Screening for a healthier you

Screening for a healthier you

By Dr Lebo Ncha

Is it not intriguing that our year plans usually outline things that we want to achieve in our careers, families and socially and seldom our health.

Each one should also have health plans and goals of what we want to achieve for the year. With the year already in motion I hope that you have gone for your screening, for those who have not it is important to still do so.

Top of the agenda should be non-communicable or lifestyle diseases.

These include amongst others, cardiovascular diseases (heart attacks and heart failure), diabetes, strokes and cancer.

To address diseases of lifestyle, we need to check ourselves for risk factors that predispose us to them and these include: elevated blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, elevated blood glucose levels and abnormal pap-smears. The link between risk factors and disease are as follows:

  • High blood pressure leads to strokes, heart attacks and heart failure
  • High cholesterol levels lead to heart attacks and strokes
  • High blood glucose (sugar) leads to diabetes
  • An abnormal papsmear leads to cervical cancer

The above-mentioned risk factors can be investigated by conducting screening tests, which are defined as tests that are used to identify the possible presence of an undiagnosed disease in individuals without signs or symptoms. These tests are normally provided for or conducted by your GP or local pharmacies and they are fairly non-invasive.

To measure blood pressure, a blood pressure cuff is put around your arm and the measurement is done. A normal blood cholesterol levels, a blood sample is collected and analysed for the following: LDL (low-density lipoprotein) also known as the bad cholesterol, HDL (high-density lipoprotein) also known as the good cholesterol and the triglyceride. These measurements must be kept normal for age and by sex and any abnormal reading should be addressed through diet and exercise and or medication.

Elevated blood glucose levels predispose to diabetes. The screening test used is the finger prick that can be taken at random (anytime of the day) and fasting (after overnight fasting). For the random glucose, any measurement that is above 11mmol/l is considered abnormal and for fasting glucose, any measurement above 7mmol/l is considered abnormal. High glucose levels can be addressed through changing diet and exercising, otherwise medication to lower the blood glucose levels can be used.

A papsmear is a test that is used to look at the health of the cells around cervix (mouth of the womb) that can become cancerous and cause cervical cancer. The procedure that is done entails insertion of a spatula in the genital area and scrapping of the wall of the cervix. This gets sent to the laboratory for a microscopic analysis. If abnormal cells are found, there are procedures that can be done to remove those abnormal cells.

So, with the year already in gear, go for your check ups and know the state of your health so that you can make plans on how to change your lifestyle to live a healthier and successful life.

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