How To Prevent Preventable Diseases

how to prevent preventable diseases

Last week I talked about the failings of the US healthcare system. How we live in a country where 90% of our healthcare expenditures are spent on those with chronic or long-term medical conditions.

And that many of those chronic conditions can be prevented or improved through lifestyle choices.

I want to do my level best to live free of preventable diseases. To that end, I began a pro-healthcare-seeking endeavor. Rather than wait for symptoms — and let’s face it, with regard to arthritis the symptoms are already present — I am on a quest to pre-emptively alter my behavior(s) to better insure my longevity.

Even though I struggle with doing activities that don’t yield immediate dopamine, I committed to and attended my Life Line Screening appointment.

Accessible Health Care:

Honestly, I did not know what to expect and I was a bit suspect at first. For the most part, I have consumed medical care as a reaction to negative symptoms or emergencies. I suspect that’s the case for most of us. Sore throat, fever, weird pains, accidents, vertigo, hot flashes, etc…  All various and sundry symptoms that have prompted me to seek medical attention in my lifetime. 

my experience of our healthcare providers has been more western-world traditional”

Given this pattern of behavior, my experience of our healthcare providers has been more western-world traditional: typically, accessing my medical care at well-appointed, established doctor’s offices. Life Line Screening, however, doesn’t appear to have permanent infrastructure. They don’t need it. When I booked my appointment locally they sent me to a pop-up screening facility at a nearby hotel. 

Don’t be fooled. There’s nothing “pop-up” about the equipment, the technicians, or the process. From the moment I walked in, my experience was pleasant. Immediately upon arrival I was greeted by a very friendly and helpful intake person. She quickly found my name, checked me in, and shared the upcoming process with me. I was asked to sit and wait, alongside a few other people. 

As I looked around, I assessed the others in the room. I am terrible with guessing ages, but they all seemed to be middle-age and beyond. I decided to ask a couple of them why they were there.

Maureen from Durham, North Carolina, there with her elderly mother told me, “I came with my mother, who signed up for screenings. After talking to representatives, it seemed like a good idea to me too. My doctors won’t request these tests. My insurance denies it.”

The conference room was sectioned off using medical partition screens. After a few minutes, they called me to a sectioned-off area of the conference room.

Test One: Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm And Atrial Fibrillation Screen

An irregular heartbeat may indicate a variety of issues”

For those of us who don’t know (and I was one of them), an abdominal aortic aneurysm is a bulge in the main artery that supplies blood to your legs, pelvis, and belly. An aneurysm is a weak spot in the blood vessel wall, at risk for breaking open and causing severe bleeding (hemorrhage). 

Problems with one’s heart structure can cause atrial fibrillation. It is detected by measuring  the signals in the upper chambers of your heart. If your heart rhythm is fast and irregular (chaotic) it can indicate an issue. An irregular heartbeat may indicate a variety of issues, ranging from coronary artery disease to high blood pressure to viral infections and a host of others. 

Heart attacks are commonly perceived as a “men’s issue,” but heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, as well. As a matter of fact, heart attacks are responsible for 1 in 5 deaths, killing 314,186 women in 2020 alone. Sadly, heart disease and heart attacks are grossly misunderstood and misdiagnosed in female patients. A strong undercurrent of cultural and societal factors (too many to list here) contribute to gender bias in cardiology. The simple fact that women were left out of clinical studies until 1993 is indicative of a severe lack of knowledge and understanding of how our tickers work and thrive.

Test Two: Carotid Artery And Peripheral Arterial Disease Screen

This test through an ultrasound evaluation of the carotid arteries screens for buildup of fatty plaque, one of the leading causes of strokes. People with PAD (Peripheral arterial disease) are at increased risk for heart disease, aortic aneurysm and stroke. PAD is also a marker for diabetes, hypertension, and other conditions. Curious, a quick google search let me know that this test alone can range in costs from $232 to $1,577.

While waiting between tests, I spoke to a second participant. Deborah Harrell had driven two and a half hours from Floyd, Virginia. She lamented her circumstances with her current physician’s inability to perform a thorough physical examination. Due to insurance restrictions, her doctor is limited to 15 minutes per patient. Feeling incredibly underserved, Deborah wanted to provide her doctor with additional information that she knows would arm her doctor to better help her.

Test Three: Osteoporosis Screen

Unfortunately, osteoporosis is silent in its early stages.”

Osteoporosis causes our bones to become less dense and more fragile, increasing the likelihood of a fracture. Unfortunately, osteoporosis is silent in its early stages. This is important to note. We can walk around for years without symptoms to warn us. 

Many people discover they have osteoporosis when they break a bone. The most common bones that fracture due to osteoporosis are the spine, the hips, and the wrist. If you are not a regular consumer of Jack’s Smack, you may not know, but I broke three vertebrae in a skydiving accident last August. I was already suspicious beforehand that I suffer from arthritis  (I have limited mobility in my hands, which often hurt). This accident made me acutely aware that ignoring the loss of my bone density any longer would not serve me.

Immediate Results:

Some of the findings were presented to me immediately. I was relieved to hear that I was all clear on abdominal aortic aneurysms, atrial fibrillation, and carotid artery and peripheral arterial disease. And as I suspected, the bone density scan triggered an additional investigation finding. 

What’s Next?

Now I wait for the lab results. Once they arrive, if any additional points of concern are noted, I can bring the data to my primary physician. The goal? To arm my medical practitioner with as much data about the state of my machine (body) so that I can make the right choices to either keep what’s healthy, slow down the progression of any ailment, and/or possibly reverse any condition.

Stay tuned for the results!

Please, please remember, I am NOT a physician and I am NOT dispensing any medical advice. I am sharing my journey in the hopes to encourage us all to be pro-active about the state of our own health.

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