Turning 40? Time for a check-up!
Watching the re-imagined Trainspotting film recently and seeing George Michael dancing around in those oversized t-shirts made me pause for thought.
Did George have a regular doctor, and if so, did he have a check-up when he turned 40? Could his premature demise have been avoided?
As an inner-city GP, I see all sorts of ailments. From the innocuous (first-time parents concerned their baby smiles too much), to the sinister (young women with sun spots which turn out to be a malignant melanoma). But probably, the consultations fall within two themes: acute illness and disease prevention.
Young blokes are notorious for avoiding the doctor – no news is good news, right? They’ll present with an acute illness (a cough; a twisted ankle) though not for a check-up, as, say, women routinely do. Though women do need to see a doctor more regularly for Pap smears, contraceptive pill prescriptions and the like, they are much more attuned to looking after themselves going forward than we are. Disease prevention if you will.
This is why, at 40, a single visit for men to the doctor is a good investment. Most of us wouldn’t let the car go without a service now would we?
Young blokes are notorious for avoiding the doctor – no news is good news, right?
So what would this check-up entail? Firstly the doctor will assess your risk for various chronic conditions. This usually involves questioning around past medical history, family medical history, medications, social situations and risk-taking recreational habits. This is usually followed by a thorough physical examination. Whoah… OK, so it’s this part that scares some blokes, and no, in almost no circumstances is the dreaded gloved finger needed in this situation, so just relax. The examination should involve assessment of: height, weight, heart, lungs, blood pressure, pulse, skin and abdomen/liver.
At the conclusion of the visit there are usually a set of basic investigations requested. Fasting blood tests, perhaps an ECG or a stress test on occasion, but little else.
As straight-forward as this all sounds, it is remarkable from this brief encounter what can be discerned: Interventions implemented and behaviours changed which can transform a man’s life going forward.
Some examples come to mind. The lethargic guy sent in by his wife: major depression, now doing well on treatment. The marathon runner not performing as expected: hyperthyroidism, now remedied and qualified for the Boston marathon. (The fit guy, incidentally, was found to have elevated blood pressure, and is now on medication which may have added 10 years to his life.)
Wondering if some hard-living in your twenties and thirties may have done some damage as it appears to have for poor old George Michael? Want to set a good example for the kids and be around to see them grow? Then your local doctor is a good place to start.
Brendan Fitzgerald is a Melbourne-based GP and father of three boys.