them or have a distraction handy.
- Get physical: Even just a short burst of physical activity, like running up and down the stairs or going for a walk, can help distract from tobacco cravings.
Schedule regular screenings
Chronic health conditions like coronary artery disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and specific cancers can be prevented or managed with regular screenings. Preventive services like screening tests can detect illnesses early on and allow for timely treatment, which can also help avoid more serious chronic health conditions down the line. Consider these tips for ensuring a regular screening schedule:
- Make it routine: Have a routine plan for preventive care so that it becomes second nature and you don’t have to think twice about scheduling check-ups every year or two.
- Utilize resources: Take advantage of available resources such as health insurance plans, community programs, and online tools to help make it easier to keep up with regular health screenings.
- Schedule it on your calendar: Set up a reminder on your phone or in your planner to schedule regular health screenings and check-ups. This will help ensure that you stay on track for preventive care.
- Talk to your doctor: Ask your doctor about any recommended screenings that you should get based on your age, family history, and lifestyle factors, or check out this preventive care checklist from Sesame.
If high health care costs or long wait times are preventing you from getting the chronic disease prevention care you need, check out Sesame. Sesame aims to be a solution to these hurdles by offering affordable, high-quality telehealth and in-person visits. Access primary care, specialists, and many more preventive care services in seconds— at half the cost of traditional care.
We all want to stay healthy and avoid chronic health issues, and while it takes dedication and commitment, the payoff is worth it - healthy choices such as regular physical activity, eating a balanced diet, avoiding smoking and other drug use, and getting regular screenings can go a long way towards helping you to maintain your health and prevent chronic health issues.