Date posted: 4/01/2018 3 min read

Set your health goals for 2018

A yearly health check is an easy – and possibly even life-saving – New Year project. But what tests should we ask for?

In Brief

  • Understand the essential health checks you need to put in place in 2018.
  • Schedule an annual visit for a medical check, which should always include a blood pressure test.
  • Women’s risk of breast cancer increases around menopause, so get a scan every two years after 50.

Sponsored by HCF.

By Emma Anderson.

Ironically, one thing we can neglect when making new resolutions is our medical health. But scheduling a yearly health check is an easy – and possibly even life-saving – project for the New Year.  

“It’s important to establish a relationship with a GP you can rely on through the phases of your life,” says Dr Magdalena Simonis, Fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. 

Early detection and treatment can make the difference between you enjoying a long healthy life chronic illness or premature death from a preventable cause
Dr Magdalena Simonis Fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners

“If you have a family history of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes or certain cancers, telling your doctor helps them prepare a health plan for checking for these conditions down the track,” she says. “Early detection and treatment can make the difference between you enjoying a long healthy life chronic illness or premature death from a preventable cause.” 

She advises an annual visit for a check-up, which should always include a blood pressure test. “High blood pressure that’s detected and controlled early on is the single most important factor that can prevent such things as renal disease, heart disease, stroke and visual impairment,” she explains.  

Work with your GP to put these essential scans in place in 2018:

Diabetes: Screening should be every three years from age 40 (or from 18 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people).

Bone density: Have regular checks from menopause onwards or earlier if you have a family history of early-onset osteoporosis, “but discussion about bone health should start early in life”, advises Dr Simonis. “Years of avoiding direct sun exposure, sedentary office jobs and low calcium intake all increase the likelihood of osteoporosis.”

Pap smears: Scheduling a Pap smear test every two years is advised for all women who have ever had sex.

Chlamydia: “For women aged 15 to 29, an annual check is the current standard,” she says, adding that it’s a potentially serious disease that is often silent (has no symptoms).

Breast cancer: Women’s risk of breast cancer increases around menopause, she says, which is why mammogram screening every two years kicks in from the age of 50. However: “Seeing your GP for an annual breast check and learning how to perform a breast examination yourself is a good idea.”

Bowel cancer: Again, 50 is the age when screening should start. “A fecal occult blood test should be performed every two years, but if there is a strong family history of early onset bowel cancer, screening might be recommended earlier. Your GP will help you plan accordingly,” says Dr Simonis.

Prostate cancer: While early detection can improve prostate cancer survival, neither the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal examination are definitive. That said, if you’re over 50 and have a family history of the disease, talk to your GP about getting checked.

Skin cancer: The best thing you can do is keep an eye on your moles. Any changes in shape or colour, or broken skin, see your doctor.

As a CA ANZ member, you can access a great range of additional benefits when you join HCF as a corporate member. To learn about the full benefits, please visit charteredaccountants.hcf.com.au.

This article by Emma Anderson appeared in HCF’s January 2017 Health Agenda magazine.

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