DO I REALLY NEED THAT ANNUAL MEDICAL CHECK-UP?
A profound shift in the balance of the major causes of death and disease has already occurred in developed countries and is underway in developing countries as well. Globally, the burden of non communicable diseases has rapidly increased. Non communicable diseases account for almost 60% of the 56 million deaths annually and 47% of the disease burden worldwide. In view of the predicted future growth in this disease burden, the prevention of non communicable diseases becomes the most important aspect of healthcare.
The World Health Report 2002 indicates in detail, how in most of the countries, a few major risk factors account for most of the morbidity and mortality. For non communicable diseases, the most important risks include high blood pressure, high concentrations of cholesterol in the blood, inadequate intake of fruit and vegetables, overweight or obesity, physical inactivity and substance abuse specially alcohol and tobacco.
Regular, yearly physical exams are very important, and that importance will increase, as we grow older. Combined with an overall healthy lifestyle, an annual visit to a physician is the best way to preserve your health. Lifestyle plays a very important rote in our health. Not practicing healthy behaviors such as eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly and getting regular checkups increases your risk of disease.
Regular checkups are a valuable tool in maintaining good health. Taking proper care of your health at the right time can prevent a lot of problems in the future. It’s good to find out that you have a problem, before it is too late to cure it. So appropriate tests should be done at the right time.
AIM OF A CHECK UP
The main aim of a check-up is to detect illness at an early stage, or better still prevent illness occurring in the first place. Some tests save so many lives that it is definitely worth the money spent on it. In adults up to about 40 years, a check-up every two years is appropriate. Older adults should be seen every year or so.
Basic factors of a routine physical check up
Prior to your physical examination, you should tell your doctor about your diet, exercise, medication you are taking, alcohol and tobacco use, sexual behavior, family history of diseases, such as cancers like breast, bowel, prostate and melanoma; diabetes, asthma, glaucoma, gout, heart attack etc. and any symptoms you may be feeling. This information is vital because it affects your risk factors for various illnesses and, consequently, the tests your doctor may decide to give you.
The doctor will check your height, weight and blood pressure, and listen to your heart beats, lungs and carotid artery for abnormalities such as a heart murmur or lung obstruction. A doctor who is very thorough may also check your mouth, ears, lymph nodes, thyroid and rectum and feel your abdomen for abnormalities, and scan your skin for signs of cancer. The doctor also vaccinates against tetanus.
After the medical history and physical exam, your doctor will talk to you about any risk factors you may have and discuss what habits you should change to maintain good health. The physician will also tell you what lab tests you need and how often you should have them.
Some tests, such as mammography and pap smears, are usually based on guidelines set by respected research organizations. In addition, your doctor may want to run tests for diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis or prostate cancer, and to screen your heart, liver, kidney, blood and urine. The extent of other tests your doctor recommends will be determined by any risk factors you may have based on your medical or family history.
SOME TESTS TO DETECT DISEASES
Both high and low pressure have effect our health badly. High blood pressure can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Having a yearly blood pressure test will provide your health care professional with a baseline level to compare during subsequent visits. Once you are detected of not having the normal blood pressure it is better to check up on a regular basis.
Routine urine test is done to test for sugar, for any blood and protein that might suggest a bladder or kidney problem, for hepatitis, infections etc.
Tests may include blood count, blood glucose, thyroid function, electrolytes (sodium and potassium), cholesterol and others, depending on family history.
Every adult should have the cholesterol levels checked occasionally. A high blood cholesterol level is an important risk factor for coronary artery disease. If it is high more specific tests like HDL and LDL cholesterol levels can be done. With increasing age, the risk decreases and is usually not recommended for very elderly patients.
X-rays can be done to detect lung abnormalities (tuberculosis, emphysema or lung cancer) early enough to initiate a successful treatment plan.
ECG (Electrocardiogram)—Men and women over 50 should have a baseline ECG done and repeat the test every year. The ECG shows an electrical map of the heart rhythm and can indicate any changes or potential problems including heart attack, high potassium and irregular heartbeat.
