An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
A stitch in time saves nine.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
As you sow so you shall reap.
It is said that clichés and aphorisms have their origins in truth. The value of prevention must be a central truth throughout the course of human experience, based on the number of proverbs and ‘old-wives tales’ with prevention as the central subject.
More than previous generations, our GPs are working to arm their patients with tools for living healthy lives and for conducting physical and mental health self-audits. We understand more than ever before about the ways in which certain daily actions can minimise and prevent serious illnesses. Armed with increased knowledge about the connections between mental and physical health, our GPs are teaching us how to check in with our minds and emotions as well as our bodies.
Conducting a regular self-audit of your physical and mental health is wise for people of every age and circumstance. A health self-audit accomplishes several goals:
- It provides early warning of possible medical conditions about which you should consult a physician before your next scheduled visit
- It serves as a reminder to continue healthy habits and add new ones into your routine
- It provides a modicum of peace of mind and a greater feeling of control over your physical and mental health
Further benefits to staying on top of your health can even include financial ones, such as helping you to keep life insurance premiums down. As you get older quotes for life insurance can increase anyway, but keeping your health in check can make a real difference to the deals available. You can even get age specific policies which may be cheaper if you can demonstrate a good health record.
Before we continue with specific tips on checking your own physical and mental health, we must issue this common-sense warning: As with any medical information or advice you read on the Internet, check with your own GP before making any major changes to your daily routine.
How to self-check your physical health
Some of the most important questions to ask yourself during a regular physical health self-audit are:
- What is my blood pressure? You can get this checked at many pharmacies, or you could choose to purchase your own
- Am I getting at least 30 minutes of exercise at least three times each week? You can divide the time up into three 10-minute segments during a day, which may feel more manageable if you have been without an exercise regimen
- Am I eating more lean meats, more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, and fewer oils and sugars?
- If I smoke cigarettes, have I made a plan to quit?
- Can I touch my toes? More generally, how is my flexibility? Do I have any new aches or pains in my joints? If you’re finding yourself lacking in mobility, you might find benefits in joining a local yoga class
- Have I gained or lost significant weight since my last health self-audit?
- Have I been having more headaches or toothaches than usual?
- Am I sleeping more or less than usual? Am I getting an average of eight hours of sleep per night?
Check your mental health
Learning to self-check emotional health is newer concept for many people, but the distinction between physical and emotional health is fading in the medical community. Your moods, and your mood patterns, can have significant impacts on your physical health—and vice versa.
For example, chronic stress, depression or anxiety can weaken your immune system and hamper your body’s ability to fight off infections. Stress and other mood disorders can affect the health of the body’s major organs as well, like the heart and liver.
Here are some questions to ask yourself about your mood and emotions. If you answer ‘yes’ to more than a couple of these questions, check in with your GP or a mental health professional.
- Do I have less interest in doing things I used to enjoy?
- Do I avoid seeing friends or family I used to enjoy spending time with?
- Do I have more trouble concentrating than usual?
- Am I more irritable than usual?
- Is it harder for me to concentrate—at work, at school, while reading—than in the past?
- Does the future seem hopeless, or unchangeable?
- Am I having a hard time finding pleasure in life?
- Have I recently lost my temper to the extent that I’ve damaged property or hurt a person or animal?
- Have I been more tense than usual or reacted aggressively to minor irritations?
- Have I been getting in more arguments with people, and have I escalated arguments into shouting or physical altercations?
- Do certain activities, places or people make me so nervous I avoid them?
For more information and resources about mental health in the UK, visit Mind or speak to your doctor.
Your GP may have suggestions for other questions to add to your regular health self-audit, based on your specific health history. You can help yourself remember to conduct a self-check of your health by linking it to a memorable event that occurs a couple times a year, like daylight savings time, your children’s birthdays, or holidays that have special meaning.