Our health is our wealth, which is why we should all be investing as much time in our well-being as we do chasing success and fortune. But where do we start and what can we do right here and now? As they say, prevention is better than cure. Prevention in the form of tests and screenings is not only better; it’s also more cost-effective.
The 3FOUR50 ratio
Four chronic diseases account for over 50% of deaths worldwide. These diseases have three main risk factors: poor diet, lack of physical activity and tobacco use. That means if you tackle these risks head-on, you can prevent the diseases from developing in the first place. No need for miracle cures or expensive medicines. The Oxford Health Alliance started the 3FOUR50 initiative to share this vital knowledge and help save lives.
Easy steps to reduce your health risks
Five servings of fruit and vegetables have been shown to reduce the risk of:
- cardiovascular disease by 28%,
- type 2 diabetes by 24%, and
- some gastrointestinal cancers by 20%.
Just 30-60 minutes of physical activity, five times a week, will reduce the risk of:
- colon and breast cancers by 20% to 40%,
- having a stroke by 25% to 30%,
- coronary heart disease by up to 50%, and
- diabetes by 30% to 50%
10 life-saving tests and screenings
Early detection is the key to preventing most diseases – even potentially fatal ones like cancer, stroke and heart disease.
What am I testing for?
- High blood pressure can cause heart attacks or strokes without any warning and can lead to kidney failure.
Blood pressure – how hard the blood pushes against the walls of your arteries as it moves through your body – is measured in millimetres of mercury (mm Hg). A normal adult’s blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg. High blood pressure (hypertension) is 140/90 mm Hg or above.
- High cholesterol can cause plaque to clog your arteries. You might not show any symptoms until you suddenly suffer a heart attack or a stroke.
A cholesterol test will measure your total blood cholesterol, LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol), HDL (‘good’ cholesterol) and triglycerides (blood fat).
- Diabetes type 2 is a common condition. Yet, many people don’t even know they have it until it results in heart or kidney disease, stroke, blindness or other serious problems.
A fasting plasma glucose test and an A1C test is commonly used to screen for diabetes. These tests provide information about your blood glucose level, also called blood sugar.
- Body mass index (BMI) is a tool to help you understand your body weight in relation to your height. BMI is a good predictor of disease because excess body fat increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke.
- Skin cancer has many forms and early treatment is effective for them all. Have your skin checked by your GP or by a dermatologist. Watch out for any changes to the shape, colour and size of your moles and freckles.
- Eye tests not only test your vision; they are also important for picking up early signs of diabetes and glaucoma. Have your eyes tested regularly from the age of 40 and every 6 to 12 months after the age of 65.
Routine eye tests include the following:
- tonometry (measures inner eye pressure);
- ophthalmoscopy (examines the shape and colour of the optic nerve);
- perimetry (examines the complete field of vision);
- gonioscopy (checks the angle where the iris meets the cornea); and
- pachymetry (measures the thickness of the cornea).
- Colon cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death after lung cancer and is curable in more than 90% of cases if detected early.
During a colonoscopy, a colonoscope is inserted into the rectum and advanced through the large intestine. The procedure lasts 30 minutes to one hour. Have a colonoscopy done regularly from the age of 50. If a parent or sibling had colon cancer, have a colonoscopy done regularly from 10 years before the age at which the family member was diagnosed.
- Prostate cancer is the most common cancer found in men after skin cancer. Screenings can detect the disease even before symptoms develop, which is when treatment is most effective
There are two ways to screen for prostate cancer:
- a digital rectal exam; or
- a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, which measures the level of PSA (a protein produced by the prostate gland) in the blood.
Begin PSA screening at the age of 50, but if your father or brother had or has prostate cancer you need to start earlier (40 to 45 years of age).
- Breast cancer affects both men and women but is the most common cancer found in women after skin cancer.
A mammogram to screen for breast cancer should be done every year once a woman turns 40. If the mammogram picks up any abnormalities, you may have to undergo a breast ultrasound or breast MRI.
- Cervical cancer is the easiest female cancer to prevent through regular Pap smears. The Pap smear and HP (human papillomaviruses) testing are used to detect cervical changes which lead to cervical cancer. The Pap smear test is recommended for all women between the ages of 21 and 65.
Source: Discovery Health