Prevention is often talked about and seems to be the alpha and omega of health care. But for some people, it's a vague technical term. What do they mean by it and what is the purpose of prevention?
Prevention is a set of measures to prevent the onset and development of disease, the occurrence of health complications, the adverse consequences of illness and premature death.
Medicine recognizes different types of prevention – primary, secondary, tertiary and primordial. Let's look first at primordial prevention. What does it include and what is it specifically targeted at?
Primordial prevention focuses on preventing the occurrence and impact of various harmful factors on our health. It can be aimed at society as a whole, selected target groups or specific individuals. This type of prevention includes improving the quality of the environment, removing carcinogens (also known as cancer-causing substances) from the environment, and educating people about the dangers of smoking and substance abuse. At an individual level, this includes, for example, healthy lifestyle principles including diet and exercise. These preventive measures certainly include vaccination.
What principles of primordial prevention should people follow as part of their normal health care?
A sensible, varied diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables and fish, limiting the consumption of fatty foods, sausages, etc., is key to a healthy lifestyle. Also regular physical activity, maintaining a good body weight, getting enough quality sleep and reducing overall stress load. The principles of primordial prevention also include avoiding the use of addictive substances, especially smoking and alcohol.
The term primary prevention is used in the context of controlling and reducing risk factors that can lead to disease. What diseases do they have the greatest impact on developing and what measures help to reduce them?
While primordial prevention is intended to counteract the emergence and impact of risk factors on human health, primary prevention should reduce or eliminate further exposure to existing risk factors and thereby reduce or delay the manifestation of disease. These preventive measures are therefore very similar. The aforementioned positive lifestyle changes – healthy diet, active exercise, sufficient sleep and stress reduction – affect the development of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some chronic lung diseases, cancer, musculoskeletal diseases, etc. But we also have pharmacological treatment options, for example, treating high blood pressure or high cholesterol can delay the onset of some cardiovascular diseases.
Why should people certainly not underestimate primary prevention?
Primary and then secondary prevention can prevent the onset of a disease or, through early detection, help in effective treatment, often leading to a cure. This may no longer be possible when the disease is fully manifested at a later diagnosis.
How often is it now recommended to have a preventive examination by a general practitioner/personal physician? And what form does this preventive examination generally take?
The frequency and extent of preventive examinations depends in part on age and gender. In general, however, everyone should see their GP at least once every two years. As part of regular prevention, a general clinical examination, including blood pressure and weight checks, and a comprehensive laboratory examination are carried out. An ECG is also usually performed. Women over 45 should be referred by their GP or gynecologist for screening mammography. Men over 50 should be advised to have a urological examination, or at least a PSA level test. Both men and women over 50 should have an annual stool sample examination for occult bleeding and should be recommended for a screening colonoscopy after the age of 55. Over 65 years of age, regular eye examinations are recommended.
What are the risks of people skipping regular preventive check-ups with their doctor?
An unexamined person is not a healthy person. Prevention is aimed at the asymptomatic stages of the disease. Therefore, preventive check-ups need to be done even if a person "feels healthy". With regular preventive examinations, we can detect cardiovascular risks (high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc.), early stages of cancer, asymptomatic liver, kidney and blood diseases, etc. If these risks or early stages of diseases are not caught in time, they can cause irreversible health consequences for the person concerned.
What is the meaning of the term secondary prevention and what form does this type of prevention take?
Secondary prevention should lead to the early detection of a disease already in progress, but at an early stage. It is therefore about early detection of the patient followed by early and effective treatment, most often through screening programmes and preventive examinations. This prevention usually involves cooperation between the personal/general practitioner and selected specialists.
What about tertiary prevention? What does it look like and what does it involve?
Tertiary prevention involves the effective treatment of pre-existing disease and associated rehabilitation, and aims to reduce the effects of disease and prevent dysfunctions and disabilities. It should also detect a possible relapse, i.e. a return of the disease, as early as possible. Tertiary prevention is usually carried out by specialists in the necessary medical disciplines in collaboration with the personal/general practitioner.
Does Health+ provide all types of prevention for its clients? And are all four types of prevention equally important to human health, or are some more important than others?
Our clinic provides comprehensive preventive care and treatment provided by both personal physicians and our specialists. Prevention is important in all four phases, but in terms of the importance of different types of prevention, it is certainly better to prevent and treat diseases early than to treat only the consequences and complications of the disease.
In addition to these four types of prevention, there are other types of prevention. Can we summarize them for the sake of completeness, so that readers have a complete overview?
We can still distinguish between types of prevention by object, subject and method. Within the object-based division, we know about mass prevention (aimed at the whole population), selective prevention (targeting clearly defined risk groups) and indicative prevention (people are placed in a risk group only after a professional examination, for example, people with hypertension). In the subject-based division, there is social prevention (carried out by state bodies, institutions, social organizations, interest groups, etc.), personal prevention (carried out by individuals and involving observance of the principles of good lifestyle, avoidance of harmful habits, etc.) and health prevention (e.g. sanitary, hygienic and anti-epidemic interventions, health education, etc.). In the category of prevention divided by methods, we distinguish between prevention at the level of the individual (immunization, preventive therapy, etc.) and prevention aimed at collectives (legislative, political, organizational, technical, sanitary and hygienic measures, etc.). All these types of prevention are important at different levels and help to prevent health damage to individuals and society as a whole.
Thank you for the interview.