We all lead busy lives, however scheduling regular medical check-ups are an important part of not only staying healthy, but also enabling your doctor to pick up the early warning signs of illnesses and disease.As part of your regular health assessment, your doctor should talk to you about your lifestyle, your medical history, and your family’s history of disease, and it’s recommended that you have a health check-up at least once a year (and more regularly if you are at high risk of a particular disease).
Some health checks you can do yourself at home, others require the services of a professional medical expert, but basically looking after your health is one of the most important things you can do to avoid medical issues. And to ensure you reap the benefits of living a long and happy life! But what types of health checks are there and when should they be done?
Health checks you can do yourself at home
OK, so we know men (in particular) can be notoriously lazy when it comes to being vigilant about all things medical, however health check-ups are important, particularly when it comes to being able to recognise potential problems early. Health checks both men and women can do at home include:
Skin: Check your skin regularly for unusual moles and freckles, and see your doctor if you notice anything unusual, including pain or itching. At the Algester Medical Practice and the Acacia Ridge Family Practice, our doctors use a highly sophisticated skin cancer diagnostic tool called a Molemax Machine, which is used to effectively view and monitor your moles.
Teeth: Reduce your risk of gum disease, tooth decay and tooth loss by cleaning your teeth at least twice a day, eating a low-sugar diet and visiting your dentist at least once a year for a professional clean and dental examination.
Health checks your doctor should do regularly
Both men and women should see their doctor regularly for a health assessment because regular screening tests can detect many diseases including some cancers, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. General tests your GP should recommend include:
Heart: Your doctor should take your blood pressure at your regular appointments, particularly if it’s on the high side and/or you have a family history of high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke. Blood tests can check triglycerides and cholesterol levels, and if you’re over 45, you should have a blood test once every five years. If you at risk of cardiovascular disease and/or have a family history of it, you should be tested every year after you turn 40.
An electrocardiogram (ECG) can also detect heart abnormalities, and if you’re over 50, your doctor may recommend an ECG every two to five years, depending on your general health and medical history.
Obesity: Being overweight is a significant risk factor for a range of health conditions including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. As part of your regular medical assessment, your doctor should test your body mass index (BMI) and your waist measurement every two years if you’re aged under 40, and annually if you’re over 40 years of age.
Diabetes: Fasting blood sugar level tests measure the amount of glucose in your blood after you haven’t eaten for a while, and your doctor should recommend one of these every one to three years depending on your risk level. Risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes include if you’re a smoker, have high blood pressure and/or cholesterol, have a BMI of over 30 (if you’re over 45), if you’re obese and whether you have a family history of diabetes.
Women who have had polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and/or had gestational diabetes during pregnancy are also at a higher risk.
Bowel: Faecal occult blood tests (FOBT) can check for abnormalities, and you should have this medical test once every two years if you’re over 50 (or after you turn 40 if you have a family history of bowel cancer). Men and women who are at high risk of developing bowel cancer should also undergo a colonoscopy every two to five years to screen for abnormalities.
By 2020, the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program aims to provide all men and women over 50 with a free FOBT kit, to enable them to obtain samples themselves which can then be sent off for testing.
Bone density: Advancing age is a significant risk factor in developing osteoporosis, and bone density tests can help determine the health of your bones. Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become brittle, less dense, lose strength, and it can lead to bones breaking more easily.
Generally, men and women over the age of 50 should have regular bone density tests; however, your doctor should provide his or her recommendations on this. Bone density testing is most often undertaken if people have a family history of osteoporosis, and in women, if they experienced early menopause or long periods without menstruating when they were younger.
Immunisation: It is recommended that both men and women have a flu vaccination if they are over 65, have a chronic condition like diabetes or severe asthma, and/or are worried that getting the flu will significantly impact on their health.
Male-specific tests your doctor should do regularly
As part of a regular health assessment, men should also undergo these regularly:
Prostate: If you’re over 50, an annual prostate examination may be recommended by your doctor, which they can perform themselves at your regular appointment. If you have a family history of prostate cancer, they may also recommend that you have a prostate specific antigen blood test (PSA) regularly after you turn 40.
Female-specific tests your doctor should do regularly
Women should undertake these tests as well as part of their regular health check-up:
Cervical: Cervical Screen Tests (CST) are necessary if you’ve ever been sexually active, and these have now replaced the Pap Test that doctors would have previously performed. CST’s pick up signs of irregularities that can lead to cervical cancers if not treated, and can also detect the human papillomavirus (HPV). Your doctor should recommend you join the National Cancer Screening Register and advise that you have the test every five years until you are 74, regardless of whether you’ve had the HPV vaccine.
Breasts: All women should perform their own breast checks every month; however it’s also recommended that women aged between 50 and 74 have a mammogram every two years (unless they have a family history of breast cancer, in which case it should be more regularly).
Here at the Algester Medical Practice and Acacia Ridge Family Practice, we care about your health, and that means ensuring that you undergo all of your regular health checks as well.
Contact us today on (07) 3711 2880 to book a private consultation with one of our experienced health professionals.