Like many men my age, the thought of stepping through the doors of a hospital waiting room in preparation for a long-overdue health check-up filled me with dread.
So an invitation by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi for an ‘executive health test’ to start the new year was not the most welcome email I had received so far in 2020.
At 44, I was a prime candidate for various health conditions that creep up with age, such as early indicators of cardiovascular disease that could lead to heart attack or stroke.
Although a non-smoker and occasional runner, could those little aches and pains I assumed were nothing now be revealed as something more sinister?
Doctors at the Maryah Island hospital said the screening was a golden opportunity to debunk a few myths about visiting a clinic. with men particularly reluctant to visit their GP.
After a quick introduction with family doctor and obesity specialist Dr Rahat Ghazanfar – whose expertise would come in handy after my festive eating heroics – my first appointment was with a nurse who would take a blood and urine sample.
I had fasted for nine hours and been without caffeine for 24, so was more than a little twitchy.
Blood tests are vital to test how effective organs are working, particularly the kidneys, liver, thyroid and heart.
It also helps doctors assess vitamins and minerals in my system, cholesterol levels and how many anti-bodies are in my blood from recent vaccinations.
Next up, I was taken to visit a diagnostic medical sonographer who used ultrasound to scan my internal organs.
Similar to a machine used to check the health of an unborn baby, I could hear the blood rushing out of my liver and into my intestines.
Diagnostic technology has made huge advancements in recent years allowing doctors to get a more accurate reflection of patient health with less personal intrusion from invasive tests.
The InBody 770 machine tested my body composition by sending electric currents through me to indicate fat, skeletal muscle mass and water levels.
I registered 74 points out of 100, and although I was considered generally healthy – the machine said I was about 9kg over my ideal weight. A bit of a wake up call.
A series of more strenuous tests via an electrocardiograph evaluated my cardiovascular system and general fitness.
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 05 JANUARY 2020. Feature on men’s health after a recent survey found that 40 per cent of men refuse to see a doctor for regular check ups. As part of the new year journalist Nick Webster headed to the Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi to perform an extensive round of health checks and tests to better understand what he needs to focus on in the coming years. Staff Nurse Aisling Finlay performs a pulmanary Lung Test on The National Journalist Nick Webster as part of the comprehensive health check up at Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Standalone. Section: National.
Doctors were looking for any signs I might have heartbeat irregularities or an abnormal response to exercise.
A clever machine called a spirometer would complete a pulmonary function test by measuring my lung capacity.
Doctors could tell from the results if I had any lung obstructions or if I had any early signs of cancer.
I then ran for 16 minutes on a gradual incline running machine to test my overall fitness by checking my maximum heart rate and recovery time.
A hearing and eye test followed to check for abnormalities, before sports therapist Jean-Pierre Bailey completed a series of balance and co-ordination tests in a functional movement screen.
Dermatologist Dr Fadi Hajjaj then took photos of my skin from the front and back to check for any moles that could become cancerous with sun exposure.
A final summary by Dr Ghazanfar gave me an overall view of my health, areas where I need to improve and the peace of mind that I’m likely survive the next year or so at least.