There are a number of tests and consultations involved in a health screen session. The exact number will depend on the provider you choose and the level of health screen you opt for (Standard or Executive), plus any optional tests you may request. Here's a quick summary of what you can expect.
The Standard Health Screen may include:
- Height, weight and body mass index
- Blood pressure measurement and evaluation
- Cholesterol test
- Urinalysis, including glucose and protein
The Executive Health Screen may include the following extra tests:
- Resting ECG
- Vision screen
- Faecal Occult Blood (bowel cancer test - if indicated by family/recent test)
- Digital rectal examination if indicated for prostate cancer
All health Screens will include:
- Health & Lifestyle Consultation
- Written report
Optional extra tests which you may request at additional cost include:
- PSA test
- Cervical Smear
- Dexa Scan
Height, Weight & Body Mass Index
At your health screening session, the nurse will check your weight, height and waist circumference to find out your BMI or Body Mass Index. Your age and gender will also be taken into account. BMI is a calculation used by health professionals to estimate your body fat levels and health risks.
Here are the range of BMI levels and what they mean.
18.5 or less You may be underweight
18.5 - 24.9 You are in the normal weight for height category
25 - 29.9 You may be overweight
30 - 34.9 You are in the obese category
35 - 39.9 You are in the very obese category
You will be given your BMI result at the end of your health screening session and you will have an opportunity to discuss it during your lifestyle consultation to see if you need to make any changes to your diet and exercise habits.
One of the ways to check your risk of heart disease is to get a test for total cholesterol levels in your blood.
Cholesterol is a type of fat or lipid found in your blood. You need a certain amount of cholesterol in your blood, but if there is too much, it can build up in the lining of your artery or blood vessels, which can then become blocked or narrowed. If this happens, the heart muscles can be damaged.
The level of cholesterol in your blood is affected by the amount of saturated fats you eat every day.
There are actually two types of cholesterol, commonly known as 'good' cholesterol and 'bad' cholesterol.
Good Cholesterol (HDL or high density lipids) carries away harmful fats from cells and tissues to the liver for removal from the body. An HDL that is too low actually increases your risk of heart disease. A higher level of HDL is best.
Bad Cholesterol (LDL or low density lipids) makes up most of the cholesterol in the blood. If too much is carried to the tissues and vessels of the body, this can result in clogged arteries. An LDL that is too high increases your risk of heart disease, so a lower level of LDL is best.
As well as checking HDL and LDL levels, there is a more detailed test which will show the levels of another type of fat - triglyceride - in your blood.
So what are healthy levels of Cholesterol?
Total cholesterol - No more than 5 is best
LDL Cholesterol - No more than 3 is best
HDL Cholesterol - Greater than 1 is best
Triglycerides - No greater than 2 is best
So how is the cholesterol test done?
The nurse will take a small amount of blood from your finger with a pin prick, or from your arm using a syringe. Don't worry - this doesn't hurt and you will feel no more than a pin prick. The blood is then sent to the laboratory for testing.
You will have an opportunity to discuss your cholesterol levels at the end of your health screening session. You will also be given advice of any action you need to take.
Your blood pressure is the amount of work that your heart has to do to pump your blood around your body. Your blood pressure will vary with age and depends on how active you are before it is measured. If you are nervous or anxious, the measurement can be higher than usual. The test is completely painless.
Someone with high blood pressure can look and feel well and have no symptoms. However, high blood pressure makes the heart and arteries work harder and can cause damage over time. This damage could eventually lead to a heart attack or stroke.
There are two numbers used to measure the level of your blood pressure. Systolic pressure is measured when the pressure is at its highest as the heart muscle squeezes out the blood from the heart. Diastolic pressure is measured when the heart relaxes, allowing the blood to flow back into the heart again. The normal level of blood pressure is usually about 120 (systolic) over 80 (diastolic), but this can vary with age, how you feel and your level of activity. If you are over 30, you should have your blood pressure checked every two or three years.
How is blood pressure measured?
