As Aaron mentioned in a post about a week ago, each person in Japan is subject to an annual health check. Since he just posted about it, and I just got the results from my check, I thought now would be a good time to show you what it was all about (before we start posting about our vacation).
Well, first of all, the health check is much like he described. I opted for the cheaper, and more convenient, check performed at my school. A van (with an x-ray machine, exam rooms and other equipment) pulled up in front of the school at about noon. The employees got out and proceeded to set-up other stations inside a large classroom (scale, height station, hearing/eyesight, etc). I, along with many of my co-workers and employees from other area schools, showed up at 1:00pm and formed a single file line.
As quickly and efficiently as anything else in Japan, we were shuffled through the stations. Starting first at reception where we turned in our urine sample and were given a sheet of paper on which all the results of our tests would be written.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the entire check was the complete lack of anonymity. I stepped on the scale in front of countless numbers of my co-workers, and no one batted an eye. Then, I was shuffled to the back of the room where, without any curtain or screen, I was asked to raise my shirt slightly so that they could measure my waistline. Again, no one seemed upset or concerned about this (except, perhaps that they probably got a glimpse of my tattoo). I suppose in a culture where people routinely see each other naked at onsens and such, privacy about waistlines and weight isn’t really necessary.
I went through the entire battery of tests in about 30 minutes. The only thing I opted out of was the chest x-ray. I had just had one last year before coming to Japan and I really think that annual chest x-rays are a bit excessive. But that’s just my opinion, and as a foreigner, apparently my opinion is all that is necessary to get me out of taking a certain test – it is not the same for the Japanese. I was thankful that it went as quick as it did, since we weren’t allowed to eat after 9am because of the fasting blood sugar test. Once the check was finished I rushed upstairs to eat my waiting lunch before my 2:00pm class.
Just last week, almost a month after the check we all received our results in the mail. To be honest I was sort of dreading receiving the results. I was concerned that it would show that I was in miserable health and that I was tragically overweight, remember this check compares me to the average Japanese standards for normal. So, my concerns were not unfounded and I definitely didn’t need that sort of blow to my self-esteem.
Imagine my total shock when this was the report I saw when I opened my package:
The health check is reported using the same grading scale we are all familiar with from high school. An A is excellent and a D (the lowest) is, well, not so good. I was just as pleased as can be to see my report filled with all A’s and two B’s. I felt like an overachiever all over again. The two B’s, in case you are interested, are for BMI and waistline. Not a real shock!
Then, on the other side of the results sheet were the exact results of each individual test. It was really interesting to see where I was with all the different markers of health and it was great to receive such specific data about my body. I was quite impressed with my cholesterol (HDL-76 and LDL-109) and pretty happy with my blood pressure (114/62). My liver enzyme levels were quite good (all the brewing and beer drinking has apparently been ok) as is my blood sugar and blood cell counts. I am pretty happy, apparently I have been doing something right.
Even after reading all that data, there was one piece that brought the biggest smile to my face.
This part of the form, where it tells me that “This time, you are not considered a metabo,” was the icing on the cake. Metabo is short for “metabolic syndrome” and is the term they use here for overweight/obese. I was shocked to find that, according to Japanese standards (which in my opinion are ridiculously thin), I am not considered a metabo, at least this time.
Thank goodness, I would hate to have to go to the rehabilitation that Aaron’s post talked about . . .