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Jan 26, 2012

Healthy Living has the reasons why you should get an annual check-up

Most of us realize that it is important to have an annual checkup but not all of us follow through. If one of your resolutions for 2012 included getting healthier; then there’s no better time to start than now.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

In Belize the range of screening tests now available are far better than any other time before. So, to find out what you should include in your annual, we sought the advice of internist, Dr Jorge Hidalgo. He says, before making recommendations, there are few crucial questions to ask first.

Dr. Jorge Hidalgo, Internist & Adult Intensivist

“Suppose I am a healthy person and I want to get an annual medical checkup there are several things I need to know. First is if we have a family history of certain conditions or if we have risk factor: overweight, a lifestyle that we don’t have enough time to exercise. All of this we need to know as physicians if we are to advice someone what tests they need to do in their annual checkup.”

Jorge Hidalgo

The first example we used is that of a non-symptomatic, healthy male in his early twenties.

Dr. Jorge Hidalgo

“The annual checkup would include a complete physical examination, then in addition to that we usually ask for some lab tests; we call it the screening test which basically means we include a white blood cell, a basic screening test for the kidney, liver function test, we measure the glucose to rule out diabetes and also the cholesterol.”

The same tests would be recommended for a woman of similar age and also another important screening test.

Dr. Jorge Hidalgo

“We would need to discuss if she’s already sexually active; we need to discuss if she will need or a not a pap smear. We usually recommend for a pap smear to be done at the age of twenty-one or depends if the woman is sexually active then it’ll probably be earlier.”

For a person who is over forty, there are a few more critical tests that should be done. Again, we’re talking about non symptomatic, healthy men & women. Here’s Dr. Hidalgo’s recommendation for men.

Dr. Jorge Hidalgo

“Someone who is totally healthy this person who doesn’t have any risk factors in addition to that at the age of forty, we can add a test for colon cancer screening. At an earlier stage; we usually recommend a colonoscopy at the age of 50 but sometimes and especially cause we are seeing a lot; we start to look for occult blood at the age of forty. A woman at the age of forty usually the recommendation apart from the cholesterol and glucose, kidney function test, white blood test, pap smear, then we start with a mammogram. The mammogram also depends, if a woman have a very strong history of breast cancer then the recommendation is to do the mammogram from started at 30 year old, sometimes if she’s less than thirty the recommendation is to do an ultrasound.”

We move now to persons in their 50’s.

Dr. Jorge Hidalgo

“Ok, if someone come at the age of fifty obviously things change a little bit to start to investigate, we’re talking about healthy people, this person need to be screened for prostate cancer, also for colon cancer, if he have issues triggering chest pain then we can investigate for coronary artery disease. Also if he is a smoker, also an x-ray can look for cancer at an early stage. For women again, we are looking at someone over fifty years old, obviously it will include the pap smear, the mammogram, it’s going to be at a post menopause age, she will need to discuss with the gynecologist the use of hormone replacement therapy, the use of Vitamin D, calcium, those things definitely will need to be discussed.”

Annual checkups can help in early diagnosis, which in most instances allows for more effective treatment. In some scenarios, detecting high blood sugar or blood pressure a doctor can help in recommending behavioral changes that may actually prevent the development of diabetes or hypertension.

Dr. Jorge Hidalgo

“I think the most important thing when we talk about preventative medicine we basically advice for people who don’t have any condition and they are interested to look into their health before they get ill.”

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