We all know the importance of a healthy diet, regular exercise and enjoying all things in moderation, but it's not always easy to put that knowledge to use.
Sometimes our standards slip and we need to be hit with some facts about our health to get back on track and make the right lifestyle choices.
Those facts can come in the form of your body mass index or waist circumference. They might also be your cholesterol or blood glucose levels.
It might be something as simple as an expert telling you what you already know – that you're a long way off hitting your two-fruit-and-five-veg-a-day quota.
Being armed with the right information early can be the difference between heading off a health issue early and letting a potentially preventable disease develop.
That's where a Friendlies Pharmacy health check can be super important. You can walk away with a snapshot of your overall health in just 20 minutes, and if you're an HBF health member, you could have one fully covered in your policy.*
So, what will you learn about the state of your health?
Putting your lifestyle under the microscope
The first step is to share your exercise, diet and lifestyle habits.
How often are you taking part in moderate intensity physical activity, vigorous physical activity, and muscle-strengthening exercises?
How about that fruit and veg quota? How does that compare to your alcohol intake? And are you a smoker?
These are the questions that can hit you between the eyes when your standards are slipping, but they're important questions that will help your pharmacist put together lifestyle recommendations.
Your pharmacist can also answer questions about what a healthy alcohol intake is and how regular but moderate drinking compares to less frequent binge drinking.
Taking your measurements
To see what impact your lifestyle is having on your physical condition, your pharmacist will measure your height, weight, and waist circumference.
Your height and weight measurements allow the pharmacist to calculate your body mass index, placing you in one of the below categories:
- Underweight (below 18.5)
- Health Range (18.5 to 24.99)
- Overweight (25 to 29.99)
- Obese (over 30)
Your waist circumference is then measured by your pharmacist, and this is placed into a low, medium or high bucket, with different thresholds for people who are of Asian, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.
It is a simple check to tell if you are carrying excess body fat around your middle, which the Heart Foundation warns is more of a risk than if that weight is on your hips or thighs.
The finger prick
A small amount of blood is all it takes for your pharmacist to compile some key health indicators, so be ready to give a 'finger prick' blood sample. Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt.
This will be used to indicate your blood glucose levels, total cholesterol levels and HDL levels (good cholesterol).
Your blood glucose levels are reported back as either normal or elevated in a MMOL/L measurement.
Your total cholesterol levels, also measured in MMOL/L, are reported as either ideal, acceptable, high or extreme.
HDL cholesterol (the good stuff) can offset your total cholesterol levels and is recorded in your Friendlies health check as either being low or normal.
No doubt you've had your blood pressure taken before, but another test won't hurt as your pharmacist puts the whole picture together for you.
You'll be told both your systolic blood pressure (when the heart is contracting or pumping blood into the arteries) and your diastolic blood pressure (when your heart is resting or filling between contractions).
Drinking caffeine can cause a temporary increase in your blood pressure, so you should avoid coffee or caffeinated drinks until after your health check.
Diabetes risk score
Now it's time for your pharmacist to report back their findings, giving you instant feedback on your risk of disease.
Using all of the information they have gathered, your pharmacist will first give you a diabetes risk score.
Your diabetes risk score indicates your risk of developing type two diabetes in the next five years, placing you in either the low risk bucket (score of five or less), intermediate risk (six to 11) or high risk (12 or more).
Approximately one in every 100 people in the low risk category will develop type two diabetes within five years. This increases to one in every 30 in the intermediate category.
For those who score 12-15 in the high-risk category, one in every 14 will develop type two diabetes. For scores of 16-19, this increases to around one in every seven. For scores above 20, one in three are expected to develop the disease.
Absolute cardiovascular risk score
Cardiovascular disease includes all heart, stroke and blood vessel diseases.
With the information gathered at your Friendlies Pharmacy health check, your pharmacist can tell you your risk of suffering one of these health issues in the next five years, placing you into a low-, moderate- or high-risk bucket.
Some people might find they are at a stage in their lives where there is no risk of suffering these diseases in the next five years, making this category not applicable.
So, what do I do with all this information?
This is where your pharmacist either delivers some good news or sits you down to deliver some hard truths.
There's no point having a health check if you don't know how to act on the results, and your Health Check Report, provided to you on the day, will include lifestyle change recommendations. These could be to:
- Quit smoking
- Increase your fruit and vegetable intake
- Reduce your alcohol intake
- Increase moderate and/or vigorous physical activity
- Complete more muscle strengthening activities
If you need further attention, your pharmacist will refer you to a GP.
It might be confronting, or it might be validation that you are on the right track with your health.
Either way, a Friendlies health check is a quick and easy way to get informed about your health and prevent potentially serious diseases before they have the chance to develop.
*Eligible HBF members can get a fully covered Friendlies health check once a year, which includes your test results and a comprehensive report. Visit myHBF or call HBF on 133 423 to find out if you're covered for this service.
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