High cholesterol, diabetes and pickled liver top health concerns


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)

Three or more times2.0%

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 scheme60.1%
Local or national public body11.7%
Spouse’s or other family member’s employer’s health insurance scheme5.7%
Someone other2.9%
Don’t know1.1%
No answer0.2%

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 measures88.0%
Blood pressure79.0%
Doctor consultation68.2%
Chest X-ray65.7%
ECG, electro-cardiogram60.1%
Blood sugar53.1%
Blood lipid (cholesterol, etc)53.1%
Stomach X-ray (barium meal)35.0%
Liver function30.9%
Ocular fundus (retina, etc), ocular tension26.2%
Kidney function19.0%
Ladies bits18.8%
Lung function16.5%
No answer0.1%

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 sugar10.8%
Liver function10.6%
Blood pressure10.1%
Ladies bits9.6%
Height, weight and other body measures9.0%
Stomach X-ray (barium meal)7.4%
ECG, electro-cardiogram6.1%
Chest X-ray5.5%
Kidney function3.2%
Ocular fundus (retina, etc), ocular tension2.4%
Doctor consultation1.5%
Lung function1.3%
No answer10.2%

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 found57.1%
Warning signs discovered26.8%
Further tests were required (to SQ)11.8%
Don’t know2.%
No answer0.5%

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)

Think I should, but not taken them yet30.2%
Don’t think I’ll take them11.5%
Forgot I needed further tests1.4%
No answer0.4%

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 meals46.0%
Do appropriate exercise35.3%
Get enough sleep34.3%
Don’t overeat or drink too much22.5%
Relieve stress17.7%
Take supplements14.3%
Have regular life-cycle12.8%
Quit or reduce drinking7.9%
Go to hot springs, spa, massage, etc7.2%
Buy Tokuho-marked foods5.8%
Quit smoking3.6%
Nothing in particular23.7%
No answer0.5%
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