The daily and scheduled maintenance of your health is not unlike auto maintenance. Some of us take better care of our vehicles than our bodies.
Young people (especially men in their 20s and 30s) act as if their bodies are still under warranty and rarely see a doctor until something goes wrong.
Young women are usually better in seeing their family doctors regularly for pap smears, contraceptive advice and prenatal care.
The best predictors of your future health are the habits you practice today.
You probably wouldn’t put contaminated fuel in your gas tank or use inferior replacement parts for you car but that’s exactly what we do when we overeat, drink to excess, smoke, abuse drugs and consume an unhealthy diet (high in salt, fat and sugar).
We tend to pay more attention to our outward appearance (our hair, clothing and skin) than what’s going on inside. It’s like washing and waxing your car but ignoring the maintenance of your engine.
A significant family history (including colon cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, premature heart attacks and strokes) is like a manufacturer’s recall. It can give you an early warning that you may need earlier scheduled maintenance to treat hereditary risk factors.
What to check in your 20s: your health habits, including diet, alcohol consumption, recreational drugs and exercise. Women should start doing pap smears at age 25.
30s: blood pressure should be checked at least once a year beginning at age 18; watch out for weight gain
40s: blood sugars, cholesterol (depending on your family history), breast cancer (women should consider beginning screening mammograms)
50s: benign enlargement of the prostate, prostate cancer, colon cancer, osteoarthritis
60s, 70s, 80s: dementia, hearing and vision loss, mobility (fall risks), independence (ability to perform your activities of daily living), assisted living/residential care, advance medical directives, end of life care
Women are relatively protected against heart disease until menopause. After that, their risks for strokes and heart attacks rise (just like a vehicles rust protection and undercoating are protective for a limited time). Heart disease tends to be underrecognized and undertreated in women at any age.
The Family Doctors of Burnaby are running a public education campaign including free public lectures on prevention and management of your own health. For more information, check the Burnaby Division of Family Practice website at https://divisionsbc.ca/burnaby