Our bodies function like well oiled machines, and like our cars, we need to do a bit of an annual check up to make sure things are running smoothly. Vitamin D and calcium deficiency tests are two of the most common ones Pakistanis go in for, given how susceptible we are to them. Besides those, there are a number of tests we don’t realise we need to get. If you’re thinking of scheduling your next doctors appointment for you and your family, remember to keep these tests in mind!
1. Complete Blood Count
Complete blood counts are a routine medical test to monitor general health, and is used for screening anaemia too. It evaluates the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelet count present in your blood. It also checks your haemoglobin, which helps measure if you’re getting all the nutrients you should be! Red blood cells carry oxygen to the blood, while white blood cells occupy the role of fighting off infections, and platelets are what keep your blood from clotting. If your tests indicate your haemoglobin levels are low, you could also possibly have anaemia. The symptoms for it manifest as weakness and fatigue, which could explain why you might be feeling excessively tired. Low haemoglobin can be for many reasons. You could be lacking the right amount of daily vitamins, iron, or even because of blood loss due to heavy period cycles. Likewise, an increased white blood cell count shows the potential presence of infections or inflammation somewhere in the body. A simple test like this helps illuminate a number of health issues and concerns, so it’s definitely one worth getting!
2. Blood Cholesterol Levels
Blood cholesterol tests are usually done after 8 hours of fasting, or overnight fasting. The test is mean’t to reveal the amounts of total cholesterol present in a persons body. People with higher levels of cholesterol are more likely to be be overweight, physically inactive, or smokers. All these factors usually contribute to raised feels of cholesterol, but so do genetics. Even if you don’t count yourself as being amounts these groups, you shouldn’t consider yourself immune from needing to get checked out! Beyond this, there are two types of cholesterols: good and bad. Bad cholesterol is low density lipoproteins (LDL) which causes blockages in arteries. Meanwhile, good cholesterol is high density lipoproteins (HDL) which helps remove excess cholesterol from blood. The American Heart Association recommends tat everyone age 20 and over to get their blood cholesterol levels checked once every 4 – 6 years.
3. Blood Sugar Level
Blood sugar levels can be checked after overnight fasting, or spontaneously too. Guidelines suggest if you have one of the risk factors associated with elevated blood sugar levels, you should get checked without delay. If the results come back as normal then get them checked again after every 3 years. The risk factors you should look out for are obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and family history of diabetes. All these factors should be taken much more seriously if you are over the age of forty.
4. Renal Function Tests
Sometimes a person can lose up to 90 percent of their kidney function before experiencing any symptoms. What’s scarier? Kidney damage is irreversible. Most people don’t have any symptoms until they reach advanced chronic kidney disease. Since it progresses silently, the only way for early detection is to get simple, regular lab tests that check for level of creatinine and urea in blood. Creatinine is the waste product from muscle activity and is normally removed from blood by the kidneys. When our kidneys aren’t functioning as they should be, tests will indicate an increased level of creatinine in our blood works.
5. Screening for Hepatitis B & C, and HIV
Make sure you get yourself screened for hepatitis B and C every year! Hepatitis B Surface Antigen is the test that detects hepatitis B related infections. Anti HCV Antibody tests Hep C infections.These are the screening tests you should schedule. Don’t panic if they come back as positive though! It doesn’t necessarily mean you have an active infection in the body. PCR is the test which confirms the activity and quantity of the virus in the body. There is no recommended guideline for how frequently one should have these tests done, but it’s generally good to have them once a year to make sure there’s no silent infection growing in the body. Make sure to get vaccinated against Hepatitis B too! As for hepatitis C, there is still no vaccine.
6. Thyroid Levels
Thyroid hormone disturbances can lead to a number of issues. Decreased thyroid hormone production can cause fatigue, inability to concentrate, increased sensitivity to the cold, irregular menstruation, muscle pain and tender joints. On the flip side, increased thyroid hormones, or more commonly known as a hyperactive thyroid, can cause changes in appetite, insomnia, irritability and excessive weight loss. If you think you might be suffering issues like these, consult your doctor and get yourself checked for thyroid hormones.
7. Screening For Breast Cancer
We all know how important breast cancer screening is. Self examination should start at the age of 21 years, and should be done frequently. Once a month is a good average to aim for. There’s a no age limit for mammograms either. You should continue doing them after the age of 45, but can lower the frequency to every 1 – 2 years.
7. Screening for Cervical Cancer (Pap Smear)
Pap smear testing is essential to include in your annual check ups after you’ve gotten married. If the results come back as normal, repeat the rest after every 3 years. If the pap test also rules out the existence of the human papilloma virus, then the next pap smear can be done after intervals of 5 years.