Yes, very much so. All of the major causes of death (such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease and injury) can be prevented in part by making healthy lifestyle choices.
Smoking and using tobacco are very dangerous habits. Smoking causes 440,000 deaths in the United States every year. More preventable illnesses (such as emphysema, mouth, throat and lung cancer, and heart disease) are caused by tobacco use than by anything else. The sooner you quit, the better.
This means no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women. One drink is equal to 1 can of beer (12 ounces), a 4-ounce glass of wine or a jigger (1 ounce) of liquor.
Too much alcohol can damage the liver and contribute to some cancers, such as throat and liver cancer. Alcohol also contributes to deaths from car wrecks, murders and suicides.
A healthy diet has many health benefits. Heart disease, certain cancers, stroke, diabetes and damage to your arteries can be linked to what you eat. By making healthier food choices, you can also lower your cholesterol and lose weight.
Many Americans are overweight. Carrying too much weight increases your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, gallbladder disease and arthritis in the weight-bearing joints (such as the spine, hips or knees). A high-fiber, low-fat diet and regular exercise can help you lose weight and keep it off.
Exercise can help prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis and depression. It can also help prevent colon cancer, stroke and back injury. You'll feel better and keep your weight under control if you exercise regularly. Try to exercise for 30 to 60 minutes, 4 to 6 times a week, but remember that any amount of exercise is better than none.
Sun exposure is linked to skin cancer, which is the most common type of cancer in the United States. It's best to limit sun exposure and wear protective clothing and hats when you are outside. Sunscreen is also very important. It protects your skin and will help prevent skin cancer. Make sure you use sunscreen year round on exposed skin (such as your face and hands). Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least an SPF 15 and one that blocks both UVA and UVB light.
The safest sex is between 2 people who are only having sex with each other and who don't have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or share needles to inject drugs.
Use latex condoms and a spermicide (a product that kills sperm) gel or cream. Talk with your doctor about being tested year for STIs.
Adults need a tetanus-diphtheria booster every 10 years. Your doctor may substitute one Td booster with Tdap, which also protects you against pertussis (whooping cough). If you're pregnant and have not had a Tdap shot before, you should be vaccinated during the third trimester of your pregnancy or late in the second trimester. Adults and teens who are in close contact with babies younger than 12 months and who have not received a Tdap shot before should get vaccinated as well.
Adults should also get a flu shot each year. Ask your doctor if you need other shots or vaccines.
Breast cancer is one of the most common causes of death for women. Between the ages of 50 and 74, women should have a mammogram every 2 years to screen for breast cancer. Women who have risk factors for breast cancer, such as a family history of breast cancer, may need to have mammograms more often or start having them sooner.
Unless your doctor suggests that you need one more often, you should have Pap smears:
Certain things put you at higher or lower risk for cervical cancer. Your doctor will consider these when recommending how often you should have a Pap smear.
If you're older than 65 years of age, talk with your doctor about how often you need a Pap smear. If you've been having Pap smears regularly and they've been normal, you may not need to keep having them.
If you've had a hysterectomy with removal of your cervix, talk with your doctor about how often you need a Pap smear.
If you've never had a high-grade precancerous lesion or cervical cancer, ask your doctor how often you need a Pap smear.
Adults should ask their doctor about being checked for colorectal cancer starting at age 50. Depending on your risk factors and family medical history, your doctor may want to check for other types of cancer.
Health screenings are replacing the yearly physical. Instead of every person getting the same exams and tests, only the appropriate ones are given. Talk to your family doctor about your risk factors and what tests and exams are right for you.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff