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10 health checks you can do at home

10 health checks you can do at home

In an ideal world, everyone would have access to an affordable primary care system with a general practitioner, or family doctor, as their first point of contact and a range of impartial specialists and hospitals providing appropriate treatment.

But in some countries, the health care system falls short. There might be a lack of primary care, treatment could be expensive, and aftercare could be unreliable.

Virtual health is making primary care accessible to millions by giving patients remote access to doctors through a video interface on computers or mobile devices. Home checks such as those below could be used to support the diagnostic process.

Whether or not you have access to virtual care, and wherever you live, there’s a lot you can do from home to monitor yours and your family's health. These 10 basic checks can help keep track of your health, monitor ongoing conditions and check symptoms. And if you do need to seek medical advice, you’ll have some useful information to pass on.

1. Take your temperature

Your body temperature can show if you might have a fever. Normal temperature for adults is around 37° C (98.6° F) but this will vary according to age, time of day and which part of the body you take the temperature from. Check it when you’re in good health so you know what’s normal for you. Invest in a good thermometer for the most accurate reading. This link provides additional information.

Some wearable devices measure body temperature but may not be reliable. A high temperature can be worrying, especially in a child. If you’re concerned, seek medical advice either in person or via a virtual consultation.

2. Testicular checks

This is an essential check to discover lumps or swellings that could be an indication of cancer. It’s important to check regularly so you can recognise an abnormality.

Check your testicles after a warm bath or shower, holding your scrotum in the palm of your hand and using the fingers and thumbs of both hands to examine your testes. You should consult a doctor if you feel an unusual lump or swelling, a sharp pain or a heavy scrotum. Get more information here.

3. Be breast aware

It’s important to be familiar with how your breasts look and feel at different points in your menstrual cycle. Breast changes can happen for many reasons, and most are not serious. Look out for changes in the outline or shape of the breast, for lumps, thickening or bumps, and for changes to the nipple or skin, as these could be a sign of cancer. It’s best to see a doctor as soon as possible if you notice any of these. Click here for more information.

4. Checking your heart rate

Your resting heart rate first thing in the morning gives an indication of your general wellness. What’s normal depends on your age and fitness – check every morning for a week to learn your usual pulse rate. You can check manually or with a heart rate monitor, fitness tracker or smartphone app.

A change of 10 beats per minute (bpm) or more may mean you’re run down. Above 100 bpm could mean you’re stressed, dehydrated, excited or sick. If an elevated heart rate persists, consult a doctor. Click here for more detail.

5. Blood pressure

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for strokes, heart attack, heart failure and kidney disease. Often there are no warning symptoms so checking your blood pressure regularly is vital. Blood pressure monitors are straightforward to use; just make sure you’re in a calm environment when you do the test.

Normal blood pressure in adults is between 90/60 and 120/80 mmHg. If your blood pressure is high, you can help by cutting salt and alcohol intake, eating healthily, exercising and keeping your weight down, but you should also seek medical advice. Get more information here.

6. Blood and swab tests

You can save yourself trips to the doctor with a range of tests done at home; many promise more than 90% accuracy. Commonly used home blood tests can give an indication of cholesterol levels, thyroid issues, allergies and even HIV. Swab kits can reveal urinary tract infections and strep, the bacterial throat infection.

Once you have your results, don’t just rely on Google to interpret them. Without the proper professional guidance, online advice can be misleading. If you get a positive result, consult a doctor. Click here for further information.

7. Checking blood sugar levels

Diabetes can lead to complications such as heart, kidney and dental disease, stroke and blindness. You can buy home blood glucose tests (which involve fasting beforehand) but diabetes is a complicated condition and a home test is not enough by itself.

If you have some of the common signs of diabetes (for example, increased thirst, increased hunger, dry mouth, blurred vision or headaches), consult a doctor. For those with access to a virtual care service, this can even be done remotely. If the doctor thinks you need further tests, they can arrange them for you. Click here for more details.

8. Meningitis test

Meningitis is a frightening disease, especially in children, as it develops quickly and can be fatal. Spotting the symptoms yourself can save lives. Signs include flu-like symptoms as well as neck stiffness, drowsiness, an aversion to bright lights and sometimes a rash that doesn’t fade when you press the side of a clear glass firmly against the skin. But don’t wait until a rash develops – get medical help immediately if you suspect meningitis. There are also phone apps that can help you spot meningitis so you don’t have to remember the symptoms. Click here for more information.

9. Waist fat measurement

It’s important to stay at a healthy weight but you should also ensure you don’t carry too much fat around your waist. This can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Measure your waist at the level of your belly button. Regardless of your height or BMI, you should try to lose weight if your waist is 94cm (37ins) or more for men and 80cm (31.5ins) or more for women. Your health care provider may offer a weight reduction programme. Get more information here.

10. Skin check

Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer but you can screen yourself quite easily. Check yourself once a month, looking for new growths or moles that have changed or started to bleed, itch, burn or crust over. Speak to a doctor if you find these.

If you’re fair-skinned, have lots of moles or have spent a lot of time in the sun, you’re more at risk and should consider getting a dermatologist to check you once a year. Click here for further detail.

Getting the best health care wherever you are

Aetna International’s Care and Response Excellence (CARE) team works to ensure members receive the right treatment at the right time, and in the right location. Many members live and work in countries where health care quality or availability is more limited than their home country. Knowing that the CARE team is on hand to offer trusted guidance, facilitate a second opinion or, if necessary, organise an emergency evacuation to a specialist anywhere in the world, is an enormous reassurance.

Aetna International is proud to be pioneering an innovative, integrated virtual health care system that will help members access primary care remotely, through a video interface. Our virtual care model will look after the whole person, helping you make all the right connections at all stages of your health and wellness journey. In this way, Aetna International is working towards a future of the best health care — anytime, anywhere.

Speak to our expert sales consultants to find out about the full range of services available through the CARE team and to learn more about our private medical insurance plans.

Aetna® is a trademark of Aetna Inc. and is protected throughout the world by trademark registrations and treaties.

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