Give yourself the gift of health on your birthday

Sadhana's birthday is just a week away. She will be 30 and she can't believe it. How time seems to have flown! At 40, Mrinalini is surprised at how tired she feels. Her husband wants her to have a complete health check-up.

We all celebrate our birthdays in different ways. Have you thought of celebrating your birthday by giving yourself the gift of health? An annual medical check-up is important, whatever your age, and it is certainly smart to tie it to another important annual event: your birthday.

What should you do on your birthday?

Health is not the mere absence of disease. It is a feeling of well-being which encompasses your emotional, mental and physical state. Taking certain steps can ensure that you will continue to be healthy year after year. Your birthday is a good reminder to check on your present state of health.

Your weight, waist and BMI

Everybody hates getting up on the weighing scales, but an ideal weight is at the very core of all your attempts at maintaining health. Calculate your body mass index (BMI) by dividing your weight in kilos by your height in metres2. For example, if your weight is 68 kilos and your height is 1.58 metres, then your BMI is 68/ 1.58 x1.58= 27.2. A BMI of 25 or more is considered overweight and 30 or more is considered to be obesity. Let your birthday be the starting point for a weight loss programme.

A simple tool like an inch tape can predict the status of your health. Check your waist size by holding the tape lightly around your waist at the level of the navel. We know that women with high BMIs, and a waist size more than 85 cm, are at high risk for developing diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancers of the breast or uterus.

Check your blood pressure

It takes only five minutes to have your blood pressure checked but that step may add years to your life. High blood pressure has long been called a “silent killer” because it often causes no symptoms. Untreated, high blood pressure can lead to other serious health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.

High blood pressure (or hypertension) can have a number of causes and often runs in families. Lifestyle habits can increase your risk for high blood pressure. Women who are overweight, are not physically active, have diabetes or have a family history of high blood pressure, are more at risk.

Your sugar levels

Even if nobody in your family has diabetes, just the fact that you are an Indian puts you at high risk for developing diabetes. If one of your parents has diabetes, you have a 40 per cent chance of developing diabetes and if both your parents have diabetes, your risk goes up to 80 per cent! If you had developed diabetes in your pregnancy, it is imperative that you check your sugars every year. It is not enough to do just a fasting blood sugar level. It is also important to check the blood sugar value 2 hours after being given 75 grams of glucose.

Your lipid profile

The lipid profile measures the level of cholesterol (both the ‘good' and ‘bad' variety) and triglycerides. How soon should you start doing the lipid profile? With the Indian predilection for abnormal lipid profiles, it is now recommended that the first check should be at age 20. If normal, it can be repeated every 5 years till age 40. After that it can be done every year.

Pelvic exam, breast exam and Pap smear

If you are 30 or over, make an appointment with your gynaecologist and undergo a thorough physical examination. A Pap smear will rule out any changes in the mouth of the uterus (cervix) that may eventually lead to cancer.

Your teeth

Like most Indian women, you probably go to the dentist only when you have a problem. Get into the habit of an annual examination that will catch problems before they become big. Annual cleaning and scaling also ensure good oral hygiene.

Your eyes

An annual examination will screen you not only for your vision, but will also, as you grow older, rule out glaucoma and developing cataracts.

The author is an obstetrician and gynaecologist practising in Chennai and has written the book 'Passport to a Healthy Pregnancy'.

Keywords: cholesteroldiabetes