Your annual checkup
Posted on 15 April 2016
As the world marks Health Awareness Month, we take a closer look at the long-term health benefits of regular preventative treatment options. It’s time you phoned your Mediclinic GP to schedule your annual checkup.
As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure. And when it comes to certain medical conditions, a regular health test can help to find problems before they start, or to detect find problems early, when your chances for treatment – and cure – are better.
Best of all, a checkup with your general practitioner doesn’t have to happen all that often; and it doesn’t have to take too long either. ‘Once a year is okay,’ says Dr Marinda Opt Hof, a GP at Mediclinic Welkom in the Free State. ‘If you there’s something wrong, like a chronic condition, then you should come in more frequently. But if we’re talking about just a regular, routine checkup, then once a year is fine. It should only take 15 to 20 minutes. It’s not too long. We might send blood away for testing, but that’s about it.’
A routine checkup typically includes preventative screenings and physical examinations, to check your current health and risks. You’ll be asked about your general well-being (fatigue, headaches, changes in bowel movement, etc), as well as your family medical history.
The leading health killers in South Africa (and around the world) include heart disease, stroke, hypertension, respiratory infections and diabetes mellitus. Add various cancers to the list, and you start to see the importance of that once-a-year doctor’s visit.
So what gets tested? ‘It depends on your age,’ says Dr Opt Hof, ‘but everybody – male and female, young and old – should check their blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels. For men over 40, there’s the PSA test for prostate cancer, and for women over 40 it’s the mammogram and bone density test.’ Apart from a visit to the GP, you should also pay regular, annual visits to the dentist or the optometrist.
Then, adds Dr Opt Hof, if you have pre-existing conditions you may need further medical testing. ‘If a patient is diabetic, or has high cholesterol, then they should go for an ECG at least once a year as well,’ she says. ‘It’s worth getting X-rays as well, because their heart could get enlarged, and they wouldn’t even know it. Patients with hypertension, high cholesterol or high blood sugar should also get an ECG and a chest X-ray once a year.’