We think of screening exams such as pap, mammography, PSA and other tests as preventive medicine, however, these as well as many others are really early detection. To truly prevent an illness, you must seek early signs of its development and/or take precautions to prevent it.

What is preventive medicine? The American Board of Preventive Medicine defines it as, “Preventive Medicine is the specialty of medical practice that focuses on the health of individuals, communities, and defined populations. Its goal is to protect, promote, and maintain health and well-being and to prevent disease, disability, and death.” Here are some examples of how you can work with health care practitioners to prevent illness and injury.

Blood tests as an early warning sign
Some blood tests will start to show the development of illness early on before it is full blown with symptoms and signs. Normal levels are defined when the majority (80%) of people in the population don’t have symptoms. Abnormal levels are defined by pooling results of people who do have symptoms. Sometimes some people just don’t feel right and are at the border of these pooled results and are defined as normal because the illness is not yet full blown. Preventive medicine looks at where levels are optimal and where a person feels good not just “normal.” When levels , for example, of blood sugar start to become elevated, you most likely will not have symptoms. Even when you cross over into the abnormal range you will not have symptoms even though slow steady damage is being done. Knowing that you are not in an optimal range can motivate you to make small changes to lower it. You can lower it with lifestyle choices before damage is done. The same is true for markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein and many other things. Inflammation and oxidation are at the root cause of most chronic illnesses. Hemoglobin A1C is a marker of oxidation and C-reactive protein is one of the many markers of inflammation. Wouldn’t you want to know if you are optimal? There are many preventive medicine blood tests that would not be included in a routine physical but would be part of a comprehensive or executive physical from an anti aging doctor. Getting a more comprehensive evaluation would be beneficial from a preventive medicine point of view.

Physical biomarkers of aging
Loss of balance can lead to falls, fractures and other injuries yet no one measures this. It can go undetected for years. So can loss of bone mass. You may not be able to practice preventive medicine and build your balance or your bones if you don’t know your baseline. A comprehensive physical should include measures of balance and bone strength so you can do something before it’s too late, that is before you suffer from a fall or fracture. Weight bearing exercise that incorporates balance can prevent or reverse falls and osteoporosis.

Hormone imbalances as illness predictors
Fatigue, weight gain, mood swings and lack of sleep oftentimes occur in healthy, middle aged men and women. These may be signs of hormone imbalances that if left unchecked could result in poor performance at work, job loss, relationship difficulties, obesity and all of its complications such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and diabetes. It leaves you at risk for all of the complications of these disorders such as: immune disorders, cysts, fibroids, aches, pains, poor memory and so much more. Preventive medicine would take this into account and doctors could measure and balance hormones through lifestyle and hormone replacement therapy before suffering the multitude of consequences.

Memory and mental function
A hallmark of aging is slowing down physically and mentally. How would you know if the rate of your physical and mental decline is average or accelerated? Again, measuring and comparing your function with those of your age group can give you answers. Preventive medicine could detect early decline and an anti aging doctor can make recommendations to slow or reverse the process. Exercise, diet, managing contributing illness and supplements can improve mental performance. It’s best to start early at the first signs before dementia or other disorders set in. You need the right nutrients. Our brains are largely made of DHA, a component of fish oil which can help brain function. You need good circulation with arteries free of plaques to get the nutrients to the brain so managing your cholesterol and decreasing the inflammation and oxidation that causes plaque with a Mediterranean diet is essential along with a good multivitamin and mineral formula. There are many supplements that can enhance brain function and a functional medicine doctor can determine what is best for your individual needs.

Vaccines can be viewed as preventive medicine because they protect individuals and communities or populations at risk. They are given before an illness occurs to prevent that illness and allow the person’s immune system to respond.

As you see, preventive medicine can mean different things to different people. A simple check up may detect some things early. However you will never find what you don’t look for. It’s best to get a comprehensive, anti aging, executive health physical to look for all of the possibilities so you can truly take advantage of what preventive medicine has to offer.

Author's Bio: 

Lorraine Maita, MD is a recognized and award winning physician and author transforming people's lives through preventive and anti aging medicine. She is a Diplomate of the American Academy of Anti Aging and Regenerative Medicine and Board Certified in Internal Medicine and has over 18 years experience in Preventive Health and Wellness, Internal, Occupational and Travel Medicine and Executive Health.

Dr. Maita served as Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Prudential Financial, Medical Director on The Pfizer Health Leadership Team and Medical Director of North America for Johnson & Johnson Global Health Service and was an attending physician at St.Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital, Emergency Department and Executive Health Examine rs in New York City. She is a consultant for companies wanting to develop or enhance their employee and occupational health and wellness programs and has a private practice in NJ.

She is author of "Vibrance for Life: How to Live Younger and Healthier".