When we are young, we have a strong body that supports us in whatever we do. We work a lot, cope with stress, party hard, travel and enjoy life to the fullest. However, as we age, a lot of changes happen within the body. We need to assess if these changes bring with them potential health problems. And also understand how the body has fared till now and what we can expect from it in the coming years. That’s why it is important to get yourself checked regularly after the age of 35. Here are some tests that you need to do:
- Once every two years after 35
- Once every year after 45
- As required if affected with some ailment.
ESR stands for erythrocyte sedimentation rate. It is a blood test that is used for detecting conditions related to inflammation [whether one-time or chronic].
Primarily, ESR helps in diagnosing infections, certain forms of cancers and auto immune diseases. In elderly, an ESR can detect inflammation related to arthritis and other joint-related problems.
It also helps gauge a patient’s response to therapy—poor response to therapy shows an increase in ESR, a good response shows a decrease in ESR.
CBC—complete blood count [also referred to as haemogram]—aims to measure the various components of blood including red blood cell [RBC] count, white blood cell [WBC] count, white blood cell differential count; platelet count and haemoglobin levels.
Each of these elements has its own significance. For example, an increase in WBC could be because of an infection, inflammation or presence of cancer in the body. A fall in the WBC count, on other hand, could be because of a medicine, an auto-immune or a bone marrow disorder.
A decrease in RBC reveals conditions like anaemia. A hike in RBC could indicate fluid loss [due to diarrhoea and dehydration].
Platelet count too is a significant measure of specific anaemic conditions. Platelets may show increased or decreased levels as per their production. There may be a sharp aberrance in platelet count in cases of leukaemia or if one has undergone chemotherapy.
FASTING BLOOD SUGAR
The fasting blood sugar [or FBS] test helps check for pre-diabetes and diabetes. It is usually one of the first tests that are done when diabetes is suspected. It measures the content of glucose in our blood, on an empty stomach, eight hours after we have eaten.
LIVER FUNCTION TESTS
In order to check the functioning of liver some of the tests that are commonly recommended are serum albumin, alpha-1 antitrypsin, prothrombin time, serum bilirubin, urine bilirubin among others. Each of these has a significance of their own. For instance, serum albumin helps diagnose liver diseases like hepatitis and cirrhosis. A serum albumin is a kind of protein present in blood in liquid form and a lower level can be alarming.
Similarly, serum bilirubin levels are crucial to watch out for in jaundice and can also diagnose liver and gall bladder related problems. Sometimes even urine bilirubin tests are recommended as they help in narrowing down the diagnosis of liver or gall bladder problems.
Lipid profile indicates the status of fat metabolism in the body and helps find out potential or existing heart diseases. The tests measure levels of fat and lipoproteins such as total cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL [high density lipoprotein], LDL [low density lipoprotein] and VLDL [very low density lipoprotein] cholesterol.
While value of the total cholesterol could roughly measure all the cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, specific values of other forms of cholesterol suggest problems related to heart clearly.
For example, a high LDL count indicates risk of coronary artery disease as LDL [bad cholesterol] contains the most cholesterol, which leads to blockages.
High VLDL count too isn’t a good thing, as VLDL contains the maximum triglycerides. VLDL builds up cholesterol on the walls of the arteries, thereby making them narrower.
KIDNEY FUNCTION TESTS
Primarily, urea [through BUN or blood urea nitrogen test] and creatinine are the two components that are checked for suitable functioning of the kidneys. Urea is a waste product that is formed in the liver and later on filtered from the blood and excreted through urine. High levels of BUN could mean kidney dysfunction. Similarly, creatinine levels can give alarming signals of kidney health. Sometimes physicians also refer USG [ultra-sonogram] for diagnosing kidney related problems.
The TSH or thyroid test is done to diagnose imbalance of thyroid-related hormones such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
Those who experience symptoms such as increased heart rate, anxiety, weight loss, weakness and difficulty sleeping, and visual disorders may have hyperthyroidism and must do this test as soon as possible. In addition, weight gain, puffy skin, hair loss and excess fatigue too are symptoms that you must watch out for. They signify hypothyroidism and also warrant investigation.
ECG [Electrocardiogram] helps detect a range of heart-related ailments including diseases related to coronary arteries, heart enlargement, aneurisms and heart inflammation.
By measuring the electrical activity of the heart, ECG monitors the rhythm of the heart and conduction of the heart beat through the heart. Any discord, suggests a problem. An ECG is also used to monitor the effect of certain medicines that are used for coronary artery diseases.
Stress test or cardiac stress test is done after an ECG, if it doesn’t indicate an anomaly but the symptoms persist. This usually happens in the case of people, who have coronary artery blockages. Their ECG often doesn’t show a problem.
Stress test can help in identifying the signs of coronary artery diseases [CAD] and also evaluate tolerance of exercise among the people feeling fatigue and shortness of breath.
Cardiac stress test is also helpful in identifying partial blockages in the coronary arteries.
Another simple test experts refer for people with potential heart related problems is X-ray chest [PA view], which explains the cardiac size well and helps doctors ascertain any disorders of the lungs. It also tells us about any early lung lesions or lung cancer.
As one grows older, one may be susceptible to colon cancers and polyps in the large intestine. Rectal examinations can help detect cancerous growths in the rectum.
An ENT examination helps in diagnosing early throat problems, vocal cord nodules, hearing loss problems and ENT cancers.
It helps picking up early visual defects, glaucoma, early cataracts and certain neurological problems involving the optic nerve.
This was first published in the August 2011 issue of Complete Wellbeing.