Why are health checks so crucial at this life stage?
Health checks are essential at every age, yet unfortunately, they often get put on the back burner due to a hectic schedule of juggling work and family. But now is the time in your life to take control and make your health a priority.
Taking the time for health checks promotes positive well-being, both mentally and physically, enabling you to be prepared for whatever life has in store for you.
What to expect during general health checks
Blood pressure test
A blood pressure check is a normal part of any check up at a general practice for anyone over the age of 18 years. High blood pressure can increase your chances of developing other associated health issues if left untreated. If your doctor identifies a personal or family history of high blood pressure (BP), they may suggest that you also check your levels at home between regular visits with a cuff and BP machine.
Height and weight
At each check up, your doctor will record your height and weight to ensure that you remain within a healthy weight range as you age. Research suggests that being overweight can put you at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, particularly in combination with a family history of poor heart health.
Alternatively, being underweight also encompasses its own risk factors, including vitamin deficiencies, irregular hormone levels, compromised mental health and decreased immune function.
Body mass index (BMI)
Your doctor can calculate your body mass index based on the results gathered from your height and weight records. Knowing your BMI is essential, as it estimates the total amount of fat in your body. Your BMI can identify whether you have a higher risk of developing severe conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and elevated cholesterol levels.
A person with a BMI below 18.5 is generally considered underweight, while a score of between 25 and 29.9 indicates that a person is overweight. The healthy or optimal BMI range is between 18.5 and 24.9.
It’s essential to note that while BMI results are often an excellent way to gauge overall health, readings may not provide an accurate representation among certain groups, including:
- Pregnant women
- Some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
- Men or women with excess muscle mass
- Heart failure patients
A blood test can allow various health conditions to be detected early, allowing you to seek treatment at the earliest possible stage. Blood tests are commonly used to assess kidney health; however, your doctor may also use a blood test for a more general reason, such as measuring your iron levels or checking for any vitamin deficiencies.
A urine test is often used to detect various disorders and conditions, such as those associated with sexual health, kidney disease, diabetes and urinary tract infections. Depending upon your current health, family history or manifestation of new symptoms, your doctor may refer you for urinalysis to gather further information for diagnosis.
Dental check up
When the days of parents forcing us to the dentist are a thing of the past, it’s easy for dental health to become one of many tasks that get put on the back burner.
Ideally, you should see your dentist every six months, but if this isn’t a realistic goal for you, it’s recommended that patients try to stick to an annual visit at a minimum. Although things can look good on the surface, regular dental appointments can effectively identify the early signs of tooth decay and gum disease.
Not only can tooth decay and gum disease cause you to lose that winning smile, but they can also lead to further physical health problems long-term if left untreated. During a general examination, your dentist will inspect your teeth, mouth and gums and may offer fluoride treatment to improve oral health and reduce the risk of cavities.
Checking for skin cancers
At this age, it is not uncommon for people to develop skin cancer from sun exposure at an earlier age. Skin checks cover your entire body and are essential to promoting a healthier future, particularly when considering the outdoor lifestyle of many Aussies.
The most efficient way to stay on top of good skin health is to conduct self-examinations at home and become familiar with how your skin looks and feels. If you notice any changes to an existing mole, it’s time to book in for a skin check with your doctor or dermatologist.
Bone mineral density test
At this stage in life, it’s common for many adults to slow down and begin to notice the impact of past injuries or overexertion. Women who have been through menopause possess more significant risk factors for developing conditions such as osteoporosis.
A bone density test is carried out by an imaging specialist, using low dose x-rays to show the density of specific bones, usually within the lower spine or thigh region.
Booking an eye test
After age 40, many people experience eye problems, which will only worsen if left untreated. A complete eye examination not only tests your visual capabilities but also checks the pressure within your eyes and your ability with peripheral scope.
Sexual health checks
This may not be the first check up that comes to mind for people in their 40s and 50s, but maintaining good sexual health is vital at all ages. Research points to sexually transmitted infections as one of the leading causes of sexual concerns. Once infected, people who carry the herpes simplex virus (HSV) will do so for life. It’s important to understand that effective treatments for HSV are available.
Additionally, older generations may be more likely to develop issues with sexual dysfunction, such as premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction, or changes associated with menopause.
Men’s health checks
When discussing men’s health, one essential check is self-examining testicles. This at-home check up can assist in identifying any early warning signs of testicular cancer and may save your life. No one knows your body better than you, so if you notice any lumps or unwarranted changes in size or appearance, it’s best to check in with your doctor.
Women’s health checks
As with men, women should also carry out self-examinations at home. Breast self-examination can allow you to track any notable changes that may be occurring. It’s essential to understand how your body typically looks and feels to detect any abnormalities that may develop.
The importance of screening tests
Cervical screening test
In recent years, the original pap test has been replaced by the cervical screening test, which can identify the presence of the human papillomavirus (HPV).
As a general rule, after the age of 40, it is recommended that women schedule a cervical screening test every five years. If your first cervical screening test reveals abnormalities, your doctor may recommend more frequent check ups to ensure any signs of cervical cancer are detected and treated as soon as possible.
Mental health checks
Taking care of our mental health is equally as important as caring for our physical health. At every age, a mental health check plays a vital role in maintaining healthy relationships and a prosperous lifestyle.
Depression and anxiety are among the most common mental illnesses, currently affecting around 3 million Australians.
If you are concerned about cognitive decline, have noticed changes in your overall mood or are worried that you may be developing anxious tendencies, it’s essential to chat with your GP about creating a healthcare plan.
Considering family medical history
If you have a family history of any chronic disease, you may have a high risk of developing the condition later in life. Although it is not guaranteed, people with more than one close family member who shares the same condition as another have an increased likelihood of developing a hereditary disorder.
Some of the most common conditions that can possess genetic traits include:
- Kidney disease
- Heart disease
- Breast cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Bowel cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Mental health disorders
Tips for creating a healthier future
Although this is often easier said than done, an honest evaluation of your stress levels is the first step in creating an achievable plan to reduce them. The correct technique for relaxation varies from person to person; however, many people find that meditation, light exercise, a new hobby, or simply spending time with family and friends can help them to achieve a greater state of relaxation.
Stress often creeps up on us and, when left unmanaged, can lead to further health complications, such as a compromised immune system, cold sore outbreaks and elevated blood pressure. If you are prone to outbreaks, discover treatments for cold sores and make that one less thing to worry about during stressful periods.
Get adequate sleep
Between 33-45% of adults report experiencing inadequate sleep that interferes with their daily lives. Poor sleep quality can result in an inability to focus and subpar work performance, increase stress levels and pose a definite risk when driving.
When you’re living a busy lifestyle, it can be hard to maintain a positive routine, but effective sleep treatments are available to ensure you’re getting the rest you need to live your best life.
We’re here to help
Prioritising your health is an essential part of creating a positive future. Whether you’re struggling with inadequate sleep, facing sexual health issues or are simply looking to enhance the way you live, it’s time to start a conversation and get your health sorted!