When you think of preventative health, what comes to mind? Like many of us, you may be imagining things like vaccinations, health screenings, and yearly check-ups. And while you are right, these factors are a huge part of it, there’s more.

healthy woman

Preventative healthcare is about taking a holistic approach to wellness on a daily, monthly, and even yearly basis. It’s not just about a healthy body, it’s about having a healthy mind and feeling empowered to control your own overall wellness journey.

Studies have shown that certain preventative measures and healthy behaviors can ward off chronic disease, increase longevity, and even save you money in the long run. In addition to getting routine vaccinations, pap smears, and breast exams, here are some other measures that can help you live a longer and healthier life.

1. Take some “me” time. As women, we have been socialized to prioritize other’s happiness over ourselves. Between work, families, children, and all of the other priorities that life demands, there’s not a lot of time left over to think about ourselves. As you can probably imagine, this isn’t good for our health.

Studies have shown that this cherished lack of “me time” can lead to higher levels of stress, which is linked to conditions like heart disease and even memory loss. Stress related health problems account for 60-80 percent of hospital visits and can cost the US $300 billion every year.

What does “me time” look like? It can be anything that helps you unwind and relieve stress. Meditation, yoga, journaling and even counseling are some good places to start. So next time you fill out your calendar for the week, try and schedule some extra time for yourself.

2. Find a primary care physician. You’re young and you’re healthy (minus the occasional cold), right? So, is it really important to invest time and money in finding a primary care physician (PCP)? Yes.

Primary care physicians are generalists, and you can see them for most conditions from high blood pressure to that nasty cold that goes around the office every year. In addition to that, PCPs get to know each patient on an individual level so they can treat the body as a whole, detect more serious conditions before symptoms arise, and coordinate care for complex health conditions.

Researchers have been studying the benefits of PCPs for years. One analysis, dating back to 1994, concluded that primary care is the “most significant variable related to better health status” and correlates with lower mortality, longer life expectancy, and lower birth rates. More recent analyses have shown similar results — primary care services lower the effect of poor economic conditions on health and decrease emergency department visits.

This all sounds pretty great, right? But finding the right PCP is no easy feat. Luckily, companies are working to improve the doctor patient relationship and make it easy to access primary care. Tia, for example, is a membership-based women’s health clinic aimed at helping women access full-body healthcare. OneMedical is another company working to improve the primary care experience, and can help you connect with a provider through their online portal. Lastly, don’t feel like you have to choose the first provider you meet — feel free to shop around.

3. Try telemedicine for your less complex health needs. Companies like Rory, Cove, Nurx and HeyDoctor are great options if you need to see a doctor immediately or you’re unable to see your PCP. These companies connect you with a doctor online that can prescribe you treatments for urinary tract infections, acne, eyelash growth, migraine, and more.

While these companies provide safe on-demand access to care, it’s still crucial that you continue to see a long-term PCP who understands the nuances of your body and your full healthcare history.

4. Exercise. It feels as if every day there is a new rule for exercise — take 10,000 steps a day, exercise for 30-min a day, don’t sit for more than three hours a day. While it seems as if there isn’t one perfect exercise routine, one thing is clear: Exercise is essential for our health.

Extensive research has shown that exercise can prevent ailments from psychological disorders to obesity, Alzheimers, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Exercise is so effective that one study found that a structured daily exercise program worked better than prescription drugs for common cardiovascular diseases. In addition to warding off multiple diseases, exercise has also been found to boost creativity, improve mood, and even manage symptoms of menopause.

Exercise is truly the best medicine.

5. Eat healthy. You’re probably sick of hearing about how diet can impact your health, but many preventable diseases are linked to our food choices. Studies have shown that healthy eating habits can help ward off serious health conditions like obesity, heart attack, and diabetes, and it can even improve mood.

But eating healthy isn’t always easy, and it seems as if science is constantly telling us contradictory things about healthy eating habits. In general, though, foods that are high in saturated fat and sugar tend to lead to the most health issues. Reducing the intake of those foods and increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables can work wonders for your health. Remember, you are what you eat.

6. Take your prescribed medications. From blood thinners to birth control, doctors prescribe medications for a reason, and it’s important to take them as instructed. Prescription drug non-adherence, or the failure to take medications as prescribed, leads to 125,000 deaths each year in the US according to the FDA and costs the US healthcare system as much as 289 billion per year. Factors like fear are side effects and lack of symptoms can lead to non-adherence, but research shows that financial barriers is one of the biggest contributors.

Research has shown that one-third of Americans have skipped filling a prescription because of the cost, and as many as 19 percent have tapped into their savings to pay for their prescription. If you find that you’re choosing between rent or your medication, remember that you have options. GoodRx, a prescription savings site can help you pay as much as 80 percent on your medications, and even works for birth control, vaccinations and common over the counter products.

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