As I mentioned in my previous post, the obesity epidemic, one of the most common presentations of the 35-45 year old patient is for a ‘general health check’. There is something about this age that makes people conscious that there may be aspects of their health that require attention. The fact is that it is actually a really good time to catch this segment of the population. I always make sure that I fully encourage those who come looking to undergo a health check, and I always take the opportunity to catch those that are passing through with other problems and use the opportunity to assess their general health.
The health check in this age group is actually of great use and importance. Unlike health checks and screening in older age groups, this health check is primarily geared around primary prevention (prevention of disease actually developing) and early recognition of disease. The reason this is so crucial is because at this age we can still try to prevent many diseases developing and limit development of secondary complications in newly diagnosed disease. A while ago it was realized that the real success in medicine and healthcare was prevention of disease and at this point there was a shift away from simply treating problems towards recognizing and modifying risk factors.
This presented a great challenge to us as Physicians as it is hard to convince someone who has no symptoms that they should undergo tests and investigation. We also met resistance from groups such as drug companies as there is little profit to be made in preventing people from needing drugs. However those of us who were determined to ensure good health in our patients and the population as a whole recognized the importance of picking up disease early and as a result the ‘35-45 year old health check’ was born. This check is by no means just for those between these ages, but this is just the average age where it is implemented.
Identifying risk factors at an early age before disease has developed allows us to make attempts to prevent disease development. If cholesterol is high we can take steps to lower it, thus reducing the risk of developing coronary artery disease and stroke. If someone is suffering from pre-diabetes we can detect this condition (which has no symptoms) and potentially reverse it before it turns into its permanent and crippling form. If someone has high blood pressure we can take steps to ensure it is lowered and once again reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and stroke. If someone has declining renal function we can intervene and investigate early and prevent the development of chronic kidney disease. I could go on and on, and it is for these very reasons that he ’35-45 year old health check’ is so important and should be encouraged in all those in and around this age bracket.
From the start of my career as a Physician I always realized the importance of empowering the patient. I believe people should be educated on their own health and treatments so that they can be a part of the decision making rather than just having blind trust in us. I have always found that if someone understands why they are doing something they are much more likely to be a part of it and adhere to any prevention or treatment plans.
It is for this reason that I am writing this article. I want you to understand why it is that you should attend the occasional ‘general health check’ and more importantly I want you to understand what it is exactly that you should expect from your Physician. If you go prepared you can not only ask educated questions and be ‘a part’ of the process, but you can also ensure that you have got everything you require and be reassured that you are doing the best you can for your own health.
Finding a Physician
Many people in their thirties or forties don’t actually have a regular Physician. They may have not really suffered from any illness that required ongoing management and as such have just dropped in to random doctors when they needed something. One of the great things about looking to get a health check is that it gives you the opportunity to find a regular Physician. This is important as you want to see someone you can get to know and who in time will know your history. This is vital to good patient care and you should not compromise on it.
The important thing to remember when choosing a Physician is not to settle for just anyone. Just as there are good and bad mechanics and good and bad lawyers, there are good and bad doctors. If you are lucky enough to have a good family Physician, great, but if not take your time to choose one. Go by word of mouth, or try a few out. In time we will develop a network of trusted Physicians here on myheart.net but until then do what you can to ensure you pick someone you trust and can form a comfortable doctor-patient relationship with.
Once you think you have found a Physician you should probe them to see you can trust them with assessing your overall health. Enquire about the health check and ask what they will be looking for (don’t worry, by the end of this series you will know exactly what to expect). Don’t be scared to ask or question, remember you are the customer and have have a choice. If they are receptive to offering a health check and mention the important aspect then you can rest assured and move forward. If however you do not get what you are looking for, or are told it is unnecessary then move on and find someone who has your best interests in mind.
After you have found your soon to be, if not already, regular Physician, book in for your health check and we can proceed to the first part – ‘the history’.