My name is Eric Greene. I’m one of the nurse practitioners at the clinic. Many of you may know me and I’m sure some do not. I am hoping to be a bit more active on our social media in the future. However, I am definitely not a writer.
I’ve been giving a lot of thought recently to preventative health care as well as longevity (how long you live) and health span (how long you are healthy). In health care, we tend to focus on what the current problem is and often prevention gets pushed to the side. It’s difficult for patients and clinicians alike to focus on something that cannot be seen, felt, or described.
Prior to working at Williams Integracare, I spent about 5 years working in an intensive care unit. In this environment, we are dealing with acute life-threatening problems and I often would find myself thinking about how these conditions could have been prevented.
Now that I work as a primary care provider, prevention is certainly something I think about on a daily basis. At an annual physical we mainly focus on cancer screening and cardiovascular risk screening. When we think about what the majority of our society dies from, it is most often cardiovascular disease, cancer, or a neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, the medical community has not made much advancement in the area of neurodegenerative disease, but there is a lot of interesting research being done and there are now multiple prevention clinics. The first of its kind was started at Cornell and there are now, at least, three other clinics focusing on Alzheimer’s prevention in the United States. Much of this prevention focuses on diet and exercise, which is important in so many other ways as well.
Cancer screening is often determined by different organizations that compile data on the best time to screen and the best tests to be done. These recommendations may change based on your risk factors. As more research is done there are more tests that can be performed for screening. Unfortunately, many of these tests are not covered by insurance at this point, but they are available.
Cardiovascular screening, at a basic level, is most often done by screening for diabetes and cholesterol abnormalities. We also have the option to do advanced testing, which is a great option to better classify your risk. I would recommend advanced lipid testing for anyone that has a strong family history of cardiovascular disease. This is an area I find extremely interesting. I certainly learned about cholesterol in school, but as I learned more on my own, I realized just how complicated it actually is and how oversimplified we have made it. I find that the more I learn the less I know. I think this is true for so many things and is what drives me to constantly learn new things. A statistic I find very powerful is that prior to cardiovascular risk screening, over 50% of the time, the first sign that a patient had cardiovascular disease was sudden death. That number has dropped significantly, but some estimates still place this at about 30%.
I believe we can do a much better job with preventative healthcare and my hope is that as testing gets better, we are able to focus more on individualized medicine that allows us to develop a prevention plan that is unique to each and every one of our patients.
I’ll leave you with a story. I recently saw a patient that I had not seen for months. When I saw him months ago, he was overweight and prediabetic. When I saw him recently, he had lost about 50 lbs and was no longer prediabetic. I asked him about his motivation and he told me, knowing that this was reversible gave him the motivation to change his lifestyle. I have a lot of stories of patient success stories that I truly cherish, but this was special because I knew how hard he worked and how good he felt.
Prevention is important and the best place to start is by getting an annual physical.
Eric Greene, APRN