Guide to The Regular Health Checks You Should Be Having

Guide to the Regular Health Checks You Should Be Having

Health Checks Ensure You Stay Healthy

Introduction

Regular health checks ensure you stay fit and healthy.  Many health problems are not apparent without health checks.  Regular checks you do yourself keep you in tune with your body.  A medical practitioner must also perform some checks.  This article will explain why it is important to have regular health checks, including several you can do yourself.  It also includes a recommended schedule for health checks that your doctor will do.

The advantages of a regular health check-up

The most important reason to have regular health check-ups is the early detection of diseases such as heart disease and cancer.  Treatment is much more successful if caught at an early stage, before complications have set in.  Many life threatening diseases have little to no symptoms.  For example, kidney failure.  Other health issues may have symptoms that are vague or mistaken for other conditions.  Symptoms such as fatigue can relate to many different causes. Vague symptoms are often explained by lifestyle factors such as being busy. Without regular checkups a health issue can be overlooked until you develop a serious illness.

My Back Pain Masked a Serious Health Condition

I have a chronic degenerative spinal condition which is very common in nurses.  CT scans and bone scans show degeneration in the fascia joints in my spine.  When my back pain intensified, my doctor prescribed a cortisone injection under CT guidance.  This successfully treated the pain, so I had them regularly with improvement in my pain.

When I developed severe back pain on the opposite side of the degeneration my GP prescribed stronger pain killers.  I suffered for over two years, believing the pain was caused by degeneration. I did not really understanding why my pain was on the opposite side.  It wasn’t until I developed complications after surgery this year that it was found that I had hydronephrosis.  The back pain was actually caused by a blockage which caused the urine to reflux back into my kidney.  

This would have led to serious kidney problems if it hadn’t been detected as an incidental finding.  I’m a Registered Nurse and I hadn’t even suspected my back pain was kidney related.  This is one example of how serious health issues can be overlooked, especially if they can be tied in with existing, known health issues.

The Regular Health Checks You Should Be Having - infographic
The Regular Health Checks You Should Be Having

The health checks you can do yourself

You can do many health checks yourself.  If you find anything concerning, you can then see a doctor.  Get to know your own body by doing these regular health checks:

Skin – Regularly check your skin, taking note of any moles, freckles and skin blemishes.  A doctor, preferably at a specialised skin cancer clinic, should assess any changes.  The doctors at skin cancer clinics are experienced in assessing skin. They use specialised equipment designed to detect early skin changes. Early changes that might indicate skin cancer can be treated before they develop further.

Weight – check once per week.  It is a good idea to keep an eye on your waist circumference as well.  Any waist measurement over 88cm (35 inches) for women and 102cm (40 inches) for men may mean you are at high risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  See my article Why Your Waist Measurement Matters for more information.

Dental – Dentists should examine any lesions and bleeding that don’t resolve in a week.  Clean teeth at least daily and use floss as your oral health is vital for overall well-being.  Have a regular checkup and clean by a dentist at least yearly.

Mental and emotional health – seek medical help if you have symptoms of anxiety, intense sadness, fatigue, insomnia or changes in appetite that don’t resolve after a month or two.

In addition to the above, women need to do monthly breast self examinations.  See my article How to Perform a Breast Self Examination (and Why) for a complete guide.   Men need to perform a testicular self examination monthly from puberty onwards.  See your doctor if there is any unusual thickening or lumps.

The health checks your doctor will do

Have a regular check-up with your doctor every two years.  Be aware of your family health history as it may mean you need screening more often – see my article Know Your Personal and Family Health History for more information.  Your doctor should be able to tell you if you are at high risk for certain diseases.  Additional screening to the following may be recommended.

The recommended health checks for both men and women:

Skin checks:  Yearly

Heart health – blood pressure every two years from age 40, more often if you have a family history of high blood pressure, stroke or heart disease.  You should also have your blood tested to check for high cholesterol and triglycerides every 5 years from age 45, more often if high risk.  If you are high risk you may also have an ECG (electrocardiogram) or cardiac echo, which are both non-invasive checks.  A one-off test is offered at age 45-49 to screen for high risk of heart disease.

Bowel screening every two years from age 50. (A bowel screen kit will be sent to your home if you are an Australian resident)

Sexual health – yearly if sexually active.  See your doctor immediately if you have pain, discharge, lesions or if you have unprotected sex.

Eye tests for glaucoma and macular degeneration – every two years after age 40s if you have a family history.  From age 65 if you notice vision deterioration.

