An ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates once observed, and I quote “the unexamined life is not worth living”.
We are humans who live in bodies; our bodies are our first homes here on earth before any other building we put up. Once the body gives up on you, you will indirectly have dire consequences which are a host of medical conditions leading to death.
Like we inspect our buildings for maintenance, our bodies must be examined at least once a year. Regular health exams and tests can help find problems even before they start or right when they start. Once these regular health exams are done and medical conditions detected earlier, chances for treatment and cure are very high. Sometimes as high as 80-90% except in medical conditions that cannot be treated and cured. Even for those conditions, management at the right time helps.
Research done by Adobea et al, 2021 titled “Institutional mortality rate and cause of death at health facilities in Ghana between 2014 and 2018” indicated that Institutional mortality decreased by 7% nationally over the study period. However, four out of ten regions (Greater Accra, Volta, Upper East, and Upper West) recorded increases in institutional mortality.
The Upper East (17%) and Volta regions (13%) recorded the highest increase. Chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) were the leading cause of death in 2017 (25%) and 2018 (20%). This was followed by certain infectious and parasitic diseases (15% for both years) and respiratory infections (10% in 2017 and 13% in 2018).
Among the NCDs, hypertension was the leading cause of death with 2,243 and 2,472 cases in 2017 and 2018. Other (non-ischemic) heart diseases and diabetes were the second and third leading NCDs. Septicemia, tuberculosis and pneumonia were the predominant infectious diseases. Regional variations existed in the cause of death. NCDs showed more urban-region bias while infectious diseases presented more rural-region bias.
This leads us to our topic for today, 10 medical tests for the new year. Other tests may be required depending on your age, gender, personal medical history, family history and lifestyle. Below are 10 must do general check-up tests recommended for you at least once a year.
1. Fasting Blood Sugar (FBS).
A fasting blood sugar level indicates you have pre-diabetes, no diabetes or in fact have diabetes. The earlier your FBS status is determined the better. This test should cost you Ghs 25.00 or less in most healthcare facilities and private medical laboratories.
2. Infections (HIV test, HCV Ab, HbsAg, H.Pylori test)
Infections are a major cause of medical problems in our region. HIV test must be done at least once a year to confirm one’s HIV status (positive or negative). Once your status is positive, please start the process of management by checking your viral load with your healthcare facility. My advice to those who may be positive for HIV and concerned about stigmatization is to seek medical care at a little distant town from where they live. Do not keep your result to yourself; seek medical care immediately. People have lived with HIV for all their lives and accomplished their purpose. A blood test, called an HCV antibody test, is used to find out if someone has ever been infected with the hepatitis C virus.
The HCV antibody test, sometimes called the anti-HCV test, looks for antibodies to the hepatitis C virus in blood. Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) is a blood test ordered to determine if someone is infected with the hepatitis B virus. If it is found, along with specific antibodies, it means the person has a hepatitis B infection. Helicobacter pylori (H pylori) is the bacteria (germ) responsible for most stomach (gastric) and duodenal ulcers and many cases of stomach inflammation (chronic gastritis). H. Pylori blood test can tell if your body has H pylori antibodies. All four tests should cost you a little over Ghs150.00 in Ghana based on which facility these tests are done.
3. Complete Blood Count (CBC)
Some call this test Full Blood Count (FBC). A complete blood count (CBC) is a blood test used to evaluate your overall health and detect a wide range of disorders, including anaemia, infection, and leukaemia. A complete blood count test measures several components and features of your blood, including red blood cells, which carry oxygen. Parameters of key interest for this test are white blood cell count, red blood cell count, haemoglobin value, platelets, differential counts. You may have to spend about Ghs50.00 for a CBC.
4. Urine Routine Examination
A routine urine examination involves checking the appearance, concentration, and content of urine. For example, a urinary tract infection can make urine look cloudy instead of clear. Increased levels of protein in urine can be a sign of kidney disease etc. Parameters of interest are pus cells, red blood cells, crystals, cast, sugar, protein.
Early morning urine is preferred for this test because it has a lower pH, which helps preserve formed elements. I advise you go to the facility in the morning for this test. Routine urine examination should cost you about Ghs100.00 and as usual based on the facility you decide on.
