Going to the hospital just for a yearly medical check up can be very challenging, especially when you think of the long wait time, the judging looks and money that will be spent.
High medical bills and paying out of pocket causes most people only go to the doctor when they are sick or are experiencing a new problem or concern, and are looking for a specific diagnosis or treatment.
In Africa, people feel “When you go around poking, you will definitely find something wrong. So it is better not knowing”. However, we need to make sure that we are healthy so we are not taken by surprise when there is a medical emergency.
A medical checkup is a physical examination which is thorough and consists of a variety of unique tests. The collection of tests performed during a medical checkup depend on factors such as your age, sex and perceived health.
Why is getting a medical check up important?
- Check for current or emerging medical problems
- Assess your risk of future medical issues
- Prompt you to maintain a healthy lifestyle
- To update vaccinations for both children and adults
Medical check ups you can do at home
You can do a basic health check at home to review your health in relation to:
- Alcohol: people who have at least two alcohol-free days per week and stick to no more than two standard drinks per drinking day have better long-term health.
- Dental care: cleaning your teeth regularly and eating a low-sugar diet can reduce your risk of tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss. Visit a dentist or other oral health professional at least once a year for a dental examination and professional cleaning, or more frequently as advised by your dentist.
- Diet: a healthy diet improves your general health and well-being. Have at least two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables each day.
- Physical activity: regular physical activity is good for your mental health, heart and bones, and can prevent many diseases. Aim for 30 minutes to an hour of moderate physical activity a day.
- Skin checks: check your skin regularly for unusual moles or freckles, and see your doctor if you notice anything unusual. People who work outdoors need a yearly examination by their doctor or a dermatologist.
- Smoking: smoking increases your risk of many diseases, including heart disease, stroke, lung disease and thin bones. Quitting as soon as possible helps reduce the harm.
- Weight: maintaining a healthy weight range helps prevent longer-term diseases, such as diabetes and arthritis etc.
Regular medical check up for adults
These are some common tests, but your doctor may recommend others according to your situation.
Medical check up for your heart
- Blood pressure: have your blood pressure checked every two years if it is normal, you are aged under 40 years, and there is no family history of high blood pressure. Have it checked yearly if you are over 40, your blood pressure is on the high side, or you have a personal or family history of high blood pressure, stroke or heart attack. Be advised by your doctor.
- Blood tests: check cholesterol levels and blood triglycerides, among other things. High levels may indicate an increased risk of various health problems, including heart disease.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG): this is a non-invasive and painless medical test that detects cardiac (heart) abnormalities by measuring the electrical activity generated by the heart as it contracts.
- Obesity tests: being overweight is a significant risk factor for many health conditions, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Ask your doctor to check your body mass index (BMI) and waist measurement every two years. If you are at a higher risk, you should have your weight checked more frequently.
Medical check up for diabetes
Tests for diabetes include a fasting blood sugar level test, which measures the amount of glucose in the blood after fasting (not eating for an amount of time). It is usually done before you have breakfast.
Medical check up for bowel cancer
The faecal occult blood test (FOBT) uses chemicals to check a bowel motion sample for blood, which may be a sign of bowel cancer. If you are over 50, you should have this test once every two years, or after you turn 40 if you have a family history. People at high risk of bowel cancer may need a colonoscopy every five years. During this test, the doctor inserts a slender instrument called a colonoscope through the anus to visually check the rectum and large bowel for any abnormalities.
Medical check up for eye conditions
Eyesight tends to deteriorate with age. Eye conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration are more common with age.
People older than 65 years should have an annual examination. However, more frequent testing may be recommended for those with certain risk factors, such like family history of eye diseases, a personal history of eye disease or injury, if you have a medical condition such as high blood pressure or diabetes and taking certain medications.
If you already wear prescription glasses or contact lenses, you should have your eyes tested every year. Adults who do not wear prescription glasses or contact lenses should have an eye test every two years.
