Friday, April 19, 2024

THE ONE THING… To Add To Your Calendar That Might Just Save Your Life

In the busiest of busy worlds, many of us are guilty of only paying attention to our health when the wheels start falling off. But a recent survey has highlighted just how big the gap is between how healthy us Kiwis THINK we are, versus our actual health reality. We look at the eye-opening stats and the one wellness appointment that, odds are, you’re currently missing.

Welcome to The One Thing! Every week we’re bringing you the one nugget of info that you need to know or didn’t know you needed to know! Whether it’s a tip to make your life a little easier, a pearl of wisdom, something to make you think, or maybe something to make you laugh, The One Thing is here to serve you every Friday!

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As Kiwis, our ‘she’ll be right’ attitude is great for a lot of things. DIY. Sports. The Kiwi onion dip (I assume). But when it comes to our health, the assumption that everything will be fine has a big impact on our overall wellbeing – and a group of people who are very aware of this are the insurers potentially footing the bill at the other end.

A recent survey by private health insurer nib New Zealand found that there is a big discrepancy between how Kiwis view our health – and how healthy we actually are. In fact, according to the survey, one in five people either don’t believe in general health checks, or aren’t sure if they’re necessary.

To be honest, as soon as I read that, I thought ‘It’s me, hi. I’m the problem, it’s me.’ And as the stats indicate, you might be thinking the same thing as well. Maybe it’s the time it takes to book an appointment and actually go, maybe it’s the money. Probably, it’s both. But as the annoying-but-accurate saying goes: If you don’t make time for your wellness, you’ll be forced to make time for your illness. And I think a lot of us are guilty of only paying attention to our health when the wheels start falling off.

“It was surprising to see how many Kiwis are worried about their future health but are not getting proactive health checks,” says Rob McGrath, nib’s Chief Medical Officer. “Catching illnesses early means treatment can commence sooner, reducing the risk of deterioration and future complications. Alarmingly, we found that six in ten people are concerned about their future health prospects, yet nearly half (47%) were behind on their general health check.”

Of course, cost can be a prohibitive factor for many Kiwis but according to the survey, even people eligible for free screening programs are still behind on prostate cancer checks (60%), cervical smears (44%), bowel cancer screenings (37%) and breast cancer screenings (28%). Considering how bad our stats are around these diseases, it’s clear that many of us are falling behind when it comes to keeping on top of our long-term health.

“When it comes to health, the ‘she’ll be right’ attitude commonly held by Kiwis is rarely a positive thing, particularly with illnesses or symptoms that are unusual or persistent. While resilience and optimism are positive traits for approaching life’s challenges, they can become problematic when they lead to delays in preventative health checks or in the identification and treatment of serious illnesses,” says Rob.

Despite the advances in treatment thanks to different technologies and medicines, early detection is still the best weapon for many illnesses, like breast and bowel cancer. And despite NZ having one of the highest rates of melanoma in the world, 84% of those surveyed aren’t up to date with their skin checks – or, have never had one.

“Brushing off health concerns, like thinking that a niggle will go away or ignoring symptoms, can lead to serious consequences. The longer you leave something unchecked or untreated, the greater the risk of it becoming more serious. This could make health problems more complex to treat or even result in lifelong complications,” says Rob.

The most usual suspects when it comes to being laissez faire about their health? Men (unsurprisingly). According to the stats, men tend to think they are in better shape than others their age (31% compared to 19% women), and Pākeha are far more likely to consider their health is good, very good or excellent (60% compared to 43% Māori).

“When we asked respondents what motivated them to get health checks, men and Pākeha were less motivated by the thought of staying healthy for their children or grandchildren (28% and 32% respectively, compared to women, 35%, and Māori, 39%).”

A lot of this simply comes down to not knowing what to be aware of – uncertainty about which screenings you need (38%) was the main barrier stopping people from getting regular health screenings. So booking in right now for a check-up with your GP or health practitioner is a great way to keep an overview on your general health, as well as highlighting the particular things you need to keep an eye on for your age bracket.

You can also use this Warrant of Wellness tool to look at what you need to tick-off for your age – for instance, I knew I needed to be all over my teeth health as I prepare to enter my 40s, but I have paid truly zero attention to my joints. Now I know it’s on my list.

So what’s the next first step after reading this? Find time with your GP and get some overall health checks done, and find out what you need to be keeping an eye on. A 15-minute appointment now can start you on a health journey that can save you time and money in the long run… and maybe even save your life.

“Simple health checks can make a big difference to your health outcomes and are a great way to look after your health for yourself and your loved ones,” says Rob.

Now, if you’ll excuse me – I’m off to ring my GP.

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