An annual physical provides a baseline to measure future health anomalies against.

A poster I used to have hanging on my wall when I was a young Naval Aviator stated – “Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity, or neglect.”

Accompanying the test on the poster was a picture of an airplane that had crashed into a tree and got stuck. The posters are available with a Google search. I had given some thought to this theme a few days ago; however, my daily research kept finding better topics to write about each day.

Today, I was told a good friend of mine has cancer. Of course, that is never something you want to hear. I do not know the details, but I can imagine what must be going through his mind – and that of his wife. Being a caregiver for my wife when she was going through breast cancer surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy was traumatic and emotional.

What can we do to give us a better opportunity (or risk) of staying alive and in good health later in life? I suggest an annual physical. If you do not know what is wrong, how can you begin to treat it? The earlier treatment is given, the better chances are to survive.

I was late scheduling my annual physical this year. It is usually on or around my birthday in September. I was recovering from coronavirus during the first couple weeks of September, and scheduling an annual physical was not at the top of my priorities. I finally made one, and my wife and I will have one next week.

I have not missed an annual physical since 1968. The first one was a pre-qualification physical with my best friend at NAS Dallas, Texas. We both went there (from Corpus Christi) to take the aviation examination and physical. We both passed the exam, and he flunked the physical. He remained an extra day for retesting and was eventually designated 4F and was exempt from the draft.

That Sunday afternoon, I said, “I do!” to the Navy. The following Wednesday, I said, “I do!” to my wife. My best friend was my best man at the wedding. I put 31+ years in the Navy, and I have passed 53 years with my wife. My best man was exempt from going to Vietnam. While I was there, I found out that he died in a traffic accident.

Cancer cells take years, even decades, to develop. Early on, it is undetectable. If you knew for sure you had cancer; it would be difficult to prove. As the cancer cells grow, you might be able to detect them if you knew exactly where to look and had the right equipment. It is not until the cancer takes its toll that we feel something that is not right.

Too many times, the first time we hear we have cancer, we are also told that we have months to live – maybe. Unfortunately, an annual physical does not catch every disease you might have encountered in the past twelve months. However, it is better than not having the tests.

I had lunch recently with a potential client about publishing his first book. His father died of liver cancer. He proactively kept checking his liver and his routine blood tests never revealed that he also had liver cancer. His book is about that experience. So, yes, not every test tells you what you need to know.

I always order extra tests for every physical. The c-reactive protein (CRP) is an inexpensive blood test that quantifies the level of inflammation in the body. The test will not tell you where the inflammation originates, but it will tell you that something needs to be looked at further.

I also order a homocysteine level test – another inexpensive blood test. It used to be the gold standard for heart health. The omega-6 fatty acid ratio to omega-3 fatty acid is a better biomarker for heart health.

Another blood test (again, inexpensive) is vitamin D3 (VD3). It is a good biomarker for overall health. Too low, and the door is open for disease to grow. Many cancer doctors want their patients to have VD3 levels above 80 ng/ml. Last year, my VD3 test was 108 ng/ml.

We have choices – eating, exercise, stress management, and many more. Why not ensure that you see a physician every year to get a baseline of where you are today so that anomalies in the future can be judged more accurately.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin –


One Response

  1. Red – Thanks for identifying those additional tests – I’ve made note and will include them in MY next annual review.

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