According to U.S. Preventative Medicine, chronic illnesses – namely heart disease, cancer, stroke, pulmonary disease and diabetes — account for about 70 percent of all U.S. deaths and 80 percent of all health care costs for consumers, employers and government payers.

Considering the severity of the issue, today, more than ever, Americans are embracing preventative measures. And Space Coast hospitals, specialty organizations and private practices are no exception, offering education, screenings and technology to help residents maintain their health.

Parrish Medical Center (PMC), for instance, is currently gearing up for its 2013 HealthBridge Education Series, a program designed to bring a wide variety of health information and education to local residents on a monthly basis. Health screenings will be offered at each event, and individuals who complete all of the screenings will earn a one-month membership to Parrish Health & Fitness Center.

The series kicked off in January with “Healthy Body Month: Everyday Activity for Every Body,” and will be followed by “Healthy Heart Month: Love Your Heart” presented by leading local cardiologists in February. Subsequent topics to be presented throughout the year include healthy eating, healthy breathing, healthy bones and joints, brain and stroke prevention, diabetes prevention and early detection of various cancers and others.

Health First, meanwhile, operates Brevard County’s only local commercial health plan, Health First Health Plans (HFHP). Members are offered a number of preventative screenings, like blood pressure and cholesterol screenings; exams, including annual physicals and women’s wellness exams; immunizations for conditions like hepatitis and human papillomavirus; and even counseling services.

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commercial health plans and Medicare must cover certain preventative health care measures that can make a positive difference in clinical outcomes. As a result, these services are offered at no cost share to members following established guidelines, as is complimentary fitness center membership at Pro-Health & Fitness Centers.

The Space Coast is also home to several comprehensive cancer care organizations­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ – such as Space Coast Cancer Center (SCCC), Cancer Care Centers of Brevard and MIMA Cancer Center – all of which take part in various cancer screening initiatives and offer state-of-the-art treatments to help patients in the fight against cancer.

No doubt, though, early detection through cancer screenings is key to winning the battle – especially breast cancer.

Statistically, one in eight women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. While certain risk factors play a role in a woman’s likelihood to develop the disease, the American Cancer Society recommends that all women perform monthly breast self-examinations starting at age 20.

Emran Imami, M.D., medical director at TEPAS Breast Center in Melbourne

“Women at high risk for breast cancer may need to start mammography at age 30 or even younger,” says Emran Imami, M.D., medical director at TEPAS Breast Center in Melbourne. “Some women with strong family histories should seek genetic counseling and testing for the BRCA breast cancer gene.”

Dr. Imami and his team remain focused on coordinating comprehensive care for women with breast cancer and other ailments, and TEPAS Breast Center is known for providing leading-edge screening technologies.

Specifically, the organization offers digital mammography, which is “considered state-of-the-art for evaluating clear and detailed images of the breast,” according to Dr. Imami, as well as breast ultrasound, which often assists in interpreting digital mammography images. The center also offers Mammotome® breast biopsy, which Dr. Imami says is “a gentler breast biopsy using ultrasound to accurately pinpoint suspicious areas. For problematic tissues, TEPAS offers positron emission mammography (PEM), which provides isolated images of the breast, sharply pinpointing abnormal or cancerous tissues.

While screening and examining for chronic illnesses are, of course, extremely important with regard to preventative health care, Rebecca Hunton, M.D., founder of Wellspring Medical Center in Melbourne, takes the idea even further with a whole-body preventative, proactive and functional approach to health care.

Rebecca Hunton, M.D., founder of Radiantly Healthy, MD (RHMD) in Melbourne

“Preventative medicine is important for so many reasons,” says Dr. Hunton. “For one, it’s important for our county’s financial health. For employers, a healthy workforce is more productive and less costly. On the individual/family level, living a radiantly healthy life has benefits in all areas – mind, body and financial.”

Dr. Hunton and her team specializes in restorative, functional and anti-aging medicine, as well as metabolic endocrinology, which she describes as assisting patients in preventing and reversing chronic disease and achieving optimal health. Patients of Wellspring undergo comprehensive testing and a thorough health history before the team develops a plan of care that encompasses both lifestyle and medical therapeutic interventions.

“Preventing chronic diseases is a revolutionary thought and the typical medical model is not proactive,” says Dr. Hunton, the Space Coast’s only advanced fellow with the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine “Our clients choose our practice because they do not want to be the victim of a chronic disease that may run in their family. … Perhaps they have been diagnosed as diabetic of hypertensive and they don’t want to take medications to treat, they would rather reverse the diagnosis.”

That said, Dr. Hunton’s practice focuses on education of patients and alteration of lifestyle choices that can have a big impact on a patient’s life. “You can feel healthy and vibrant again!” she says. “Almost anyone can live to be 50. It is the choices you make in your 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s that determine how you will live in your 70s and beyond.”