Sometimes, it seems that healthcare takes a back seat to practically everything else in life. For the past twenty-five years, I’ve been making the analogy that people take better care of their computers than they do of themselves. Only one-fourth of computers around the world are unprotected from viruses these days. But nearly half of adults (46 percent) are not up-to-date with their tetanus shots, and some 80 percent of adults considered high risk for pneumonia have not been vaccinated. No one seems to care that people are walking around at risk for serious disease, and yet the first thing the IT help desk asks when you call for a computer repair is whether your antivirus program is up to date—and people are embarrassed to admit that it isn’t.
Part of the problem is that people don’t really understand what their medical test results mean. When they do feel unwell and go to the doctor for a checkup, they don’t understand what it means when their blood tests come back with elevated blood sugar, triglycerides, or liver chemistries. Should they go for further testing, such as an ultrasound, they don’t know that something like “fatty liver” is an indicator that they have a problem. Since there are seldom any real symptoms when the liver has an abnormality, they often find it difficult to believe the lab results. But the liver is not like, for example, the lungs. A chronic cough or shortness of breath is frightening—most people will go get something like that checked out. If there no pain or outward sign of a problem, most people will just assume all’s well.
But that can lead to a critical delay in getting the right care—even life-saving care.
The diseases that make up metabolic syndrome—truncal obesity, diabetes (or insulin resistance), cardiovascular disease, and nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFL)—can individually change a person’s life. When operating together in a body, they can even spell death.
That’s why it’s important to get a regular check-up. An annual check-up will review your health history, check your immunizations, measure your height and weight, check your blood pressure, and listen for any problems with your heart and lungs. It may also involve screening tests that can detect where there are abnormalities with your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol levels, and other health issues. That can help you and your healthcare provider find problems before they start or find them early when you have a better chance of treating and reversing some of them. By getting the right health services, screenings, and treatments, you increase your chances for living a longer, healthier life.
There are other benefits to the annual check-up such as building a relationship with your doctor, having more complete medical records, continuous review of your prescriptions and other medications, and a more personal touch in health care. When you become a familiar face with a familiar medical record, your physician can better sense any physical or emotional changes in you, and you will grow more comfortable with the idea of sharing problems you are experiencing.
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