Search for the “most popular New Year’s resolution” and it’s no surprise that the answer has something to do with our health: “to lose weight,” “get fit,” “exercise more,” “eat better.” Indeed, after months of promising to go on a sensible diet or to transition to a more active lifestyle, there’s no better time to finally make good on your commitment to adopt to these healthy habits than the New Year. Isn’t it motivating to start the year fresh and on a clean slate?
But before incorporating fruits and vegetables into your meals, taking a multivitamin daily, or exercising for 30 minutes three times a week, why not first establish a baseline of where you are, health-wise? For that, you need to go through a proper health screening process.
“Health screening is a simple and effective way to determine if you have a specific condition or disease, even if you show no symptoms or signs of it,” says Minerva Laconico, MD, Head of the MMC HealthHub of top hospital in the Philippines Makati Medical Center (MakatiMed). “Early detection helps you address the condition with the right treatment so you can better manage your health. It also increases your chances of overcoming the disease and reduces any risk of complications.”
At MakatiMed, health screenings depend not only on your family’s health history; they also depend on other factors such as your age, gender and lifestyle, as health concerns naturally change with every passing decade.
In your 20s: This is the decade when you feel most carefree and at the peak of your health. But take note that this does not exempt you from a health screening. “We need to change that mindset,” Dr. Laconico points out. “Just because you don’t feel anything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see your health practitioner.”
Tests and exams for this decade include determining your height, weight and body mass index in order to ascertain any health risk one may face if it is outside the healthy range. This also includes establishing your baseline blood pressure (to check if you are hypertensive); cholesterol levels (especially if you have a family history of heart disease); blood sugar (to rule out diabetes); eyesight, and hearing. “For women, a yearly pelvic exam and pap smear every three years are recommended to check for signs of cancer and sexually transmitted diseases,” says Dr. Laconico. “A clinical breast exam every 1 to 3 years is also advisable for women with average risk for breast cancer.”
For men, she recommends a testicular exam as part of a general checkup, and tests for sexually transmitted diseases, if one is sexually active.
In your 30s: At this decade, you are probably still feeling like you’re on the top of the world. All the more, men and women are suggested to undergo health screening. Results of their weight and BMI, cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar will be evaluated and this will reveal if they’ve been vigilant with their healthy habits or have fallen off the wagon and need to get back up.
“Women in their 30s don’t necessarily need a mammogram, but if you have a history of breast cancer in the family, a doctor will most likely recommend it,” Dr. Laconico explains. “Sexually active women can also consult their doctor about the best type of birth control.” Ask your doctor too about a thyroid test, especially when you plan to get pregnant. Thyroid hormones are crucial to the development of a baby’s brain and nervous system.
In your 40s: You still have your best years ahead of you! Besides the usual screenings of weight and BMI, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, your family physician will make specific requests depending on your gender.
“By this age, men can expect to undergo a prostate exam through a urologist, especially if there is a history of prostate cancer in the family,” says Dr. Laconico. “For women in their 40’s, the HealthHub recommends the Health Investment Female Rider which includes either a mammogram or breast ultrasound to check for signs of breast cancer, a transvaginal or transrectal ultrasound to rule out ovarian cancer, and a bone density test every three years to monitor signs of osteoporosis.”
In your 50s and 60s: The golden years can feel great if you continue to practice healthy habits and make appointment for regular screenings. “People in this decade should consider getting a colonoscopy, which tests for precancerous polyps and signs of colorectal cancer. Combined with Fecal Occult Blood Test, these diagnostics can detect early signs of colon cancer” according to Dr. Laconico.
With the arrival of each new year, there’s nothing more empowering than knowing you are healthy enough to face whatever challenges and blessings that come your way. And the only way to find out is through a comprehensive health screening. “It’s time and money well spent.” “Nowadays, when health has become a top priority, the results from a health screening will allow you to take control of your condition and improve your overall health for this year and beyond.”