Taking control of your health requires regular visits to your doctor for quick health checks as well as the more crucial examinations when necessary. These visits can help detect any health problems before they arise. In this article we look at a few recommended health checks for people over 40.
Regular health checks are considered a good practice for everyone, but they do become increasingly important as we get older. Once you hit 40, it is recommended that you visit your doctor or healthcare specialist regularly for health checks and tests. These checks can prove beneficial in detecting, preventing and managing major health problems such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesityi,ii.
Blood tests: Blood tests can include checks for cholesterol levels and triglycerides, which helps assess the risk of health problems such as heart disease. Women over the age of 45 are recommended to take a blood test at least every two years. Men of the same age should take a blood test every five years. If you're a man or woman at a high risk or have a family history of cardiovascular disease - then you should be tested every yeari,ii.
Blood pressure: Men over 40 and women with a personal or family history of high blood pressure, stroke or heart attack, should have their blood pressure checked annually. For women with normal blood pressure and no family history of high blood pressure, it is still recommended to have a check every two years. You should also consult your doctor in regards to how regularly you should check your blood pressurei,ii.
Obesity: Being overweight or obese can contribute to health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In Australia, men are more prone to being overweight or obese than womeniii. If you are a man over 40, you should have your body mass index (BMI) and waist measurement checked every year by your doctor; and every two years for womeni,ii.
Diabetes: There are two types of diabetes: type 1 (insulin dependent) and type 2 (non-insulin dependent)iv. Diabetes is usually tested via blood sugar levels, where the level of glucose (sugar) in your blood is measured after you have fasted for eight hoursv. Diabetes should be tested every one to three years, depending on your risk level. Factors that may contribute to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes includei,ii:
- A family history of diabetes
- Age over 45 years
- Being overweight or obese
- High blood pressure, blood cholesterol, elevated blood glucose levels
- Sedentary lifestyle and smoking
- Belonging to particular ethnic backgrounds such as Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, South Asian, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islandervi
Bowel cancer: If you're over the age of 50, it is recommended that you are tested for bowel cancer once every two years. However, if you have a family history of bowel cancer, testing every two years should start at 40. Two types of tests are commonly used to detect bowel cancer: the faecal occult blood test (FOBT) and the colonoscopy. Those with a family history or high risk of bowel cancer may need to take a colonoscopy every five yearsi,ii.
Eye conditions: Eye tests can check for conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration. As eyesight tends to deteriorate with age, it is recommended that women over 40 years old have regular eye examinations; women between 50-65 years old be examined every two years; and women over 65 to check annually. Similarly, men over 60 years of age should also have an annual eye examinationi,ii. More frequent eye checks are recommended if there is a family or personal history of eye disease and injury, or certain medical conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetesi.
Tests for men
Testicular self-examination: This check is not only recommended for men over 40, as it is important at any age. Testicular self-examinations can help detect testicular cancer even at early stages when it can still be easily treated. You should check regularly (e.g. once every month) for lumps, abnormal thickenings, changes in the size and shape of your testicles, and consult your doctor immediately if you are concerned. Symptoms of testicular cancer can include a painless lump on your testicle(s), a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum and an ache in the lower abdomen or testiclevii.
Prostate cancer screening: If you have a family history of any cancer, you may need to take a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test along with a digital test on a regular basis after you turn 40 years oldi. All men over 50 should consider a yearly digital prostate examination.
Tests for women
Pap tests: The pap test examines for any irregularities or changes to cervical cells that could lead to cervical cancer. Cervical cancer can stem from HPV (human papillomavirus) infection, smoking, long-term use of oral contraceptives, chlamydia, or an early age of first sexual intercourse or childbirthviii. The risk of developing cervical cancer increases with age. A pap test should be taken every two years until you are 70 years old. It could be checked more regularly if recommended by your doctor. They should still be performed even if you have been vaccinated against HPV, have had a hysterectomy, are no longer sexually active or have experienced menopauseviii.
Breast cancer health checks: Women of any age should check their breasts at home regularly for any pain, lumps, size or shape irregularities, and skin or nipple changesix. You should consult your doctor as soon as possible if there are any unusual changes to your breasts. Women between 50 to 70 years old who have no family history of breast cancer should have a screening mammogram (breast x-ray) once every two years. Women with a family history, regardless of age, should consult their doctor as to how often they should be tested; however, annual check-ups are advisedii.
Regular appointments with your doctor and scheduling crucial tests and screenings are important for the early detection of problems that could be life-threatening. Finding illnesses at early stages could also allow for treatment and management to begin as soon as possible and therefore may increase the chances of recovery. Managing your health should go hand-in-hand with planning for the future financial security of your family in the unfortunate event of an unexpected critical illness diagnosis or even death. Providing future financial security for your family should not be an afterthought, it is important to consider while you are young and healthy, before you have any health scares, and while there are still a range of options available to you.
By taking out life insurance, you can focus on recuperating or managing any illnesses you may incur in your life without the worry of how it will impact you or your family's financial situation. Contact Allianz today to find out more about the Allianz Life Plan, and the cover options available; Life Cover, Critical Illness cover and Permanently Unable to Work cover.