I’ll be the first to admit it – I’m terrible at health checks. When I feel unwell I turn to Dr. Google for diagnosis. As a hypochondriac, this can be a problem. A search for ‘fever headache’ quickly leads to a major freak out as I read about worst-case scenarios. Before you know it, I’ve self-diagnosed myself with typhoid.
But as I get older and – sigh – realise I’m not as invincible as I once thought, I’ve realised I need a change of approach. No disrespect to Dr. Google but I think it’s time I start seeking a real doctor.
But where to begin? What do I need to watch out for? And, more importantly, is there any way to make it … easy?
To help answer these questions, I have put together an ultimate women’s health checklist. Together we can take action now.
Breast cancer is a leading cause of death for Australian women. According to the 2011 census, it was the second-highest cause of cancer-related deaths and by 2020, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare predicts 17,210 new cases will be diagnosed.
So, what do can you do about it? The key to tackling breast cancer is early detection. This involves monthly self-checks and regular clinical breast exams.
And yes – there is a way to make it easy! The National Breast Cancer Foundation has released an Early Detection Plan, a specialty app that lets you keep track of your check-ups.
Cervical cancer is another big issue for women. Every two years women need to get a pap smear – even if they’ve had the cervical cancer vaccine. According to Cervical Screening NSW, regular pap tests can reduce the risk of cervical cancer by up to 96 percent.
Another topical concern is fertility. Women who are worried about this can take an AMH test to measure their ovarian reserve. These can be done at a specialty clinic with a referral from your GP.
Health experts recommend we get a general health check-up every two years to catch any niggling problems before they become more serious.
This should include:
- Check-up of cholesterol and glucose levels – to monitor the risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
- Blood pressure – to measure for high blood pressure, a major risk factor of stroke and heart disease
- Exercise stress test– to assess how your heart cope in high-stress situations. This involves a 30-60 minutes test that compares your heart rate at rest with your heart rate during exercise.
- Healthy weight assessment – to check you are sitting in the healthy weight range for your height. A BMI of 18.5–25 is typically considered normal.
- STI screenings – to check for sexually transmitted infections. For the asymptomatic Chlamydia, health professionals suggest women have a urine test each year.
Do I hear a groan? Few people enjoy a visit to the dentist. Aside from the drills, suction tubes and fluorescent lighting, the cost of visiting the dentist is hardly inviting. That said keeping up with our six-monthly visits is likely to save us more in the long run.
Regular cleaning and dental care can prevent things like gum disease, tooth decay and oral cavities – problems that if left unchecked can lead to long-term damage and even heftier dental bills. [Click to tweet]
Skin cancer screening
Australia has one of the highest incidences of skin cancer in the world. Nearly 80 percent of newly diagnosed cancers are skin cancers, meaning as well as slip slop and slapping, we need to be vigilant with our skin checks.
The Cancer Council Australia recommends regular head-to-toe skin checks to spot for new moles and changes to existing freckles. Use their ABCD melanoma detection guide as a guide for what to look out for.
If you notice any changes or want a professional opinion, see your doctor, dermatologists or skin care specialist. Check for doctors who are accredited with the Skin Cancer College Australasia.
- Subscribe to health organisations or follow them on Facebook and Twitter for regular reminders and health updates
- Book ahead and set email, phone or calendar reminders
- Motivate yourself with rewards (dentist on Monday – massage on Friday?)
Let’s make a date with our doctor! Let me know how you go and if you have any advice on how to perfect the ultimate health routine.
How do you keep your health in check? What other health checkups would you recommend?
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