A Mammogram should be done annually after age 40, along with monthly Brest self examination.. For early detection of pelvic and cervical cancers, a PAP smear and pelvic exam should be conducted every one to three years and yearly for women with a higher risk of disease. A Bone mass density test should be done for women with high risk of osteoporosis.
Tests for men :
Prostate and PSA ( prostate specific antigen) levels should be checked for early detection of prostate cancer. Prostate checks are suggested in men from about fifty years of age onwards every year or so.
Fecal occult blood test:
This test, which should be done annually, checks for blood in the stool as an indicator of possible colorectal cancer.
Colonoscopy and flexible sigmoidoscopy
These tests are done to detect colon cancer. If you have a family history or other risk factors for colon cancer, Colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years. People over 50 should have a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years.
Cardiac Check up
Coronay artery disease is listed as one of the highest killers in the world- almost at par with cancer. The changed life styles and increased stress levels has resulted in this disease manifesting itself at younger persons now. People at around 30 years of age are also effected by this. Annual cardiac evaluation in following case is a must- and necessary in others:
- Persons with family history of CAD
- Persons with high blood pressure
- Persons with sedentary life styles
- Obese / overweight people
The doctor will check up for the following during the visit:
- Blood pressure check
- ECG examination
- Cholesterol / Lipid Profile of blood
- Blood sugar levels- fasting and Post parendil
- Urine examination
- Fecal matter examination- if required
In addition the Cardiologist may also order a Tredmill Stress Test. You should also consult a dietician to clarify about your diet as per the results of the tests.Also, an annual visit to the eye doctor will allow the doctor to check your eye for movement, vision, sharpness and pressure. These exams can also determine whether or not you need corrective lenses and to identify new vision problems.
A carcinological examination is also part of this preventive medical examination. The doctor tests urine, rectum, testicles or breasts (respective of sex of patient) and instructs the patient on the necessity and methods of self-examination.
PREVENTIVE DENTAL EXAMINATION
This preventive examination is carried out by a stomatologist. It again includes anamnesis, examination of teeth, buccal mucosa and other tissues and mandibles, training of oral and teeth hygiene and a presentation of results. If needed, the stomatologist sets a treatment regimen for further dental care.
Preventive dental examinations focus on the exclusion of problems requiring dispensary care or special health care (e. g. oncological). When a dentist diagnoses changes in buccal caxity that could give rise to such conditions or that need to be checked by further physicians, the dentist notifies the patient and passes the information on to a relevant specialist.
Regular dental examinations should be conducted at least twice a year.
PREVENTIVE GYNAECOLOGICAL EXAMINATION
Women should undergo this examination starting at 15 years of age. The goal is to recognize potential harmful changes as soon as possible.
A patient undergoing this preventive examination must deliver her personal and family information. The examination itself is executed with sight, touch and mirrors (and personalized depending on age and health of patient) and the gynecologist then declares results or further steps that need to be taken. If necessary, the gynecologist takes samples for microbilogocial or cytological examination. He also examines breasts, helps with self-examination training and recommends a regular two-year mamographic examination to women between 45 and 69 years of age.
Instruction of proper hygiene routines is also included; special care will be arranged if needed. Also in this type of examination, the process is focused on ruling out problems that require oncological care or other specialized examinations or treatment.
If a gynecologist diagnoses conditions that could indicate a disease, or which need to be checked by other physicians, he will notify the patient.
A medical examination schedule is recommended as under:
- Physicals every one to two years for people ages 30 to 50 and every year thereafter
- Regular cholesterol tests
- Colon exams every year for people over age 40
- Screenings for cervical cancer every one to two years for women over age 30
Concrete conclusions are drawn from each preventive medical examination. If the doctor discovers something, he will arrange for the provision of specialized medical care. It is clear that preventive medical examinations serve for the discovery of the most dangerous conditions that are subjects of health programs related to heart and coronary diseases, tumors, diabetes and conditions that require special care and rare diseases.
All of this testing is designed to catch health problems before they have a chance to manifest as harmful diseases. And according to conventional wisdom, preventive medical care reduces costs and prolongs lives.
You might think that yearly medical check up is just a routine part of staying healthy. Regular screening may be helpful in early detection leading to complete cure / better management of most diseases especially cancer, diabetes, heart disease etc.