Dr J Keith Figueiredo MBBS (WA), FRACGP FACRRM DA DRANZCOG
Good health is one of our greatest assets. We really miss it when we don’t have it. As we grow older, inevitably our bodies will deteriorate, and things do start to go wrong. Like any machine, we need to look after it and maintain it regularly. The following is some general advice, which may vary depending on your individual circumstance. We’ve all heard that prevention is better than cure. That’s so true. We can prevent a lot of chronic problems, by doing such simple things as:
- Exercising 240 minutes a week. People often say they don’t have time for exercise, or it hurts too much, or they get breathless, or, or, or…. Get a pedometer, aim to walk at least 10000 steps/day. You’ve got to start somewhere, make a plan, go slow, and gradually increase the intensity. See an Exercise Physiologist or Physiotherapist if you have a chronic disease which makes some forms of exercise difficult for you.
- Eat smaller portions. Try cutting down the portion of food you have on your plate, or use a smaller plate! Have 2/3 of the plate filled with salads and vegetables.
Always have breakfast. Otherwise your body is in starvation mode for up to 18 hours if you don’t! Graze on nuts between meals if you get hungry. Drink at least a minimum of 1 litre of water a day. You are drinking enough water if your urine looks fairly clear. Cut down on sugar, fats and alcohol. See a Dietician to get a more specific diet tailored to you.
- Stop smoking as soon as you can. It will be the best thing you ever do for your health.
Make an appointment of at least 20 minutes to see your GP, for a check-up. Don’t be embarrassed about anything, the odds are your GP has seen it, heard it, or done the same examination, a hundred times before and considers it all in a day’s work!
There are many things GP’s may do at a check-up. It often depends on the patient’s age, symptoms and past history, and whether you are presenting for the first time to a new doctor.
They include taking a history, to find out about your past health, your allergies, the medications you are on, your family and social history, and to find out what really worries you.
The family history is very important, as it may be very relevant as to what may happen to you when you get older, so preventative strategies can be put in place by your GP.
Examination may consist of a cardiovascular, respiratory, skin and abdominal examination, and any other relevant organs. Your height, blood pressure, pulse, weight may be checked.
A woman between the ages of 18 to 70 may be due for a pap smear and a breast check if relevant.
A man over the age of 45 may be due for a prostate check.
Investigations may include checking you for diabetes, anaemia, thyroid, liver and kidney disease, as well as some iron storage diseases such as haemochromatosis, which is one of the most common genetic diseases! Your cholesterol may need checking. You may need stool tests to screen for bowel cancer. Many of these medical problems have no early warning signs, and are only picked up if they are looked for in the early stages.
Obviously not everything can be done extensively and thoroughly in 20 minutes, and you may well need to come back for further examination and testing.
Your GP may also get you back to help you with smoking cessation, drug and alcohol dependency, mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, weight loss, pain issues, and to ensure your vaccinations are up to date.
So take charge of your life. Exercise, keep moving, breathe fresh air, stimulate your mind, and smile.
Protect your most valuable asset, your health. Make it a habit to see you GP for your annual check-up and tune up.