Knowing which health tests to get and when, in a healthcare system where screening involves spending, can be tricky. Dr Mona Tareen, a consultant at Dubai’s American Hospital who works with health management firm The Health Bank, separates the essentials from the extras…

Preventative healthcare, whatever your age, is a hot topic amongst GPs and healthcare providers – even more so now when the healthcare industry in general is overwhelmed, and an increasing number of patients are facing chronic conditions that could have easily been avoided with basic preventative screening tests.

More and more of us are increasingly taking control over our own health by educating ourselves about proactive, preventative care. Whether you think that taking care of yourself is simply a routine visit to the gym, reducing your sugar intake or walking regularly, it is just as important to ensure you schedule a routine visit to your family physician.

As we grow older, the risk factors change and often increase, so it is important to be aware of the health risks you face during your 20s, 30s, 40s and especially into your 50s and 60s.

We all know the saying ‘prevention is better than cure’, and this is even more important when it comes to our family’s health. “We quite often respond reactively to health issues, even though there are precautionary measures that we can take in order to detect problems,” says Dr Mona Tareen, US board certified internal medicine, palliative care and geriatrics specialist at American Hospital Dubai. “I’ve had the opportunity to take care of patients throughout their entire lifespan and cannot emphasise enough the importance of screening and preventative medicine. To get the best healthcare means to make the right decisions in the early stages, which is when you are developing signs and symptoms combined.” Simply put, early detection saves lives and will also save you time and money in the long run.

While most of us know the basics of living well through a balanced diet, frequent exercise and sound sleep, there are specific health risks that we should be aware of at different stages of our lives. Dr Mona says: “It is important to remember that health isn’t just about feeling well. There are several factors that affect our health and wellbeing and regular screenings are an important step towards enhancing our quality of life. In addition to this, family history and lifestyle factors largely influence our health risks as we age.”

So how do we know which tests we need and at what age? Let’s take a look at the top recommendations for medical screenings depending on your age bracket.

  

These screening recommendations are based on the US Preventative Services Task Force advice, and is not an exhaustive list of health screenings that are recommended for people in each age bracket – your physician can advise you on any additional tests you may need. It is important to discuss your concerns with your physician based on your family history and lifestyle factors, so you can discover what measures you can take to minimise your risks.

Sharing your lifestyle factors with your physician allows them to be able to recommend the frequency of check-ups you may need. For example, for smokers and former smokers, physicians recommend annual screenings for lung cancer and for those struggling with obesity, routine checks for diabetes, heart disease and other associated risks are essential. Sharing your travel history and plans with your physician is also advisable, as they may warrant precautionary measures against meningitis, malaria, typhoid and other communicable diseases. Always be honest with your doctor.

It is also essential not to ignore the importance of addressing mental and emotional health, which may be harder to identify at times. From hereditary risks to big life events such as the loss of a loved one, or post-partum depression, our mental health can have a lasting impact on our wellbeing. Our brains and our bodies work in sync, therefore, a healthy mind is essential in creating a home for a healthy body to thrive.

“Preventative exams in conjunction with a lifestyle of healthy habits, exercise and a balanced diet may substantially lower the risks you face throughout the different stages of life,” says Dr Mona. “Prevention is the key to a better quality of life at any age.”