Top causes of death highlight importance of primary care

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States include (in order): heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases (including asthma), accidents (unintentional injuries), stroke (cerebrovascular diseases), Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, flu/pneumonia, kidney disorders (nephritis/nephrotic syndrome/nephrosis), and intentional self-harm (suicide).

“Many of the top causes of death have preventable risk factors that can be detected and managed by working with a primary care physician. Other diseases, which may not be preventable, can still be better managed if discovered early. A primary care physician can detect many diseases in their preliminary stages and work with you to enhance and prolong a better quality of life,” said Dr. Jerrold Gertzman, a board certified primary care physician and medical director of Capital Health Medical Group’s Primary Care Division.

For example, smoking is a preventable risk factor for heart disease, cancer, and stroke (three of the top five causes of death). “When you are ready to quit, a primary care doctor can provide you with resources and treatments to help you succeed in the long term as well as measure, track and support your recovery,” Dr. Gertzman said.

When someone has preventable risk factors (such as smoking or obesity) combined with risk factors that can’t be controlled (such as family history, age or ethnicity), it becomes even more important to have a primary care physician. Various risk factor combinations can put you at greater risk for what is known as a comorbidity, or having two or more chronic diseases at the same time. As an example, diabetes and heart disease are commonly found, together, in those who have chronic kidney disease.

“Self-managing your chronic medical problems is not recommended. It is important to detect and manage medical problems as early as possible in order to maximize your potential for a long, healthy and active life. A primary care physician can treat and manage your chronic medical conditions, but the best way to do that is to prevent illness, in the first place, by seeing your primary care physician on a regular basis. It is easier to keep you healthy than to get you healthy once you become sick,” Dr. Gertzman said.

Whether it is scheduling a wellness check-up or if you are not feeling well, advanced medicine starts with your primary care physician. Our primary care offices throughout the greater Mercer, Bucks and Burlington counties region are part of the larger Capital Health Medical Group, a network of more than 220 health care providers. Our primary care and specialty care physicians and surgeons, and other practitioners are dedicated to providing high quality health care that is carefully coordinated between your various providers.

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