Bone density from the age of 45 (women) or 50 (men) if at risk for example, a family history of osteoporosis.

Diabetes – A fasting blood sugar test.  A one-off test is offered at age 45-49 to screen for high risk of type 2 diabetes.  Those at high risk of Type 2 Diabetes should be checked 1-3 yearly. 3 yearly for people not at risk, from the age of 40.  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders should start 3 yearly checks from age 18.  

Hearing Impairment – a hearing assessment yearly after age 65.

Kidney disease – every 1-2 years if at high risk.

Immunity – Flu shots (Influenza vaccinations) yearly after age 65.  If you are high risk or work in the health care industry you should also have Influenza and Hepatitis B vaccinations.

Health Checks for Women

In addition to the above health checks, women should have:

Cervical screening every 5 years from the time you are sexually active.  The cervical screening Test has replaced the Pap Smear. It should be started at age 25 or two years after your last Pap Smear.

Breast screening every 2 years from age 50-74.  If you are high risk you will be offered screening from a younger age and more frequently.  For example, I have been having yearly mammograms and ultrasounds plus MRIs every 2 years because of my high risk.  Some women have them more frequently than that, depending on your doctor’s preference.

Health Checks for Men

In addition to the above health checks, men should have:

Prostate – Annual prostate checks from age 50, earlier if you have a family history.  This involves a blood test (PSA), and may include a digital rectal examination.  See your doctor if you have trouble urinating, pain, blood in your urine, night-time urination frequently, or incontinence.

Women's Health Checks - The recommendations for Breast checks, and cervical screening.  Men's Health Checks - The recommendations for  Testicular and Prostate checks
Women’s and Men’s Health Checks

Be an Advocate for your own Health

You are the best advocate for your own health.  If you suspect you have a health issue, see your doctor.  If you are unhappy with the outcome, seek another opinion.  You know your own body.  Keep track of the symptoms, write them down, and identify any patterns.  If you are unsure of whether you should see a doctor, refer to my article Signs You Need to See a Doctor.  

Let your doctor know of any family history of disease.  Keep track of your personal and family health history – see this article for more information.  Most important, keep up with your health screening and the regular health checks you should be having.

Please note:  I am a Registered Nurse of 30 years but I am unable to give specific medical advice.  If you are concerned please see your GP.  Screening schedules may differ depending on where you live.  The schedule recommended here is for guidance only.  This post is for general informational and educational purposes only.  Please refer to the disclaimer.

Further reading: While researching this article, I found the most thorough information at the following websites:

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Health Tips to Promote Women’s Health Week

Women's Health Tips

Promoting Women’s Health

Women’s Health Week is from 7 – 11 September this year. Women’s Health Week is a week dedicated to all women across Australia to make good health a priority. Every day this week I have been publishing Women’s Health tips to promote women’s health. This post will discuss each tip in more depth and provide links so that you may learn more. I am passionate about promoting health and have been using social media posts for this. Links to my social media accounts are at the top of the page.

Women’s Health Tip 1 – Exercise Regularly

Improve your health by exercising regularly. Find an exercise you love and stick to it. That may be a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day, a yoga session, or a dance lesson. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you enjoy it and do it on a regular basis. If you are moving your body daily you will reap the benefits, both mental and physical. Don’t let health issues hold you back. In this post I explain how I overcame my health issues and don’t let them stop me from maintaining my exercise.

Exercise Regularly.  Regular exercise is essential for mental and physical health.  Find an exercise you love and stick to it
Exercise Regularly. Find an exercise you love and stick to it. Regular exercise is essential for mental and physical health

Women’s Health Tip 2 – Eat a Healthy Diet

Eat a healthy diet that is balanced and doesn’t cut out whole food groups (unless you have specific health reasons to avoid them such as allergies). A healthy diet includes food from all food groups – protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, whole-grains and dairy or it’s alternatives. Diets that cut whole food groups out are fad diets and can’t be sustained without health issues. One of the most important indicators of health is your waist size. Eating a healthy diet can be seen to reduce the amount of fat stored around your waist and reduce your risk of health issues such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Read more about it at this post.

Eat a healthy diet.  A healthy diet includes protein, fruit and vegetables, wholefoods and healthy fats.  Maintain a healthy weight without fad diets
Eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet includes protein, fruit and vegetables, wholefoods and healthy fats. Maintain a healthy weight without fad diets

Women’s Health Tip 3 – Take Time for Self Care

Taking time for self care is important for your mental and emotional health. You may find yourself caring for others, and being so busy you don’t have time for YOU. Make self care a priority in your routine. Find something you enjoy – try meditation, singing, hobbies, dancing, yoga, massage, beauty treatments or just relaxing with a good book. Our emotional health is being tested this year, with many people finding they are more stressed than usual due to the pandemic. That means it is even more important that you prioritise your self care, which you can read more about in this post.

