The biggest benefit of regular health checks is the increased likelihood of catching diseases and conditions in their early stages which can drastically improve treatment outcomes.
It’s important once you’re over a certain age to have these checks at the recommended intervals to help stay on top of your health. The intervals below are for the general population, so the recommendations may differ for those with specific risk factors. Your GP will be able to give you advice on which screenings and checks you should have and when.
Those over 45 should have their cholesterol levels checked every five years.
People aged 50 to 74 should do a bowel cancer screening (known as a Faecal Occult Blood Test) every two years.
People aged 65 years and older should have a hearing assessment every 12 months.
Anyone over 40 should be assessed for Type 2 Diabetes every 3 years using the Australian Type 2 Diabetes Risk Assessment Tool, which is a questionnaire given by your doctor. For those at high risk of Type 2 Diabetes, a fasting blood sugar (glucose) test should be given every one to three years, depending on risk.
Yearly eye tests and checks by an optometrist or ophthalmologist are important to check for age-related deterioration and conditions such as glaucoma.
While there is no set schedule for skin examinations by your doctor or a dermatologist, it is recommended that aim to get your skin checked yearly. It’s important to also look for changes on your own skin and go to the doctor to get any changes checked.
While osteoporosis is often thought of as a women’s disease, it’s recommended that both postmenopausal women and men over 50 years of age with no history of fractures but have certain osteoporosis risk factors get a scan to measure their bone density. These risk factors include family history, smoking, recurrent falls, vitamin D deficiency and low levels of physical activity. Timing of future scans will depend on these scan results.
Cervical cancer screening tests are recommended every five years up until 74 – those with increased cervical cancer risk may need more frequent testing.
For women aged 50 to 74, free mammograms are offered through BreastScreen Australia every two years. Those over 74 may continue to have free mammograms but should discuss this with their doctor. Ongoing self-checks between mammograms are recommended. If you notice any changes in the look or feel of your breasts see your doctor.
A prostate screening test called the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test is available for men aged 50 to 69 but is currently not recommended as a population-based screening test. Men should discuss the risks and benefits of PSA testing with their doctor before deciding whether they should have it. Those who decide to have PSA screening should be offered testing every two years.
While there’s no screening test for testicular cancer, all men should become familiar with the usual feel of their testicles and see their doctor if they notice any swelling or a lump.
As with all health issues, chatting about your health with your GP is a good first step. Your GP will be able to recommend other preventative measures that will help you stay as healthy as possible as you get older.