The main flaw within the current healthcare system is that health tests are only conducted to diagnose health conditions once we are experiencing symptoms. Although regular health checks may help prevent the development of chronic conditions, we are only invited to the doctors for a health check at the age of 50. But as we all know health conditions can develop both before and after these tests are conducted and so understanding what tests could be conducted and their importance for your health may help us make the lifestyle changes we need to prevent the development of health conditions. The most valuable health tests include blood pressure, body composition, fitness and muscular strength as demonstrated below:
Blood pressure and resting heart rate are important indicators of cardiovascular health. The NHS recommend that normal resting heart rate values between 60 and 100 are healthy (although active individuals may experience lower values which may also indicate good cardiovascular health). Systolic blood pressure is the strongest indicator of cardiovascular health which represents the force of the heart’s contraction to pump blood around the body. Diastolic blood pressure also represents the pressure within the blood vessels when your heart rests between beats. The NHS suggest that 120mmHg and 80mmHg systolic and diastolic blood pressure values, respectively, are optimal. Strategies to receive optimal blood pressure include being physically active, maintaining a health weight and waist circumference and/or leading a well-balanced diet (including vegetables, fresh fruit, low-fat dairy, whole grains, fish, seafood, low in sodium and limited in alcohol).
Body composition is also important to help prevent the development of conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. Body composition describes the percentage of fat mass and lean mass (e.g. muscle) within the body. BMI is the most commonly used test to assess body composition; however, excess fat stores around the waist are associated with elevated health complications (as listed above) even with normal BMI values and additional muscle mass may be misclassified as fat within the BMI scale. Therefore, both waist circumference and body fat are important to give a better representation of your overall health. Body composition is determined by energy balance and so strategies to improve body composition include reducing calorie intake and/or moving more. Aerobic exercise will encourage the most optimal BMI and waist circumference values.
Maintaining good cardiorespiratory fitness is important to help prevent the development of cardiovascular diseases and early death linked to numerous chronic diseases and cancers. Cardiorespiratory fitness refers to the heart and lungs ability to supply blood and oxygen to the working muscles in order to produce the energy needed for movement which typically decreases with age. Cardiorespiratory fitness can be improved with both continuous and high intensity interval training. However, regular runners may receive greater cardiorespiratory fitness improvements with high intensity interval training.
Maintaining good muscular strength is important to help prevent the development of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis which can also be used to predict and prevent against physical disability later in life. Muscular strength may also help improve your quality of life and independent living. Muscular strength is defined as the maximum force which can be produced by the muscles which is commonly measured by the hand grip strength test. Strategies to help improve strength include explosive power exercises and resistance training.
If you were to receive a private health check these are the most important tests that they would conduct as well as further tests such as cholesterol and blood glucose. Therefore, keep on top of the lifestyle strategies listed above to help develop these key health components to help prevent the development of health conditions.