Growing up with a Doctor for a dad and a Nurse for a mum, I never really needed a GP. My medical issues never went far beyond “I’ve got a headache, can I have a Nurofen?” – which is something I’m very grateful for. Even as I got older and my parents moved a few hours away, I would only ever visit a doctor to get my script for The Pillfilled (apart from that one time my pants were set alight by the heater!) While I was quite conscious of the importance of a balanced diet and exercise, my overall health wasn’t something I gave much thought to.
Then, in 2015 I started working as a writer for a popular ‘real life’ magazine. I loved it, but I was constantly interviewing people who had lost a child or partner to deadly illnesses or cancer. After a while I became – let’s face it – a bit of a hypochondriac. I started to believe that these types of conditions were far more common than they actually were. Anytime I had even the smallest ailment I would immediately suspect the worst and go into panic mode. But because I didn’t have my own go-to GP, I would go to bulk-billing medical centres where Doctors dismissed my concerns.
As I had a few different things I was worried about (for example, chest palpitations and the fact that I’d never had a skin check as an adult), I knew I had to take action to give myself peace of mind. Otherwise, I’d always be suspicious that some mysterious illness was lurking beneath the surface. But I had so many things I wanted to check off the list that I didn’t know where to start! Then, I came across an article about comprehensive health exams. As the name suggests, they’re extensive tests that cover pretty much every aspect of your health. Eager to make sure my health was on the right track, I booked in for the Complete Health Package at Life First Assessment, located at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney (there are also locations in Melbourne and Brisbane).
Let me start with saying that yes, the Life First Assessment was expensive. I forked out around $1500 for mine and it’s not covered by my health insurance company. However, for what you get, it’s well worth the money. Here’s what was included.
Comprehensive head to toe examination including ears, eyes, nose, mouth, glands, abdomen, liver, spleen, kidney, hernias, heart sounds, blood pressure, peripheral pulses, neurological signs, musculoskeletal and lung auscultation
Fasting lipids to detect cardiovascular disease
Fasting blood sugar to detect type 2 diabetes
Extensive pathology including a full blood analysis, liver function tests, urine analysis and Vitamin D
Review of skin for presence of obvious skin cancers and skin conditions
Pap smear, pelvic examination and breast examination
Resting ECG to detect cardiac abnormalities by measuring the electrical activity generated by the heart as it contracts
Exercise ECG to assess your exercise tolerance and determine how well your heart responds during times when it is working the hardest
Vision and hearing test
Flexibility and abdominal strength
60 minutes with the Doctor
Consultation with the Exercise Physiologist
Three telephone consultations with a degree qualified Health Coach or Dietitian
Comprehensive report with recommendations
What to expect
The test took just over 3 hours to complete. First, I was sent off to pathology to have my blood tests done. Then, I was given breakfast and a coffee and sent in to see the Exercise Physiologist. We chatted about my fitness regime, she gave me advice about any exercise-related concerns and ran some flexibility and core strength tests. After that, it was time to see the Doctor. Thankfully, she was lovely and made me feel very comfortable during what could otherwise be a rather daunting experience.
By that point, half of my pathology results had already arrived (the perks of having the centre on site at a hospital) so we went through those. We also talked through health questionnaire. I had filled out online before my session and addressed things like stress, sleep and any health niggles. Then, it was on to my skin and breast check, pap smear and pelvic examination. The comprehensive finished with me being hooked up to wires and running on a treadmill to check my heart function and for any abnormalities. Less than a week later I received a full report of my results via email. These showed that not only was I completely fine, I was healthier than the average person in most ways. Still, better safe than sorry!
There seems to be a bit of a misconception that comprehensive health checks are for older people or those who already have medical issues. But truth be told, your 20s and 30s are an ideal time to get one. Prevention is always better than cure and it’s a great way to be aware of any potential health issues before they pop up later. Not only does it allow you to assess your risk of disease, it also helps you to identify any areas you need to work on. My tests showed that my flexibility and stress management could be better – so now I know exactly what I should be working on.
We see our role as to screen for disease, identify risk factors that may compromise health, and advise on strategies to maintain wellness into the future. In our younger clients, those last two roles are more relevant. Our experienced doctors have ample time to thoroughly assess and counsel our clients. Advice and intervention is evidence-based and scientifically validated.
-Dr Mark Penny, Clinical Director of Life First Assessments, and a specialist Nephrologist based at the St Vincent’s Clinic in Sydney.
Sure, it may burn a temporary hole in your wallet, but at the end of the day there’s no better investment than in your health. Most of the tests are things you’d need to get done anyway, it just allows you to smash them all out in one go! Plus, it’s a lot cheaper to have a comprehensive every 5-10 years then to have to pay for hospital fees later.