Dr. Karanveer Singh
From gulping down bland green tea to jogging a few miles every day, we try our best to be in the “healthy people” club. Well no one wants illness or the speeches full of vituperation and slander coming from a doctor, who would be probably eating chips and biscuits in front of you while asking you to cut down your calories!!
Many a times, I’ve seen people who would like to do more, they feel that their exercise routine and diet alone won’t suffice in the management of their health. Yes, it won’t. Is your exercise and diet plan going to help you prevent diseases which have no relation to your strenuous workouts? Does an appropriate calorie intake totally nullify the chances of getting a heart attack? The answer is no.
Ideally, a few age specific medical tests can surely help a person to diagnose a few diseases and prevent the serious consequences. But we still do not see many people getting these tests done as firstly they are unaware of these and secondly, what can happen at a young age anyway!! Diseases are meant to occur in our old age and youthfulness is magically healing all our diseases away. And even if we get a bit sick in our 50s, it’s alright as fatalism is the lazy man’s way of accepting the inevitable anyway. Starting in your 20s and 30s, your healthcare provider can perform a number of simple tests and measurements to look out for a few common diseases. Here we have a list of the basic tests you should ask for. (Note that you might require additional tests based on your personal health profile.)
In your 20s and 30s:
- Weight monitoring.
- Blood pressure tests: every few months if normal, more often if abnormal. No, it does not rise when you are angry.
- Lipid profile (specifically cholesterol) every five years if normal, more often if abnormal. People with a family history of heart disease and young adults with obesity and diabetes should have cholesterol checked more often.
- Fasting glucose test: every 2-3 years if normal.
- Routine Sexually transmitted diseases screening if you are sexually active or have more than one sexual partner. We know you are having it, and yes, no one is judging you.
- An eye exam every 1-2 years, a hearing test once a decade and skin exam for signs of skin cancer yearly.
- A 6-monthly visit to the dentist for that beautiful smile of yours.
- Not highly recommended but get your baseline Vitamin D levels checked as its deficiency has become quite common because being sun-kissed on Instagram is so 2015.
- In males, testicular exams annually. Get a grip!
- In females, Pap smear and pelvic exams should begin at the age of 21. Clinical breast exams are recommended every 1-3 years for women over 25 years of age.
- Thyroid stimulation hormone (TSH) every few years starting at age 35.
In your 40s and 50s:
- Continue the basic health routine including weight and blood pressure monitoring, fasting glucose test, lipid profile, etc.
- Mammograms (in females) to test for breast cancer and other issues. Although rare, men might get cancerous breast lumps too so always do a self-exam.
- The pap smears continue which can be combined with a human papillomavirus (HPV) test.
- Prostate exam and testicular exam (in men) if there is a high risk or symptoms of prostate and testicular cancer.
- When menopause sets in, it is advisable to get a bone density testing done every 3 years for signs of osteoporosis. We got your back, iron-ladies.
- Ovarian screening every 3 years.
- COLONOSCOPY!!!! May sound disgusting but is very important to look out for any colorectal cancer or any precancerous polyps which can later become cancer. Some people prefer getting Fecal occult blood test yearly, which can detect blood in stool sample, a sign of colon cancer.
- Tests for heart diseases, if related symptoms occur and can further go for coronary screening.
- Vision testing
- Immunizations: Over the age of 50, people should get a flu shot every year and even healthy people should get a tetanus booster shot every 10 years.
In your 60s and so on:
- You probably spend so much time thinking about your health that more tests are the last thing you want.
- Apart from regular health care and the generalized wellness programs, some more tests need to be done.
- You get your Blood pressure monitored, blood tests, pelvic exams, colonoscopy, mammograms, ultrasounds, ECGs, etc.
- Hearing tests become more frequent, every 3 years or more if you have disturbances in the hearing.
- Immunizations once with Herpes booster (to prevent shingles) and Pneumonia boosters are required in the age group.
- Disease specific tests, for example people with diabetes are advised to get kidney function tests, eye checkups and maintaining foot care.
We define health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Mental health is also a complex sphere which gets ignored a lot many times. We fail to seek help when we need it the most. A persistently sad mood, loss of interest, hopelessness, feeling worthless, self-harm, etc. are not some issues to ignore. Mental health is how we feel and think, things that can’t really be seen but that affect us every day. Talking about our mental state can be very difficult, but we need to communicate and address thoughts, emotions and moods. Sometimes it’s just simple conversation that can make things better.
A major portion of our health care comes from ourselves only. Watch out for what went wrong and ask yourself questions. Did you get a new lump under your skin, did your bowel habits change, does your tummy hurt after you eat, do you feel tired all day long, etc. Never hesitate to ask your doctor questions. The doctor is required to explain you everything and clear your queries, tell you about the disease, different treatment options and the consequences of the same. Know the side effects of the medications you are taking. Be your own health advocate because who better than us knows what we need and how we feel.
(Dr. Karanveer Singh is a medical practitioner from Jammu.)