Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Never wait until the very last minute. Check that mole, it could be something more serious. Make sure that a sore throat is not actually tonsillitis. Don’t take your eyes for granted, wear glasses if you spend your day in front of a screen. How many times have you heard these things and ignored them?
We are often told how frequently we should be getting things related to our health checked and tested, but how many of us actually keep up with these things? And how necessary is it that we should do these checks?
For many people, health issues don’t become apparent until there is actually a physical symptom. But could regular health checks, such as mole mapping, mammograms, prostate checks, dental checks and such actually catch the signs of a problem before turning into something more serious?
We’re going to be exploring how frequent you should have health checks in various forms, to ensure that your body is functioning as it should and remains healthy.
There are numerous tests that can be carried out on your body to check your physical health and well-being, but many of us put off having these test through embarrassment, apathy or just lack of awareness of their importance.
According to the NHS, all adults aged between 40 and 74 in the UK should have an NHS Health Check every five years, to calculate and monitor the risks of developing heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, type 2 diabetes or certain types of dementia. The five-yearly test offers an in-depth analysis of your overall health, including your lifestyle, family history, blood pressure, height and weight. This allows health professionals to monitor your current health, and any changes appeared over the course of every five years.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have health checks with your GP or practice nurse before you’re 40, particularly if you’re a smoker, drinker or overweight. While it isn’t necessary to have annual health checks, it is a good practice to arrange a routine health check every few years to keep track of your overall health, such as blood pressure, cholesterol and any worries such as moles, lumps or prolonged coughs.
With Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) such as Chlamydia on the rise, it’s even more important for adults to get a sexual health check. For sexually active adults, particularly those who have multiple partners and unprotected sex, it’s recommended to have a sexual health check every year, as this could aid early detection of STIs and prevent further discomfort, fertility problems and spreading. The various tests usually involve a genital examination, urine samples, blood tests and swab testing to ensure the most effective methods of detecting and treating STIs.
For women, there are also a number of tests that should be carried out, such as smears, breast examinations and regular blood pressure readings. Currently, a cervical smear should be carried out every three years for women aged 25-49, this is because the cancerous cells that form can’t be detected earlier than that. Women aged 50-64 should have a smear every five years and women over 65 don’t require screening unless they’ve had abnormal smears in the past.
With breast examinations, you should carry out regular checks yourself, looking out for any unusual lumps or symptoms around the breast area and seek medical advice if you’re concerned. Women aged between 50 and 75 who are registered with a GP will automatically be invited for a breast cancer screening every three years with a mammogram test, as they are at a higher risk.
Of course, men aren’t impervious to health checks either and like women, they should be vigilant about lumps or health issues. For men, an important aspect to consider is your prostate, as prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men. Men over 50 are at higher risk, and while there isn’t a prostate screening programme in place, you can arrange for it to be carried out by your GP for peace of mind.
Other important health tests include regular eye and dental health checks. If you regularly use a computer for work or suffer from headaches, you should arrange for an appointment with an optician, who may be able to identify the problem and prescribe you with glasses.
When it comes to dental health, the frequency of visits will depend on your oral health, as well as your age. Children under 18 years should see a dentist once a year for a check-up, but for adults, that can vary between every three months up to 2 years.
In answer to how often you should get health checks, it really does depend on your personal circumstances. However, seeking the advice of a GP, nurse, dentist or optician, if you are worried about any aspect of your health should always be done sooner rather than later, and regular checks definitely won’t do any harm.