GE Capital CEO Anish Shah, 41, is a firm believer in annual health check-ups. He has been going for them regularly in the past 10 years. Last year, he spent Rs 70,000 on a comprehensive preventive check-up package at Max Healthcare in Gurgaon. The Platinum programme, for which Shah had to stay in the hospital for two days, included magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, scans for every part of his body, and an array of tests that would not only spot any ailment but also alert him about any potential future afflictions. "We spend huge amounts on the maintenance and servicing of our cars," says Shah. "Aren't our own bodies a lot more important?"
Regular check-ups enable people to take remedial action in time. "Diseases like heart ailments and cancers are easier to treat when detected early, before their symptoms manifest themselves," says Dr Ashutosh Shukla, Head of Internal Medicine at Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon. He recalls a perfectly healthy looking patient who turned out to have a dilated aorta.
| CHECK LIST|
1. Eat only balanced meals for four to five days prior to the check-up. Avoid fatty foods and alcohol
2. Inform the physician about the medicines you have taken over the past three days
3. Certain tests check your endurance levels through exercises and running on the treadmill. Be prepared
The swollen aorta - the largest artery in the human body, originating from the heart - could have ruptured at any time, leading to death. The patient was operated upon the very next day. There is a range of check-up packages available at hospitals.
Choosing the most suitable option depends on age, specific requirements, and, of course, cost. "You can pick an extensive programme once, and follow it up with a standard one the next year," says Dr Sushum Sharma, Head of the Department of Preventive Health at Max Healthcare. The standard packages cost between Rs 3,000 and 4,000, and include tests which indicate a patient's complete blood count, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, liver and kidney functions, in addition to an electro cardiogram, ultrasound examination, a chest X-ray and a dental check-up. "We design packages keeping in mind diseases that could affect certain age groups." says Dr Shukla.
Apart from the regular ones, he recommends a treadmill test and echocardiography for men in the 31 to 50 age group for signs of coronary heart diseases. For women, additional tests are bone densitometry and mammography, to check for osteoporosis and breast cancer. Patients need to prepare for the check-ups. Dr Sharma recommends a balanced diet and reduced alcohol intake for about four to five days before the check-up, or else cholesterol levels could be affected.
"Certain tests, like the treadmill, also test endurance levels. So being physically prepared is advisable." Informing the doctors conducting the tests about one's medical history and medications taken is also important. But check-ups do not do away with the need for a balanced lifestyle. "There is nothing like a proper diet, physical activity and curtailed tobacco and alcohol intake to keep a person healthy," says Dr Sharma.