A few months ago, while having a conversation with a group of friends on various health issues, I mentioned how I go for an annual health check-up. Majority of them wondered why I would do so even when I am not feeling unwell. This is not the first time I have been asked such. I have encountered lots and lots of people, if advised to go for a check-up, they get filled up with fear, in disguise that a health problem may emerge from the health check-up.
It is known worldwide that majority of the people go for a health check-up only when they feel any negative change in their health or any visible symptoms. Many people may not realize that risk factors which contribute to diseases are all around us left, right and center. Well, health check-ups are designed not only to detect medical issues, identify any abnormalities, but also to identify risk factors and illnesses before they start to cause problems.
Health check-ups aim to not only help the person to prevent illnesses and its complications but also to make changes in their lifestyle for long-term healthy life. Identification of issues allow for prompt treatment, which can reduce complications that may lead to loss of life, and helps you save on medical costs.
The main factors that contribute to a healthy body include good nutrition, getting regular exercise and proper lifestyle habits (by avoiding risk factors such as smoking, excess consumption of alcohol) among others. It is understandable that not everyone will be able to maintain these positive factors, let alone maintain them consistently throughout their lifetime. Thus, therefore, it is important to have an annual health check-up. Some people maybe advised by their health care workers to have even regular health check ups due to various reasons.
Here is what to expect from an annual health check-up: measuring weight and height thus determining body mass index, vitals signs such as blood pressure, heart and respiratory rates, oxygen saturation, temperature, discussion on your presenting complaint if any, past medical, surgical, family, psychological, emotional and social histories, history of allergy and any medication, vaccination history and head to toe physical examination with eye and dental check-ups inclusive among others.
Additionally, during a health check-up, depending on your age, sex, and risk factors for certain problems, your healthcare worker may suggest some of these laboratory and diagnostic tests; complete blood count aka CBC test, screening for STI’s including HIV, Hepatitis B test, H. pylori and lipid profile tests, urinalysis, stool analysis, renal and liver function tests, random blood sugar, ultrasound scan and X-ray among many others. Cervical and breast cancer screening is recommended for women and prostate cancer screening for men aged 40 years and above.
Conclusively, it’s high time that we as Ugandans start to embrace health check-ups for our own well-being now and in preparation for the future ahead. There is a common statement which states that “Prevention is better than cure”. In short, you don’t need to wait and first fall sick or unwell for you to go for a health check-up.
The author is; Lilian Nuwabaine Luyima; BSc Nurse & MSN-Midwife & Women’s’ Health Specialist working with Aga Khan University