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At least five ways to prevent disease

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

Traditional medicine has always focused on caring for the sick, but the latest trend is taking charge of your own health. That means doing your best to prevent sickness or disease, before it strikes.

We met up with a patient who's been going to the R.M. Bayer Clinic for Preventive Medicine for twenty years in Houston. At 64 years of age, he believes he's never suffered a serious illness because of the preventive care he's received there.

Dr. Robert Bayer believes prevention is more important now, than ever, since people are living longer.

Of course we know the emotional "cost" of illness is bad enough. You add on to that the financial burden of illness, and it can be devastating. For example, without insurance, being treated for the flu can cost up to $350 plus lost wages. and some cancer treatments can cost $10,000 a month.

To maintain your ideal health, doctors suggest you start with simple measures, like these:

1. Daily aspirin therapy. Some studies show this can help prevent a heart attack and four types of cancer, including colon, lung, prostate, and esophageal. It's important to speak with your own doctor, to make sure you're an ideal candidate.

2. Vitamins, to help boost your immune system.

Dr. Bayer's take on them: "Most of what we know about vitamins and supplements is anecdotal: I have more energy, I feel better, I have less colds, so we tend to do it, because it's a relatively inexpensive, well-tolerated way to try to prevent an illness," he states.

It's important to find a high quality vitamin that is strong enough to make a difference. That often means purchasing them from a health food store or clinic, or in the all-natural section of a grocery store, so that the vitamins aren't full of needless fillers. It's important to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.

3. Immunizations, even for adults.

Dr. Bayer suggests every child get the recommended vaccinations.

It's important to discuss which ones are right for you, if you're an adult. That ranges from Whooping Cough, to Tetanus, and Zoster, which prevents Shingles. Dr. Bayer says shingles probably won't kill you, but the pain can come and go the rest of your life. Ouch.

4. Cancer screenings for cervix, breast, and colon

Pap smears and mammograms are something women should discuss with their doctor. Recent guidelines are being more lenient on women who have a healthy history with no abnormal pap smears. Some doctors suggest you can even go 3-5 years between paps if you're between 30-65, and as long as you get an annual physical exam. Definitely important to talk to your doctor about the course you should take.

Mammogram controversy continues, but most doctors urge their patients to start getting mammograms at 40.

Everyone should get a colonoscopy when they turn 50. Depending on those results, patients receive another one between 3-5 years. If you have a family member with colon cancer (especially parent or sibling), many doctors urge you to undergo a colonoscopy five years before the age of the family member, who was diagnosed with it. (For example, if your mom got colon cancer at 45, you would be screened at 40.) During this test, doctors use a scope to search for polyps in the colon. They can easily remove those polyps before they turn into cancer.

Many people may be concerned, because they can't afford preventive care. That's where someone like Dr. Sunil Movva comes in. He teaches at U.T. Medical School and has started a unique practice, unlike any other in Houston, called Direct Primary Care. "I feel like a lot of people, even if they can afford it, don't get a lot of preventative advice, because there's no money to made for the doctor to advise on prevention," explains Dr. Movva. That's why he offers an alternative. His patients only pay $39 a month, or $59, if they have more than two medical conditions. They get unlimited access to medical care, plus discounted prescriptions around $4 each.

His most simple preventive advice:

5. Quit smoking & lose weight, if you're obese. "Both are preventable. They account for almost 50 percent of deaths in this country," says Dr. Movva. He's expanding his clinic to offer his patients a Dietitian and Cessation support, to battle those problems.

If "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure", Consumer Reports tells its readers to get screened for cervical, colon, and breast cancer, but avoid eight other popular cancer screenings. Dr. Bayer didn't necessarily agree with several of them. Consumer Reports used the reviews from The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, to make their decisions on this list.

Unless you're at high risk, the report suggests you skip the following because either the test isn't accurate, or they consider the results to not save lives: Bladder, Lung, Skin, Oral, Prostate, Ovarian, Pancreatic, and Testicular.

For more information on the report, visit http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/index.htm.

On the Web:

Dr.Sunil Movva with Integrated Health Clinic -- http://www.integratedhealth.us/

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