How much do you know about your body, your health? How much would you want to know? A while back I had an email asking if I’d like to try out a health screening – to get tested for cheery things like carotid artery disease, atrial fibrillation, abdominal aortic aneurysm and peripheral arterial disease. Hmm, I wondered, would I? Should I?
Because, see, I’m one of those people who Like To Know. As in, I like to face up to things full-on, if I possibly can. Obviously there are things one can never know but for some stuff, the answers are there – you simply need to ask the right questions.
When it comes to health, I figure prevention is better than cure. If I’ve got fatty plaque building up in my aorta, I’d kinda like to know because then I could figure out what to do about it. Presuming, of course, that I wanted to live. And I do wonder about this, frankly, sometimes. Is it just me or do you all have friends and family who seem intent on some lemming-like race to chuck themselves over the cliff?
I have watched not one, but two fathers kill themselves. Yes, beyond careless, I know. My birth father did it with fags. My adopted father did it with fatty food and lack of exercise. I don’t really blame the former – FFS doctors were saying cigarettes were ‘good for the lungs’ back in the sixties. Hmm, doctors eh? But Erik, my big bad lovely Viking Erik, he knew what he was doing. He’d been told, in no uncertain terms, that he needed to eat less and walk more. He chose not to and dropped dead of a massive heart attack watching the news. His last words were: ‘Bloody Israelis’. Not sure how he would have felt about my recent trip. J
But anyway. Some people say they’d rather not know the state of their arteries, or if they’re at risk of a heart attack or a stroke or osteoporosis. Why? Presumably because, if they knew, they’d feel they ought to do something about it? I dunno.
Anyhow, I went. It was all a bit surreal really. James and the SP sat outside in the car while I wandered into a village hall taken over by Life Line Screening for the day (they travel around the country, it seems, so you can usually find a screening nearby). It was a relief not having to go to a hospital (our local hospitals all have extremely bad memories for me). I filled in a form and was then called in to get tested, passed around from station to station like a parcel. Everyone was very efficient, very pleasant; it was all done and dusted in half an hour and off we went to Taunton to buy yet more trainers for the child with the ever expanding feet (btw, if anyone has any spare size 8 cool trainers or walking boots, please feel free to post them!).
They told me the results would take three weeks and, to the day, they arrived. It seems I am, once again, remarkably and reassuringly normal. Of course, human nature means I am now wondering about the things I wasn’t screened for (osteoporosis, cholesterol/lipid panel, coronary heart disease risk) – but hey…
I asked a doctor friend what she thought about this kind of screening and she was enthusiastic. ‘Preventative screening is not 100 percent accurate but I totally believe in it,’ she said. So when, I asked her, should we start getting ourselves tested? ‘PAP smears once you’re sexually active,’ she said. ‘And most other tests after 40, depending on your family history.’
And yes, that’s great – if you can afford it. The basic package of tests I had (free, I hasten to add) would cost £139 and a full workout would set you back £199. Yes, it’s small fry if it saves your life – but if you can’t afford it? See, what really and truly pisses me off is that prevention simply isn’t seen as an important part of our health service.
I have always maintained that if doctors' surgeries incorporated nutritional therapists, osteopaths (and Alexander Technique teachers), fitness instructors and hypnotherapists (for starters) we could have a much healthier population, far less reliant on drugs and requiring far less hospitalisation. Add in breathing, meditation and yoga workshops and, by heck, we might be getting somewhere. Yes, it would cost – initially – but those costs would be recouped quite swiftly. A few years back, we tried to get this model up and running on Exmoor but, sadly, it didn’t come about. At which point you have to wonder, don’t you, about what truly runs our health service – the doctors or the pharmaceutical companies?
Okay, conspiracy theories aside, I do think this kind of screening is useful. I just wish, so much, that it were available to everyone, for free. And that, when the results come in and show bits of plaque build up or whatever, that people might heed the warnings and look after their poor bodies. Of course, you could also talk to your GP who might be able to arrange testing for you on the NHS. - but I think that that is a bit of a lottery. Would be interested to know people's experiences on this/
Thanks to Life Line Screening for organising my tests. There are a range of packages available - see the website. And the promo vid clip belows shows what happens...