Know your numbers; have a happy medical birthday. As a physician, I come across patients with end stage medical conditions and they are quick to pass comments like “Doctor, I have never been sick before” and “I have not visited the hospital before”. I find this statement very dangerous and will like to advise against that mindset.
The hospital is not a place I expect you to visit frequently but I will suggest you get interested in your health and know the state of your own body frequently.
Our bodies are very strong and in most situations able to deal with agents that affect them very effectively. It will interest you to know that most medications given by doctors rely on the body’s functions to be effective. But sometimes, for various reasons, the body fails to deal with these external or even internal threats and will need help when overpowered by a disease.
Unfortunately, not all disease processes lead to symptoms that can be picked very early. Some may harbour in us silently and will only show up when very severe.
With this background, I personally advise on regular check-ups with your doctor or health care provider who will examine you very well and conduct investigations to ensure all organs of your body are fully functional. This helps identify conditions without symptoms very early and intervene appropriately. Generally, a yearly check-up is advised for those who are not at increased risk of any medical conditions and more frequent follow-ups for those with conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity or have been diagnosed of some medical condition and are on medications.
Most people are not exactly sure when to go for their annual check-ups and end up not going at all as the years go by. I will suggest then that you have a check-up at the beginning of the year as part of your New Year resolutions or give yourself a good birthday treat. Wish yourself a healthy happy birthday!
Having a good birthday treat is not to further increase your risk of diseases by eating junk food and ‘spoil’ yourself as we say. It will be good to improve your health by thanking your maker, eating very healthy that day, start planning exercise schedules if you are not in the habit already and to crown it all plan a visit with your physician to ‘know your numbers’ and your state of health.
On any given day, you should know some essential numbers of your body, what I will term your ‘vital statistics’. Not the ‘vital statistics’ for Miss Ghana pageants as we used to know but rather the vital statistics of your body to keep you healthy and strong.
These numbers should include your weight, height, abdominal circumference, and your body mass index (BMI) can then be calculated. You also need your blood pressure checked. These should be interpreted and explained to you by your physician. To be biased as a nephrologist (kidney doctor), it will be great to have your urine tested as it gives a lot of information about the state of your kidneys. Know your serum creatinine, your haemoglobin levels and sugar level in fasting state. Knowing these serve as the baseline information so in the event where you feel unwell, the attending doctor can compare to see the changes that have occurred as a result of the new ailment.
With advancing age, you may even need to have regular checks of your prostate as a man and for females; breast and cervix workup. These screening exercises should be earlier if you have had someone die in your family of any cancer. These become necessary to pick up some cancers; the earlier the diagnosis is made the more effective the treatment options available.
Knowing your numbers make you feel good and when you work on your weight and have something to compare with and it alerts you also of the rate of weight gain if you don’t work on your weight gain. The truth of the matter is that, you easily gain weight and if you do nothing about it, the weight will not stay the same but will continue to increase. So check your weight!
Don’t buy into any medications that promise fast weight loss, you may end up with liver and kidney problems! Just stick to the basics; eating well (Low caloric diet) and regular exercise. After all, you did not gain that weight overnight, why do you expect to lose it all overnight?
The next time I meet you in the street, I will ask you one question: What are your numbers? And I hope you will have something to tell me.
Your health is your responsibility! Stay healthy and have a happy medical birthday!
By Dr Elliot Koranteng Tannor (Physician Specialist/Nephrologist, KATH)
Founder and Director: Kidney Health International