Health Working life

The health check

Apparently there have been some alarming results from the workplace health checks underway at the moment.

Victorian workers have been given a scare by a State Government-run health program which has found a high percentage don’t exercise enough with a number of people asked to see a doctor within 24 hours.

We’ve had ours on Friday (everybody opted-in, I think), and we seem to be a pretty healthy workplace.

At least, nobody’s been carted off in an ambulance.

My own results were all okay, with one exception.

Some of the points are self-assessment; others like cholesterol were checked by the nurse on the spot. I’ve summarised the take-home brochure, and my results below.


2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables (per day) should be your target

I’m on 3 serves of fruit, and 2 of vegetables, so need to increase my vegetable intake. It was noted that a variety is good. I probably eat more spinach leaves than most, as I know the kids will chow them down.

In all honesty, I’m not sure how achievable 5 serves of vegies per day is for me, but I can try.


I barely drink (perhaps a one standard drink per month if I’m lucky), and the nurse decided this was closer to no alcohol of the three options on the questionnaire.

I’ve never drunk a lot; it’s reduced even more since the cluster headaches arrived on the scene, as alcohol can help induce them (though just at the moment they’re not around).

Phsyical activity

Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most, preferably all days

I might not play sport, but I do a fair bit of walking. It’s generally three 30 minute walks a week with the kids, and one or two 60+ minute walks with Marita and her dog on the weekends. Add to that the shorter walks to/from the train each weekday (12 minutes x 2 x 5, though no doubt that doesn’t have the same benefits of the longer walks), that’s 270-330 minutes of walking per week, or at least 38 minutes a day.

So I think that’s fine.


There is no safe level of smoking

No problemo. Never smoked, sure as hell not about to start.

Body shape

Normal — Men: 94 cm or less. Women: 80 cm or less

I’m 86 cm, have been since I was a skinny yoof. Do have a little bit of a pot belly, but nothing major.

Blood pressure

Normal — Less than 120/80

The brochure explains that the first value is systolic — the pressure in the arteries as your heart squeezes blood out during each beat. The other is diastolic — the pressure as your heart relaxes before the next beat.

Mine’s a little high: 113/83. On this basis there’s a recommendation to review it when I next see my doctor, but the nurse emphasised that there’s no real problem.

This seems higher than usual for me. Normally when I give blood it’s lower — it was 117/76 the last time I noted it in my blog. In fact this time round the nurse thought it might be unusual and did an average out of four readings.


Normal — Total cholesterol 5.5 or less, HDL cholesterol 1.0 or more

Mine is 4.8 total, and 1.8 HDL, so that’s good.

Diabetes risk

Diabetes risk score — low risk: 5 or less. Medium risk 6-14. High risk 15 or more
Random blood glucose levels — normal: less than 6.5. High 6.5 or more

My diabetes risk score is 2 points for my age, 3 points for my sex (that would be male), and 3 points because someone in my family has it — my Dad has type 2. So 8 points makes me a medium risk for diabetes, and worth reviewing with my doctor at some stage.

My blood glucose level was 5.4, in the normal range.

Overall then

I’ll enquire about blood pressure and diabetes risk, the former isn’t a big problem at present, and the latter I can’t really do much about other than keep up the exercise and improve the diet.

I suppose there’s no big surprises for me in all this, but in terms of preventative health measures, I can see how this kind of far-reaching basic health check might help others to think about their lifestyle choices and modify them if possible.

And of course it’s only a fairly superficial check. I’ve still got headaches, Bowen Belly (much less so recently) and other minor ailments which hit me from time to time.

Anybody else do the check? Any surprises?

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

12 replies on “The health check”

I had a health check at work recently too. Mine was very similar to yours; nothing massively bad, check the BP at the MD next visit (no panic, just a little high on one point) Cholesterol and blood sugar good. I was surprised at how ‘average’ I was. Happy about that too! :)
Good to hear yours went well too!

You sound like a healthy little sausage – except – and I”ll be frank here – you should be doing some cardio exercise. Some huffin’ and puffin’ to build up core strength, keep your strong bones and all that.

