In 2020, International Living recognised Malaysia as the “best nation in the world for healthcare” from 2015 to 2019 ranking it as the seventh-best place to retire in 2020. Healthcare in Malaysia is highly affordable, making it very competitive compared to the Western world. However, one thing for certain is that there is a lack of structure and follow up in our country and a single GP per patient/family does not exist for the majority of the population.
This somewhat unconventional system has both its advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage would probably be the level of flexibilty this allows patients to simply ‘drop in’ to any clinic without a prior appointment whenever the need arises instead of having to book sometimes weeks in advance to see a particular GP, as would be the case in the UK or Australia for example. Access to any specialist under the sun is also readily available in the private sector as long as one is willing to pay, bypassing the need to be referred in the aforementioned countries.
Although this level of flexibility gives patients a wide array of options, it does open up a ‘can of worms’ as far as patient safety and continuity of care is concerned. Important signs and symptoms aka ‘red flags’ to the medical community which would have been picked up by an assigned, regular GP are much likelier to be missed and overlooked altogether by self medicating patients. In patient’s with certain long term conditions like asthma, the correct step-wise approach to stepping up a patient’s therapy to correspond to their disease progression can also be missed, leading them to rely on their relievers a little too much. There is a reason why it takes so long to complete medical school! Your body is complex and your doctor should know how to manage the existing conditions you have while treating new ones that come up.
You do however need toplay an important role too. Therefore a good approach to overcoming these potential problems is to ensure you are aware of your overall health and be vigilant in monitoring for any untoward effects. These should then be discussed with a regular Dr for the best continuity of care. Take control of your health and take these 5 vital tests from the comfort of your own home today!
- STRIP DOWN TO PROTECT YOUR SKIN
Your Dr may ask you to open your shirt in certain circumstances but its rare for men to bare all at a check up. That’s a problem, because a full body exam is best for catching skin cancer, and 57% of men say their unlikely to schedule a screening with a dermatologist, According to the Skin Cancer Foundation. So pull down the blinds and pull off your clothes- Dartmouth College. Research found that people who perform regular skin self exams are twice as likely to find melanoma as those who don’t inspect
Each month, check out every inch of your body. Look for the ‘ugly duckling’ a mark that differs from other moles or may have changed shape, colour or texture. See https://stayskinhealthy.org/ for a full list of the skin cancer ABCDEs.
Don’t bypass the important step to slather on a sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 or higher and keep a record of your skin exams on your smartphone. The UMSkinCheck app (available for free on Apple appstore) stores photographs and reminds you to perform self exams. If in doubt, check with a dermatologist
- Find your ABSI, Lose your gut
You may be familiar with the BMI rather than the ABSI (a bodyshape index). Fret not, for the fact that this index takes your waist circumference into consideration making it more desirable than the much less specific BMI. Reason? An increase in waist circumference has been directly attributed to a corresponding increase in morbidity and mortality due to inflammation in the body being caused by fat tissue in the belly. A 2014 PLOS One study found that people with the highest ABSIs had a 61% higher risk of dying from any cause over a 24-year follow up period than those with the lowest- even if their BMIs were normal.
Enter your measurements and age into the ABSI calculator at www.absicalculator.eu If your number is 1, your relativ risk of premature death is above average.
If your ABSI is above 1, start whittling your waist by hitting the exercise floor and doing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). In a 2012 Canadian study, people who exercised 2-3 times each week using HIIT and resistance exercise trimmed down their waist circumference after 9 months. HIIT may increase the release of catecholamines, hormones that burn fat even after your workout.
- Take your blood pressure from BOTH arms
According to research in the American Journal of Medicine, when taking blood pressure one should cuff both arms. Scientists found that when a person’s systolic pressure varies by 10 or more points between arms, the risk of heart attack or stroke shoots up by 38%. A large difference between arms could be a sign of peripheral artery disease, which means your arteries are clogged with plaque.
First of all, Dr Robert Wergin, President of the American Academy of Family Physicians advises rolling up your sleeves and ensuring the cuff on the blood pressure monitor is covering at least a third of your upper arm. This is important to ensure more accurate readings. Both arms should be measured making sure both feet are planted on the floor. Take blood pressure readings about the same time each day to avoid other variables from making blood pressure readings seem falsely elevated from one day to another. Record the readings daily to observe a trend of how your readings are.
Reducing blood pressure is possible to be achieved naturally. Sleeping early, avoiding stress and certain food additives (salt) can also influence your B.P readings. One way to reduce BP naturally is by taking probiotics. These good bacteria, found in yogurt can help lower blood pressure! Surprise..an Australian study review found that consuming probiotics lowered systolic & diastolic blood pressure by anaverage of 3.6 and 2.4 points, respectively. If your blood pressure is 140/90 or higher, see a Dr.
- Rest up! Netflix & chill might be a good thing after all..
One of the things a Dr checks when you visit them is your heart rate. This is one of the ways the Dr asseses your heart health. Ideally they would need to know your resting heart rate but for many, having a cold stethoscope pressed onto a body part in a sterile clinic setting is enough to make you nervous and raise your heart rate. The best way to do this would be to measure this first thing in the morning yourself to assess your real ‘resting’ heart rate. Bear in mind,it may take some practise at first.
Upon waking, place a finger (not the thumb) on the inside of your wrist or the side of your neck and count the number of beats for 15 seconds. Multiply it by 4 for your beats per minute.
A normal resting heart rate falls between 60-100 beats per minute (bpm). So, what if your heart rate is below 60? This probably means you have a fitter heart than the average person. However, if your HR is even just 1 point above 100, you could be at risk of life threatening electrical dysfunction like atrial fibrillation, according to Dr Wergin. If you’re older than 50 or have risk factors for heart disease, check with your Dr for exercise recommendations. Taking foods rich in Omega-3 or a fish oil supplement may also be helpful.
- Check your mouth for any unusual signs- avoid oral cancer!
Most men find it hard or avoid going to see a Dr even if they have a medical issue, let alone for regular check ups. When we visit a Dr they usually will take a look into your throat to scan for tonsillitis or strep throat. However, that’s pretty much the limit of what they check for. Many GP’s feel they are less proficient than dentists are at performing oral cancer exams or identifying cancerous lesions, according to a study in the Journal of the American Dental Association.
Once a month, open up wide and stare into the mirror to examine the insides of your mouth for any unusual bumps, red or white patches, swelling, or bleeding. You can also check for any unusual lumps on either side of your neck.
To avoid any issues with your oral cavity, start eating more cruciferous vegetables; broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts or cabbage. People who ate at least a serving of these vegetable once a week reduced their risk of developing oral cancer by 17% according to a study by the Annals of Oncology. If you see or feel anything unusual that persists for 2 weeks straight, head for the dentist’s chair! Oral cancer is treatable if detected early.