Make getting serious about your health your number one resolution for the year
Many of us don’t pay close enough attention to our health. With the whirlwind of daily life to contend with, going for a check-up or getting that niggling health concern seen to often slides to the bottom of the to-do list. However, sticking our heads in the sand and hoping for the best is only likely to result in even more stress down the line. Create a health calendar for you and your partner and make the potentially lifesaving resolution to visit your doctor for these essential check-ups:
1. Full routine physical
We often heave a sigh of relief at the start of a new year, when our medical aid funds are once again replenished. Take advantage of this time and book a full routine physical exam. This usually entails the doctor checking vital signs such as your heart rate and blood pressure, checking for any visible signs of illness, going over and updating your health history, a physical exam of your body and, sometimes, sending samples of blood and/or urine to the lab to be
tested for any disorders or diseases.
2. Blood pressure and cholesterol
High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of stroke and, along with high cholesterol, can contribute to heart disease and other serious conditions. Visit your doctor at least every two years for bloodwork and a blood pressure test to keep track of your health. Regular exercise and a healthy, nutritious diet can help manage blood pressure and
cholesterol, and lessen your chances of developing a more serious illness.
3. Skin cancer and melanoma screening
It’s important to self-examine your skin regularly, keep an eye on any moles or irregularities and take note of changes. If you’re at increased risk of melanoma (ie, if you have a history of it, had a significant amount of sunburns in your youth or have five or more unusual-looking moles), visit your doctor or dermatologist every six to 12 months. Wear sunscreen every day, even during colder months, and protective clothing to minimise your risk of skin cancer.
4. Breast exam and mammogram
Your doctor or gynaecologist may examine your breasts during a full physical or routine visit, but it’s important to schedule regular mammograms for a more thorough exam of your breasts. Book a mammogram if you’ve noticed any
unusual changes in your breasts or feel any lumps or bumps during self-examination. CANSA recommends that women aged 40-54 have a yearly mammogram and that those aged 55 and above schedule one every second year, unless they have other risk factors.
5. Cervical cancer screening
Gynaecologists and doctors are beginning to move away from the basic PAP smear test towards the human papillomavirus (HPV) test. This is performed on a sample of cervical cells taken from the surface of the cervix and tests for the highrisk types of HPV while the cells are still pre-cancerous. This means cervical cancer can be detected
at an early, curable stage, before dangerous symptoms develop. While PAP smears are generally recommended every one to two years, an all-clear on your HPV test usually means you can wait about five years before your next one. However, don’t put off testing if you’ve noticed any irregularities, such as unusual discharge, pain or bleeding.
6. Prostate exam
About one in seven men will develop prostate cancer, so this test is absolutely non-negotiable for them. Encourage your partner to visit his doctor annually for a rectal prostate and blood level test. Men with a family history of prostate cancer should be going for check-ups from the age of 40. Otherwise, men aged 50-70 should be checked on a yearly basis.
The risk of colon cancer increases for people over 50, so anyone in that age bracket should schedule this exam. The good news is, you won’t need another one for three to 10 years, depending on the results of your initial colonoscopy.
It might sound unpleasant, but it’s the most effective way of screening for colon cancer and could ultimately be a lifesaver.
FEATURE: CAITLIN GENG PHOTOS: STOCK.ADOBE.COM
This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis and treatment. Always consult your GP or a medical specialist for specific information regarding your health.