Preventive health check-up is still a somewhat alien concept in the Indian scenario. As a nation, we have the tendency to wait for an illness to strike and then take action. Fortunately, now, with more awareness, things are slowly changing. Health is gradually becoming an important issue and people are waking up to the fact that preventive health check-ups can save a lot of money, stress and heartache in the future. And, this is especially true in the case of people who are 60 years of age and above. They have special requirements and their needs are specific and related to ageing. And, it goes without saying that health is the key to overall well-being and the secret behind an active and satisfying life.
Different elderly people may have different lifestyles, health risks and needs. Most physical changes that occur with aging are gradual and take place over a long period of time and the rate and degree of change varies from individual to individual. Factors like disease can increase the speed and degree of the changes. Lifestyle, nutrition, economic status, and social environment also affect the ageing process. If an individual can recognize the changes as a normal part of aging, he or she can usually learn to adapt and cope up with it.
Increasing elderly population and inadequate support system
There has been a demographic change in the population leading to a steady rise in the number of elderly persons. Currently, India has 8.9 per cent of its population, i.e., 11 crore, above the age of 60 years.
The socio-economic changes have led to an erosion of the joint family system, which was once a great support system for the elderly. Understandably, this has become a point of concern for the elderly. This is just one of the many causes why their health issues require special attention.
Why go for preventive health check-ups?
The concept of health basically translates into a state of physical, mental and social well-being. While we all try to stay healthy, one can never be sure when an illness might strike and it always comes when one is least expecting it.
The elderly is faced with the double burden of degenerative diseases due to age apart from the usual infections, which they suffer like any other adults.
With the steep increase in the cost of medical care, cost effective preventive measures are becoming more important than ever. A disease detected in its early stage will be far easier to treat and this will also prevent the need for hospitalisation.
Preventive health check-ups have proven to be an effective tool of early detection of diseases, early institution of the treatment, reduction in hospital stay and subsequent convalescence.
Preventive health check-ups are vital for maintaining good health. These may be general or disease-specific in nature. General health check-ups are conducted to have a general assessment of overall health by evaluation of various important organs and organ systems of the body. Disease specific check-ups are done with the idea of detecting a specific disease or for assessing the severity / staging of the disease.
Main health risk factors
The most prevalent ailments amongst Senior Citizens are those of anemia, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive airway disease (COAD), cataract, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease and osteoarthritis.
In fact, a recent study shows two alarming trends. 15% of Indian population is suffering from Arthritis. The statistics are worse for the senior section who are more susceptible to this disease. (Data source www.arthritis-india.com)
Another menace for Indian seniors has been diabetes. As a result of Indian food habits and the general lack of awareness among people, there are a staggering 69 million Diabetes patients in India which is approximately 8.7% of whole Indian population.
As per a recent survey published by International Men’s Health Society, 1 in 2 men will be afflicted with Cancer in their lifetime.
With early detection through regular health screening, these ailments can be prevented or treated, thereby minimizing the risks of complications.
Frequency of preventive health check-ups
It is medically recommended that all Senior Citizens should have a yearly medical examination, which includes an annual screening ultrasound, screening for lung cancer, blood pressure and cholesterol checks, screening for diabetes and checking for the risk factors for osteoporosis.
Senior women should have a PAP smear test and breast examination / mammogram and Senior men should get themselves screened for prostate cancer.
Tests Specially Designed For Senior Age Group
Experts around the world agree that there are some common problems which almost every senior suffers from. This is why a preventive health package for seniors is a special set of tests and differs from that of a young adult.
We have already mentioned the common risks for seniors above 60. Any set of tests addressing these issues, is ideal for this age group.
Choosing the right preventive health check package
The deeper the examinations, the better and more accurate the results are. Going for a holistic package such as “whole body check-up” is advisable for seniors because many of the problems don’t show any symptom until they are in the advanced stage. The whole idea of preventive health checkup revolves around proactively preventing the disease before it is out of control.
Ideally, the most exhaustive set of tests should be chosen as it detects the smallest malfunctioning of vital organs. However, if you feel completely fine, getting the basic set of tests done should be the least precaution you can take.
Choosing the Best Labs
Now comes the tricky part of choosing the provider. Unfortunately, most labs don’t have internationally certified equipment and even when they do, many lack the proper technicians to operate these. This is where NABL becomes a symbol of assurance. Standing for National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories, this is a certification from the central government which certifies that the labs are following the regulatory guidelines. Always look for NABL certificate for a lab to assure accurate test results.
(Read more about NABL here http://www.nabl-india.org/)
Prevent and prepare is better than repent and repair.
Nothing can be truer for preventive health packages. An annual preventive health check-up is the least investment you can do on yourself and the returns will be a peaceful, happy and active senior life.