Preventive Healthcare Is Vital - Find Out Why

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Written by
Miranda Kay, RN
December 9, 2022

The importance of preventive healthcare can hardly be overstated. Every year, 7 in 10  deaths in the U.S. are caused by chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes — diseases that can be prevented or attenuated. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention),  over 100,000 lives a year could be saved in the U.S. with clinical preventive care.

What is Preventive Healthcare?

Preventive healthcare helps prevent or reduce the risk of disease, disability, and injury, considering environmental factors, genetic predisposition, disease agents, and lifestyle choices. Preventive care depends on anticipatory interventions, such as vaccination, screening, or well-child visits, categorized as primordial, primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention. The disorders usually begin before individuals realize they are affected.

  • Primordial: The primordial level of prevention attacks underlying social and environmental conditions that favor disease onset, for example, improving hygiene, providing safe sidewalks to encourage physical activity and avoid accidents, and using renewable energy, such as solar or wind power, to reduce air pollution.
  • Primary: Primary prevention aims at healthy individuals or populations, seeking changes in lifestyle behavior or limiting risk exposure, for example, counseling on healthy eating habits, not smoking, physical exercise, immunizations, and frequent hand-washing.
  • Secondary:  This level focuses on early subclinical disease detection in apparently healthy individuals with subclinical forms of the disease. Often starting with screening procedures, the results show if action is needed and can lead to earlier, more cost-effective interventions. For example, a Papanicolaou (Pap) smear is a form of secondary prevention to diagnose cervical cancer in its subclinical state before progression.
  • Tertiary: For symptomatic patients with an illness or injury that has lasting effects, tertiary prevention concentrates on reversing, arresting, or delaying disease, reducing the burden of suffering and pain, for example, rehabilitation or support groups.

While primordial and primary prevention seek to prevent disease onset, secondary prevention aims to prevent advanced, critical stages of the disease, and tertiary prevention focuses on reducing the effects of the disease once established in an individual. 

Programs often involve prevention at more than one level or even all levels. Let's take a look at two common examples of preventive care. 

How to Prevent Heart Disease and Diabetes?

Heart disease is a risk factor for diabetes and vice versa, and most of what you can do to prevent both are elements of a healthier lifestyle.

Tips to Build Up Your Heart Health and Avoid Diabetes

1. Don't smoke and avoid secondhand smoke.

Cigarette smoke increases the risk of both heart disease and diabetes. It reduces the oxygen in the blood, which increases blood pressure and heart rate and contributes to insulin resistance.

The good news is that the risk of heart disease starts to drop just one day after quitting, and after one year, the risk drops to about half that of a smoker.

2. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of daily exercise

Physical activity helps control your weight and reduces the chances of developing conditions that put a strain on the heart, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.

Even five minutes of moving around improves your health, and activities such as gardening, housekeeping, taking the stairs and walking the dog all count. Have fun fast dancing, hula hooping, or kicking a ball with your kids. You don't have to exercise strenuously to make a difference, but you benefit your health more by increasing the intensity, duration, and frequency of your workouts or exercise.

3. Eat a healthy diet

A healthy diet can help protect the heart and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Your diet should include a variety of foods, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and some healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts, and fatty fish. Hold down on red meat, reduce sugar and salt, and avoid fried fast food.

4. Maintain a healthy weight

Being overweight increases your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Even losing just 3% to 5% of your weight helps decrease certain fats in the blood (triglycerides) and lower blood sugar (glucose). 

5. Get good quality sleep

If you don't get enough sleep, you are at higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, and depression.

Adults usually need seven or eight hours of sleep a night. If you have been getting enough sleep but are still tired, ask your doctor about obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that can increase your risk of heart disease. Signs include loud snoring, stopping breathing briefly during sleep, and waking up gasping for air. 

6. Manage stress

Everyone, especially nurses, undergoes stress, but some people cope with it in damaging ways — such as overeating, drinking, or smoking. Find healthy tactics you enjoy, such as taking a walk, relaxation exercises, or meditation.

7. Get regular health screenings

Diabetes and heart conditions are often asymptomatic, and you probably won't know whether you have them without testing. Yearly screening for high blood pressure, every four to six years for cholesterol, and every three years for diabetes give you the information to take timely, intelligent action.

Why is Preventive Healthcare Important? 

Routine cardiovascular testing alone saves tens of thousands of adults' lives annually, and vaccines save the lives of approximately 42,000 children annually. Not only that, according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), missed prevention opportunities cost the U.S. $55 billion year after year. Why look for problems before they arise?

Preventive care is proactive in contrast to reactive. Instead of waiting to see if a problem arises, in preventive care, you take control of the situation, foresee possible conditions, and often prevent overwhelming suffering by acting promptly before reaching a crisis. PRN healthcare workers, nurses, and CNAs know about screening, vaccination, and routine care. They are responsible for staying up to date on their preventative healthcare to set an example and be healthy working in healthcare.

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Miranda Kay, RN
Blog published on:
December 9, 2022

Miranda is a Registered Nurse, Medical Fact Checker, and Publishing Editor at Nursa. Her work has been featured in publications including the American Nurses Association (ANA), Healthcare IT Outcomes, International Living, and more.

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