10 Must-have Health Checks

Nov 2, 2012

Most of us take advantage of our health thinking it's healthy enough to be on our priority list but we forget that when we overuse our bodies, it could cause us sickness.We ignore the pains and would just take medicines. We often think that pains we experience are fatigues and curable with just a paracetamol. Please change that mindset! You might be experiencing something worst than just muscle pains or other body discomfort.

Not just because you're not feeling anything wrong, doesn't mean you're perfectly healthy so you should also have a yearly healthy check-up. The following are the 10 must-have checks:

1. Body Mass Index

This simple but important test is one you can do at home. Measure your height in meters, square it and divide it by your weight in kilograms. If the answer is within the healthy weight range of 18.5 to 24.9 then keep doing what you're doing to maintain your healthy weight.

Anything between 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, anything between 30 to 34.9 is considered obese and 35 and above is considered morbidly obese. If your weight is above the healthy weight range, it's time to decrease your kilojoule intake by rethinking your diet and increasing your daily exercise.

2. Blood Pressure.

There is no firm numerical consensus on what defines high blood pressure. But experts agree the lower your blood pressure, the better, because as your blood pressure increases, so too can your risk of stroke, heart and vascular disease.

High blood pressure can be deceiving as it generally has no symptoms. The best way to keep track of your blood pressure is to get it checked regularly by your doctor. Family history of high bloog pressure increases your chances of developing the disease.

3. Cholesterol

There are two types of cholesterol in the body. Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) carries most of the cholesterol to your body cells. This is often referred to as 'bad' cholesterol, because when there are excess amounts of it in your blood, it clogs your arteries.

High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) or 'good' cholesterol, helps remove excess cholesterol from your cells, including arteries.

Eating a diet high in saturated fats can increase your 'bad' cholesterol level, which leads to narrowing of your arteries and may put you at risk of heart disease and stroke.

Health authorities recommend that HDL cholesterol levels be no higher than 5.5 mmols. See your doctor to get your cholesterol levels tested regularly.

4. Thyroid

Your thyroid gland is situated at the front of your throat, below your Adam's apple, and secretes hormones directly to your bloodstream. It controls many metabolic processes, including growth and energy expenditure.

If the thyroid gland is overactive or sluggish, your metabolism will be affected, leading to a variety of disorders. Women are more susceptible to thyroid dysfunction than men. Thyroid dysfunction is best diagnosed by a blood test conducted by your doctor.

5. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for bone, heart, brain and skin health, and also preventing depression and some forms of cancer.

The best source of vitamin D is the sun. When the sun hits bare skin, vitamin D is synthesised (absorbed into the skin). Our bodies need 4000IU of vitamin D per day. However, be aware that approximately, 20-30 minutes of strong sun exposure on bare, sunscreen-free skin produces 20,000IU - so don't go overboard!

Vitamin D can also be found in dietary sources such as oily fish - like salmon and sardines, egg yolks, cod liver oil and fortified breakfast cereals and milk.

If your doctor tests your vitamin D levels and finds them to be low, supplements may be prescribed.

6. Pap smear

All women aged over 18 or those who are sexually active should have a Pap smear every two years to check for early signs of cervical cancer. A Pap smear will identify cell changes in the cervix before they become cancerous.

Even if you have had the cervical cancer vaccine, you should continue to have regular Pap smears as the vaccine only protects against 80 per cent of human papilloma viruses (HPV), which cause the disease. Carried out by your GP a Pap smear can be uncomfortable and a little intrusive but it is not painful.

7. Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, caused by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. It is a disease that can result in some very serious complications such as blindness and amputation of limbs.

Maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise and healthy food choices, as well as managing blood pressure and cholesterol levels and not smoking, can help prevent type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms are often hard to detect and include: excessive thirst, frequent urination, constant hunger, cuts that heal slowly, blurred vision, headaches, mood swings, dizziness, leg cramps, tiredness and lethargy.

If you are overweight or eat a diet high in refined carbohydrates, sugars and saturated fats, you may be at risk.

Get tested by your doctor regularly as your sugar levels can change over time. If detected early, up to 60 per cent of type 2 diabetes cases can be reversed, delayed or prevented through lifestyle and dietary changes.

8. Iron

We all know that iron is an important mineral for women. It helps with energy production and the transportation of oxygen in the blood.

If you suffer from heavy periods or exercise regularly, repleneshing your iron with dietary sources such as red meat is especially important to avoid anemia.

Some signs of iron deficiency include fatigue, tiredness and decreased immunity. Your doctor can test your levels with a simple blood test. Supplementation may be prescribed by your doctor if your iron levels are low.

9. Dental Check-ups

We only get one set of teeth, so keep your teeth healthy with regular trips to the dentist. Visiting the dentist every six months is the best way to keep your gums and teeth healthy, prevent gum disease and bad breath, and identify, treat and prevent cavities.

Regular visits to your dentist can also help identify health conditions such as peridontal (gum) disease, which has been linked to heart disease and diabetes. So conquer your fear and schedule that twice-yearly trip to the dentist.

10. Breast Screening

Breast cancer awareness is important for all women. Self-screen your breasts regularly for any lumps or changes in the breast. Everyone's breast are different, so it's important to get to know what is normal for you. Things to look out for include:
  • A lump, lumpiness or thickening in the breast or armpit
  • Changes in the skin of the breast such as redness, dimpling or puckering
  • Changes in the nipple such as discharge, inversion or itchy, ulcerated skin
  • An area of the breast that feels different from the rest
  • New and persistent breast pain
If you are unsure about any changes in your breasts or how to check your breasts, see your doctor for a breast screen. Your doctor may refer you to a breast ultrasound if you are under the age of 40. If you are over 40, mammograms every two years are recommended.

Don't panic if you find a lump, as around 90 per cent are benign (non-cancerous). Some women have naturally lumpy breasts and breast lumps are also related to hormone activity and menstruation.

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