Our healthcare systems tend to place a disproportionate emphasis on a reactive model of care, that is - we become unwell, and then in response to this we receive healthcare intervention. An alternative approach is prevention. Prevention means taking measures to prevent disease, rather than just treating diseases as they occur. A preventive model means stopping the development of disease before symptoms or life-threatening events happen.

When we are young and fit, we can be guilty of taking our health for granted. We think about the here and now, with little thought about the consequences in the future. Prevention does not mean living under restrictions and having no fun in life. By educating ourselves and understanding that we can have control over our health, will not only mean living life with increased awareness, but can be an empowering process.

Here's some handy information and tips on how you can use a preventive approach in your life.

Risk factors

Evidence suggests that certain people have a higher risk of disease. The problem is, a lot of people do not know they are at higher risk, and that making certain lifestyle choices can be very detrimental to their health.

Health screening

The National Population Health Survey conducted in 2017 in Singapore has identified an increase in obesity, diabetes, hypertension and alcohol consumption. There has been no significant decrease in smoking behaviour since 2004.

Screen for Life is a preventative health program from the Health Promotion Board in Singapore. The program provides screening for cancer and chronic illness including high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol that have risk factors in people aged 25 and up.

The earlier you are aware that you are at risk (or that something is developing) the earlier you can start making positive changes and informed decisions about your health. You can talk to your doctor about arranging health screening.

Frailty prevention

In a survey by the Ministry of Health in 2017, nearly half of those aged 60 and above in Singapore were identified as frail or pre-frail. Frailty reduces quality of life and increases risk of falls. Falls can have a devastating effect on a person’s health. Help prevent frailty by:

  1. Asking your doctor for a fraily screen
  2. Maintaining an active lifestyle
  3. Eating a balanced nutritious diet
  4. Keeping the mind active and focusing on a positive attitude
Lifestyle changes

We are all individuals, who lead different lives and have varying coping strategies. We all make choices every day, some good, some bad, and we have a right to make choices that others may consider unwise. However, if we really considered the health impacts of our choices and also the financial burden that ill health could bring in the future, would we not consider some simple changes? Read on to find out what can help you now.

Being active

People who are more active are less likely to experience future health problems. Inactivity is linked with obesity, which can lead to increased risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. Studies on a sedentary lifestyle indicate increased chances of early death. Inactivity is also bad for our mental health. National guidelines recommend:

  1. Breaking up periods of inactivity that last 90 minutes or more with 5-10 mins of standing or moving around.
  2. 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week
  3. Inclusion of strength activities such as weight training, tai chi, yoga and pilates,
Reducing alcohol consumption

we all know this one, but we often neglect to take it seriously. High consumption of alcohol has been associated with obesity, cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, memory loss and male impotency. Moderation is the key, with recommendations in Singapore being to drink no more than 2 standard drinks a day for men, and 1 for women (1 standard = 1 330ml can of beer or 100ml of wine).

Eating a balanced diet

the National Health Survey 2010 identified that 1 in 9 Singaporeans is obese, a 57% increase since 2004. Obesity and poor nutrition can have significant health impacts.

National guidelines recommend:

  1. Aim to eat at least 2 servings of fruits and 2 servings of vegetables daily
  2. At least 1 serving or rice and alternatives should come from a whole grain source
  3. Aim to fill half your plate with vegetables, a quarter with whole grains, and a quarter with meat. See My Health Hub “My healthy plate” for more info.
Reducing stress

we live in a culture of excess. We work too much, we sleep too little, we drink too much, we eat too much. We often engage in one negative behaviour, to cope with another. This is unsustainable, and inevitably takes its toll on our physical and mental health.

Evidence shows a link between stress and chronic conditions. An unbalanced lifestyle of all work and no play is bad for our health.

  1. Identify triggers – what is causing the stress?
  2. Identify negative coping strategies – are you using quick fixes such as alcohol, smoking or avoidance?
  3. Make time for fun and relaxation – e.g. deep breathing, spending time with friends, listening to music, writing in a journal.
Small changes can make a big difference

Prevention can start with simple changes, but at Lifeweavers we understand that getting over the starting line is not always as easy as it seems.

It is always best to see your doctor if considering any lifestyle changes. At Lifeweavers, we can help you move forward with taking positive steps. As occupational therapists, we specialise in analysis of activity and how we use our time, we can help you find balance and make changes that could benefit your health for the future.

If you want some support adapting your lifestyle, educating yourself and learning new coping strategies to take a preventive approach to you health, get in touch!