Parents spend almost most of their free time running commitments but they too need their own downtime. As an answer, a health check could be the checkpoint for them. Many fear health checks but it does more good than you can imagine. Health check is an examination of current health status and screening for potential diseases before any symptoms emerges. It helps to prevent, identify or reduce the risk of health issues. Generally, the procedures of health check include:
Why Regular Health Check?
It is essential to go for regular health check especially for those moving into 50s and later, as aging causes the body to be more vulnerable to illness. Regular health check ensures keeping an up-to-date medical history record, which assists medical professionals to keep track and understand better about one’s health needs and concerns. This enables them to provide the most appropriate, effective treatment and support in improving and maintaining health.
What You Should Lookout For?
So, what are some are the things you should lookout for during your parents check-up?
1.The health check-up should be more than just a routine blood test
Blood test is the most common and general routine screening. However, it covers only basic health information (eg: cholesterol levels, blood sugar level, liver function tests etc), and may not provide thorough health information. You may inquire for more screening recommendations which basically may include:
a) Eye Check
- Recommended in every year or two. Usually involve checking for the eye condition, vision, cataract and glaucoma. For those with diabetes or metabolic syndrome*, annual checking is recommended. 20-22
- Useful tips : Your parents’ can get their regular vision checked at any optical store. Besides recommending suitable glasses (eg: reading glasses), the optician or optometrist can also advise them on how to take care of their eyes.
b) Blood Pressure
The ideal blood pressure is around 120/80 mmHg. Elevated blood pressure is known to increase risk for cardiovascular diseases and stroke.13-18
Useful tips : You can monitor your parents’ blood pressure levels either by using own purchased blood pressure monitor or get the readings from pharmacy (some pharmacy provides free blood pressure measuring).
c) Liver Imaging
The Liver Function Test (eg: AST, ALT, GGT level) is not the conclusive method of liver disease screening. Normal liver index do not always indicate normal liver. There are cases of liver disease patients (eg: fatty liver, liver inflammation) with normal liver index.30-32 It is recommended to include imaging test (eg: abdominal ultrasound) so that the doctor can have more detail and accurate information about the liver condition.19
d) Dental Check
During the oral exam, the dentist will check for the condition of teeth and gum, jaw, inner cheeks, tongue and other interior surfaces. If your parents are wearing dentures or other appliances, the dentist will also look for any problems in the areas of mouth that the appliance touches.
e) Weight Assessment
Besides determining whether your parents’ are maintaining normal weight, it assists the doctor to be aware of any possible health abnormality if sudden or drastic weight gain or weight loss is observed.
f) Bone Density Scan27-29
The common test is known as DXA/DEXA scan (full name: dual energy x-ray absorptiometry), an enhanced form of X-ray technology which measures the density of the bones and helps diagnosis of osteoporosis. Lower bone density indicates greater risk for bone fractures. The test does a comparison with the expected standard bone density of the respective age group.
g) Colon Cancer Screening
Colon cancer is in the top three list of most common cancer worldwide and about 80% of the cases are diagnosed among people aged above 50.6 You can either opt for colonoscopy (examination of the large intestine using a medical device known as colonoscope), or Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) which examines the stool for traces of blood. It is recommended to be done every 2 years, and those with family history should have more frequent screening.
h) Hearing assessment
Hearing problems is one of the commonly reported health issue associated with aging.9 If your parents show symptoms of weak hearing, you should request a hearing test for them. The hearing ability is measured in Decibels, dB, ranging from 0-120dB. Individual reported with higher decibel level in the hearing tests indicating more severe hearing loss.
i) (Female) Breast Check (Mammogram) and Cervical/Vaginal Check (Pap Smear)
It is recommended to conduct the checking every 2-3 years. Pap Smear is recommended even for menopausal or postmenopausal women to screen for cervical cancer – the second most common cancer among women in developing countries10. If the first 2 consecutive Pap results are negative, screening every 3 years is recommended.
j) (Male) Prostate Check
Men aged 50 and above have increased risk for prostate cancer. The test is known as Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) testing (sometimes may recommend to include Digital Rectal Examination, DRE as well). Doctor or medical professional may suggest further tests if results show a raised level of PSA.
2. If your parents are on medication, are they still relevant?
By referring to the latest health check-up report of your parents, you should inquire about the previous prescribed medication and dosage. Is it still relevant with your parents’ health needs? Is there any dosage adjustment needed? By doing so, you will be able to gauge if the consumption of the medication is necessary or not.
3. Family history disease, or risk for certain disease
Taking note of your family history disease can be an aid in understanding some of the disease your parents are more vulnerable to. It could be high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood glucose, heart disease, liver disease and more. Keep the doctor updated with these information.This will allow them to pay more attention to the relevant screening results and perform specific health assessment. Besides, they will also inform you about the risk for certain diseases based on the health screening report. Consult the doctor for any appropriate precaution action that should be taken by your parents to reduce the risk.
4. The health condition(s) that your parents might not want to talk about
Your parents might face some health condition(s) that they are embarrassed to talk about during the consultation session. It might be menopause symptoms, bowel movement issue or even urination problem. If you are aware of the health conditions that they are facing, you may help them out by consulting the doctor. Or, if they are not comfortable to discuss the issues in front of people (eg: family member, nurse), leave the room so that they can talk comfortably with doctor.
It is essential and crucial to take your parents for regular health check-up as they cope with age, their health generally deteriorates. Hence, utmost importance should be given in maintaining their health. You can also seek out in taking preventive action to maintain their health by practicing healthy lifestyle together and providing them with suitable supplements. Treat your parents with love and care, just like the way they treat you.
Don’t procrastinate in taking care of your parent’s health! Starts today with Hoganbo.
*(Chopra et al, 2012) Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of diseases (central obesity, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and high blood pressure) and is associated with development of various eye problems.
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- Veettil SK et al. 2016. Colorectal cancer in Malaysia: Its burden and implications for a multiethnic country. Asian Journal of Surgery. pp: 1-9.
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- NHS Choices. 2015. Testing for prostate cancer. Retrieved on 23 March 2017.
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- Vijan S et al. 2000. Cost-Utility Analysis of Screening Intervals for Diabetic Retinopathy in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. JAMA. Vol 283 (7): pp. 889-896.
- Fong DS et al. 2004. Retinopathy in Diabetes. The American Diabetes Association. Vol 27 (1): pp. S84-87.
- Chopra R et al. 2012. Review article: Ocular associations of metabolic syndrome. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism. Vol 16 (1): pp. S6-11.
- MedicineNet.com. 2006. Hearing Loss and Aging. Retrieved on 03 April 2017.
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- National University Hospital. 2010. Mobile Hearing Clinic. Retrieved on 03 April 2017.
- Hear-it.org. Typical procedure for a hearing test. Retrieved on 03 April 2017.
- Sunway Medical Centre. 2017. Bone Mineral Density Scan. Retrieved on 03 April 2017.
- NHS Choices. 2016. DEXA (DXA) scan: How it is performed. Retrieved on 03 April 2017.
- Radiological Society of North America, Inc (RSNA). 2016. Bone Densitometry (DEXA). Retrieved on 03 April 2017.
- Johnston DE. 1999. Special Considerations in Interpreting Liver Function Tests. American Family Physician. Vol 59 (8): pp. 2223-2230.
- Mofrad P et al. 2003. Clinical and histologic spectrum of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease associated with normal ALT values. (abstract only) Hepatology. Vol 37 (6): pp. 1286-1292.
- Calvaruso V et al. 2009. Implication of Normal Liver Enzymes in Liver Disease. Journal of Viral Hepatitis. Vol 16(8): pp. 529-536.
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