By: Nanette Fairley
March 10, 2021
Excuse the generalization, but we might describe the Baby Boomers among us as disciplined, hard working and self-sufficient. They are likely to push on through tough challenges and are unlikely to be deterred by ‘not feeling 100%’. There is a job to be done!
While this is positive in many ways, it is also problematic when it comes to staying healthier longer, aka influencing your healthspan. I would contend that Boomers are much more likely to ignore small medical issues or slight feelings of being unwell and just push on. For some it may be a badge of honour. For others, it is about being resilient , not ‘weak’ or a burden. They may also be less likely to have annual health check-ups when they are feeling well.
This is an attitude that has got to change! While not all health insurance will cover preventative health screening, there are many great reasons why a thorough health check every 12 months minimum is an essential part of a positive Third Age. They include:
- reducing the need for costly procedures in the future
- avoiding the flu and certain types of pneumonia by having routine vaccinations
- early detection of major illnesses, e.g. cancer, may lead to increased lifespan
- early treatment of minor illnesses may prevent them from becoming debilitating and impacting health span and quality of life
- early detection of issues provides options and may make decision making around the health issue easier than when it becomes chronic
- allowing you and your doctor to come up with a plan which could be as simple as monitoring or a change in diet or exercise.
- greater peace of mind.
Personally, I am hugely pro screening. For the last six years I have made my ‘well woman check-up’ an annual milestone in my calendar. And while health insurance doesn’t always cover this type of testing, I see it as providing information I can use to early course correct if need be or seek treatment early in the evolution of any illness I may be developing. I also like to compare from one year to the next and across years. Especially looking at the myriad of information that comes from a series of blood tests. Many medical practices and hospitals have a standard battery of tests, but it is worth discussing your age and medical history with your GP who will help determine what are the best tests for you. With breast cancer in my family, I am scheduled for an annual mammogram but also additional ultrasounds just to check all well. My annual check-up usually takes approx. 4 hours of testing and then a return to the GP a week or two later to discuss all the results in detail.
Examples of where screening is helpful:
- A routine exam can detect a colon polyp (growth) before it becomes cancerous, and it can be easily removed
- People who routinely have their blood pressure and cholesterol checked, and treated if necessary, improve their chances of preventing and controlling conditions that could cause a heart attack
- Blood tests may flag a nutrient deficiency (I always seem to be Vitamin D deficient!), rectification of which can help avoid more serious issues.
I see a health screen/review in the same league as doing regular financial reviews, personal asset reviews or reviews of your affairs to make sure everything in place should something unexpected happen.
However, no exploration of this subject would be complete without looking at some of the downsides of preventative screening. False positives can cause stress in individuals and over diagnosis may result in additional diagnostic testing and treatments without receiving any benefit.
It does feel somewhat precious spending time in a medical facility getting tested and going through the results with a doctor when you are feeling perfectly healthy. However, the benefits on lifespan and healthspan are proven. So don’t just soldier on, get screened!!!!
(Note: if you would like a generic list of the typical types of screening tests you could discuss with your GP and formulate a tailored screening plan for you, drop an email to [email protected] and we will send it to you promptly!).