5 Important Health Checks That Could Save Your Life

Listen, I’m not going to sugar coat this, doctors are there for a reason and we’re incredibly blessed in the UK to have a free health service, so please make use of it.

Many of us are so caught up in daily life and spend way more time concerned with other people’s problems, that we never take the time to stop and think about our own health. In fact, there are a huge number of people who aren’t even registered with a GP, which is just crazy.

You must have heard the phrase…

“Put your own oxygen mask on first”

…and no more is this true than when it comes to your own health.

How can you be expected to look after, care and be there for others if you aren’t fit and well yourself? It is not selfish to look after yourself, in fact it’s the complete opposite…by looking after yourself you are looking after those that matter – you are there.

If your child started breathing funny, or your sister found a lump in her breast, or your dad was complaining of a tight chest you’d march them straight to the docs wouldn’t you? So, why is that when it comes to ourselves, we brush off any concerns. Perhaps you’re in denial, perhaps you don’t think you’re worth it, or you’re too busy, or that you’re making a fuss.

You’re Not!

No matter whether you’re a mum, dad, wife, husband, daughter, son, friend, there is someone that depends on you and more than anything else, they need YOU! And so I’m asking, on behalf of all those that love you, to go for those important routine check ups as well as keeping an eye on things at home too, because just by doing the next 5 things it really could mean the difference between life and death.


Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is the cause of so many health problems, but most worryingly it can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke. To put it in layman’s terms, high blood pressure knackers up your arteries. The extra strain results in a thickening of the arteries and they also become less flexible and weaker. Imagine how hard it is for blood to travel through narrow tubes, so of course the pressure becomes even more intense, and it becomes a bit of a vicious cycle. The added pressure can result in a ruptured blood vessel – it literally can’t take any more and bursts, or a blockage/clot can form, which then becomes life threatening.

The good news is that most strokes can be prevented and one of the best things you can do is regularly check your blood pressure. Certain GP health checks will include blood pressure checks, but obviously you need to make sure you actually go to the appointment in the first place! But that’s also no excuse, because you can buy relatively inexpensive blood pressure monitors to use at home; a great tool for tracking any changes and to alert you of any concerns. Ultimately a lot of it boils down to lifestyle, and like many things if you:

  • Exercise
  • Eat well
  • Don’t smoke
  • Keep within recommended alcohol units
  • Manage stress levels
  • Manage any other medical conditions

then you will significantly lower your chances of suffering from this serious condition.

But of course there are exceptions to this rule, and you could be the fittest, healthiest person on the planet yet still have a family history of high blood pressure. Don’t take chances, take advantage of any health checks offered to you, be aware of your body, notice any changes and more important than anything else take control of your future.

Boobs

Boobs, breasticles, norks, funbags, whatever you want to call them, us women aren’t paying enough attention to them and that needs to change. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got better at it, charities such as CoppaFeel have helped remove the stigma and have made breast checking kinda cool, if that’s even possible, but there are still so many of us (myself included I’m ashamed to say) that don’t regularly check our breasts for lumps or abnormalities.

As lame an excuse as it is, I don’t think to do it. It’s not that I don’t want to, every now and again I will remember and have a little feel around, but this is something that needs to be done on more than just a whim, it needs to be slotted into your routine. Once something’s part of a routine it becomes natural right? Like brushing your teeth, you just do it, so have a go at incorporating a breast check into one of those routines. It’s really easy to have a check whilst showering for instance, you’re already naked, you’re already soaping up in the right area, so take a little bit more time, as the charity I mentioned before is so aptly named, to ‘coppa feel’.

Signs and symptoms to look out for include:

  • Changes in size or shape
  • Thickening, or a lump within the breast
  • Changes in skin texture – puckering or dimpling, think orange peel
  • Any areas of redness or a rash on the skin or around the nipple
  • Inverted nipple (pushed inwards) or if it has changed shape or position on your breast
  • Nipple discharge
  • Constant pain in the breast or the armpit
  • Swelling in the armpit or around the collarbone.

It’s important to point out that many of these symptoms can be completely harmless, but it needs to be checked out properly by your GP – if not for anything else other than to put your mind at ease.

If every woman regularly checked her breasts, it’s estimated that 1,500 lives would be saved every year. That’s an absolutely staggering amount. So make a pledge with me today to make breast checks a regular part of your routine – for your children, for your family and for YOURSELF!

