Why You Should Go For A Medical Check-up

By Dr. Okechukwu Amako, MBBS (Ibadan)
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Almost everyone has heard a story of someone who collapsed and died while running, or of a young man in his 30s who died within minutes after complaining of a severe chest pain. Diseases of the heart and blood vessels (known as cardiovascular diseases by doctors) are the number one cause of death in people all over the world.

Every human being has some level of risk of developing a type of heart disease or a disease of the blood vessels. This is either due to having a genetic predisposition (for instance, things like hypertension and diabetes run in the family or the family has genes for defective heart muscles or blood vessels) to any of these diseases or exposure to things in the environment that are risk factors for the diseases such as cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, being overweight or obese and unhealthy eating habits.

Some of these diseases of the heart and blood vessels may not have any initial manifestations before causing death in some people. An example is a type of heart disease known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy which can cause sudden death (although this is not common) in some people with the condition who are under the age of 30.

Hence, it is always advisable that everyone makes out time, at least once a year, to go for a complete medical check-up in a good hospital. Doing this will help to detect any abnormality (if there is any) very early so that life-saving treatment can be started immediately to prevent any complications or death.

It may not be easy (in terms of finance for some people), but as one becomes older, especially after 40 years of age, the need for a medical check-up, at least once a year, becomes very important. What does a typical medical check-up entail?

1. A complete medical history from you

Before a doctor proceeds to carry out any tests, he or she will take a detailed history from you. For a medical check-up, history will involve information on your age, occupation, where you live and marital status.

You will also be required to provide detailed information on your past illnesses, hospital visits and other treatments received (such as herbal concoctions). Information on family history of diseases such as diabetes and hypertension will be required as well as any deaths (and the possible causes) on the paternal or maternal sides.

The doctor will also want to know about your lifestyle activities: what your regular everyday food is like; whether you smoke and drink alcohol; your exercise life; any use of recreational drugs like cocaine, marijuana, and other "weeds".

2. The doctor may carry out a physical examination, focusing on the system (for instance, your chest or heart) of your body that probably has issues according to your history.

3. Medical tests are divided into the general tests for everyone and the ones indicated based on your age, sex and a risk factor for certain diseases as obtained from your history.

The general medical tests include your blood pressure, blood sugar level, height and weight, blood lipid (such as cholesterol) levels. Others include a complete dental examination by a dentist for a possible scaling and polishing of your teeth.

Depending on your age, sex and risk factor for some conditions like heart disease or stroke, the doctor will recommend tests like mammography (for breast cancer screening in women), pap smear (for cervical cancer screening in women aged between 21 and 65 years), ECG (electrocardiography) if there is an increased risk of heart disease, prostate cancer screening (for men between the ages of 40 and 70, especially men whose families have a history of prostate cancer).

The last component of a medical check-up is counselling and treatment. The counselling involves the doctor re-emphasizing the importance of eating a healthy diet regularly, stopping cigarette smoking (for those who smoke), significantly cutting down the amount of alcohol consumed, engaging in physical exercises (a doctor and physiotherapist will design the appropriate fitness programs for those with a risk of heart disease).

If any abnormality such as high blood cholesterol level is detected, the doctor will initiate treatment with certain drugs to reduce cholesterol level or refer the person to the right specialist for a more comprehensive treatment.

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For more advice and help, feel free to consult a doctor.
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Published Monday, May 15th 2017

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