If you are in general good health, are not overweight, don’t smoke, drink in moderation (or not at all) and don’t take any prescription medication, you may consider getting a health check every two to 3 years.
When should I get a health check?
Does hypertension, diabetes or a certain type of cancer run in your family; maybe you work long hours or in an unhealthy environment; or are there other aspects of your lifestyle which are unhealthy. These are all things to think about when you consider taking a health check.
There are different benchmarks or guidelines on when to undergo preventative illness health checks and what type of specific screenings to consider. These factors include your age, lifestyle, weight, family or personal medical history and / or your working or living environment.
General screening guidelines can help provide broad advice on when an individual may consider getting a health screening. This can be impacted by your lifestyle, surroundings, family history and general wellbeing. Different recommendations about check-up frequency apply to individuals who take medication and have chronic disease risk factors.
Being overweight also influences how often you get a physical because it increases one’s risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. In many cases, for such individuals, getting an annual health check is an opportunity to reinforce positive lifestyle choices.
Reference: Duke Health Blog, Oct 2013
For those between the ages of 30 and 49: it is advised that healthy individuals should normally get a health check once every 2 years.
Annual health checks normally begin from the age of 50. As one ages the number of health screenings that become relevant due to one’s age increases.
Blood Pressure Screening
For everyone over 40 (British Heart Foundation)
According to the British Heart Foundation everyone should know their blood pressure. They recommend that everyone over 40 gets their blood pressure taken by a nurse or doctor as part of a health check to assess their risk for getting cardiovascular disease.
According to the British Heart Foundation, if you have high blood pressure, your doctor is likely to encourage you to make some lifestyle changes to help reduce it. This may include increasing your physical activity, losing weight, reducing the salt in your diet, cutting down on alcohol and eating a balanced, healthy diet.
All adults over 20 every 4 -6 years (American Heart Association)
The American Heart Association recommends all adults age 20 or older should have their cholesterol (and other risk factors) checked every four to six years. According to the American Heart Association high cholesterol usually has no symptoms.
A simple blood test will shed light on your cholesterol levels and allow you to make informed decisions about your health.
Fasting Blood Glucose
all adults over 45 every 3 years (American Diabetes Association)
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) screening should be considered at 3-year intervals beginning at age 45, particularly in those with BMI ≥25 kg/m2. Testing should be considered at a younger age or be carried out more frequently in individuals who are overweight and have one or more of the other risk factors.
In addition to being overweight, risk factors include a family history of diabetes, habitual physical inactivity, hypertension, high HDL cholesterol and a history of vascular disease, amongst others.
According to the ADA, diabetes is frequently not diagnosed until complications appear, and approximately one-third of all people with diabetes may be undiagnosed.
Bone Density Screening
According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), men and women over 60-years-old are at higher risk of osteoporosis than younger people. Nevertheless, it is possible to have osteopenia (low bone mass) or osteoporosis at a much earlier age.
The IOF states that osteoporosis is greatly underdiagnosed and undertreated in Asia, even in the most high-risk patients who have already fractured. According to the IOF more than about 50% of all osteoporotic hip fractures will occur in Asia by the year 2050.
A DEXA scan is a screen for osteoporosis. For more info on Dexa scans, read more.
According to the IOF Osteoporosis risk factors include:
Colorectal Cancer Screening
all adults over 45 every year, by stool occult blood (American Cancer Society)
According to the American Cancer Society, people at average risk* of colorectal cancer should start regular screening at age 45. This can be done either with a sensitive test that looks for signs of cancer in a person’s stool (a stool-based test), or with an exam that looks at the colon and rectum (a visual exam).
- A personal history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps
- A family history of colorectal cancer
- A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
- A confirmed or suspected hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer or HNPCC)
- A personal history of getting radiation to the abdomen (belly) or pelvic area to treat a prior cancer
Body Mass Index (BMI)
(British Heart Foundation & World Health Organisation)
According to British Heart Foundation (BHF), research shows that reaching and keeping to a healthy weight cuts your risk of heart and circulatory diseases because it helps prevent and manage conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes that put you at greater risk of coronary heart disease.
The BHF says that even if you don't have any of these conditions, it's important to keep to a healthy weight so you don't develop them in future.
Knowing your Body Mass Index (BMI) is one good way to assess whether you need to lose weight. The BMI is a measure of your weight relative to your height. While BMI is often a component of an annual health check, it can be done by anyone, any time at home by themselves – all you need is a set of scales to measure weight and a measuring tape for height.
Below is the formula and some guidelines on what a BMI result means:
|Underweight||< 18.5||< 18.5|
|Healthy Range||18.5 - 24.9||18.5 - 22.9|
|Overweight||25 - 29.9||23 - 24.9|
|Obese||≥ 30||≥ 25|
According to the World Health Organisation, worldwide, at least 2.8 million people die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. Overweight and obesity lead to adverse metabolic effects on blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin resistance.
Risks of coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke and type 2 diabetes mellitus increase steadily with increasing BMI.
Raised BMI also increases the risk of cancer of the breast, colon, prostate, endometrium, kidney and gall bladder. Mortality rates increase with increasing degrees of overweight, as measured by your BMI.
Women, particularly post-menopausal women, are more susceptible to bone loss than men, because their bodies produce less oestrogen. This hormone is an important component in bone formation. Women are more likely to sustain a osteoporotic fracture than men. Lifetime risk of any fracture ranges between 40-50% in women, compated to 13-22% in men.