Jackets are re-waxed every season, shoes are meticulously polished with each wear, and few of us would dream of taking a car on the road without an oily thumbs-up from a mechanic. Yet, our bodies shamefully lurch from year-to-year unchecked and often unmaintained.
To help get your body in gear for 2017, we’ve drafted in a body of experts (literally) to explain why and how you can perform a full teeth-to-testicle MOT and get the year off to the best possible start.
Check Your: General Health
The way to get the best results from any appointment with a health professional, whether it’s a dietitian or a dentist, is to go ready armed with an idea of your overall health. A quick consultation and a measure of your height and weight will give an audit of your air bags and check the quality of your blood while also assessing your risk of developing diabetes, high cholesterol and even certain cancers.
No matter how healthy you think you are, there’s always room for improvement according to Dr Dawn Harper from Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies: “[A health check] focuses on some of the really big killers in this country. We know that in the early stages, often there may not be many symptoms.”
If over the age of 40, you’ll be invited for a free midlife MOT by your GP every five years. If under, a growing number of private firms offer health checks for all ages, from blood tests and physical examinations to full body scans.
Before you shell out, it’s worth checking in with your GP to see what they can offer first and whether there are any nearby companies or even gyms covered by a free NHS programme.
Check Your: Fitness
All this new-year-new-you hype may lead to a January full of clogged gyms, but even if you’re not following #fitspo accounts on Instagram, regularly measuring your fitness levels is still vital to dodging long-term health issues.
“Your fitness is directly associated with your long-term risk of developing cardiovascular disease, metabolic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, and suffering a stroke,” says BUPA UK clinical fellow Dr Ed Gaynor. “Understanding where you’re at is key to the effectiveness of any training.”
Dr Gaynor recommends an advanced fitness assessment, during which boffins measure your weight, height, body fat percentage, grip strength and oxygen consumption. You’ll be put through a gruelling battle on an exercise bike, but you’ll leave a fitter, stronger man with a plan.
Check Your: Moles
That mole’s been sitting there for years. Ever had doubts gnawing away about it? It’s time to square up to the problem. “Men are less likely to develop skin cancer than women,” explains Anna Gucova, nurse specialist at The Mole Clinic. “However they are more likely to die from it due to lack of awareness.”
According to Gucova, self-monitoring is easier than you think. Just follow the ‘ABCDE rule’ on what you should be looking out for. Look for moles that are asymmetrical in shape; a jagged border; different colours from one area to another; a bigger diameter than 7mm; and whether the mole is evolving or changing.
Any warning signs? Undertake a dermascopic assessment and use high, broad spectrum SPF in the future.
Check Your: Diet
If you’re kicking the new year off with yet another fitness regime, take an honest look at why your others have failed – it may be all down to diet. Sick of fads? Perhaps it’s time you bit the bullet and tried a nutritional consultation. “After a typical one-hour consultation, you’ll walk away with a diet plan tailored to your objectives,” says Harley Street-registered nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert.
Instead of following a pre-made diet and fleeing back to takeaways and beer when the results don’t come through, nutritionists take into account factors like digestive function, occupation and body type. You won’t just walk away with diet tips, but also lifestyle advice to help implement them.
Lists of registered nutritionists available for a consultation can be found online. Use a session as a springboard for a few lasting healthy changes, instead of an instant fix. Make your drunk New Year’s Eve your final time under the golden arches.
Check Your: Teeth
Taking a seat in the dentist’s chair is an experience relished by few and avoided by most. However, poor oral performance can have a negative affect on more than just your gnashers. If you want to help bring an end to the British stereotype, the warning signs are easy to look out for.
“Gum disease can lead to higher blood pressure and cardiovascular events,” says Dr Jerome Sebah, of private surgery The Dentist Gallery. While plaque, bacteria and toothache can all wreck your smile, gum disease can cause bacteria to enter the veins, leading to blood clots and poor cardiac health. For the sake of your smile (and your life expectancy) become enamoured with your enamel.
Dr Sebah encourages twice-yearly appointments along with all the usual recommendations of good hygiene, including using a toothpaste that contains baking soda, such as Arm and Hammer Total Pro, to see off errant mouthbound issues.
Check Your: Testicles
Whether you’re worried about a hereditary fertility issue or concerned about an unprotected mistake after one too many, it’s easy – and good practice – to make sure your tackle is tip-top before getting between the sheets.
In 2015 there were around 435,000 sexually transmitted disease diagnoses in the UK, according to Public Health England. With most viruses more treatable than ever before, being ‘pretty sure’ you’re clean is no longer a valid excuse, and nor are the lack of visible symptoms. It’s well-known that left untreated, STDs can cause infertility in women, but this also applies to men who suffer from chronic infections such as gonorrhoea.
Many STI detection kits are available over the counter, but it’s always better to see a professional for any major or ongoing concerns. If you’re after a HIV screening, you may be eligible for a free self-sampling kit from the nationally commissioned test.hiv service. For fertility issues, a GP will be able to conduct sperm and urine sample tests, or refer you to a specialist clinic.
Check Your: Mental Health
Even perfectly healthy modern men may not be able to shake off the black dog; at its current rate of increase, depression will become second only to heart disease as the most common disabling condition by 2020. If you were born after 1945, you’re 10 times more likely to get, or be diagnosed with, depression or anxiety. It’s time to speak up.
One warning sign is sustained, erratic changes in mood, according to Andy Bell, deputy chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health. “Left untreated, mental health problems can increase the risk of poor physical health as well as other difficulties in life,” says Bell. “If in doubt, seek help quickly.”
“Seeing your GP is an important first step,” says Bell. If uneasy thoughts are wrecking your quality of life or you’re finding it tough to get out of bed, the NHS have compiled a list of helplines to phone while you wait for your appointment. Otherwise, regular meditation for just 10 minutes a day has been proven to help conquer anxious thoughts.
Check Your: Fertility
It’s common knowledge that sperm count declines as you age. It’s helpful to get an assessment of where you are on the sliding scale in order to do any long-term planning accordingly. Around 10m cells per ml of semen is considered poor, while above 20m should do the, ahem, trick provided motility (the rate at which your swimmers move) is normal.
While home fertility tests can give you an indication of sperm count, a full, professional analysis can track motility and the size and shape of your sperm heads – all factors when it comes to conception.
Armed with this knowledge, it’s better to visit a specialist such as the London Fertility Centre, which offers a fertility profile, or have it arranged through your GP, who will send your sample off to the hospital for analysis. This will provide a much more thorough breakdown than any cheap home-testing kit.
Check Your: Eyesight
If nothing else, knowing when your prescription needs adjusting is a worthwhile excuse to splash out on some new eyewear. Delaying a check-up because ‘you can see fine’ is simply shortsighted according to Dr Susan Blakeney, an advisor to the College of Optometrists. “You’d be surprised what people don’t notice because your vision can change over time and you think it’s all right but actually it’s considerably worse than it used to be.”
Your eyes are a window into the rest of the body. Advanced and undiagnosed diabetes is detectable through damaged blood vessels in the eyes – as is high cholesterol, liver problems or diseases like glaucoma.
Most high-street opticians usually charge around £50 and under for an eye test, so a once-over is easy on the wallet and only needs to be done every two years. Fancy a new pair of cutting-edge specs? Get tested at outlets such as David Clulow.