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Posted by Royal Sundaram on 18 Jun 2015
Did you know that health expenditure in India accounts for 4.1% of the national GDP? What’s more, private expenditure on health (which means expenses that the government does not bear) adds up to 70.8% of all health expenditure in the country, according to a reports by The Guardian. The choice then for the ordinary citizen is quite straightforward – invest a small sum on preventive health checkups (which could completely be covered by your insurance) instead of shelling out huge amounts during health crises.
The benefits of preventive healthcare are manifold. Not only are you saved the trouble of having to suffer through the symptoms and stress of illnesses, you also get to save on money that would otherwise be spent on hospital costs. Not convinced a check-up is worth the effort? Read on.
Most medical professionals agree that one of the best ways to take care of your health is to go for annual checkups. Here are some reasons why this is important:
- Even you car is serviced every six months. No one questions why time, effort and money are put into ensuring that their car is serviced, with all the needed checks, on a regular basis. Our body too needs to be tuned up regularly and checked for optimal functioning. Do we value our own health as much as we do that of our vehicle?
- You have a sedentary job: The reality is that we are today so hooked to the computer that even when we aren’t in office, we are surfing the net and essentially spending both our working hours and free time sitting in front of some type of screen or monitor. Then there are those of us who smoke, drink and, quite frankly, quiver at the thought of daily exercise.
- Healthy people can fall ill too: While we are young we feel invincible. But as age starts catching up, it all starts with random aches and pains and progresses to high blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol, to list the less serious ailments. If we took care of our health early on, we should be able to prevent all these ailments and more.
- Early detection could lead to cure: There are so many disorders and diseases that have a better prognosis when detected early. This is especially true of chronic and terminal illnesses, such as cancer. Regular preventive health checkups will not only ensure that you identify the need for treatment as soon as possible but also give you better chances of returning back to health.
- Family history is a sure giveaway: Family history means that you stand a higher chance of ending up suffering from the same diseases as your immediate family. For instance, if your father had a history of cardiac problems or your grandmother had high blood sugar, there are chances that you might experience the same conditions sooner or later.
- Annual checkup are covered by insurance: Many insurers cover the cost of preventive healthcare in their medical insurance policies. A little bit of research on this could save you even the small investment you might need to make for checkups.
- You get tax benefits: You also get tax benefits for such checkups under Section 80D of the Income Tax Act. In addition to all other benefits you could get tax deductions of up to ₹5,000 for preventive health checks for yourself and your immediate family.
Needless to mention, today life is hectic and full of stress, which only compounds the problem and increases the chances of lifestyle disorders.
What does an Annual Health Checkup Include?
While your family history and previous medical history might call for certain tests, there is no set routine for preventive health checkups. However, there are some tests that are usually conducted to ensure comprehensive evaluation. These include:
- Clinical History: The checkup usually starts with your medical history. This is the time to mention any concerns or complaints you might have regarding your health. Your physician will also ask you questions about previous procedures and surgeries, including tests and immunizations. You will also need to come clean about important behaviours like excessive drinking, smoking, exercise, sexual health, normal bodily functions and so on.
- Vital Statistics: There are some vital signs that need to be checked by the attending doctor, such as blood pressure, respiration rate, heart rate, temperature. Your general appearance will also be noted. A preliminary heart exam, which is basically listening with the stethoscope for any signs or irregular heartbeat or murmur and other telltale signs of heart disease. The stethoscope will also give clues about the status of your lungs, such as sounds of wheezing or other indicators of diseases.
- General body exam: Here, the doctor will conduct a head and neck exam, looking into your mouth to your throat and tonsils and teeth and gums. Your sinuses, nose, ears and eyes will also be checked. The physician might also check your thyroid and lymph nodes. An abdominal exam will give clues regarding the health of your bowels, liver, and general digestive system. A physical and sensory exam of the extremities will tell the doctor about the health of your arms, legs and joints.
- Lab tests: Some doctors might suggest some laboratory tests to be done as well, such as:
- Blood chemistry
- Screening for prostate cancer
- Screening for ovarian cancer
- Lipid panel
- Vision and hearing for senior citizens
There are certain regular checks that are conducted for men and women. The male physical exam usually includes tests related to the reproductive organs for indications of any infections, such as warts and/or ulcers, tenderness, lumps or change in size. It would also include a hernia exam, checking for weakness in the abdominal walls, especially between the two intestines, and scrotum. The female physical exam usually includes a breast exam that checks for abnormal lumps which might indicate breast cancer. The lymph nodes in the armpits are also examined and a Pap test needs to be done to check for cervical cancer.
A Word of Caution
More and more people are becoming health conscious these days. An increasing number of people are recognizing the need for preventive healthcare. With this, there has been a surge in “master health checkups” being offered by different businesses. Sounds good? But wait! In India, such activity is still unregulated. So, you really need to exercise some caution in choosing the service provider.
If you want a preventive health check to be of use, it is important to know that there cannot be standards tests. The tests would vary depending on your age, gender and various other factors pertaining to your lifestyle. How often do you need these checkups? This, too, will be determined by several factors, including age and previous medical history. And if the tests reveal any cause for concern, then the diagnostic center should be able to provide the needed counseling.
Unfortunately, we have a tendency to trust packages that include more tests. However, a longer list of exams doesn’t automatically mean that you are getting better services. In most developed countries, the guidelines for annual checkups are set on a national level. Till the time that such guidelines are set, some firms are offering X-Rays and even CT Scans as part of the checkups. This is worrying because these types of tests use ionizing radiation, which could actually cause harm rather than help the consumer and should only be undertaken when one’s health status calls for them. Even the Pap Smear and Mammogram should be recommended only for women of a particular age group and at a given frequency.
So, the first step is to ensure that you are using the services of reliable and reputed medical service providers. However, even before this, consider taking on a good health insurance policy. An annual check means that problem will be detected in good time but it does not mean that you will not fall ill. To be well prepared to face any type of health related problems for yourself and your loved ones, the best way is to make sure you choose medical insurance that will stand you in good stead in an emergency.
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