It’s World Health Day on Sunday 7th April this year and a good chance to stop and take stock of how you are taking care of your health. Most of us know we could eat a little better, go to bed a little earlier or be a bit more active, but there are plenty of other ways we can keep on top of our health and improve it.
Time quite often rushes away with us and we lose track of exactly when we last had a check up. But making sure you do get routine screenings and tests can catch any health problems early and give you a better long term outcome.
Did you know that even if you have perfect vision you should still get an eye test with an optician every two years as they can detect major health problems through markers in your eyes? As you get older hearing checks are also valuable (and can often be done at high street opticians) as correcting early hearing loss can prevent long term decline and stop our brain ‘forgetting how to hear’ certain sounds.
It’s recommended that every two years women over the age of 50 have a mammogram to pick up any tumours and changes which would not be detected with self-examination. And smear tests should be carried out every three years for women aged 25-49 and every five years when aged 50-64. You are also entitled to a free health check with the NHS every five years when you are between the ages of 40 and 74.
Even though you can’t change your genetic makeup, knowing your family history can help you reduce your risk of developing health problems. It can make you more alert to early indicators – and encourage you to improve other contributing risk factors. People with a family history of disease have the most to gain from lifestyle changes and screening tests.
Risks for diseases such as asthma, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease run in families. Although age is a factor in many illnesses, there are pointers which suggest you are more likely to have a hereditary based increase in contracting them. These include: a disease which occurs in more than one relative, at an earlier age than expected, effects all regardless of gender (such as breast cancer in males) or certain combinations of diseases (like diabetes and heart disease).
If you think you may have a family based risk of contracting a disease then it’s worth gathering information about who contracted the illness and their age when it occurred, their cause of death (if relevant) and ethnic background. This is all helpful for your doctor who can then advise on early screenings you might be entitled to or recommended and also can explain any early symptoms to look out for.
One of the single most effective changes you can make to your health is to stop smoking. That means cigarettes and e-cigarettes too. The health benefits of quitting smoking can help most of the major parts of your body: from your brain to your DNA.
The damage to lungs smoking does is well known, it’s also the leading cause of heart attacks and heart disease. The good news is the risk can be reduced simply by quitting. Your blood pressure and heart rate goes down almost immediately and your risk of heart attack declines within 24 hours. While the scarring of your lungs is permanent you will notice they are less under pressure and within a couple of weeks feel less out of breath. The cilia in your lungs take 1 to 9 months to repair and you may notice you start coughing more to begin with. That’s a sign they are beginning to work well again.
Quitting smoking immediately is the best way to lower your risk of getting cancer and damaging cells throughout your body. It’s also a great anti-aging technique! Stopping can can help clear up blemishes and protect your skin from premature aging and wrinkling. If you have struggled to stop in the past your GP can advise on new aids and also groups which can help and support you.
We say it all the time here at Lumity, but stress is a factor behind numerous diseases as well as denting your day to day wellbeing. Do whatever you can to diminish stress in your life. Whether it’s by using coping techniques like yoga, Pilates, long walks and reading or simply quitting a stressful job, remember that nothing is as important as your precious health!