An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially when it comes to the American health care system (actually, with the most expensive health care in the world, in America it may be worth 3 pounds).
The best defense against our crazy, dysfunctional, expensive health care system is not getting sick in the first place, if at all possible (I’m not kidding).
Use good sense. Take precautions, like washing your hands often, especially if you’ve been around someone who is ill. Always wear your seatbelt! Wear appropriate protective gear when biking or playing sports. Don’t go hunting with Dick Cheney. Don’t hug an Ebola patient (why does everyone feel the need to hug every American Ebola patient as soon as they leave the hospital? I favor the friendly nod from across the room.)!
Also, as important as anything else mentioned in my book is the fact that the leading causes of death in America (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, injuries) are preventable to a very large extent. The point is, we should prevent preventable diseases!
The risk factors for developing heart disease, diabetes, and cancer (that’s right, cancer) include obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, poor eating habits, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol use. Therefore, the following lifestyle and behavior issues remain the key to a long life and being healthy:
Regular physical activity
Avoiding excessive alcohol
Worried about the Zika virus? What should you do? Get a flu shot! That’s right, rather than worrying about exotic diseases that are unlikely to affect you, keep your immunizations up to date. Immunizations are the most profound and important public health innovation in the history of mankind!
Immunizations have made us all great pediatricians! Why? Because children don’t get seriously ill (or die, for God’s sake) in anywhere near the numbers they did in the US even fifty or sixty years ago because they are immunized against so many important infectious diseases. Up until the mid-twentieth century, every year thousands and thousands of children became extremely ill, or died from diseases like polio and measles. As a practicing physician, I have never seen a case of polio, measles (though measles is making a comeback, folks), mumps, German measles (although I had that as a kid), or tetanus because of the success of immunizations.
And finally, if you really want to be healthy, keep up to date with suggested cancer screenings:
Women ages 21-65 should have cervical cancer screening regularly with Pap smears.
Women should have breast cancer screening regularly (ages and frequency are becoming controversial) with mammograms.
Everyone ages 50-75 should have colon cancer screening.
That’s enough about prevention! What fun would there be being a doctor if no one ever got sick.