Don’t be lacksadaisical when it comes to health screening

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If you want to extend your life, commit to regular health checks. Early detection almost always leads to better health outcomes.

Health screening programs are designed for people without any signs or symptoms of ill health. The moment you notice any changes to your body, or bodily functions that are causing you concern, it is time to see your doctor. Pronto!

While things are ticking along smoothly, here are the health checks you need to schedule in right now.

Note: The recommendations provided in this blog article are current as of October 2018.  Also, this is not an exhaustive list but covers most of the more common health concerns. Talk to your doctor, and come up with a screening test plan, together.

Health screening – at least once a year

If you have existing health concerns, follow your doctor’s recommendations about the frequency of your health screenings.  Here are the recommended health screenings to schedule in your diary, if you’re generally in good health.

General check-up

Make sure to schedule in a once a year, overall health check with your doctor. The best way to remember to do this, is to schedule it a day before or after an anniversary, such as your birthday. That way, it’s easier to remember and keep in check.

Blood pressure

From 40 years old onward, you should have your blood pressure tested at least annually. One of the clearest indicators of underlying health issues is your blood pressure reading.

Blood pressure outside of the ideal range can be a symptom of, or a cause of, serious health issues.

Blood tests

If you’re at risk of coronary heart disease due to family history, lifestyle or medical history, you should be booking in for a blood test and heart health screening annually. Otherwise, once every five years is recommended.

Next time you go for your annual general medical check with your doctor, ask whether you’re due for a blood test. The results can reveal several health indicators that may need further investigation. For example, cholesterol levels and blood triglycerides can be gauges that indicate your level of risk of heart disease.

Dental care

Poor dental health doesn’t just affect your teeth and gums. An infection can be carried through your blood stream and cause other health issues.

Book yourself in for a dental examination and professional clean annually, unless your dentist has advised you otherwise.

Diabetes: Type 2 and pre-diabetes

Once you’re over 45, make sure you are screened for diabetes annually, or once every three years depending on your risk factors. Your physical health and lifestyle, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and family history will determine your level of risk.

You can manage Type 2 diabetes with healthy eating and regular physical activity.  As the condition progresses, medication can help manage your condition. Left untreated, the implications can be dire including:

  • increased risk of heart attacks and strokes
  • blindness
  • kidney failure.

This is why early detection through screening is imperative to prolonging your life.

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Eye testing

According to Vision Initiative vision loss and blindness affects more than 600,000 Australians, but 90 per cent of vision loss is preventable or able to be treated. Stay on top of having your eyes tested regularly. If you wear prescription glasses or lenses, you should book in to an optometrist or ophthalmologist for testing once a year.

Your vision will deteriorate with age, as does your risk of eye diseases. If you’re over 60, an annual exam is recommended. The risk of developing eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, refractive error and glaucoma increases with age.

If you, or your family have a history of eye disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or are on prescribed medications with possible side effects impacting vision, ask your eye specialist how often you should be examined.

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Prostate cancer screening: for men

According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA), prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men, and more men die of this cancer in Australia, than women die of breast cancer. More than 3,000 men die of prostate cancer in Australia every year.

The PCFA recommends men over 40 with a family history of prostate cancer, book in for an annual Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) and Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test.

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Seasonal flu vaccination

An annual flu vaccination is highly recommended, particularly once you’re over 65.

Strains of influenza virus change each flu season, and seasonal influenza can be fatal to infants, older people or people already in poor health.

Visit the Department of Health to find out more about immunisations in Australia.

Skin checks

Australia’s sunnier climate has the highest rate of skin cancer around the world. According to Cancer Council New South Wales, more than 12,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma every year – 10% of all cancer diagnoses.  If you spend any time outdoors and exposed to sunlight in Australia, a skin check must be part of your annual health check.

Any irregular moles or skin growths should be checked immediately. The Cancer Council is offering a free skin check guide.

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Weight, waist measurements and Body Mass Index (BMI)

Your weight, waist measurement and BMI are reliable indicators of your physical health. As an example, the greater your waist measurement, the greater the health impacts on your internal organs.

Check these measurements at least once a year, as part of your general health check with your doctor.

Health screening – at least once every two years

Bone density tests

Once you’re over 50, you need to book in for a bone density test. How often you need to schedule follow up screening will be determined by the results of your bone density scan.

Bone density tests determine the health and strength of your bones. The test results can provide an indication of your risk of bone fractures, or whether there are any other symptoms, such as osteoporosis, that require further investigation or preventative measures.

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Bowel cancer screening: the faecal occult blood test (FOBT)

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, ensures that every Australian over the age of 50 is sent a free FOBT test.

Where you don’t have any family history of bowel cancer or bowel health concerns, a FOBT is recommended once every two years from your 50th birthday onward.

If you are at risk, due to family history or your own health history, an FOBT is recommended once a year. Your doctor will advise how frequently you need to book in for preventative screening via more invasive methods such as a colonoscopy.

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Breast examination and screening mammogram

Being familiar with the day to day look and feel of your breasts is important when it comes to early detection. Ideally, a once a month check around the same time every month is a good way to stay aware of any changes. For more information on self-examination, visit Australian Breast Cancer Research community news Do you know how to conduct a breast self-examination?

If you are over 50, younger than 74, and at low risk of breast cancer (in that there is no family history of breast cancer), a screening mammogram is recommended once every two years. BreastScreen Australia offers women aged 40 and over a free mammogram every two years.

When you are deemed high risk, due to family history, your own medical history or lifestyle, a more frequent screening mammogram may be recommended by your medical practitioner.

The risk of breast cancer increases with age with most women diagnosed between 50 and 69 years. Early detection is critical for a better prognosis.

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Hearing assessments

If loved ones are frequently pointing out that your hearing is deteriorating, it is time to book in for a hearing test. Hearing loss can have a significant impact on how you connect with the people around you.

From 65 years of age onward the risk of experiencing disabling hearing loss increases. Make sure to book in a hearing test. To arrange your hearing test, ask your doctor to refer you to an audiologist who is experienced and qualified in testing your hearing and measuring the severity of any hearing loss.

Cervical Screening Test: for women

Women aged 25 to 74 years old should book in a Cervical Screening Test two years after your last Pap smear test. If the test results come back as normal, testing is then recommended every five years.

This preventative screenings can pick up signs of irregularities that could develop into cervical cancer.

Book your health checks in with your doctor or medical specialist today. There are no excuses not too!

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