If we ever took our health for granted, our post-pandemic lives have changed all that as we’ve realised health is one of our most valuable assets.
The issue is that the pandemic had many far-reaching consequences on our health beyond the effect of the COVID-19 virus itself, notably the decrease in the number of people going for their normal screenings in order to avoid going into hospitals or healthcare centres.
Jeremy Yatt, Principal Officer of Fedhealth Medical Scheme, says that this not only leads to worse clinical outcomes, but also increased costs for everyone. “The scheme has seen a drop in preventative screening as a result of the pandemic and lockdowns, and we’re concerned that patients who haven’t had these tests done, are being diagnosed later in the disease progression,” he says.
So, if you want to prevent those outcomes but have been putting off having certain tests, here’s what you need to know about taking care of your health as a woman:
Mammograms: You should be checking your breasts manually yourself and if you notice any changes that are concerning, you should book an appointment with your GP. Fedhealth offers mammogram screenings paid from Risk from the age of 45 years, every two years, although you can have be screened before this age if your doctor provides a letter motivating for increased risk factors.
Cervical cancer screenings: All women between the age of 21 and 65 should be having a Pap smear every three years at least, in order to detect any cell changes on your cervix that could be an early cancer indicator.
Cardiac health: Everyone over the age of 20 should have their cholesterol screened (a full lipogram), every five years at least.
Colorectal cancer screening: From the ages of 50-75, you should be going for a faecal occult blood test every year, which looks at a stool sample and checks for the presence of blood and other possible signs of bowel cancer. You can’t always see blood in your stool, which is why it’s important to have this screening.
Bone densitometry: Women from the age of 65 should have this screening, which helps detect if you may have osteoporosis, a condition that’s characterised by fragile bones that break easily.
Wellness screenings: You should get your BMI, blood pressure, finger prick cholesterol and glucose screenings done once a year, which could help to pick up lifestyle diseases that need to be managed.
Preventative screenings: Measuring your waist-to-hip ratio, body fat percentage, flexibility, posture and fitness are also important annual checks to ensure that you are as healthy as you could be.
Besides these specific screenings, you should also ensure that you’re up to date with vaccinations such as the annual flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine, and that you know your HIV status. After the age of 65, both men and women should have the pneumococcal vaccination once in their lifetime, which protects against infections caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria.
Your medical aid should cover the cost of many of these health screenings, so it’s worth looking into what you’re covered for. Fedhealth, for example, pays for most of these screenings from Risk and not your Savings, depending on which plan you’re on. At this time in the world where our health is certainly our wealth, we all need to be proactive about managing our own wellness. So, make a list of what you know needs to be checked out, and book those health screenings today. Being proactive now could help you avoid health complications in the future, which means you can keep thriving for many years to come.