Every day we are bombarded with health information about the need to prevent illness by early detection. However a lot of individuals still have reservations about going to the clinic for checkup. This resistance is mainly due to myths or belief systems about health, widely circulated in the community.
What is preventive health?
Preventive health is the use of recognized health screenings, counseling and follow up to prevent future illness. Preventive medicine aims to identify illnesses before they happen or at an early stage when treatment is easy and cheaper or if the illness is already established, it helps to avoid complications of the illness.
Who needs preventive health?
All individuals from childhood to adulthood need some form of preventive care. Children need to be immunized against childhood diseases, young adults, middle aged and elderly individuals need to maintain a healthy lifestyle and screen for illnesses. They also need early and effective treatment of illnesses to avoid complications.
Myths about preventive health
“I have no symptoms, so I am not ill, I don’t need to go to the hospital. Besides, when you go for a screening, doctors always find something. I would rather not know”
Many people believe hospital or clinics are a place only for “sick” people, and since they have no symptoms, it means they are fine. It is important to note that majority of illnesses have a “prodromal” phase in which you don’t FEEL any thing is wrong with you, but the illness is causing damage slowly internally.
Typical examples are hypertension, diabetes and cancer, where if you wait for symptoms to occur, it may already be too late to cure or easily manage the illness. People have been cured of cancer, just because the cancer was detected very early when they presented themselves for routine screening, others have slumped and died while at events or at work, just because they did not know they were hypertensive, blood pressure rose to a dangerous level and they suffered a massive heart attack or stroke and died without any warning.
“Screening is expensive, I have a lot of bills.”
Another major myth is that health screening is expensive. Blood pressure checks are absolutely free, while the treatment for kidney disease, a common complication of hypertension runs into millions of naira. The prices for screening really depend on how many things are screened for and where the screening is done. It is cheaper to screen for diseases than treat them and or their complications. It is also important to see a medical practitioner who will decide which investigations you need, so you don’t spend on unnecessary tests.
“Healthy eating and exercise is only for fat people. I am not fat.”
Everyone, regardless of their weight, needs to eat healthy to avoid disease like: diabetes, cancer, heart disease, breathing problems etc. some people appear “slim” but they are hypertensive, diabetic and have elevated cholesterol levels. Some benefits of exercise: reduces risk of heart disease, reduces risk of low bone density (osteoporosis) in elderly women, and increases blood flow to the brain.
“There is no history of any medical condition in my family. I don’t need screening”
Not all illnesses are due to familial or genetic causes. Some illnesses are due to environmental factors like air and water pollution, others may be due to lifestyle choices like alcohol, cigarette smoking and recreational drug use, poor eating habits. Disease agents like bacteria and viruses also cause illness and these are all not inherited. So even though there is no direct family history of disease, screening is also important.
When was your last check up?