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Breathing easy after a testing morning

Features | Published:

David Edbrooke realises a childhood ambition after signing up for a free health check

Have you ever nursed yourself through the flu?

I’m not talking about the common cold which turns your nose into a catarrh tap, but the real flu – an illness which I had once, years ago. After it introduces itself to your body with the same ferocity as a prize fighter’s fist against the jaw, you collapse onto the canvas. You remain grounded, listless like a fallen leaf, for days on end.

It would be foolish to say there is an ‘advantage’ to having the flu, but if there was one, it would be the fact that you feel too groggy to actually worry about your health.

As a fully paid-up member of the Hypochondriac Club (slogan: it’s a state of mind, man), worrying about my health is a regular occurrence.

Luckily I very rarely get ill, but if a spot appears on my forehead I presume it’s the bubonic plague. If I go for a jog and my voice sounds husky afterwards, I forget that it’s the effect of the cold air and assume I’m coming down with TB.

So when the opportunity came earlier this month to attend a free health check-up courtesy of Rossborough Healthcare, it was too much for a hypochondriac like me to resist.

Held at the Radisson Blu hotel over two days, the walk-in event offered Islanders the chance to undergo a series of confidential checks for heart and respiratory conditions, as well as diabetes and cholesterol monitoring.

First off, my height was measured. Now, when most kids are growing up they have big ambitions. Some want to be racing drivers, some hope to be millionaires, others want to be fighter pilots. I wanted to be 6 ft.

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It therefore came as a great disappointment to me to be told, at the age of 17, that I had levelled out at 5 ft 11 in and three-quarters.

Yet according to the chap who measured me at the Radisson, I am a little bit over 6 ft. Time to readjust my vital statistics on my Tinder dating profile...

Next up I had my pulse measured. A normal resting heart rate for adults typically ranges between 60 to 100 beats a minute. Mine was regular at 83, even if the resulting graph looked like a silhouette of the Himalayas – an undulating line of dramatic peaks and dips.

My blood pressure, meanwhile, came to 137 over 97 – which is classed as high. Later, the blood pressure in both my left and right arms was measured using a machine which could detect the pulse waves arriving at my fingertips. On this occasion, the overall reading came to 123 over 69 – which is normal. Just to put my mind at ease, I’ll make an appointment with my GP.

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Next I had a blood sugar and a cholesterol test. Excess cholesterol in the blood can increase a person’s risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases. As a child growing up in Devon I was nicknamed The Cholesterol Kid due to my fondness for cream teas. Unfortunately, my sweet tooth remains in adulthood, so I was not expecting these tests to go well. As it happened, my results were fine, apparently.

Unquestionably, the best news of the day was delivered to me at the breathing station, where I was tested for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – a common lung disease. To check for it you have to take a deep breath before exhaling has forcefully as you can into a spirometer (it looks a bit like an inhaler). The spirometer measures how much air is in your lungs and how much of it you can exhale in a certain amount of time.

‘The values that you get can determine whether a person is healthy or if they’ve got an obstruction,’ explains Bethany Goaziou, a clinical physiologist at the Hospital.

Low and behold, it turns out I have the lungs of a 20-year-old. At 36 I might be developing a bald patch that a monk would be proud of, but I HAVE VIRILE LUNGS. Unfortunately, as a single man this is a fairly unusable bit of information. I mean, it’s not as if Tinder has a section you can fill in underneath your profile picture labelled ‘lung capacity’.

At least I can breathe a little easier knowing I do not have anything desperately wrong with me – until my next blood pressure check-up, that is.

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