Health Promotion & Disease Prevention

Diseases of aging can be prevented through lifestyle modifications such as a healthy diet, smoking cessation, appropriate weight maintenance, increased physical activity and stress management. There are certain ways to decrease the risk of certain diseases such as heart disease, cancer and stroke, the leading causes of death in the elderly.

Health Promotion activities are those activities in which an individual can proactively engage to improve his or her health. The prevention activities may be classified as primary prevention, secondary prevention and tertiary prevention.

Primary prevention activities are those designed to completely prevent a disease from occurring such as immunization against pneumonia or influenza.

Secondary preventive efforts are directed toward early detection and management of a disease. For example, colonoscopy to detect small cancerous polyps. Tertiary prevention efforts are used to manage clinical diseases to prevent them from progressing or to avoid complications of the disease.

For example, beta-blockers are used to help remodel the heart in congestive heart failure.

Health Screening:

 Health Screening is a form of secondary prevention. For example screening test for disease like diabetes, which occurs frequently, is beneficial for the early detection of the disease. The screening tests should be relatively non-invasive and acceptable to the patients, cost-effective and available, and highly sensitive and specific. (For screening test it is suggested that you should take advice from the experts.).

Health Promotion Efforts:

A major focus of Health Promotion efforts for the elderly is to minimise the loss of independence associated with illness and functional decline. Multiple chronic illnesses are common in the elderly and cure is often an unrealistic and inappropriate goal. These chronic illnesses can lead to disability and dependency. Maintaining independence in activities of daily living ( ADLs) is an important goal for health-promoting activities.

The family caregivers need to focus on the following areas to promote health and prevent disability in the elderly members of the family.

      1. Physical activity,
      2. Nutrition,
      3. Quit smoking( tobacco use),
      4. Safety (prevention from Falls, and home safety and monitoring balance),
      5. Immunization (Annual flu vaccine, Pneumococcal vaccine)
      6. Depression
      7. Dementia


What can a caregiver do to encourage the elderly family member who is suffering from chronic diseases to adopt health-promoting behaviours and manage their chronic illness?

Five key elements of self-management programmes are:

    1. Problem-solving
    2. Decision making
    3. Resource utilization
    4. Forming a healthcare professional/ client partnership
    5. Taking action.

In the problem-solving phase, the elderly person may identify several barriers to initiating an exercise programme and then list strategies for overcoming each barrier, to arrive at a workable strategy. Decision-making helps the elderly with the information needed to make the decisions they need to be on daily basis.

Note: Indian Gerontological Association, provides a Chronic Disease Self- management programme (CDS MP). The course goal is to teach elderly patients to improve symptoms management, maintain functional ability, and adhere to their medication discipline.

The Self –management course is most effective in smoking cessation. Immunization, physical activity, weight control, arthritis, and diabetes.

(To be continued—-)

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