At Gordons Chemists, we're extremely proud to be supporting Action Cancer during October - also known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
And, as part of this support, we're encouraging you - our customers on the high streets of Northern Ireland - to make an appointment with Action Cancer for a FREE Health Check, or FREE Breast Screening.
To find out what's involved in a health check, we sent someone from our office along to visit Action Cancer's Big Bus. After all - we couldn't really recommend something that we wouldn't put ourselves through...
I made an appointment through Action Cancer's website, to visit their Big Bus for a health check. As far as booking this goes, it could not be any easier. In fact, after booking I realised that this clashed with another appointment I'd already made; changing my appointment using Action Cancer's online booking system was really easy.
I was able to look for and find a date, time and location that suited me. The Big Bus travels all across Northern Ireland, and so there'll always be something that will suit you. Personally, I was able to pick something close to work, at a time that I could pop out quickly.
The Health Check itself:
There are 6 tests available as part of the Health Check, and you're asked to select 4 of these. The choices are:
Blood Sugar Levels | Cholesterol | Lung Capacity | Body Composition Analysis | Facial Skin Analysis | Blood Pressure & Pulse
I've had my Blood Pressure tested quite recently, so I didn't choose that test. I opted to have my Blood Sugar levels and Cholesterol checked, along with Lung Capacity and a Body Composition Analysis. I decided that these would be of greater use to me than a Facial Skin Analysis - although if you're exposed to the sun frequently or if you have pale or sun-sensitive skin, this might be a better option for you.
Arriving at the Big Bus, I felt at ease almost instantly. The staff I met were warm and friendly, and extremely professional at the same time. The member of Action Cancer's Health Check team who conducted my test explained what each element would involve and the sort of things they'd be looking out for.
Blood Glucose & Cholesterol Analysis
We began with a small pin prick on my finger - to test my blood sugar levels and cholesterol. I've given blood (with the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service) on many occasions and this was the same procedure that they use for the test they carry out at each session. It's not painful and it's over and done with in a split second.
While my blood was being analysed, we then chatted a bit about my diet and lifestyle. We discussed what I ate and vitamins/supplements, exercise (I was gutted to learn that a round of golf didn't count as exercise!), and things like alcohol consumption. Throughout this I was given a few minor tips about improvements - for example with carbohydrates (bread, rice, pasta etc) to always choose brown (wholemeal) over white.
All of this felt like a casual chat, and not at all like a 'lecture'.
The results from my blood analysis came in and we then discussed these. Everything was inside the normal/healthy/recommended parameters.
Lung Capacity Analysis
This involved nothing more than sharply blowing into a tube 3 times. I was then advised that my lung function was better than normal levels.
Body Composition Analysis
My height was recorded, and I was then asked to step onto a set of fancy looking scales (bare footed). After a few seconds I was told that the analysis was completed, and I sat down to discuss the results.
Although I did nothing more than stand on a set of scales, the analysis was able to tell me an awful lot. As well as my weight, it was able to tell me my Body Fat %, the Fat Mass (weight) of the fat in my body, and my Fat Free Mass - the mass of my body that is not fat (i.e. bone, muscle, tissue etc). This gives information about how much fat is in your body, how much muscle (Muscle Mass) there is, and so on. There are guidelines or 'normal levels' that the results should be within, and all of this was explained to me.
It told me the amount of water retained in my body (Total Body Water), and the percentage of this in relation to my overall weight. This tells how hydrated I am.
It told me the number of calories my body needs in a 24 hour period, and gave me a Metabolic Age - based on how well your body breaks down fat. Disappointingly, the machine tells me that my metabolic age is a couple of years older than I actually am!
It also advised me of a Visceral Fat rating - which is the amount of fat surrounding your organs. Finally, a Body Mass Index or BMI rating was included. However, I was advised that this is a pretty inaccurate measurement and so when an analysis like I've had done is made, it's not really looked at (because the other measurements are much more revealing).
For all of these, there are guideline percentages that you should aim to be within. I was relieved to be told that everything was within normal, healthy limits for me.
All-in-all - including arriving and waiting to be seen - I was in the Big Bus for no more than 15-20 minutes. It was a pretty thorough examination, yet it was completed in a short period of time. And, because the Big Bus visits towns all over Northern Ireland, it was really easy for me to make an appointment at a time that meant I only had to nip out of work for half an hour.
The experience itself was pretty pleasant. It wasn't intimidating and any nerves that I had were quickly put aside. I felt like I was in good hands and that I can trust the results I was given to be accurate. It involved me having my finger pricked, blowing into a tube, and removing my shoes and socks. Nothing more than that - nothing awkward, painful, uncomfortable or embarrassing.
In summary I was given a clean bill of health. My lungs, blood and cholesterol were within normal parameters, or were performing better than average. My body fat and other measurements were round about, or better than average. Losing a small amount of weight wouldn't hurt of course!
I realise that this Health Check doesn't cover everything, and that's it's not a complete guarantee. No health check can do this, and those that come close will take a long period of time to complete - and will cost you a fortune. This Health Check - provided free-of-charge by Action Cancer - took just a few minutes out of my day. And - in looking at my lung function, my cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and analysing my body composition - this covered all the major areas where anything of concern would be apparent.
What this Health Check - if it had revealed anything of concern - would have done would be to alert me, or give me pre-warning that something was wrong. I'd then be referred to my GP for more detailed, specific examination. This afternoon, I have great peace of mind; but if the check had revealed something I would be taking the attitude that it's better to know about it. And it has given me a gentle reminder that using the gym and going for a jog with a bit more regularity than I presently do wouldn't hurt either!
We've made a donation to Action Cancer this afternoon, to cover the cost of this Health Check.
This wasn't compulsory, and we'd like to stress that this health check is completely free-of-charge. At the session, I was not at anytime asked for a donation, or encouraged to make one.
Click here to make an appointment with Action Cancer: www.actioncancer.org/Appointments - either for a Health Check like this, or for a mammogram.