Six reasons to see your GP – even when you’re healthy
Posted on 1 January 2020
Yes! It is a good idea to visit a doctor regularly, even when you aren’t sick.
Routine visits to your GP mean they can check for current or emerging medical problems and assess your risk of future medical issues.
To check blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The longer high blood pressure or high cholesterol are left undetected, the more damage they do to your body. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke (brain attack). “Your GP will recommend you have a lipid profile (fasting blood test) to check your cholesterol levels and will take your blood pressure,” says Dr Margaret Badenhorst, a GP at Mediclinic Brits. “If you have elevated blood pressure or high cholesterol, your doctor may recommend dietary and lifestyle changes. Medication may also be prescribed.”
To test your blood sugar levels. Your GP can do a urinalysis to check for a number of abnormalities, including high blood sugar levels and high levels of protein in your urine. If high blood sugar is detected in your urine, your GP will recommend a fasting blood test to confirm a diabetes diagnosis. Normal blood sugar is less than 100 milligrams per decilitre of blood (mg/dL) after not eating for eight hours. If your blood sugar is 126mg/dL or higher after an eight-hour fast, you have diabetes. If you have a blood sugar reading over 100 but below 126, you have prediabetes. You can lower your blood sugar – and your risk of developing diabetes – by exercising, losing weight, and cutting back on refined foods and added sugars.
To get a flu vaccination. As a line of defence against ever-evolving flu viruses, new flu vaccines are released every year. “Remember, getting vaccinated doesn’t just benefit you,” says Dr Badenhorst. “It may also protect those around you who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies, young children, older people, and those with certain chronic health conditions.”
To check your moles. Although the majority of moles do not transform into cancer, melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma often start as changes to your skin. If these are detected and treated early, outcomes can be positive. Tell your GP about any spots or moles you have that are sore, changing, abnormal or new. You might need a biopsy or excision if your doctor notes any moles or spots of concern.
To have a breast exam. If you notice anything unusual during your monthly breast self-exam, bring it to your GP’s attention. This could include anything from hard knots near your underarm to puckered or dimpled breast skin and nipple discharge. If cancer is detected and confirmed, appropriate treatment should be planned as quickly as possible.
To have a prostate exam. Because prostate cancer often doesn’t cause symptoms, your GP can conduct two tests if you are over 50 and your history shows a high risk of prostate cancer. These are the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and the digital rectal exam (DRE). If a DRE or PSA test detects an abnormality, your GP may recommend further tests to determine whether you have prostate cancer.