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Preventive care at an early age needed


Studies show that teaching children good health care habits, such as proper diet and regular exercise as early as possible, are beneficial to good long term health.

Just like anything in life, the earlier you tackle a problem the better the outcome will be. The medical community is starting to look at caring for patients in that light. You will see your healthcare providers start to work with you earlier. Preventive care has been pioneered by doctors at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

The thought is not to wait until medical problems are unmodifiable or engrained, but start to talk to patients when they may have a subclinical illness. Here the problem has not become a problem. It’s an inkling in the eye, and thus amenable to modification. This could be as early as childhood.

The thought is that we start to form our ideas about how to care for ourselves early. We start to form those patterns of behavior as early as four to six years of age. So, what determines these behaviors? What are a young person’s environmental exposures? What are the diets that a young person is exposed to? What food choices are they given? Are they taught to eat fruits and veggies and lay off the processed foods, sweets, fried foods and the like? Are they taught that exercise and being active are important parts of living a healthy life?

Who provides this guidance? Is it the parents and care givers? What are you teaching young people in your care?

Health care providers are also looking closer at your family history and giving advice to limit the effects of diseases that are inherited but may not be seen until later in life. Is there a family history of diabetes? Then we start early with advising on choices that can be made to possibly modify that course. Weight control would be one modifiable course. Increasing exercise is another course of action and of course what is placed in one’s mouth or their diet is the ultimate modifiable course.

You will see your healthcare provider placing additional emphases on blood pressure control at an earlier point in life. Making sure things are good in the twenties and thirties when modifiable risks are present.

Here again watching one’s weight with diet and cutting salt consumption are great first steps to modifying the course. Watching and modifying activity again is a great step.

The name of the game is prevention. Taking steps to modify the course of a disease in its subclinical state is the goal. So many patients say to me if they had only known and if they only had made changes earlier in life things would have been different. This is that chance to make those changes. The question though is whether those who have not had the experience that time teaches will listen. I am hopeful as I see more and more people interested in their health at an earlier age. Making just a few key changes while young could make the difference in a life of illness versus a life of wellness.

Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at