The nurse will place a type of cuff on your upper arm which has a gauge attached to it. The cuff can be loosened and tightened by pumping air into it. Loosening and tightening the cuff allows the two types of blood pressure to be measured. All you will feel is a slight pressure when the cuff is tightened.
What causes high blood pressure?
Being overweight, drinking too much alcohol, eating too much sodium (found in salt) and not eating enough fresh fruit and vegetables may lead to an increase in blood pressure. As you grow older, your blood pressure increases. Contrary to popular belief, high blood pressure is rarely caused by a stressful lifestyle.
You will have an opportunity to discuss your blood pressure levels at the end of your health screening session. The good news is that, if caught in the early stages, you can help to reduce high blood pressure and keep it at a manageable level by changing your eating and exercise habits, as well as reducing the amount of alcohol you drink and quitting smoking. Some people may also need to take medication as prescribed by their G.P.
As the name suggests, a urinalysis is simply an analysis of the urine which can provide a general overview of your health.
During your health screen, your urine will be tested for a range of conditions. The test consists of a physical, chemical, and microscopic examination of the urine.
This test can show evidence of disease, even some that have not caused significant signs or symptoms. Examples include diabetes mellitus, kidney diseases and chronic infections of the urinary tract.
Generally, the greater the concentration of the abnormal substance (such as glucose, protein, or red blood cells), the more likely it will be that there is a problem that needs to be addressed.
How is a urinalysis test done?
During your health screen the nurse will ask you to go to the bathroom and collect a sample of urine in a small sterile container which will be supplied. About one to two ounces of urine is needed for a test.
If abnormal substances are found following your urinalysis, the results will be explained to you and you will be advised to go to your G.P. for further treatment.
Resting ECG Test
An ECG or electrocardiogram is a test that checks for problems with the electrical activity in your heart.
What is electrical activity in the heart?
Heartbeats are triggered by electrical signals in the heart. The electrical signals travel from the top of the heart to the bottom. As they travel through the heart, they cause the heart muscle to contract. As the heart contracts, it pumps blood out to the rest of the body.
Why do we need to measure electrical activity in the heart?
ECG's are used to test for early heart disease that has no symptoms. If the person has a family history of heart disease in a mother, father, brother, or sister - especially if the heart disease developed early in those family members - it is a good idea to have regular ECG's.
What conditions can an ECG show?
An ECG shows how fast the heart is beating. It shows if the heart's rhythm is steady or irregular. It also records the strength and timing of the electrical signals as they pass through each part of the heart.
Many heart problems change the electrical signature of the heart in distinct ways. ECG recordings of this electrical activity can help reveal a number of heart problems, including:
- Risk of heart attack
- Lack of blood flow to the heart muscle
- A heart that is beating irregularly, or too fast or too slow
- A heart that does not pump forcefully enough
- Heart muscle that is too thick or parts of the heart that are too big
- Birth defects in the heart
- Disease in the heart valves between the different heart chambers
How is an ECG done?
The good news is that an electrocardiogram (ECG) is painless and harmless. A technician first attaches 12 soft patches called electrodes to the skin of the chest, arms, and legs. These electrodes are about the size of a 20c piece. To help an electrode stick to the skin, the technician may have to shave a patch of hair where the electrode will be attached.
After the electrodes are placed on the skin, the patient lies still on a table for a few minutes while the electrodes detect the electrical signals of the heart. A machine then records these signals on graph paper or displays them on a screen.
The entire test takes about 10 minutes. When it's finished, the electrodes are removed from the skin and discarded.
Vision Screening Tests can be done as part of your health screen to assess your vision and determine if you need a full eyesight test. The tests may cover such things as:
- Eye co-ordination
- Depth perception
- Colour blindness
- Distance vision
- Middle vision
- Near vision
You should bring along any glasses that you wear, for reading as well as for distance or computer use.
You may be referred to an optician for a full vision or eyesight test if necessary.
An audiometry test is a hearing test to assess your ability to hear different sound frequencies and to identify if you are experiencing any reduction or loss of hearing. The test is carried out with electronic equipment.
