How lifestyle changes can improve your health


We are all at risk for developing health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer in our lifetimes. In many cases, that risk increases with age alone. But other factors are also at play.

Non-modifiable risk factors are things that you cannot change, such as family history, genetic profile, ethnicity and gender. Modifiable risk factors are things that you can change, often just by making healthier choices every day.

Primary care physicians, or PCPs, calculate their patients’ individual risk for being diagnosed with common health conditions based on all these factors. They share these results and encourage their patients to make lifestyle changes to support their long-term health. Here is what this process looks like in practice:

Keep your data up-to-date

At your annual physical, your PCP will want to know about your current lifestyle—what you eat, how often you exercise and what you do to manage stress. If you have made any lifestyle changes since your last appointment, you should share this information.

If you are seeing a new physician, you should let them know about any family history of cancer, diabetes or cardiovascular disease. You should also update your PCP if a family member is diagnosed with a serious medical condition during the course of your care.

Along with these background details, your PCP may also want to collect some clinical data, such as your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and hemoglobin A1c levels. Gathering some of this information will require a blood test.

Commit to a healthy lifestyle

Once your PCP has reviewed this information, they can spot trends, such as increases in weight or cholesterol levels, and also calculate your risk for being diagnosed with specific conditions.

Your PCP can then suggest some next steps to keep you healthier. These might include more frequent blood pressure checks; lifestyle modifications, such as more exercise or a healthier plant-based diet; or the use of a medication to lower your cholesterol.

These next steps are designed to avoid a diagnosis, which is known as primary prevention, or to reverse or reduce the impact of a current diagnosis, which is known as secondary prevention.

New year, new you

A new year is the perfect time to take stock of your health and make lifestyle changes to improve it. Is your blood pressure in a healthy zone? Are you due for a colon cancer screening? Do you need a flu vaccination? UCLA Health can help you take action to support your long-term health.

Call your doctor’s office to schedule an appointment or 1-800-UCLA-MD1 to establish care.


This story ran in the Winter 2019 issue of The Checkup, a UCLA Health community newsletter on how to live your healthiest life.