5. Stool Routine Examination
A stool analysis is a series of tests done on a stool (feces) sample to help diagnose certain conditions affecting the digestive tract. These conditions can include infection (such as from parasites, viruses, or bacteria), poor nutrient absorption, or cancer. For a stool analysis, a stool sample is collected in a clean container and then sent to the laboratory. Laboratory analysis includes microscopic examination, chemical tests, and microbiologic tests. The stool will be checked for color, consistency, amount, shape, odor, and the presence of mucus.
The stool may be examined for hidden (occult) blood, fat, meat fibers, bile, white blood cells, and sugars called reducing substances. The pH of the stool also may be measured. A stool culture is done to find out if bacteria may be causing an infection. Important parameters are parasites, pus cells, red blood cells and occult blood. The stool will be checked for color, consistency, amount, shape, odor, and the presence of mucus. Stool Routine Examination should cost you about Ghs 150.00 based on the facility.
6. Cardiac Enzymes (Cardiac Profile)
Cardiac enzyme studies measure the levels of enzymes and proteins that are linked with injury of the heart muscle. The test checks for the proteins troponin I (TnI) and troponin T (TnT). The test will also check for other enzymes like Creatine phosphokinase (CPK), creatine kinase (CK), Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and serum glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase (SGOT). These are enzymes or biomarkers that tell doctors and health providers the condition of one’s heart. This test should cost you about Ghs 150.00 based on the facility of choice.
7. Liver Function Test (LFTs)
Liver function tests are blood tests used to help diagnose and monitor liver disease or damage. The tests measure the levels of certain enzymes and proteins in your blood. Some of these tests measure how well the liver is performing its normal functions of producing protein and clearing bilirubin, a blood waste product. Other liver function tests measure enzymes that liver cells release in response to damage or disease.
Parameters of key importance are bilirubin, albumin, total protein, alkaline phosphatase (ALP), gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), serum glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase (SGOT) and serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase (SGPT) levels. Ghs 160.00 is charged for this test based on your facility of choice.
8. Renal Function Test (RFTs) or Kidney Function Test (KFTs)
Healthy kidneys remove wastes and excess fluid from the blood. Creatinine is a waste product that comes from the normal wear and tear on muscles of the body. As kidney disease progresses, the level of creatinine in the blood rises. Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) is a measure of how well the kidneys are removing wastes and excess fluid from the blood. It is calculated from the serum creatinine level using age and gender.
Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) comes from the breakdown of protein in the foods you eat. As kidney function decreases, the BUN level rises. Other key parameters are electrolytes, sodium, potassium and chloride. RFTs or KFTs should cost you about Ghs150.00 based on the facility of your choice.
9. Lipid Profile (LP)
The results of this test can identify certain genetic diseases and can approximate risks for cardiovascular disease, certain forms of pancreatitis, and other diseases. LP measures the level of good and bad cholesterol along with triglycerides in your blood.
This includes measuring the levels of different parameters like low-density lipoproteins (LDL), very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL), high-density lipoproteins (HDL), triglycerides, total cholesterol, and cholesterol/HDL ratio among others. This test should cost you about Ghs120.00 also based on your facility of choice.
10. Other Vitals (Pulse rate, Breathing rate, Blood pressure, Body mass index (BMI))
The pulse rate is a measurement of the heart rate. This is the number of times the heart beats per minute. Heart rhythm and Strength of the pulse are important.
The breathing rate is the number of breaths you take each minute. The rate is usually measured when you are at rest. Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the artery walls during contraction and relaxation of the heart. Each time the heart beats, it pumps blood into the arteries. It results in the highest blood pressure as the heart contracts. When the heart relaxes, the blood pressure falls. Systolic and diastolic values must be interpreted to you by the healthcare provider. Body mass index (BMI) is a significant indicator of health and well-being.
The notion of considering BMI as a vital sign was first put forward over a decade ago; however, many health-care professionals do not routinely measure height and weight or calculate BMI. BMI should serve as a guide throughout the year.
Whether or not you must lose some weight should be based on your BMI and not because others are losing or gaining weights. BMI must as well inform your level of exercise and type of diet throughout the year. All these vital tests should cost you Ghs100.00
To conclude, let me emphasis that “Health is like money, we never have a true idea of its value until we lose it”. We must hold on to good health even if it will cost us some hard-earned money. If not, we will use much if not all our money to chase after good health sooner or later.
Writer; Dr. Divine Lardey Agyemang