Health Checks at Different Life Stages
Establishing good health habits early will help you to enjoy a longer, healthier and happier life. Working together with your healthcare team to get the recommended health checks at a relevant time can improve your chances of preventing health problems throughout your life.
Why are health checks important?
A health check is an examination of your current state of health that is often carried out by your GP. The aim of doing a health check is to help you to find out, prevent or lessen the effect of health issues. It’s always better to avoid disease than to treat it. Those checks provide your GP with an opportunity to look at your lifestyle, medical & family history to find out if you’re at risk. Having a regular doctor for your health checks is important to create a relationship over time that helps you to talk openly and comfortably. Your doctor will get to know you and understand your health needs and concerns. By having a regular doctor or practice, your medical history will stay in the one place, and will more likely be kept up to date.
What can a health check involve?
- Updating your medical history and examining your health
- Performing tests if needed
- Close follow up of any problems identified
- Counseling and advising on healthy life style choices and how to improve your health
Health Checks Based on Your Life Stage
There are different health checks than can be carried out based on your life stage, e.g. checks for newborns and children, preconception and during pregnacy. In this article, we will discuss the general health check your may require from age 20 till above 60.
Health Checks in Your 20s & 30s
At this age, the last thing on your mind may be your health problem, that’s exactly why health checks even at this age are important. Knowing some key information about your health status can help your GP know if there are any particular issues that you need to start monitoring to help prevent future health conditions.
Blood pressure, Carried out by: GP, Frequency: At least every two years. Why? High blood pressure is called the silent killer as it has no symptoms. It is a major risk factor for stroke, heart disease and heart failure and may also lead to eye and kidney damage. If the heart has to pump against a higher pressure over many years it can lead to weakness of the heart walls.
Cholesterol and glucose levels, Carried out by: GP, Frequency: As directed by your doctor. Why? High cholesterol and glucose levels may result into developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The effects of unhealthy behaviors such as smoking or poor diet start to show as you reach the second half of your thirties. If you’re overweight, have polycystic ovary syndrome or even if you have a family history of heart disease or type 2 diabetes, you may need to have your cholesterol and blood sugar levels checked regularly.
Dental check and cleaning Carried out by: Dentist or oral hygienist, Frequency: As discussed with your dentist based on the condition of your mouth, teeth and gums. Why? We all know that it’s recommended to floss, brush twice a day and limit sugary foods for good oral health. But regular preventive dental check-ups are important too as poor dental health can affect not only our teeth and gums but also lead to problems like malnutrition and infections in other parts of our bodies? See your dentist as soon as possible if you have a toothache, bleeding gums or dental trauma and make sure to book in your check-ups.
Skin cancer check, Carried out by: Yourself, and your GP or dermatologist if required, Frequency: Self-check regularly. Why? 95% of skin cancers can be treated successfully if detected early. Catch any suspicious lumps or spots as early as possible by getting to know your skin and check it regularly to. Pay attention to your arms, legs, face, back, neck, shoulders and backs of your hands. You should look for any mole, spot, lump or patch that:
- Changes size, shape and/or colour
- Becomes inflamed, itchy or painful
- Bleeds or is crusty
- Doesn’t heal after four weeks.
Any of the above skin changes require you to talk to your doctor for further investigation
Healthy weight assessments, Carried out by: GP, Frequency: At least every two years or more often in case of high risk. Why? Body Mass Index (BMI) is a widely used measure to find out if you’re a healthy weight for your height. A BMI of 18.5–25 is considered healthy for most young and middle-aged adults. If you are above or below the normal range, check with your doctor about the weight range that is healthy for you. BMI can be an inaccurate measure of healthy weight for high performance athletes, pregnant women, children and elderly or require adjustments for certain ethnic groups. Waist circumference is also a simple check to see if you are carrying too much weight around your waistline. For most people, a waist measurement greater than 94cm for men and 80cm for women puts you at increased risk of developing serious ongoing health problems.
Health checks in your 40s
In your 40s you have to make sure to continue with the regular checks you were getting in your 20s and 30s including blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, dental checks, skin cancer checks and healthy weight assessments. Particular health checks that you should consider at this stage of life include:
Eye check, Carried out by: Ophthalmologist or optometrist, Frequency: Every two years for glaucoma from the age of 40, or from the age of 35 if you have a higher risk of the disease because of family history or other medical conditions. Why? Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness and early detection means that it can be controlled with little damage to the eye. Testing your eyes will not only detect abnormalities present such as glaucoma but can also identify changes that can affect your driving, your risk of falls, workplace safety and overall quality of life.
Breast checks, Carried out by: Yourself, and your GP can arrange for a mammogram if required, Frequency: Regular self-checks Why? It’s important to get to know your breasts so that you can notice any change easily. Changes in the size or shape of the breast or nipple, changes in the skin over the breast such as redness or dimpling, lumps or lumpiness are the things you have to look for. If you have a family history of breast cancer discuss with your GP when and how frequently you need breast cancer screening. Younger women may be offered an ultrasound screen in case of family history, as mammograms can be less effective for them because their breast tissue is generally denser and can show up as white areas on the X-ray.
Health assessment for people who are at risk of developing chronic disease, Carried out by: GP, Frequency: Once between the ages of 45-49. Why? This is one of the most important health checks that you need to take especially if you have a family history or at high risk of developing a certain chronic disease. Discussing your medical history with your GP will help in deciding what type of tests to undergo. The health check helps you to detect and take action to prevent chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease.
Health checks in your 50s and later
As you move into your 50s, regular preventive health checks with your GP become even more important. Make sure to continue with the regular checks you were getting in previous years in addition to the following:
Bone density scan, Carried out by: Trained specialists at a radiology service, Frequency: On your GP’s advice, depending on your risk factors. Why? Osteoporosis is a health condition where your bones become brittle due to mineral loss. This means you are more likely to break or fracture your bones. Women over 45 can ask their doctor to assess their risk factors for osteoporosis. Your doctor may refer you for a bone density scan if required.
Facial occult blood test (FOBT), Carried out by: You with some help from a pathology lab, Frequency: At least once every two years. In some cases, your doctor may advise more frequent screening. Why? Research has shown bowel cancer risk rises significantly from the age of 50. Bowel cancer screening generally involves a test for blood in the stool, which can be an early warning sign of bowel cancer. Screening usually involves a simple test that you can use at home and then send to a laboratory for analysis. A positive FOBT result doesn’t necessarily mean you have bowel cancer but it does generally mean you have an increased risk, and your doctor may investigate further, often with a colonoscopy.
Hearing assessment, Carried out by: Audiologist, arranged by your GP, Frequency: If you have symptoms. Why? Hearing problems can affect your quality of life. Audiologists can carry out a range of hearing tests to determine your degree of hearing loss, and investigate possible causes of your hearing problems.