Our bodies are a bit like cars which need regular Smog tests if you're in the US or MOTs if you're in the UK and there are some health check-ups to help keep you in tip top condition. We often think that health checks should be reserved for the elderly and solely sought on an as-you-need-it basis. Actually, prevention is better than a cure and I'm not saying you should be paranoid and knock on your doc's door at every twinge but when it's too late, it's too late. Here are some health check-ups you should consider having.
1. Blood Pressure
I thought that blood pressure checks were something that only the over-50s needed. Actually, everyone over 21 should get their blood pressure checked once a year and is one of the many important health check-ups you need. High blood pressure is very dangerous and there are often no symptoms, which means that it could be damaging your organs, arteries and your heart without you even knowing. Kidney damage and stroke are some of the consequences of high blood pressure and your risk increases with age and certain factors such as smoking, obesity, high cholesterol or diabetes can also increase your risk. It's a quick and pain free test which can also be done at home if you have the right equipment.
2. Pap Test or Cervical Smear
If you're a Brit, you'll know the heart breaking story of Jade Goody who died a few years back of cervical cancer. Like many, she kept putting off the test until it was too late. Her death raised awareness of the disease in the UK and prompted a surge in visits to the nurse for the less than dignified but sometimes life-saving test. Women who are between 21 and 65 who have had sex or are in a sexually active relationship should have a cervical smear test. It's quick and pain free and detects any abnormal cells which could potentially turn into cancer.
Hands up if you're afraid of the dentist. Me Too. I think anyone who isn't is in the minority, as just the thought of it makes me feel a little unwell. That aside, it's a necessary check up and should be done every 6 months to a year. Hormones and lifestyle changes can mean that our mouths sometimes suffer the consequences. Regular check ups will put your mind at rest. Putting it off will only make it worse so speak to your dentist about your anxiety and they will do everything in their power to make you feel comfortable and at ease while you're there.
4. Eye Test
Eyes may be the window to the soul but they are also a great barometer of overall health, not just your optical health. Everyone should go and get their eyes tested once a year. Some people are more at risk than others but anyone can develop eye problems at any age. For example, people with diabetes are more at risk of developing a condition known at diabetic retinopathy, which means means the retina can become damaged. People from African-Caribbean communities are at greater risk of developing glaucoma. If you have a history of glaucoma in the family then getting your eyes tested on a regular basis is essential.
An osteoporosis check involves measuring your bone density and checking your susceptibility to fractures and breaking. Ladies, this should be checked at least once in your life time and if you're in the early stages of menopause you should go for a bone density test. Both our genes and lifestyle have a part to play in determining our bone density and our bones reach their peak bone mass at the age of 30. There are various texts which can help determine fracture risks such as a DEXA scan, X rays and blood tests. Speak to your doctor about these tests and which is best for you.
6. Blood Cholesterol
Again, I once assumed that blood cholesterol tests were for the elderly and infirm. In fact, if you're over 18, this test should be done every 5 years. Cholesterol blood tests will help assess your risk of developing heart disease or stroke. Statin medicines are administered to those who are found with a high cholesterol level and these can help lower it. You can of course reduce the likelihood of being told that your cholesterol is high by eating healthily, exercising regularly, lowering your salt intake, reducing your drinking and not smoking.
7. Breast Exam
It's essential to be breast aware and no one knows your breasts better than you do. Everyone over 21 should ensure they're checking their breasts regularly for unusual lumps and bumps. Know what's normal for you and if you suspect something is amiss, see a doctor. It's probably nothing serious but it can put your mind at rest. Women over 40 and especially those with an increased risk due to there being a history of breast cancer in the family, should also have a check-up by a doctor every year.
These are some essential health check-ups to help keep you running smoothly. Have I missed any other essential tests? Has anyone had any interesting experiences relating to one of these tests?