Why health check ups are important

Following my visit to the Dentist, I have been to the Doctors for a bit of an MOT i.e. a health check up.  This apparently is worthwhile for those of us who have passed 40 or 50. It is an interesting experience and it started by making an appointment with the Nurse based in my Doctor’s surgery….

“Oh so the last time we did your blood pressure was in 2002, or anything really.  Just as well you’ve come in”

At that point I was trying not to be worried in any way.  Did that mean I was neglecting myself and some terrible illness was lurking?  Did it mean they were about to save me from my years of wild living?  Did it mean I was being chastised for being a slothful patient?

She started by asking if I smoke, or had smoked.  How much alcohol do I drink?

“Oh you’re teetotal?  That’s good, I can skip a whole load of questions now” this had me feeling virtuous.

She checked my weight and height and I went from feeling virtuous to smug “well that looks pretty good, your BMI is 22 so there’s no problems there.  Are you active at all?”

“Yes I run or cycle a few times each week and…..” I couldn’t resist telling her more of what I was up to but that seemed to become totally irrelevant as she tried to take my blood pressure.  The machine wouldn’t work, so she tried another.  That wouldn’t work either, so  then it was the old fashioned way with a stethoscope.

“Mmmmmm” she said “are you feeling a bit anxious?”

“Anxious?” I asked, in an anxious kind of way

“Yes I ask as it seems high, very high.  Let me try again.  Yes still high, that’s not what I expected, it’s 170 over 100!”.

Those virtuous and smug feelings were replaced with, well, I’m not sure really.

To complete the check, blood samples were taken for the usual checks.

Seeing the Doctor

As my blood pressure was an issue, I returned to see the Doctor who straight away expressed concern and immediately took my blood pressure again.

“Well that’s not as high but it’s still not brilliant.  Let me look at your blood test results”.

She peered at the computer and smiled saying “mmmm these are all pretty good” and reeled off “blood sugar, excellent, blood count, excellent, kidney function very good, liver function excellent, cholesterol five.  Five, well I suppose that’ll do for now but I’d like that to be lower”.

I’ll prescribe you some tablets to lower your blood pressure, I don’t understand why it’s so high because you’re doing everything right”.

There must be another way?

“Doctor Smith, if it’s okay with you, I’d prefer to avoid tablets if I can.  Would that be okay, surely I can get my pressure down some other way?”  At that point she looked at me and I could tell she was thinking “what’s the point of coming here if you won’t let me treat you?”. I suspect the White Coast syndrome might be affecting the readings and surely there must be other ways to reduce my blood pressure.

At home we have a really excellent book – Food Is Medicine by Pierre Jean Cousin.  There’s a section about reducing blood pressure through diet.  There’s quite a list of good foods which are going to have a good effect.  Some of these are: asparagus, broccoli, celery, garlic, grape, leek, lettuce, oats, oily fish, olive and olive oil, onion, pomegranate, potassium rich vegetables, sunflower seeds and sunflower oil and tomato.  Most importantly there are some foods to avoid: high fat foods, including dairy, wheat.

So I think I will give this a go.  If I’m honest, I probably drink too much tea and enjoy strong filter coffee too much.  Neither of this will exactly help.  I suspect a few of my friends will be having words with me about enjoying coffee too much!  I’m also wondering to what degree the White Coat syndrome affects me.  I know it does, but I’m not sure how much.

The more I think about it, it seems a shame that the automatic reaction is to deal with the problem by prescribing a drug.  Whilst I’m sure they will work, why don’t Doctors consider alternatives?  Never was I asked about coffee, salt intake, stress levels or any of the usual triggers.  It just seems a shame the NHS takes only one route.

Do you have a view or comment on this? I’d be really interested, especially any off duty medical types.

Related: My Dentist is a cyclist 

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3 Responses to Why health check ups are important

  1. Rob says:

    That is almost exactly the same blood pressure reading my doc got when i went a few months ago about a knee injury. The first doc I saw was concerned and started talking about further investigation and treatment, the next week I saw a different doc who wasn’t quite as concerned as the readings were a bit lower but still in the high zone. I went out and bought a home monitor and have been taking my own readings regularly ever since. The result is my readings taken at home in familiar surroundings using the correct procedure (i.e. Sitting calmly for five minutes before taking the readings, something that never happens at the doctor’s) are on average 128/75 which is within the normal zone, lying in bed first thing in the morning it is even lower at 121/70.
    So, might be worth getting your own monitor and testing yourself at home.
    I am a 51 year old male who is fit and healthy.

    • doug says:

      Thanks Rob, quite a coincidence. We do have one of those machines and I have just started with readings which are a lot lower at home. I’m going to experiment to see the effect of coffee etc.
      Is your Doctor now satisfied?
      Regards, Doug.

  2. MJ Ray says:

    Stupid! The highest blood pressure reading that I ever had was when they took five or so attempts. They should have noted the failures on the result and made allowances. So take your own readings and take them along, along with the machine so that they can check its accuracy if they want.

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