Take time for self care.  Self care is important for your emotional and mental health.  Take time for YOU.  Try meditation, talking to a friend, relaxing, beauty treatments, hobbies ... find something you enjoy
Take time for self care. Self care is important for your emotional and mental health. Take time for YOU. Try meditation, talking to a friend, relaxing, beauty treatments, hobbies … find something you enjoy.

Women’s Health Tip 4 – Get Health Checks Done

Make sure you are aware of what health screening is recommended for women in your age group. This may differ according to your place of residence. Ensure you attend to monthly breast self examinations and check your skin for changes. Maintain a regular schedule of screening for your breasts, dental health, eyes, and heart (blood pressure, cholesterol and other blood tests). Depending on your age, you may need bowel cancer screening, regular pelvic examinations, bone density test and mammograms. Your doctor will advise you of any further tests you may require depending on your personal and family health history. More information is in this post and I will have a post in the future on health checks.

Get Health Checks Done.  Screening for breasts, skin, teeth, eyes, heart, bowel, gynae, bone density etc.  See your doctor - find out what screening is needed for your age group.
Get health checks done, including screening for breasts, skin, teeth, eyes, heart, bowel, gynae, bone density, etc. See your doctor to find out what screening is needed for your age group

Women’s Health Tip 5 – Be an Advocate for Your Well-being

You are your own advocate. Speak up if you are concerned, or if you feel your concerns are not being addressed adequately. Those niggly feelings that something is wrong should not be ignored. See a doctor if you are worried. This post will help you decide whether your symptoms mean you should see a doctor. The head in the sand approach does not work with health. It’s easier to treat things if they are in their early stages, and it’s far better to prevent disease than treat it.

Be an advocate for your well-being.  Don't hesitate to see a doctor if you suspect something is wrong.  Your well-being is important.
Be an advocate for your well-being. Don’t hesitate to see a doctor if you suspect something is wrong. Your well-being is important.

Women’s Health is Important

Women make up over 50% of the population. Women’s health is important because we are often the main caregiver of others. We often put our own needs last and ignore health issues until we are really unwell. Stay in tune with your body, and look after it. Don’t take your health for granted because it takes all the joy out of life if you are in poor health. By following these women’s health tips, hopefully you will feel inspired to prioritise your well-being. For further information about Women’s Health Week visit the official website.

I love to hear from my audience, so feel free to comment on my posts or contact me via my contact form. I would love to know if there’s any subject you would like me to discuss in a future post. If you would like to receive my newsletter, please sign up for it in the box below.

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My Top Posts of 2019

My healthy lifestyle blog has been my biggest achievement this year (apart from losing 17kg!). I’ve really enjoyed writing about a topic that I’m passionate about. The hardest part is the self promotion which goes against my introverted nature but it’s vital to gain followers if I want people to read my articles. I would like to share my top posts 2019 with my readers.

MY TOP 9 POSTS of 2019


In order, they were:
1 How to make goals that will stick,
2 Why your waist measurement matters,
3 My Weight-loss Journey,
4 Slow and Steady wins the race,
5 13+ ways to get more colour in your diet,
6 Gifts that Inspire a Healthy Lifestyle,
7 How to keep on track with your health goals during the holiday season,
8 Just change one habit at a time and
9 Losing weight is a marathon not a sprint.

Read them now to gain some inspiration! Live your healthiest year in 2020.


Thanks to everyone who has read, followed, liked and shared my posts across WordPress, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter! I really appreciate your support and all the comments, likes and shares. It keeps me motivated to write more. Please let me know what your favourite article was.

A collage of the top posts of 2019 on the Midlifestylist blog.
The top posts on Midlifestylist.com for 2019
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Signs you need to see a doctor

When should you see a doctor? What signs to look for

Signs and symptoms that need to be checked by a doctor

Updated 14 August 2020

People are delaying seeking a doctor’s advice because of the pandemic. A delay in the diagnosis and treatment of disease leads to poorer outcomes in some instances, especially cancer. There are some signs and symptoms that should not be ignored, and need to be checked by a doctor.

