Preventative Care Helps Protect, Promote and Maintain Health

According to the American Board of Medical Specialties, preventive medicine focuses on the health of individuals, communities and defined populations to protect, promote and maintain health and well-being and to prevent disease, disability and death.

Preventative care may include an annual check-up, screenings for cardiac disease, genetic testing for cancer and maintaining a healthy weight. “I encourage people to establish a relationship with a primary care provider, whether it’s a physician or a nurse practitioner,” says Dr. Peter Jungblut, who practices at WellStar Family Medicine in the WellStar East Cobb Health Park in Marietta. “There’s value in that, and we want everyone to be up to date on the tests and vaccines that are age appropriate, and then you’ve got someone there if you do become ill or sick or need more acute care. Preventative care is more than just a bunch of lab tests. It’s about establishing a relationship over the years.”

Jungblut says preventative medicine is becoming more of a focus for the aging population and Baby Boomers. “We also have a generation of younger patients who are comfortable looking up information on the internet and sharing stories with people on social media. Having information at their fingertips leads a lot of people to the office seeking preventative care,” he says, adding that his patients often read about an illness or health concern online and come to him to learn more.

WellStar supports screening tests, such as a cardiac CT, nutrition therapy and medical nutrition counseling. “WellStar’s population health initiative is to identify different patient populations to provide them with the preventive care they need,” he says. “We look at how we can keep patients out of the emergency department.”

Preventative care also includes immunizations, which is a big focus in adult medicine, specifically the shingles and pneumonia vaccines, as well as flu shots. Dr. Mithun Daniel, who practices with Perimeter North Family Medicine, a Northside Hospital Physician Practice, says it is important to also be up to date with prostate and colon exams, pap smears and mammograms, and smoking cessation and depression screenings, as well as making sure patients have adequate amounts of medication refills.

“We’re getting away from calling it a physical,” Jungblut adds. “People often refer to it as an annual wellness visit or well checkup instead of a physical. Much of it is really walking through lifestyle, diet, screening for depression, checking on relationships, are people stressed out, do they like their jobs, how are things going?”

Managing Stress and Weight

Losing weight is oftentimes the No. 1 resolution for individuals as they prepare for the New Year. Paula Byrd, a fitness expert with 17 years of experience, and Deborah Haynes, who has nearly 40 years of experience working as a registered nurse, have learned that trouble with weight loss is often connected to an individual’s stress level.

Together, the two women opened Advanced Health to Be in south Cobb in March 2015 as a means to help people tackle stress and weight loss issues, which in turn may help address other health concerns, such high blood pressure or cardiac issues.

Haynes, who previously served patients with life-threatening diseases like cancer, says that after years of working in this area, she wanted to focus on preventative medicine. Using non-invasive technology therapies, she works closely with patients to manage their stress and weight. “I have found that people would eat like birds and exercise until they were blue in the face, but nothing would change, so I was telling them to reduce their stress,” she says. “But it doesn’t happen easily, so I went on a quest to find tools to help people relieve stress.”

Equipment used by Haynes and her team includes a chair that uses sound and vibration to help relax people. They also have a whole-body vibrator, which is a standing machine that uses a sonic vibrator. A 10-minute session is equivalent to an hour-long workout, says Haynes. In addition, the center offers a detoxification and accelerated weight loss program designed by Haynes and supported by Byrd’s training; and lights that Haynes refers to as fat-melting and body-slimming red light therapy help immobilize fat. Infrared saunas are also used to pull out heavy metal toxins from the body. “It’s relaxing, helps people with sleep and it improves the skin and circulations,” says Haynes. Another device, the AMI 750, is placed on the feet and also uses sound technology to relax a client and support the body’s balance. “It’s pretty phenomenal,” she says. “We’ve had people come in who have had swelling in their ankles and they will sit and do a 30-minute protocol and their swelling goes down.”

These technologies are combined with Byrd’s fitness regimens to meet the client’s needs and goals. “It’s important to know what you need as an individual and start from the inside out — building that strength, working on the whole self in terms of body, mind and spirit,” Byrd says. “One of the first mistakes people make is going in without a plan and they don’t write it down and commit to the plan. From the workout to the nutrition regiment, go in with a plan.”

Learn more about Byrd and Haynes’ programs by visiting advancedhealthtobe.com.

Genetic Risk Assessments

Knowing genetic risk factors can help point to more effective treatment for patients who already have a disease, such as cancer or cardiac disease, or for patients who are at a high risk.

For anyone interested in participating in the assessments, Kimberly King-Spohn, who was recruited by WellStar Health System to start a genetic risk assessments program in 2007, suggests patients gather as much family medical history as they can. “Your family history doesn’t necessarily guarantee what your future will be, but it gives us a reference point, so if you are more knowledgeable about your family history, that’s very helpful for your physician and they can look at criteria to see if there’s a role for genetic testing,” she says, reminding patients to also be patient with their doctors. “They may not know about a specific rare syndrome that you have in your family, but we just encourage them to work with our genetics team and have that conversation.”

WellStar, which conducts testing at six locations in northwest Atlanta — WellStar Kennestone, Cobb Hospital, Paulding Hospital, Douglas Hospital, West Georgia Medical Center and North Fulton Hospital — offers a variety of testing options. Some patients know exactly what to be tested for, while others may ask for a broader range of test offerings. “Patients who are pregnant, for example, and are worried about a family history of mental retardation, there are hundreds of genes that we could test for in that area, so they might do the large test to look at all of those conditions,” says King-Spohn.

She adds that genetic testing can influence a patient’s treatment, such as with chemotherapy for cancer. It also allows doctors to do a better job treating the actual “personality” of a cancer based on genetic makeup. In addition, genetic testing is becoming more accessible. King-Spohn says a patient may not know exactly what to test for, but if they would like to know if there are any genetic markers for a disease, they can be tested for a range of potential diseases. “For example, we could look at thousands of genomes in a patient and look for different things like diabetes, heart disease … this could be helpful for people in being more vigilant with lifestyle recommendations. Our field is going to be moving in the next couple of years much more to that preventative, healthy experience in trying to keep people that way, based on unlocking their genetic codes,” she concludes.

Learn more at wellstar.org.

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