How is it done?
Firstly, your ears will be examined to make sure there are no blockages due to ear wax or other substances. You will be asked to wear a pair of earphones which will block out all sound except the sounds to be tested. You will be asked to listen to a variety of different sounds, tones and volumes and to indicate if you can hear them. Each ear is tested separately as its common for your ears to have different levels of hearing.
Will it hurt?
The test does not hurt at all and there are no side effects.
If your hearing is considered to be below par, you may be referred to your G.P. or a hearing expert for further treatment.
Blood tests are one of the most common tests carried out to assess the state of your health and can alert you to many medical conditions. A full blood profile is taken to test for blood count, gout, diabetes, liver and kidney function, in addition to the blood cholesterol check already mentioned.
So how it the blood test done?
The nurse will take a small amount of blood from your arm using a syringe. Don't worry - this doesn't hurt and you will feel no more than a pin prick. The blood is then sent to the laboratory for testing.
A Spirometry test measures lung function. The information gathered during this test is used to check for certain types of lung disorders, especially asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
How is the test done?
You will be asked to breathe into a mouthpiece connected to an instrument called a spirometer. The spirometer records the amount and the rate of air that you breathe in and out over a specified time. Some of the test measurements are obtained by normal, quiet breathing, and other test measurements are obtained during forced inhalation or exhalation after a deep breath.
Faecal Occult Blood test
The faecal occult blood test (FOB) is carried out to look for any small amounts of blood in your faeces which you would not normally be aware of.
This is a way of spotting the early signs of diseases which may cause bleeding into the gut such as ulcers, colitis, polyps, and bowel (colon) cancer. The test may be done if you have symptoms in your abdomen such as persistent pain. It may also be done to screen for bowel cancer before any symptoms develop.
This test is included in the executive screen but is only carried out if recommended by the doctor due to a family history or if clinically indicated.
So how is this test done?
If you are due to have this test, you will be sent a kit in advance by your screening centre. A small sample of faeces is smeared onto a piece of card. You obtain a sample by using a small scraper to scrape some faeces off toilet tissue which you have just used after going to the toilet. A chemical is added to the sample on the card. If there is a change in colour after adding the chemical, it indicates that some blood is present.
If the test is positive, then further tests will usually be arranged to find the source of the bleeding. For example, endoscopy, colonoscopy, barium enema, various scans etc.
Digital rectal examination
A digital rectal (finger) exam is done for men if recommended as part of the health screen to check the prostate gland. The prostate gland is a small walnut-sized gland between the bladder and the penis. This test is generally recommended for men over 50, especially if there is a history of prostate cancer in the family. It can also help find the cause of symptoms such as rectal bleeding (blood in the stool), belly or pelvic pain, a change in urination, or a change in bowel habits.
How is this test done?
During the examination, a health professional gently puts a lubricated, gloved finger of one hand into the rectum. He or she may use the other hand to press on the lower belly or pelvic area.
Does it hurt?
It will be a little uncomfortable and possibly a bit embarrassing for some but it's for a good reason and it only takes a few moments. You will be placed in the foetal position while the test is conducted, which makes it relatively easy and relatively painless for the digital examination to take place.
If the doctor doing the exam thinks it’s necessary you may be recommended to have a PSA test.
A PSA test is done for men to check the blood levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA), which is a natural chemical produced by the prostate gland. If you have any condition that irritates or damages the prostate gland, this can lead to a leak of PSA into the blood.
Having a PSA test is a useful as a way of identifying abnormalities of the prostate, including prostate cancer, and it is recommended for older men and men with a history of prostate cancer in the family.
How is the test done?
A small amount of blood is taken from your arm and sent to the laboratory for testing. If you are having other blood tests during your health screen, the blood will be taken all in one go.
If your PSA levels are high, your doctor will want to monitor them at regular intervals - usually yearly. He may refer you to a consultant urologist who may wish to do a biopsy to test for the presence of prostate cancer.