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Check-up guide for life

09 December, 2014

It’s important that we have health check-ups regularly throughout our lives, especially as we start getting older. Ageing tends to make us more vulnerable to illness, though early detection and treatment can improve health outcomes and allow us to enjoy a better quality of life.

Most check-ups can be performed by your GP, who will check you for diseases that are common in people in your age bracket. Maintaining these checks throughout your life is the best way to stay healthy, and to combat the lifestyle-related diseases that can lead to premature ageing and an adverse effect on our quality of life.

A regular check-up is also a good reminder of how precious good health is.

What can you expect at a health check?

Your doctor will begin by assessing your risk factors for certain diseases. Your doctor needs to know your own medical history and your family’s history of disease before starting, and they will often ask you this the first time you see them.

Your doctor will also ask you about your own lifestyle. What is your diet like? How often do you exercise, and do you smoke?

If you have high risk factors for certain diseases, your doctor may want to run some tests. For example, a simple blood pressure test may reveal the early signs for cardiovascular disease. For this reason, it’s important you get regular check-ups even if you are feeling well. Picking up diseases early, including non-transmittable illnesses like diabetes and some cancers, can improve health outcomes.

Check-ups by age


Under 40

Regular exercise, HPV check,

  • Regular exercise has numerous health benefits which affect your metabolic, musculoskeletal and mental health. If you’re not a regular exerciser, ask a registered fitness trainer to assess your fitness.
  • Do a skin check at home every month, and consult with your doctor if you spot any unusual moles and freckles.
  • From puberty onwards, men should check their testicles monthly for any lumps or unusual thickenings. And men with a family history of any type of cancer should discuss suitable prostate screening tests with their doctor.
  • Women of all ages need to check their breasts at home at least once a month, and speak to their doctor if they notice any changes. Ideally you should have your breasts checked professionally at least once a year.
  • Women should have pap smears every year until they turn 70. You will still need to have regular pap smears even if you have been vaccinated against HPV, had a hysterectomy, are no longer sexually active, or have been through menopause.
  • See your dentist at least once a year for a check-up and professional clean.
  • Depending on your risk factors for diabetes, your doctor may want you to do a blood glucose test every one to three years.
  • If you wear prescription glasses or contact lenses, you should have your eyes checked every year. For everyone else, an eye check every two years is ideal.
  • Have your blood pressure checked every two years if you have a personal or family history of high blood pressure.  
  • Check your body mass index (BMI) every two years.

 

In your 40’s

exercise regularly, skin check

  • Continue to exercise regularly.
  • Check your skin monthly for any suspect moles, freckles or lumps.
  • For women, check your breasts monthly for any lumps or changes, and men should check their testicles for the same.
  • For women, a pap smear is still recommended annually.
  • It’s easy to let excess weight creep on in this age group, so it is recommended that you check your BMI every year.
  • You should have a dentist check-up and a general tooth clean annually.
  • If you haven’t had your blood glucose tested by 45, or have underlying risk factors for diabetes, this is a good time to start getting tested annually.
  • If you have the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, start having blood tests every year after the age of 40. People at low risk for cardiovascular disease should have their cholesterol and blood triglycerides levels taken every five years after the age of 45.
  • Start having your blood pressure checked every two years. If you have risk factors for high blood pressure, you should have this test every year.
  • If you have a family history of bowel cancer, you may be asked to provide a stool sample every two years and/or a colonoscopy every five years.

 

In your 50’s

cancer screening, blood tests

  • Continue to exercise regularly, though you should change your exercise routines to accommodate any limitations that you may have developed.
  • Men should discuss the pros and cons of prostate cancer screening with their doctor, and continue to do monthly checks at home.
  • Check your skin monthly for any moles, freckles or lumps.
  • Women should continue to check their breasts monthly at home for lumps or changes, and should have a pap smear annually.
  • A dental check-up and general clean should be done annually by your dentist.
  • An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a non-invasive and painless test which doctors use to detect heart abnormalities. Your doctor may recommend one for you after you turn 50, and for every two to five years after that depending on your medical history.
  • Faecal occult blood tests (FOBT) are used to detect bowel cancer, and is recommended to be done every two years once you turn 50.
  • Have your blood pressure checked at least once every two years. If you have risk factors for high blood pressure, you should have this test every year.
  • Women between the ages of 50 and 70 with a family history of breast cancer need to have a mammogram every two years.
  • Ask your doctor if a bone density test is necessary, and they will assess your medical health at the time before making a decision.  

 

In your 60’s

testicle, breast checks, mammogram

  • Continue to exercise regularly, though you should change your exercise routines to accommodate any limitations that you may have developed.
  • Men and women should continue to do monthly testicle and breast checks respectively, and both should check their skin monthly.
  • Women should have a pap smear at least once a year.
  • Your blood pressure should be checked annually.
  • A dental check-up and general cleaning should be done a minimum of once a year.
  • At this age you are more susceptible to serious eye conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration. Start visiting your optometrist every year.
  • FOBT tests should be performed every two years.
  • Women should have a mammogram every two years.
  • An ECG test should be performed every two to five years, based on your doctor’s recommendation.

 

Over 70’s

memory problems, ECG test

  • Continue to exercise regularly, though you should change your exercise routines to accommodate any limitations that you may have developed.
  • People in this age group often experience balance disorders, memory problems and sleep disturbances which are likely to affect their overall health. So while your doctor will probably still want to run most of the tests you’ve been undergoing until this age, you’ll most likely also be asked more questions about your lifestyle.
  • Continue your monthly self checks of skin, breasts and testicles.
  • At this stage you should start seeing your dentist every 6 months.
  • Have a hearing test done every year, or as recommended.
  • You should also see your optometrist at least once a year.
  • FOBT tests should be performed annually.
  • An ECG test should be performed every two to five years, based on your doctor’s recommendation.

 

Should you be diagnosed with any risk factors described above…Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, High Cholesterol, High Blood Pressure, Sleep Apnoea or Osteopenia/Osteoporosis; CBHS has programs to help educate and support you in reducing these risks. Quit smoking programs are also available. Please contact wellness@cbhs.com.au if you would like to enquire or participate in these programs.

 

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