hankfully, 85 per cent of Aussies visit their GP yearly, the Queensland Government reports. For the rest, a word of warning: having a regular check-up is the most effective way of staying healthy, picking up early-warning signs of disease or illness, and preventing conditions from worsening. If you’re confused about what health checks and tests you need, concentrating on the main health risks women face over a lifetime is a good place to start. Here’s how to safeguard your health now and in the future.
It’s time to turn the spotlight on stroke risk, says the National Stroke Foundation, which reports that strokes kill more women than breast cancer. A stroke happens when the supply of blood to the brain is suddenly disrupted. Reassuringly, you may lower your risk through monitoring your blood pressure, reducing your alcohol intake, being physically active and watching your weight.
Check it out: Early detection and effective control of risk factors may greatly reduce your chances of stroke. Dr Ronald McCoy, of the Royal Australian College of General Practice, says although checking blood pressure and cholesterol is important, diabetes also plays a role in increasing stroke risk, so make a point of having a diabetes assessment. for 50 to 70 per cent of cases. To maintain a healthy mind, employ a use-it-or-lose-it attitude. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, found brain training may reverse age-related memory decline and improve the health of brain cells.
Check it out: The Mayo Clinic says many of the same factors that increase the risk of heart disease may also apply to Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia (the second most-common form of dementia). “One of the most common causes of chronic disease – this includes heart disease – is obesity,” Professor Teede says. Determine whether your weight is within a healthy range by having your GP measure your waist and body mass index.
4Up to nine out of 10 lung cancers are caused by smoking, reports the Victorian Government’s Better Health Channel website. “The number one thing people can do to protect their health is not smoke,” Dr McCoy says. But all is not lost if you’re a smoker, he adds. If you smoke for five years, within five years of quitting your body will recover and your risk of smoking-related disease will be close to that of a non-smoker.
Check it out: If you are among the 51 per cent of Australians aged over 35 who smoke or are ex-smokers, discuss your lung health with your doctor – even if you have no symptoms. In doing so, together you can monitor any changes. A test to assess if there is any obstruction or narrowing of your airways may be required.
5If statistics are anything to go by, the message about early breast cancer detection is being acted on, with a woman’s risk of dying from the disease declining from a one-in-29 risk in 1982 to a one-in-37 risk in 2007, says the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre. While you can’t change your genetic risk, living well will go a long way to protecting your breast health. That includes exercising, getting enough sleep, managing your weight, eating healthy food and cutting your alcohol intake.
Check it out: For young women breast awareness is as simple as getting to know the normal look and feel of your breasts and reporting any unusual changes to your doctor, says the centre’s chief, Dr Helen Zorbas. For women over 50 a free mammogram is recommended every two years. Those at higher risk, such as women who have a family history of breast cancer, may be advised to have one more often.