High cholesterol, diabetes and pickled liver top health concerns

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How many health checks last year? graph of japanese opinionWith me on a Shinkansen up to Yokohama for the CHES (Cryptographic Hardware and Embedded Systems ’06 Conference rather than attending a regular health check, it would be quite appropriate to look at this survey conducted at the start of last month by MyVoice into health checks. 13,126 people from their monitor pool responded, 54% female, 3% in their teens, 21% in their twenties, 39% in their thirties, 24% in their forties, and 13% aged fifty or older.

In Japan, I believe the law states that all companies must provide their employees with annual health checks, but the law doesn’t state how detailed they should be. In my employer’s case, every year we get our height, weight, urine, eyes and ears checked, and a chest X-ray. I personally opt out of the chest X-ray most times as it’s apparently a check for lung cancer and TB, but according to reliable internet data, there are far more effective tests for latent TB and X-rays should only be needed to confirm an outbreak, and as for lung cancer, first I don’t smoke, and second, once it’s big enough to turn up on an X-ray it’s most likely terminal. Japan also has the highest number of medical X-ray exposures per person per year and the highest rate of cancer attributed to medical X-rays, two facts which I can’t help feel are connected somehow.

My company also once every three to five years does a blood test, poo test, and a barium meal, plus additional ten-year checks, and also recently has started annual fitness tests consisting of grip strength, bike riding, sit-ups, reaction times, balancing on one leg with eyes shut (yes, really!), and recovery rate checks, which is the test I’m skiving out of today.

In addition, many local councils offer their residents various free checks at various stages of life.

Q1: In the last year, how many times have you been for a health check? (Sample size=13,126)

Once 54.5%
Twice 8.1%
Three or more times 2.0%
None 35.5%

Q2: Who paid the fees for the health checks? (Sample size=those who have had tests in the last year, multiple answer)

Employer’s health insurance scheme 60.1%
Myself 21.0%
Local or national public body 11.7%
School 7.4%
Spouse’s or other family member’s employer’s health insurance scheme 5.7%
Someone other 2.9%
Family 1.7%
Free 3.0%
Don’t know 1.1%
No answer 0.2%

Q3: What tests did the health check involve? (Sample size=those who have had tests in the last year, multiple answer)

Height, weight and other body measures 88.0%
Urine 87.2%
Blood pressure 79.0%
Eyesight 76.9%
Doctor consultation 68.2%
Hearing 66.0%
Chest X-ray 65.7%
ECG, electro-cardiogram 60.1%
Blood sugar 53.1%
Blood lipid (cholesterol, etc) 53.1%
Stomach X-ray (barium meal) 35.0%
Liver function 30.9%
Ocular fundus (retina, etc), ocular tension 26.2%
Anemia 19.9%
Kidney function 19.0%
Ladies bits 18.8%
Lung function 16.5%
Oral 14.2%
Gout 6.0%
Other 16.5%
No answer 0.1%

It would have been better, I think, if the ladies bits answer differentiated between upstairs and downstairs, and I’m surprised that checking for blood in the stool wasn’t listed as I thought that was a relatively standard test.

Q4: Of the tests taken in Q3, which has results that you were concerned about? (Sample size=those who have had tests in the last year, multiple answer)

Blood lipid (cholesterol, etc) 19.5%
Blood sugar 10.8%
Liver function 10.6%
Eyesight 10.2%
Blood pressure 10.1%
Ladies bits 9.6%
Height, weight and other body measures 9.0%
Urine 9.0%
Stomach X-ray (barium meal) 7.4%
ECG, electro-cardiogram 6.1%
Chest X-ray 5.5%
Anemia 4.2%
Oral 3.2%
Kidney function 3.2%
Ocular fundus (retina, etc), ocular tension 2.4%
Gout 2.2%
Hearing 1.6%
Doctor consultation 1.5%
Lung function 1.3%
Other 13.1%
No answer 10.2%

I presume that the “no answer” mostly includes those who got an all clear, rather than those who refused to answer.

Q5: What was the result of the health check? (Sample size=those who have had tests in the last year)

Nothing abnormal found 57.1%
Warning signs discovered 26.8%
Further tests were required (to SQ) 11.8%
Other 1.8%
Don’t know 2.%
No answer 0.5%

Although over a half said there were no abnormalities, in Q4 almost 90% reported some point of concern. This may seem to be a contradiction, but I suspect that this is in part due to if cholestoral was outside the normal limits but not yet into the liable to drop dead at any second zone people might take it as being “nothing abnormal found”. My experience with my employer’s tests is that you get a summary results postcard and a few pre-canned responses such as in my case, try to eat more things with iron, such as liver and spinach, for my borderline anemia. Conversely, when I did a private health check with wifey, they were much more thorough and had a final consultation with the doc over the results, including recommendations of further tests.

Q5SQ: Did you take the further tests? (Sample size=those needing further tests)

Yes 55.7%
Think I should, but not taken them yet 30.2%
Don’t think I’ll take them 11.5%
Forgot I needed further tests 1.4%
Other 0.8%
No answer 0.4%

Q6: Following the health check, what resolutions did you take in order to maintain your health? (Sample size=those who have had tests in the last year, multiple answer)

Eat balanced meals 46.0%
Do appropriate exercise 35.3%
Get enough sleep 34.3%
Don’t overeat or drink too much 22.5%
Relieve stress 17.7%
Take supplements 14.3%
Have regular life-cycle 12.8%
Quit or reduce drinking 7.9%
Go to hot springs, spa, massage, etc 7.2%
Buy Tokuho-marked foods 5.8%
Quit smoking 3.6%
Other 2.3%
Nothing in particular 23.7%
No answer 0.5%
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