Regular visits to your doctor should be a priority even if you have never felt better. They can identify medical problems in the critical early stages and prevent years of chronic ill health.
Let's take a look at the health screenings men and women should be considering at different stages of their lives.
In addition to regular check-ups by a GP or paediatrician, babies and infants are provided free ongoing assessments by local child and family health centres. This includes overall health and weight, eating and physical activity, eyesight and hearing, teeth and gums, sleeping habits, language and physical development, and social and emotional well-being. A blood test is also offered to every newborn to check for metabolic or genetic disorders. Health authorities urge all parents to ensure their children’s immunisations are kept up-to-date for protection against highly contagious and potentially fatal infections. Regular dental check-ups are also important and should continue into adulthood.
20 to 40 years
- High blood pressure has no symptoms yet is a major cause of stroke, heart disease and heart failure. It can also lead to eye and kidney damage. Have it tested at least every two years.
- Elevated levels of cholesterol and glucose in the blood can lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Have your GP check them every two to five years and more frequently if you have a family history of these conditions.
- About 95 per cent of skin cancers can be treated successfully if found early. Examine your own skin for suspicious moles or spots and seek medical help if you have concerns.
- Testicular cancer has a high cure rate if found early. Men of all ages should self-examine about every four weeks for any unusual lumps or swellings.
- All women over the age of 18 who are sexually active should have a pap test every two years to identify any irregularities that could lead to cervical cancer.
- Sexually active women under 30 are advised to have an annual urine test for chlamydia which can affect fertility and often has no symptoms.
- Have a general check-up before planning a pregnancy and regular antenatal checks to monitor the baby’s development.
40 to 50 years
- It’s normal for your vision to deteriorate when you reach 40 so now’s the time to get your eyes checked. The test will also pick up other possible conditions such as glaucoma, the leading cause of blindness in Australia, and macular degeneration.
- A one-off health check for people aged 45-49 is provided by the Australian Government to identify those at risk of chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. People aged 40-49 can also be evaluated for type 2 diabetes using the government’s AUSDRISK assessment tool.
- Prostate cancer is a major cause of cancer death in Australia and is very common in men over 40 years. See your doctor if you have problems urinating and have annual prostate checks once you reach 50, earlier if you have a family history of the disease.
50 plus years
- The risks for bowel cancer is increased for people aged over 50. You can be screened through the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program using a free kit at home.
- Advancing age increases the risk of osteoporosis, making you more vulnerable to fractures. Women over 45 and men over 50 should assess their risk factors and a bone density test may be recommended.
- About 50 per cent of people suffer some form of hearing loss as they age which makes communication difficult and reduces quality of life. A hearing test will determine your degree of hearing loss and the cause.
- Women between 50 and 74 can take advantage of the mammogram service provided free by BreastScreen Australia every two years. Anyone with a family history of breast cancer should inform their GP.