Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Regular Medical Checkup: A Life-saver

It is often said that, “Prevention is better than cure”. Indeed, it is. In developed countries where annual medical check-up is a must, people get the benefit of finding out any health problem before it’s too late to cure it. In the Philippines where I worked for many years, I never got any fringe benefit in terms of medical check-up except when I had to buy a health care policy on my own from providers. Now that I’m working abroad, I realize how important regular checkup is.

I had my third annual checkup three months ago. Catered for free by the university where I am working, it is also free for the immediate family so my husband has also availed of it. Every time we receive our results, we both have to see our American doctor for his interpretation and advice. My husband’s second year check-up (and mine third) yielded the most promising benefit for both of us. When my husband showed his results to our doctor, he was very much impressed with the improvement as he compared the results over last year’s. His very high level of bad cholesterol (LDL) and high triglycerides, two major culprits for cardiovascular disease and hypertension which caused his mother’s death two years ago, has lowered significantly after following the doctor’s advice to exercise regularly and to cut meat and fats from his diet. He completely gave up his drinking and smoking about two years ago when he joined me in Thailand so the doctor said exercise is made more effective now that he eliminated these two contributing factors.

The warning
When my turn came, I handed in my results to the doctor. “Oh, your glucose level is the same as last year’s!”, the doctor remarked. What he meant by the same was “beyond normal”, 150. I apologized to him for not following his advice to exercise regularly, to reduce my meat intake and to lead a less stressful life. Alarmed by his warning, I researched further in the Internet. What I found out changed my view that I had better health than my husband as he has two symptoms while I had only one and mine was only minor. “High sugar can be a single fatal cause”, it reads. It is as deadly as high cholesterol and high triglycerides combined as symptoms for cardio-vascular disease, a traitor killer. Alas, I have to follow my doctor’s advice and my husband’s example if I want to live longer and see my kids grown up.

An irony
The irony was, I was the first one who encouraged my husband to change lifestyle knowing his bloodline. His uncle was debilitated by a stroke just a few months ago as well as three of his cousins just a couple of years older than he is. Almost all of his maternal aunts have been afflicted with stroke and one of his uncles died at early 50’s due to heart attack. Because of his family history, I had to convince him for a checkup during the first time and he hesitated to have it but he willingly submitted the second time. On my part when interrogated by the doctor about my family medical history, I had to ponder for an answer. Honestly, I’ve never heard of anyone in the family who has distressed with diabetes. Then I suddenly recalled that my maternal grandma turned blind when I was in Grade 3. My doctor speculated that it might be due to diabetes with the way I described the sudden plight of my grandma especially when I mentioned that her two elder sisters turned blind, too, at their later years. Our university doctor at KMUTT has the same suspect as our family doctor at Bangkok Adventist Hospital.

The turning point

My husband was told by the doctor that if natural intervention would not work for him after exercising, losing weight and cutting his meat and food intake, he should take medication for maintenance. With his strong determination to break what seems to be a curse in his bloodline, he started jogging everyday except Saturday, working out every Sunday and gradually limiting his consumption of meat and fatty food. Thus, with his second annual checkup, his results dramatically changed. What about me? Confident of my normal LDL, triglycerides and everything except high glucose, I never did any intervention whether exercising and avoiding meat. But encouraged with my husband’s results through his discipline in religiously obeying our doctor’s advice, I promised myself to follow his example. The turning point was triggered by the blurry eyesight I experienced once after my consultation with the doctor. The doctor asked me if I ever experienced it before but I said “never”. The sight of my blind grandma suddenly flashed into my mind and I was too scared to be like her.
Waking up early is the least thing I wanted to do but from then on, I had to get up and followed the doctor’s recommendation of at least 180 minutes a week exercise coupled with the suppression of my craving for my favorite beefsteak. (I don’t like chicken very much and I never eat pork.) For two successive years with high glucose, I had to do another checkup without intervention as advised by my doctor and the result remained the same. Then, after intervention of about two months of exercise and cutting down meat and fatty food I had to test again; surprisingly, there was a big drop in my sugar level.
Now, I put health my top priority. My body is the temple of God so I must take care of it. Besides, it is my most invaluable investment in making a living so if I don’t take proper care of it, I will be a loser. So, every morning when I get up, I head to the nearby park to jog two loops of 1050 meters (more than 1 km) and to walk two loops in order to warm down. I started with thirty minutes a day and have gradually increased it. This time, one hour is too short for me to track about 5 kms daily.
I now enjoy the added benefits of jogging and brisk-walking as an effective way to set off stress. I do enjoy the refreshing morning breeze with the healing kiss of the sun rays through the trees around the well-maintained park between my workplace and our condo. I also enjoy the noise and the sight of different groups of people most of them following the Thai daily color-codes doing different forms of exercise in their designated corners around the park- some doing Tai Chi, yoga, aerobics and other forms of exercise. It's a very encouraging sight. Most of all, I do enjoy the glimpse of beautiful flowers, the fish and the turtle swimming in the ponds, the squirrels chasing each other on the trees, the frivolous birds hovering on the trees and the sky – all of which I will cease to enjoy without my precious eyesight I need to save by not allowing diabetes to conquer it.
What more? After jogging, I go home with fresh fruits, vegetables and my new diet partners-newly made tofu and soymilk- all sold at the park’s gate. They’re not available in the afternoon; besides, research shows that exercising in the morning is better than at any other time.(Visit for more information.)
Regular medical checkup, therefore, is not beneficial without intervention such as exercise and proper diet once you find out your (possible) health problems. Many tests have saved lives that it is worth spending money for checkup regularly. In case our companies do not provide free checkup for us and our family members, let us aim to set aside budget for a regular health checkup to find out as early as possible what we need to treat before it’s too late.

(Written November 22, 2007)


Dorothy L said...

Running/jogging even walking are the best forms of premeditate health exercise.
I have always been very active in athletics and maintaining a healthy diet.
It most definitely has paid off for me thus far!

nice A said...

Wow, Ms. D! So you really stay fit. I like that.
Jogging/running works better than just brisk walking in lowering my sugar level as well as my husband's bad cholesterol and high triglycerides as shown in our follow-up check up results. I used to walk regularly but the result was not as good as jogging. It may depend on the severity of the problem.


Nice and easy way to keep yourself healthy. Wish bothy of you all the best......

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