As someone who puts the ‘free’ into freelance and ‘slob’ into ‘working from home’ my recent health check is all good – except for my cholesterol level – 6.5. Not really a surprise considering I review CHOCOLATE as part of my working week!

@Kath, thanks. Yeah very good point. Looking at a sample list of cardio exercises, I don’t really do any of these at the moment. Only very occasionally do I get the bike out; that could be an option. Mind you most of my walking is at a fairly brisk pace (which is mentioned there). Amused to see it say “pretend you’re trying to catch a bus” — in my case a lot of the time I’m not pretending!

Blood pressure (like heart rate) is influenced by the situation you are in, so testing it at work makes sense to me.
I recently went for my annual health check early in the morning and was pleasantly dozing in the chair while waiting for the doc (instead of rushing between appointments as usual). The result? BP 113/95 and HR 54 (where in previous years I had been 120/75 and HR 65 or so.
Then I went to work and had a few coffees while dealing with emails…

Being a work at home mum I make sure I do this check every year or two. I have to get my bp checked regularly as it was rather high but the medication and gym are working well and it’s been coming down nicely.

I have my own version of Bowen Belly and it’s solely dependent on what I eat so I have to monitor that fairly closely; too many allergies and intolerances make for a bland diet. Add to that mix the fact that my migraines seem to be coming back as I move into menopause territory means I really have to watch what I eat.

Well done Daniel. Given you’re always in the media spotlight and live a hectic lifestyle, it’s good news that you’re tracking OK. To your credit.
Ever since I turned 50, I visit a GP every year, so don’t go to the free work check-up. The doctor gives me heaps of blood tests and the cholesterol test is done after fasting for 12 hours. It’s good to know if anything’s wrong.

The body shape measurement is, I assume, belly circumference?

I had these (and several other) measures checked recently at the dr, as I don’t visit my workplace often enough to get it done there. My bottom lines were all OK with one notable exception. In particular I was pleased to note that my BP is really stable / good again at 118 / 75, which, as it was a bit wobbly in my pregnancies, is good news.

One thought – these are all important measures but I wonder if they tell the full story of someone’s state of health. Health is really so much about individual bodies and how they are working collectively. Hard to check in these sort of exams but, for instance, mineralisation levels (iron, B vitamins, vitamin D in particular) and thyroid levels also have a huge impact on health & wellbeing and deficiency in these areas is extremely common (more women overall are anaemic than have high cholesterol, for instance).

Daniel, your BP is perfectly normal, particularly as you’ve noted that your diastolic (the second number) is usually less than 80. When you say the nurse did an average out of four readings, do you mean that she took your BP four times in a row, then averaged the results? If so, it’s even less of a problem – having your BP taken repeatedly while being told it’s a bit high is guaranteed to make it even higher. By all means mention your result to your GP, but I’m sure he or she will reassure you that it’s a great BP. If you have it done fairly regularly and notice the diastolic creeping up, from x/76 to x/83 to x/90 etc, then it’s something to flag with your doctor.

Re: your vege intake, it’s fairly easy to increase your intake without thinking too hard. You love spinach, which is great, as it’s a “superfood” and contains many fantastic vitamins and minerals and almost no calories. It’s packed full of folate and vitamin C, among other things. Depending on your meal, you can bulk it out with veges – add some mushrooms and tomato to a cooked breakfast; add half a tomato to your sandwich, or take a salad instead; add grated carrot to any meal with a mince base, like bolognese sauce or cottage pie; make a hearty vegetable soup for one evening meal, then take the leftovers for lunches through the week; strifry is your friend, and you can use plenty of spinach! You probably know all of that, so sorry if I’m teaching you to suck eggs, but it’s easy and cheap and you’ll feel all warm and fuzzy when you do it.

Sister Frannybee, over and out. ;o)

Vegetables: Frozen vegetables FTW here, they don’t go off, and a few minutes in the microwave usually does them. Stir fry for variety.

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