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Depression screening and four other vitals you should get

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When it comes to healthcare in Nigeria, it’s no secret that we have a long way to go in strengthening the system and delivering both quality and affordable care to all Nigerians. One area in which the health care system falls short is the lacking emphasis on the importance of preventive care. Many developing nations tend to underestimate the relevance of preventive care in the context of improving overall health outcomes. Therefore, it is critical that more focus is placed on the strategies and initiatives that are necessary to prevent certain health problems.

It’s not uncommon to hear stories about someone in Nigeria in seemingly good health who suddenly dies unexpectedly. The fact of the matter is that too many Nigerians are ticking health time bombs unaware of the underlying medical problems that afflict them, until it is far too late. How many people actually follow through with their annual medical check ups even when they feel ok? There is this tendency that people have to forgo seeing a doctor unless they feel extremely ill. Unfortunately, in doing so they miss out on important health maintenance screenings.

Nonetheless, depending on your age, gender, and other factors, there are crucial health screening tests that should be routinely pursued. Here are five important tests that can help lead you towards the path to better overall health.

1. Blood Pressure Screening
Everyone 18 years old and above should routinely have their blood pressure checked. According to the most recent AHA guidelines, blood pressure is considered normal if the reading is less than 120/80 mmHg. A reading over 130/80 mmHg is considered elevated. If you do have uncontrolled blood pressure, it’s a very serious cause for concern since hypertension increases your risk for stroke, heart attack, and even kidney failure.

2.Colorectal Cancer screening
The main screening modalities for both men and women include annual stool sample based tests or routine colonoscopy. The stool tests check for occult blood while the colonoscopy procedure is used to actually visualize the colon. Screening typically begins at 50 years old for at average risk adults, though recently the American Cancer Society recommended that screening commence as early as 45 years old. A screening colonoscopy should be obtained every 10 years, but your doctor will assess the appropriate screening frequency based on your family and personal history.

The mortality rates of those diagnosed with colorectal cancer in Nigeria are usually high, since diagnoses tend to be made at advanced stages of disease progression. Screening and early detection are absolutely critical!

3.Depression Screening
As per the World Health Organization, depression is a top cause of disability globally. Even though so many worldwide suffer from depression and other mental health conditions, it still remains a very taboo topic in Nigeria. Oftentimes, those battling depression don’t know who or where to turn to for help. Doctors therefore need to be more diligent in screening for depression during their patient encounters.

Your provider may ask you a series of questions to assess if you are experiencing feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, loss of interest in activities you used to love, difficulty sleeping, and thoughts of self harm or suicide. Your answers to the administered questions are scored and will help identify those at risk for major depression and possibly even suicide.

4.Type 2 diabetes screening
Suggested screening protocol states that adults between 40 to 70 years of age should be screened for Type 2 Diabetes. Hemoglobin A1c is a blood test measuring your blood sugar level over an estimated 3-month period. If your hemoglobin A1c is 6.5% or greater on more than two separate occasions, then you have diabetes. Your Fasting blood sugar can also be checked and if that value is 126 mg/dL or above on more than one instance, then that also confirms a diagnosis. Additionally, a random blood sugar level above 200 mg/dL is suggestive of a diabetes diagnosis.

Screening and prevention are so important to help avoid the debilitating complications of diabetes which can include kidney damage, visual loss due to retinopathy, nerve damage in the feet, and even cardiovascular disease.

5.HIV screening
Clinicians should screen adolescents and adults between the age of 15 to 65 for HIV. Screening tests may occur earlier and on an annual basis, if one has other risk factors for HIV. Combined antigen/antibody tests are one type of test available to detect HIV. The test basically checks for HIV antibodies and an HIV protein antigen called p24.

It is essential to know your HIV status especially if you are sexually active. This is one test you must not ignore!Here is the takeaway: We can all benefit from routine preventive care screenings in one way or another. Healthcare is by no means inexpensive, therefore preventing disease not only saves you from exorbitant healthcare costs down the line, but also enables you to live a longer, fruitful, and healthier life. Make sure that you have a discussion with your doctor about which health screening tests you require during your next visit.


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