You might think you are fit and strong, but how much do you really know about your health? It can be easy to assume you’re in good health, but you may be surprised to learn that some common conditions can go undetected for years, without ever presenting symptoms. We speak with Dr Vincent Lau of the Matilda Clinic – Caine Road, to find out more about these hidden health risks, and how to prevent yourself from falling foul of them.
Secret, Symptom-less Conditions
“Chronic conditions don’t develop overnight,” explains Dr Vincent Lau from the Matilda Clinic – Caine Road. “Most of the time, these are caused by lifestyle, and not genetics”. Lifestyle factors ranging from poor diet, excessive weight, a lack of exercise, smoking, and whether a person drinks in excess, can contribute to the development of conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
While ignorance may be bliss, allowing such conditions to go untreated can lead to grave consequences. “If left untreated for many years, heart attacks, strokes, kidney and liver failure are some of the complications that can arise from these kinds of disorders,” explains Dr Lau. However, regular health checks can eliminate unnecessary risk.
A Painless Process
Blood tests are thought to be a necessary evil by many, but instant blood tests are offered at a few clinics in Hong Kong, including the Matilda Clinic. Health checks can be conducted within five minutes, and deliver accurate results at the click of a button. With just a prick on the finger, the machine takes about 90 seconds to process and will print out a results slip immediately.
In just a few minutes, your doctor will have your fasting glucose levels (used to diagnose diabetes) and your cholesterol profile. On what this entails, Dr Lau explains, “It is important that a blood test measures the good and the bad, to look at how well you are doing. This includes good and bad cholesterol, total cholesterol and lipids in the blood. This will also reflect how much exercise you are doing, and how much fibre is in your diet.”
Change For Good
Luckily, early detection can prevent progression, and control disorders such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. This can be achieved by adjusting your lifestyle – by eating well and getting a minimum of two-and-a-half-hours’ aerobic exercise each week, among other factors. “If you can keep this up, even for just a few weeks, you will be able to start seeing the changes in your subsequent blood test.”
Compared to the conventional approach, this saves not just time in your day, but several days. “Previously, it involved us drawing blood in the clinic, then sending it to the lab, and then calling the patient back into schedule another appointment to discuss the findings”. For many a Hongkonger, time spent waiting is considered time wasted, so it will come as no surprise to learn that many of us fail to make follow-up appointments and consultations. But the immediacy of these health tests has resulted in an improved compliance with treatment. It also minimises the impact of the anxiety of waiting for test results. Dr Lau cites a study conducted on those who received the new, immediate health tests – more than 90 percent remained on their statins medication for over two years – compared with just half of those who underwent conventional testing.
If you’re in your prime, Dr Lau suggests getting a health check on an annual basis. “For someone who presents with abnormal or borderline results, I would suggest they repeat the test every six months. A borderline result is a wake-up call for patients. I will ask them and give them suggestions on some lifestyle changes, and if their next test shows improvement, this encourages them to keep going.”