These are the must-have medical check-ups:
As busy young people, chasing our financial goals and career aspirations, it’s easy to get so wound up that we neglect an important aspect of our lives – our health. When working so hard to achieve our dreams and provide the best for our families, we owe it to ourselves and them to make sure that we look after our physical health and get the necessary check-ups to manage a healthy lifestyle. To help you out, we put together a list of all the must-have health check-ups you should have.
Blood pressure check
Health experts advise that adults should check their blood pressure at least once a year, to assess the blood in their circulatory systems. This test is done with a simple, non-invasive pressure cuff. Your doctor, a clinic and most pharmacies can perform this check for you.
A high level of cholesterol in the blood increases your risk of heart disease. A simple finger prick will show your overall cholesterol levels, and if these are high, a fasting lipid blood panel will indicate your levels of total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol), HDL (good Cholesterol) and triglycerides (blood fat). This test should be carried out every five years when you are over 20, and every year for men over 45 and women over 55. Your doctor, a clinic and most pharmacies can perform this check for you. Monitoring and maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol are important in staying healthy.
Diabetes, a disease in which your body fails to produce or efficiently use insulin, is diagnosed by assessing your glucose or blood sugar levels with a blood test or finger-prick test. After the age of 45, you should have your blood sugar screened every three years. However, if you have any of the risk factors, you should start screening at 35, and obviously if you have any symptoms, get checked straight away. While most cases of type 1 diabetes are diagnosed in those under the age of 18, the signs and symptoms often develop rapidly and the diagnosis is often made in an emergency room setting. Thus, screening for type 1 diabetes is not necessary. On the other hand, some youth with type 2 diabetes will have no signs or symptoms, especially early in the disease, and screening can be a useful tool. Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90-95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes among adults. Unhealthy weight and physical inactivity are both contributing factors.
Often regarded as less important, you must assess your teeth at least once a year to ensure that there are no cavities or gum infections. This checkup may include a panel of X-rays and can be done by your local dentist (who are normally very friendly).
Another often-neglected procedure is a simple vision exam to test for near-sightedness, far-sightedness and astigmatism as well as any other vision-related eye problems. You should have your eyes tested every two years – but if you have no vision or eye problems, discuss the recommended frequency of checkups with your optometrist.
Colorectal cancer screening
Colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer, but if caught early, it is treatable, which is why screening is essential. Screening can include a colonoscopy, during which you are sedated, a barium enema or a stool sample. Your doctor will send you to a radiographer for the procedure. Consult your doctor about screening if you have blood in your stool, no matter your age.
Skin cancer screening
A visual examination of any irregular marks on your skin to assess whether they could be cancerous. Some screening centres use a computerised scanning device to track any changes. Any suspicious moles will either be removed or biopsied for analysis. You should perform a skin self-examination once a month, and visit a GP or dermatologist if you discover a mole that changes shape, colour or outline, or bleeds.
This is an x-ray of your breasts, in which each breast is flattened between two plates, to check for developing breast cancer. This procedure can be done at a specialised mammography clinic or at the radiology departments in hospitals. Remember to check your own breasts monthly for changes to the skin, the position of the nipple or the shape or size of the breast.
A procedure in which a special stick or brush is used to collect a few cells from your cervix and send them to a laboratory where they will be examined under a microscope, to determine whether there are any abnormal or potentially cancerous cells. Your doctor, gynaecologist, local family planning clinic or women’s health clinic. This test should be done once a year, starting when you are sexually active. If you’ve had three consecutive clear pap smears, you can discuss having the test once every two or three years with your doctor. If you have a family history of cervical cancer or have a pap smear that shows signs of abnormal cervical cells, this puts you in a ‘high-risk category.’
Bone mineral density (BMD)
A special scan to find out your bone density to determines how strong or fragile your bones are. Thin bones mean an increased risk of osteoporosis. Your doctor will refer you to a radiology department. Talk to your GP about having a BMD test, and they will let you know when and how often you should go based on your risk factors.
A doctor will check for prostate cancer with a digital rectal (finger) exam, and possibly a prostate specific antigen blood test, which is either a blood or a finger prick test. You will need to schedule prostate exams or tests based on these risk factors: • Average risk men (i.e. those with none of the risk factors mentioned below): starting at 50 • Moderate risk men (African men or those with one close relative who has had prostate cancer: starting at 45 • High risk men (men with more than one close relative who has had prostate cancer) starting at 40. • Tests should then be carried out every two years or more frequently as advised by your doctor. Your family doctor can do both the digital exam and the blood test. You can visit a urologist if you have specific concerns. And CANSA screening centres around the country also offer these tests.
Men should carry out self-examinations for this type of cancer and doctors should carry out a testicular exam when men have a routine physical. Men should examine their own testicles for changes, lumps or increases in size monthly. Men with a family risk of testicular cancer should speak to their doctors about additional screening. It is a self-examination, but certain doctors perform the examination as a part of a routine health check-up for men.
Make it your mission to set time aside to get these checks done – it’s always better to be safe. Do not allow the business of life to steer you away from focusing on your own wellbeing.
These are the must-have medical check-ups that you simply must get done.
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