10 top health checks for women – and when to have them
When it comes to your health, prevention is always better than cure. These are the main checks and screening tests women need to stay well.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” mused Benjamin Franklin – and that certainly rings true when it comes to women’s health.
Regular checks and screening tests are an important part of staying well and detecting early signs of illness or disease.
Jean Hailes specialist women’s health GP Dr Amanda Newman says Women’s Health Week from September 7-11 is a timely reminder to check in with your doctor.
“The reason for health checks is to pick up things before they become a problem,” says Dr Newman.
“The beauty of getting checked is you can detect potential problems early and take positive action.”
She says a great example of preventative health is the dramatic decline in the number of strokes because so many people now get their blood pressure checked regularly.
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Is COVID-19 interfering with your preventative health?
With the COVID-19 situation constantly evolving, you’ll need to weigh up how urgent your preventative health checks are, or whether to postpone.
“It’s about making a judgment call. If you’re not sure have a telephone consult with your doctor,” says Dr Newman.
“COVID-19 doesn’t stop you exercising, eating healthily and taking steps to improve your emotional wellbeing.”
Women’s Health and Family Services chief executive Felicite Black says she’s concerned about women hesitating to attend regular checks.
“We urge all women to check in on their health during Women’s Health Week,” says Felicite.
Healthy habits start at home
Healthy lifestyle, regular exercise, good diet and stress management all play a role in preventative health.
“It’s all the same advice – eat well, be physically active, don’t smoke and don’t drink too much,” Dr Newman says.
“It’s the things we’ve heard over and over again – the reason we keep hearing it is because it works.”
Research shows almost half of all Australians have health conditions that can be prevented with a healthier and active lifestyle.
Which health checks do women need?
Figuring out which checks you need may seem a bit daunting so we’ve done the legwork for you.
It is recommended women have a general check-up with their GP every year, so talk to your doctor about which tests are relevant to you, depending on age, medical background, family history and lifestyle.
Top preventative health checks for women
- Bowel health
A faecal occult blood test is recommended every two years from age 50 to 74. If there’s family history, you may need a colonoscopy every two to five years.
- Bone health
- Breast health
Become familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts. Undertake a free screening mammogram after you turn 50 every two years.
- Heart health
Get a blood pressure check every two years after you turn 18, and a cholesterol check every five years once you are 45. Screening for Type 2 diabetes should also be on part of your health test schedule every three years after you turn 40.
- Cervical screening
Have a cervical screening test every five years if you’re aged 25 to 74.
- Adolescents aged 12-13 are advised to have the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.
- Check immunisations are up to date, such as tetanus and whooping cough.
- Flu vaccination is recommended if you are pregnant or older than 65.
- Pneumococcal vaccine is recommended for over 70s.
- Mental and emotional health
Chat with your GP if you are experiencing intense sadness, irritability, fatigue or anxiety.
- Sexual health
An annual chlamydia test is recommended for sexually active people under 30.
Monitor your skin every month for changes in size, shape or colour of spots.
Check your body mass index (BMI) and waist measurement every two years.
Women’s Health Week runs from September 7-11.
Written by Bianca Carmona.