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City of Banjul
Monday, September 21, 2020

The importance of regular health checkups

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It’s time to take charge of your health. There are a number of excuses that we use to avoid getting health check-ups –
We are too healthy for health checkups, we are too busy for checkups, and we’re too young and healthy to need a doctor, too scared that something might actually be wrong with us. But whatever the excuse, research shows that seeing our doctors for check-ups can actually save lives, both young and old.

With heart disease remaining the number one killer of men and women nationwide, we should always have an accurate picture of our heart health. And to learn about our cardiovascular health, we must know about any risk factors that we might have, such as having high cholesterol, hypertension, or diabetes or being overweight or obese. The problem is, however, that not all of these risk factors are plain to see. In fact, blood pressure and high cholesterol can have virtually no symptoms, yet can cause permanent damage to the arteries. They can also cause heart attack and stroke—all without you ever knowing that you had these risk factors. That’s why nearly half of individuals dying from a heart attack have absolutely no symptoms of heart disease.
It is essential we know that on regular basis getting check-ups can increase your life expectancy. Health check-ups are very important in the quest to prevent diseases in the world and our country is not excluded. They can find problems before they start and also help find problems early, when your chances for treatment and cure are better.

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There is no doubt that prevention in the form of health check is both effective and less cheaper than treatment. A regular health checkup not only improves your long term health quality but also reduces long term healthcare expenses.

The most important exams and screenings aredone to check for highblood pressure, diabetes, blood cholesterol, HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, oral health for adults, breast and cervical cancer early detection, prostate cancer screening and heart problems. Discovering unhealthy lifestyle habits and other risk factors can also help us improve our lifestyle. Therefore it is not just a panel of clinical tests but an opportunity to learn about our bod along with gaining inspiration to improve the quality of life.

Here are some health risks that damage our cardiovascular health which can be avoided:

High Cholesterol
A history of high cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of developing myocardial infarction, stroke and dementia.  Even mildly elevated cholesterol is associated with increased risk, so it is important to do everything you can to keep your cholesterol in the healthy range.  All adults from middle age onwards should have their cholesterol regularly checked by their doctor.

Blood Pressure
A history of high blood pressure that goes untreated is associated with an increased risk of developing stroke and renal disease.  Effective long-term treatment of high blood pressure can reduce these risks.  All adults, especially once we reach middle age, should have their blood pressure regularly checked by their doctor.

Body Weight
Obesity in midlife is associated with an increased risk of developing a range of conditions including diabetes, hypertension, cognitive impairment and dementia.  To reduce these risks, all adults should try to maintain a healthy body weight throughout life and avoid ‘middle age spread’.

Diabetes
Research consistently shows that people who have type 2 diabetes are on average more likely to develop dementia compared to those without diabetes.  Some people who don’t have diabetes have problems with the way their body deals with glucose and insulin.  Impaired insulin secretion, insulin resistance and glucose intolerance are also associated with an increased risk of dementia.

However, most of us only go to the hospital when we are present with symptoms of disease. I must say there is a thin line between being healthy or diseased. What we fail to realize is that we can be carrying on with our daily activities and still not be healthy. It is only when our bodies can no longer handle the burden of the disease that we present with symptoms and only then do we run to the hospital when sometimes only little or nothing can be done.

The question we should all be asking ourselves is how will we break this status quo? I must confess I received my source of inspiration for choosing this topic from Your Change For A Change (YCFAC). This association thought it wise to celebrate their sixth anniversary by organizing a health fair. This health fair was solely organized to increase the awareness of the populace about the important diseases in our society and the ways to prevent it. People in the community gathered to be tested. Some of the tests available were for blood pressure, blood glucose, body mass index, HIV/AIDS etc. This initiative goes a long way in promoting health and preventing diseases. I must say it is initiatives like these that we need to better our health system.

While it’s a scary thought to have a disease, the good news is that we can take control of our heart health in many ways. By having regular check-ups, primary care doctors can capture a picture of our health over time, helping them notice any changes that might require further attention. They will also check for the traditional cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, and can treat or refer you to a cardiologist when necessary. And for those of us who already know that we have risk factors for heart disease, such as family history or high cholesterol, you should go ahead and make an appointment with a trusted doctor. By addressing any risk factors that you may have, you can work with your doctor to lower risk of heart attack or stroke by up to 30 percent. And that advantage is something we should never put off until later.

By getting the right health services, screenings and treatments, you are taking steps that help your chances for living a longer, healthier life.

By Fanta Fofana

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