Medical check up for your bones
Advancing age is a significant risk factor for osteoporosis and arthritis in both men and women. A bone density test helps to determine the health of your bones. Generally speaking, people over the age of 50 should be assessed for the need to have a bone density test.
Medical check up for women
In order to stay in good health and identify possible health issues at an early stage, it is important for women to have regular health checks. There are a number of specific tests that you should make part of your regular routine.
- Breast cancer screening: It is recommended that you check your breast regularly for lumps (both men and women) when you notice any irregularities please visit your doctor.
- Cervical Screening Test: The Pap test has been replaced with a new Cervical Screening Test (CST) every five years. The CST is safe, more accurate and detects Human Papilloma virus(HPV) infection, the main cause of cervical cancer. Your first CST is due at 25 years of age or two years after your last Pap test. If your result is normal you will be due in five years to have your next test. Even if you have been vaccinated against HPV, you should continue to have regular screening as the vaccine doesn’t protect against all types of HPV infection known to cause cervical cancer. Have any questions? We recommend speaking to your healthcare provider.
- STI screening: there are several sexually transmitted diseases some of which show no signs and symptoms for example: chlamydia, HIV, etc.
- Pregnancy: You should have a general check-up before becoming pregnant to discuss any health risks during pregnancy. Once you are pregnant, regular antenatal checks help monitor your baby’s development, pick up abnormalities and assess your health.Tests related to pregnancy may include ultrasound scans, urine tests, blood tests and genetic testing. Some antenatal tests are recommended for all pregnant women, while others are only necessary for women at increased risk of complications. Be advised by your doctor.
Medical check up for men
It’s a good idea to make regular health checks part of your regular routine. This will help you stay healthy and pick up potential problems early.
- Prostate: PSA screening help you detect prostate cancer early and BPH. Cancer is easier to treat and is more likely to be cured if it’s diagnosed in the early stages.
- Depression: Don’t ignore your mental health. An estimated six million men suffer from depression each year, and many of these men are under-diagnosed and under-treated. Read about mental health
- Blood pressure: is a silent killer and having a high blood pressure can make you prone to stroke, Heart attack, Aneurysm, Heart failure etc.
- Sexually transmitted disease: because most times they show no symptoms.
Medical check up for older people
As you get older, keeping an eye on your health becomes more important. Speak to your doctor about:
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening: former and current smokers (particularly older men) can consider having an ultrasound to screen for abdominal aortic aneurysms, a blood-filled bulge in a major blood vessel in your abdomen called the aorta
- Blood pressure screening: every year. If you have diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, or certain other conditions, you may need to be checked more often
- Bowel cancer screening: a simple test for signs of bowel cancer is recommended once every two years if you are over 50
- Cholesterol screening and heart disease prevention: every five years if levels are normal. If you have high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems or certain other conditions, you may need to be checked more often
- Diabetes screening: every three years. If you are overweight and have other risk factors for diabetes, ask your doctor if you should be screened more often
- Lung cancer screening : for current smokers and those who have quit within the past 15 years
- Bone density screening: if you have risk factors for arthritis and osteoporosis, you should check with your doctor about screening. Risk factors can include long-term steroid use, low body weight, smoking, heavy alcohol use or a family history of osteoporosis
- Physical exam: every year or as recommended by your doctor. Your doctor will check and record your weight, height and body mass index (BMI).
You should also speak with your doctor about immunization, in particular:
- A pneumococcal vaccine if you have never had one, or if it has been more than five years since you had the vaccine
- Human papilloma virus vaccine
- An annual flu shot
- A tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis booster every 10 years
- A shingles or herpes zoster vaccine.
Medical check ups with other health professionals may include:
- a dental exam: every year or so, or more often if recommended by your dentist.
- an eye test: every one to two years if you have vision problems or glaucoma risk
- a hearing test: if you have symptoms of hearing loss.
- your drugs: it is important to visit your doctor and pharmacist so that your routine medication can be evaluated.
Regular medical checks can help to identify early warning signs of disease or illness. Heart disease, diabetes and some cancers can often be picked up in their early stages, when treatment may be more successful.
Love and Light