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In a two part series, Dr Angela Rai from the London General Practice discusses the benefits and importance of health screening.

Maintaining optimal health and preventing disease requires a healthy lifestyle; finding time to eat well, obtaining enough sleep and taking a regular form of exercise. However there are times when we need to be even more proactive in managing our health.

Screening tests give information about whether a healthy person may have an increased chance of developing potentially serious disease, as well as aid in early detection – because of screening we are often able to detect and treat illnesses at a much earlier stage before complications arise. A variety of screening programmes are available in the UK including cervical smears, colon and breast screening. There are also several other conditions that we should be aware of which are not routinely screened.

Cardiovascular disease is one of the main causes of death in the UK, including heart attacks and strokes. Preventing cardiovascular disease involves identifying risk factors such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and smoking. There are several tools that doctors use to assess an individual’s risk of cardiovascular disease and they can then be used to help discuss the benefits of intervention, whether they are lifestyle based or medication.

Individuals can also consider a coronary artery calcium screening test. Using a special computed tomography (CT) scan of your heart, this helps assess your risk of a heart attack or stroke in
the next five to ten years. You can then make an informed decision about which strategies to adopt to reduce your risk if it is found to be high.

Diabetes, in particular Type 2 diabetes, is when your body cannot produce enough insulin or does not react appropriately to the insulin produced. This causes high circulating levels of sugar which can lead to complications including kidney disease, nerve conditions and visual problems if left untreated. Many people with type 2 diabetes do not realise they have it. Symptoms include feeling tired, feeling excessively thirsty or having to pass urine more frequently, weight loss and blurred vision. A simple blood test can detect this condition and enable it to be managed appropriately. Both lifestyle changes and medical treatment have a huge impact on the progression and outcome of this condition.

Taking responsibility of your health is key to maintaining optimal wellbeing. Prevention is better than cure!

Dr Angela Rai, The London Genera Practice.