A yearly well doctor visit is an investment that pays huge dividends for your general health. Most of us dislike going to the doctor because of the association with illness, the awful “hospital” smell, the long waiting times…the list goes on. Sometimes we’re even afraid that the doctor will find some dreadful disease or condition. We allow these reasons to keep us from doing something that could be life-saving.
The bottom line is that health systems in Sub-Saharan Africa are overburdened, inefficient and staffed with health workers that are stretched beyond their capacity. When you’re sick, your chances of being misdiagnosed are high. So is the possibility of getting the wrong or ineffective treatment for your condition. Regular visits to a doctor when you’re still well, though not a hundred percent guarantee of good health for life, at least gives you the opportunity to catch a disease at an early stage and to receive guidance to prevent chronic illness.
At the well visit your weight and height will be used to calculate your Body Mass Index or BMI, as it is commonly known. Your BMI will show whether you’re slightly, moderately or severely overweight. A BMI that’s above normal has been linked to the development of chronic diseases like hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and even certain cancers. During the visit, you should let the doctor know if you have any symptoms of any kind. Blood and urine screening tests will be done, as well as other tests that are recommended for your age.
The tables below will guide you as to what you should be asking the doctor to check. Please don’t assume that your stressed out doctor will be pleased that you’re telling him or her what to do but politely insist that you’re practicing preventive health care. It’s your life!
Do your part and go and get the tests done as soon as possible. They’ll be less expensive at a general hospital than through a private health facility, but wait times are likely to be longer. When you get your results, make an appointment with the doctor to discuss what they mean.
Depending on your health and personal risk factors, your preventive care schedule may differ from the above recommendations. Based on the results of your screening tests or if you have particular risk factors like a chronic disease, obesity, or a family history of a disease, additional tests may be recommended. Your doctor will tell you what schedule is best for you.