Even though you feel young and healthy, there are certain checks you should be having every 12 months to prevent illness and disease. We asked Discovery’s head of Vitality, Dr Craig Nossel, for the must-do health checks.
Watch your weight
It may be super skinny jeans or a bikini that drives you to lose those extra kilos, but while your boyfriend may appreciate it, it’s your health that really benefits. Research shows that even a small weight loss of five to 10 per cent in an obese individual will cut the risk of death by 20%. The risk of cancer can be cut by up to 50% and the risk of death from diabetes by up to 40%.
The body mass index (BMI) is an easy way of detecting obesity. To calculate your BMI, divide your weight by your height squared. For example, if you are 1.65m tall and weigh 58kg, your BMI will be 21.3 (BMI= 58/(1.65 x 1.65). A BMI between 18.5 and 25 is healthy. Over 50% of South African women are overweight, with a BMI of greater than 25. If you think you need professional help, visit a dietician or book yourself a personal trainer. So keep an eye on you waistline this year, and keep your BMI average in check.
Check your blood pressure
High blood pressure often goes unnoticed – the reason why it’s called the silent killer. You should have your blood pressure checked regularly, which you can have done at your doctor or one of the many pharmacies that offer it as a free service. Uncontrolled blood pressure damages blood vessels and can lead to heart attacks as well as strokes later in life.
Monitor your cholesterol
Check this if you have a family history of high cholesterol, if you smoke or if you have diabetes. While younger women are generally protected from the complications of high cholesterol, poor lifestyle habits and family history will put you at risk. Your doctor can easily monitor your cholesterol levels and offer you advice on how to control it before it gets out of hand.
Have a pap smear
Cervical cancer is the most common cause of cancer in South African women. Sexually active women aged 21 and up should have a pap smear done every one to three years. This will detect abnormal or cancerous cells in your cervix. The earlier cancer is diagnosed, the greater the chances of successful treatment.
Go for an HIV and STD test
Being sexually active also puts you at risk for sexually transmitted diseases. All sexually active individuals should get tested for diseases such as HIV and chlamydia. If you notice something different down there, book an appointment with your gynae as soon as you can. Early treatment is essential to prevent further spreading of infection.
Have a mam-mogram
Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer in South African women. The recommended age to begin having mammo-grams is 40, but if there’s a family history of the disease, screening should be done at an earlier age. You should also learn how to do self-examinations so you can detect any lumps. Visit www.breastcancer.co.za for step-by-step instructions.
Visit the dentist
You should be visiting your dentist once a year for a check-up and a clean to keep your pearly whites strong and healthy. Regular dental exams and cleaning visits are essential in preventing dental problems and maintaining the health of your teeth and gums. At these visits, your teeth will be cleaned and checked for cavities, as well as other problems such as early signs of gum disease.
Visit the optometrist
“Of all our senses, vision is one of our most precious and should be treated as such,”
says optometrist Soulla Constantinou. “You should visit your optometrist once a year,
even if you don’t wear glasses. Regular eye-testing will detect the need for glasses, which can develop over time. Early detection of diseases like glaucoma, cataracts and tumors can prevent blindness. Early signs of cholesterol and high blood pressure can also be detected.”