We all know that it’s necessary for us to see the dentist at least twice a year. Recently though, with the rising awareness of screening tests, a new medical debate has emerged: Is it necessary to get a medical check-up every year? Proponents proclaim the advantages of annual check-ups in early detection and preventive care, while opponents state that the benefits in reducing illness are limited and such physical exams could conversely produce false-positive results given the lack of specificity of some routine tests.
But enough with hearsay. The Wellness Insider gets the inside scoop on the topic in an interview with our Wellness Expert, Dr Charles-Davies:
Q: Is it necessary to get an annual medical check-up? Do they make you healthier?
It is absolutely necessary to get an annual medical check-up for several reasons. Many diseases do not have obvious symptoms, so an annual checkup can help find them early or let you know your status. Also, it is always cheaper to prevent health problems than to treat them. If a disease is identified early, there are far more chances at treating or curing it than if it was diagnosed much later. In addition, the potential damage to the body would be averted.
Q: What are the benefits and risks of an annual physical? Can they cause problems?
I personally advocate a routine health check and try to do so myself. The benefits clearly outweigh the risks. You get to know your health status through a health check and can subsequently make some lifestyle modifications to lower your risk of getting certain diseases. Even if your health check was all good, you get this pleasurable feeling that you are healthy and will be definitely encouraged to stay on with a healthy lifestyle.
Q: So when do adults require a health check-up? Any differences between men and women?
The frequency of health checks differs based on an individual’s health status and the policy of the health facility involved. Generally, you should see your doctor at least once or twice a year for a check-up whether you’re a man or woman. Also, if you are above 40 years old, you should be very compliant with making these appointments.
Q: What about children?
Children are very unique, however, it is still good to go for a health check-up from time to time. For example, it is generally advised that you see your dentist twice a year to be sure everything is alright with your oral health. It is very beneficial for children to also get health checks routinely. Parameters like their nutritional status, development, immunisation records, and oral health can be checked.
Q: What sort of illnesses do we need to screen for? What tests are helpful?
Sometimes it is not about checking for a disease but about knowing your health status. Some helpful screening tests are:
- Blood pressure
- Pulse rate
- Body Mass Index
- Lipid Profile
- Blood glucose
- Kidney Function Test
- Liver Function Test
- Viral screenings (Hepatitis B, HIV)
These tests tell a lot about a person’s health status and help to check for hypertension, diabetes, obesity, kidney diseases, liver diseases, viral infections, and the heart’s electrical status. Some places offer screenings at no cost such as free hiv test centers.
Q: What about preventative care?
Preventive care can be classified into primary, secondary and tertiary prevention based on whether the disease is already present or not. Usually, primary prevention is what we prefer to focus on, that is before the onset of the disease in question. Health checks are a major part of preventive care.
An example is how doctors handle a person’s blood pressure. If we have repeated readings that seem to be marginally high, we start to counsel the person on some lifestyle modifications like lowering their dietary salt, increasing physical activity, and weight loss if overweight. This can help prevent blood pressure from getting worse and even prevent a diagnosis of hypertension.
Q: How much can a full physical set you back in terms of costs?
The real truth is that the cost depends on your location and what tests are done. Usually, if you’re on a good health insurance plan, all your screening tests should be covered. However, in places without universal health insurance where you have to pay from your pocket, the costs can be determined by what tests you do. If you’re bothered about money, tell your doctor and he or she can then choose to request for the most essential and cost-friendly tests.
Q: What sort of questions should you ask your doctor during a checkup?
This is one of the most important things about health check-ups. Many people don’t ask questions, they just want to hear ‘everything is fine’. You should ask your doctor details about all the tests you’ll be doing and what each result actually means, you should also then read a bit about some of the things he says so that it can reinforce your knowledge about health-related matters.
Q: What can a patient do to learn about their health?
Well, with the growth of the internet, there are now many credible online sources for health information. Government and private health information websites have a huge catalog of containing information about almost all diseases. You can start by making a google search. If you have tried this before, you may notice that what you read might scare you, that’s why I recommend that you talk with a health professional about the things you read online before getting yourself worked up over everything you search about.
Q: Any advice for us to maintain better health throughout the year?
Try to start by deciding to have routine health checks, they help a whole lot. Also, make a deliberate decision to adopt a healthy lifestyle by eating healthy, reducing your intake of sugar-sweetened drinks and alcohol, developing an exercise schedule, and sleeping well every day. These will go a long way in helping you stay healthy. Lastly, if you have any health complaints, don’t keep silent, go see your doctor about it as soon as possible.
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