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Screening is the new weapon in the fight for health

A body is a dynamic and constantly changing living thing. Health screening can provide a comprehensive assessment and reveal information on diseases in their early stages, often well before any symptoms have shown. Fei Lai checks it out.

Health screening, a high-tech periodic evaluation of the body to assess an individual's well-being, is a vital part of the plan for a healthier tomorrow.

Many diseases are preventable. Early detection of a disease is more cost-effective than treating the disease itself.

"If people are in their fifties, if they have diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure, or if they have a family history of heart disease, they may be at risk, even if they feel great now," says Gu Jun, who is in charge of the Shanghai MJ Health Screening Center.

"It is prevention rather than repairing that matters. Health screening is not simply health checking. Its function is to understand the condition of the body, what to improve or maintain. It is a tactic. The ultimate goal is effective health management and improvement, which is the key for a better future."

A body is a dynamic and constantly changing living thing. Health screening can provide a comprehensive assessment and offer information on diseases in their early stages, often well before any symptoms have shown.

According to Gu, the diseases that can show up may include heart disease, gout, hypertension, diabetes mellitus and cancer, which often have no symptoms until advanced stages when treatment may be too late.

"Having a regular, thorough check-up can give up-to-date information about people's bodies and offer them peace of mind," Gu says. "The earlier medical problems are identified, the greater the chance of a cure, or of minimizing the effects on your health and well-being."

Health screening is also a means to promote health consciousness, healthy lifestyles and provide scientific data for the formulation of disease prevention.

All adults should have regular health screenings. It is especially recommended for those with a family history of serious illness, those over 40 and those with a high risk of developing a significant disease due to diet, lifestyle, the nature of their work, environment or other circumstances.

Young people, especially white-collar workers who spend long hours in offices with a lot of stress and little exercise, tend to pay less attention to the significance of periodical health screening than older people.

"People should have their blood pressure checked regularly after they turn 21, and should check their blood fat after they turn 30 and blood sugar after 40," Gu says. "Once every three years, women aged from 20 to 39 should have their breasts examined to avoid breast cancer. They should do this more often after 40. Men over 50 should have a prostate examination annually to avoid prostate cancer."

Normally, comprehensive health screening procedures include taking general measurements such as height, weight, blood pressure, respiration rate, pulse rate and other physical tests. They also include examinations of organ functions with blood tests, urinalysis, electrocardiographs, audiometry, vision and pulmonary function and chest x-rays.

It usually takes several days or up to a fortnight to receive a complete health report from a major hospital. At the Shanghai MJ Health Screening Center, you can get the report on the same day.

All screening procedures are regulated by computers and it will take four hours to complete the whole screening including a medical consultation.

"You can get your health report on the same day which means you don't have to wait or come back next time. This is especially good if you are not a local," Gu says. "Doctors and nutritionists will examine you and discuss your results with you within the four hours. All of your personal health records will be fully computerized. You can even check your own health information online and get updates on pharmaceutical news via relevant Websites. The nursing staff will call to follow up on the report as well."

After the health screening, most of the professional advice will focus on changing the patient's lifestyle. Common advice offered is to quit smoking, lose weight, take more physical exercise and eat healthily.

"To avoid illness and embrace health, we must incorporate healthy living practices in our daily lives," Gu says. "Making lifestyle changes could be preventative steps as important as health checking. Any activity that is positive, enthusiastic and health-enhancing will be conducive to an improvement in your health."


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