I’ve been a Registered Nurse for over 30 years and unfortunately many of the patients I see have a “head in the sand” approach to health. They are aware of signs and symptoms, but they’re too scared to go to the doctor so they leave it too late. Many of the diseases we see can be cured if they’re diagnosed and treated early enough, but because the person is too scared to see a doctor, it is too late to do anything about it. Unfortunately we also see patients who have been fobbed off or treated for the wrong thing as well. If you’re not happy with what you’re told by one doctor, seek another opinion. You are the best advocate for your own health so keep in tune with your body and don’t ignore signs that there’s something wrong.

What predisposes us to disease?

A doctor I worked with once said to me “if everyone gave up smoking I’d be out of a job”. That’s not strictly true, however, because even though the smoking rate has gone down since awareness campaigns and Government restrictions on the sale of cigarettes, there are still other risk factors that can predispose us to disease. These include hereditary factors, lifestyle, age and sex, environmental factors and socioeconomic status. We can’t do much about our hereditary factors, age or sex, but we can control our lifestyle, environment and socioeconomic status to a certain degree.

Don’t ignore these symptoms

Another thing we can control is our awareness of signs and symptoms that could warrant a trip to the doctor, such as:

  • changes in bowel or bladder habits
  • shortness of breath, wheeziness
  • a cough that produces yellow or green sputum, or is blood tinged
  • chest tightness or pain
  • spots that have changed on your skin
  • lumps and bumps
  • bleeding, e.g in your urine or faeces, or a wound
  • hoarse voice or difficulty swallowing
  • dizziness or fainting
  • pain not controlled with over the counter medications
  • weakness in a limb, especially when it’s down one side of your body and you also have a drooping mouth
  • very high fevers, 38 degrees C or above
  • discharge or oozing, especially when it has a strong odour
  • swelling
  • a cut or sore that won’t heal
  • severe thirst but still have a dry mouth
  • unexpected weight loss and loss of appetite over a period of time
  • snoring and breath holding at night, and still feeling exhausted during the day
  • changes in your vision, crustiness in your eyes, or red and painful eyes
  • yellowing of skin and eyes
  • palpitations or fluttering in your chest
  • fractures or sprains
  • severe vomiting
  • confusion or mood changes
  • reactions to medications or treatment
  • Knocks to the head, especially ones where you lose conciousness or see stars, or are confused afterwards
  • epileptic fits

This list is only a sample of things to watch out for. Some of these are medical emergencies – don’t hesitate to call an ambulance if you have chest pain, weakness down one side of the body, severe bleeding and serious accidents. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, make sure you are informed of what signs and symptoms to look for, and when to see your doctor for follow-up appointments.

Misdiagnosis can lead to poor health outcomes

I have worked in Plastics and Reconstructive surgery wards for many years and even then I have a personal example of misdiagnosis with skin cancer. Because I am aware of the risks of skin cancer I have had a yearly skin check for at least the last 20 years. My sons have had the same checks since they were small children. This is partly due to the high incidence of melanoma in my family (my brother and sister) but also because of seeing the effects of melanoma spread in patients.

I was on holiday in New Zealand and my son phoned me to say he’d had his skin check and the doctor had biopsied a spot on the back of his hand and it had come back as melanoma. It’s hard to convey how devastated I was at hearing this and not being at home to support him. He was only 24 at the time and we’d been going to the same skin doctor for years. This doctor had told him at least twice before that the spot was fine, and we had trusted him. This time it was a different doctor – we had recently moved to a new surgery.

Melanoma, stage 1, on my 24 year old son's hand.  Required excision and flap graft.
My son’s melanoma

If my son had left it for another year it would have spread. We were lucky it was Grade 1 and hadn’t spread at all. I phoned one of the Plastic Surgeons I worked with and made an urgent appointment and my son was in surgery the following week. He had to have a full thickness flap done, about 3cm in diameter, to his hand but he’s cancer free which is the best outcome we could have had. He’s proud to show his scar because he’s a survivor and he’s brought awareness to many of his friends and acquaintances about the need for skin checks. We both have to have 6 monthly skin checks now for the rest of our lives.

This is the scar on his hand now. He had a skin flap removed from his upper arm to graft on to his hand

Be Your Own Health Advocate

My message today is that I want you to see a doctor if you’re concerned about anything, but keep pushing for more if you’re not happy with what they tell you. That niggling feeling that something isn’t right should not be ignored so pay attention to your body!

Note: this article is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be substituted for professional advice from a Registered Medical Practitioner. Please see the full disclaimer statement by clicking on the heading Disclaimer on the Home page. I am unable to answer specific questions from readers – if you are concerned, please see your doctor.

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