What you need to know:
- How often? As per doctor’s recommendations, regular health check-ups should be taken annually or twice a year. How often you should get health tests done also depends on plenty of factors.
- A person will need to visit a doctor more frequently if their family has a history of chronic diseases. In such cases, you may be at a higher risk of catching diseases. So if you take health tests on doctor’s recommendations, it will help diagnose the diseases in early stages. In general, you can also talk with your primary care doctor to know how often you need to have health tests at home.
Even when you eat right (more vegetables and less red meat or fat), exercise routinely, sleep well, and follow all the healthy habits we are advised to adopt, aging changes your body and its systems. With age comes several complications such as diabetes and hypertension owing to organs slowing down, among other reasons. As such, you need to be alert to ensure nothing catches you off guard. One way to do this is practising preventive health.
Dr Franklin Wasswa, a general practitioner, says some check-ups should be done on a yearly basis. “However, practising preventative health allows you to make all the necessary adjustments needed to live a better life,” he advises.
While this may sound strange, Dr Wasswa says taking measurements of your height, say after every six months, is important. He adds that notable height loss may indicate the presence as well as acceleration of osteoporosis, a health condition where one’s bones become brittle and fragile owing to loss of tissue.
“The condition is usually caused by hormonal changes, and/or deficiency of calcium or vitamin D and leads to loss in bone height with time, which translates into height loss,” he shares.
Blood pressure test
Dr Robert Ssooka, a general practitioner, says high blood pressure is an indication that one’s heart is working harder that it ought to. The unfortunate bit is that high blood pressure may cause heart attacks.
“Heigh blood pressure can occur in older people as well as those in their 20s. Therefore, blood pressure tests are not for old people only. Going for a test annually will help you ensure that your heart is in tiptop condition,” he says.
Dr Ssooka says taking a blood count test on a yearly basis will help you detect diseases such as thyroid disorder, kidney disease, and heart problems. If caught early, he says, many can be treated or managed.
Excessive weight gain or loss is usually an indication of other health problems. Weight gain, which usually comes with an increased Body Mass Index could mean one experiences higher heart and breathing rates when engaged in strenuous activities such as working out.
“Many may decide to quit exercising. However, it is important to remain on course to achieve your dream of being healthy, which also encompasses losing weight. For those with low weight, the test will cause you to look for targeted help,” Dr Wasswa shares.
Rather than find out about a respiratory illness when it is too late, Dr Wasswa advises one to go for a chest examination. “During this test, high velocity rays are sent through one’s chest to detect ailments such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, and bronchitis, among others” Dr Wasswa says.
Breast cancer test
One way to test for breast cancer is through a mammogram, which is an x-ray examination of the breast. Dr Ssooka says the test is able to detect breast cancer even in its infancy (stage 0).
“The examination is ideal for women aged 40 and above and should be done annually. This should be buffered by a monthly hand breast examination,” he says. That said, because breast cancer can affect both men and women, even males need to carry out manual breast examinations.
Cervical cancer test
Cervical cancer is caused by a sexually-transmitted Human Papilloma virus (HPV). As the infection spreads, it causes abnormal tissue growth and other changes to cells within the patient’s cervix.
The prevalence of cervical cancer in Uganda is at 34 per cent and low screening uptake has resulted in the country having one of the highest cervical cancer incidence rates in the world with 47.5 per 100,000 women every year. Infections including those from HIV/Aids and Hepatitis contribute about 50 per cent of cancer deaths with 300,000 new cases annually, according to the statistics from Kampala Cancer registry.
Dr Wasswa says girls aged between 11 and 12 years, who for one reason or another have not been vaccinated should go for a cervical cancer test once every three years.
Dr Ssooka says prostate cancer is a nightmare and because it usually presents without any symptoms, a number of men only realise they have the cancer when it is too late to treat. This is why an annual prostate examination is important.
“Men above 50 years of age are advised to have an examination of their prostate glands. An enlarged prostate could mean one has cancer, but if it is caught early, then the doctor can offer treatment options,” he says.
Just as with blood pressure, high cholesterol levels can affect one’s life from as early as 20 years. Therefore, Dr Wasswa says, it is imperative that one does this test every five years. “However, for those with health conditions such as hypertension, the frequency of the tests should increase,” he says.
Blood glucose test
Dr Ssooka says a blood glucose test measures the amount of glucose in your blood. Glucose, a type of simple sugar, is your body’s main source of energy. Your body converts the carbohydrates you eat into glucose.
According to healthline.com, the implications of your results will depend on the type of blood glucose test used. For a fasting test, a normal blood glucose level is between 70 and 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). For a random blood glucose test, a normal level is usually under 125 mg/dL. However, the exact level will depend on when you last ate.