Balls

And don’t think you men get off Scott free either, because balls just like boobs get cancer and you need to also be checking them regularly. I mean let’s face it half the time you’ve got your hands down your pants anyway, so what’s the harm in having a little investigative man massage whilst you’re down there!

Stats show us that more than 96% of men who get testicular cancer will be cured. Pretty good odds, right? But this figure could be reduced even further if more men were checking their balls. Unlike most other cancers, which tend to become more common the older a person gets, testicular cancer is more likely to occur in middle aged or young men; that’s between the ages of 25 to 49 years old.

Again, make it part of your routine; after a shower is an ideal time to do it because the scrotal skin is more relaxed thus making it easier to feel beneath the surface. It’s a good idea to check one testicle at a time, and because it is very unusual to develop cancer in both at the same time, you can start to compare and notice any differences between the two. Move your penis to one side and hold the testicle between the thumbs and fingers of both hands, rolling it gently between the fingers. This is what you need to look out for:

  • Hard lumps
  • Smooth rounded bumps
  • Changes in size
  • Changes in shape
  • Differences between the two testicles

Although it’s really common to have one testicle slightly larger or that hangs slightly lower than the other, a big difference in size or weight of one of the testicle could indicate that something is wrong.

My advice…if in doubt, give your GP a shout!

Moles

Nope not those blind furry things that make a right old mess of your lawn, we’re talking the other kind, small brown, the seemingly harmless skin spots scattered around your body. Skin cancer is the most common cancer around the world, perhaps mainly because many of us don’t know what we’re looking for and also don’t do much to help prevent it. Non-melanoma skin cancer is mainly caused by an overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, this is the light that comes from the sun, and includes artificial sunbeds and sunlamps. The advice is simple: use a high factor sun lotion based on your skin type, don’t go out in the sun when it’s at it’s hottest – that’s between 11am-3pm, love a sunbed? – try a spray tan instead, and remember to check your skin and moles regularly.

It really is as easy as A, B, C…and D. This is what you’re looking out for:

A = Asymmetry – Does the mole look different one side compared to the other?

B = Border – Are the edges of the mole irregular/jagged?

C = Colour –  Does the surface of the mole vary in colour, is it patchy/uneven?

D = Diameter –  Has a mole got bigger or is it more than 6mm in diameter?

Doctors advise you should check your moles every couple of months, bearing the ABCD guidelines in mind when you do it. Most moles are benign, but there is still a risk that any mole could turn nasty and regular checks will certainly alert you to any abnormalities sooner rather than later.

Smear Test

Did you know that in the last ten years, cases of cervical cancer in women aged 25 – 29 have risen by a whopping 59.2%, scary right? And the reason for this? Because this age group in particular are scared, embarrassed and think that it won’t happen to them.

Approximately 3,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK, yet if detected early enough with cervical screening, this figure could be dramatically reduced.

A cervical screening test, or smear test (which let’s face it doesn’t exactly sound inviting!), is offered to all women who are registered with a GP. It detects abnormal cells on the cervix and although it can be an uncomfortable procedure, it should not be painful.

Truth time…yes you have to lie there flashing your lady bits to a complete stranger (don’t worry you have every right to insist on a female nurse if that makes you feel more comfortable), yes the tools look like medieval instruments of torture, yes there’s scraping and no that’s not a word you want to hear when used in connection with your vag, and yes there may be random chat from the nurse as you try to block out what’s going on (sometimes that helps though!). But it is 5 minutes of your day, once every 3-5 years, nothing! Just suck it up and get through it, because it’s not as bad as all that and it could save your life.

First and foremost make sure you are registered with a GP. If you are, then you will automatically receive a letter inviting you to make an appointment for your test. Ideally you should aim to book one during the middle of your menstrual cycle (usually 14 days from the start of your last period), as this normally ensures that the nurse can get a better sample of cells and should prevent you from having to go back for a retest.

Once the nurse has collected the cell sample, it gets sent off to the lab for analysis and you should receive the result within two weeks.


So there you have, 5 simple checks that will literally take up mere minutes of your day. And please, even if you take nothing else from this article, make sure you register with a GP and keep up to date with those essential health checks that really could make all the difference.

It’s not selfish, it’s not indulgent and it’s not a waste of time…

YOU matter!

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