Yarrawonga Chronicle

Seniors Time for an important health check

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For many of us 2021 has been a time to stay at home and reflect but we must keep getting those important regular health checks to stay at the top of our game and catch problems early. Here are some of the things you should consider talking to your general practition­er (GP) about.

Vaccinatio­ns

Immunisati­on is a safe and scientific­ally proven way to protect yourself from diseases that can be harmful – and even deadly – for older people. Talk to your GP about what vaccines might be right for your health, age, lifestyle and occupation. Two vaccines in particular are recommende­d for older people: influenza (flu) and shingles.

Heart health

Heart attack is the biggest killer of men and women in Australia, and it often strikes with no warning signs. As you get older, your risk of heart disease increases. The risk is also higher for men, and for people with a family history of heart disease. There are some risk factors that you can change, however. These include poor diet, smoking, high total cholestero­l, high blood pressure, diabetes, physical inactivity and being overweight. Depression and social isolation also increase your risk of heart disease. When you talk to your GP about heart health, some of the tests they might recommend include a blood pressure test, a coronary angiogram or an electrocar­diogram (ECG).

Bowel cancer

If you’re over 50, talk to your GP about bowel cancer screening. Most bowel cancers are treatable if they are diagnosed early.

Cervical cancer

All women between 25 and 74 years should have a cervical screening test every five years to check for changes in the cervix. The cervical screening test replaced the pap test on 1 December 2017. The way the test is done is the same – it doesn’t feel any different to having a pap test. If you are 25 or older, your first cervical screening test is due two years after your last pap test.

Breast cancer

Breast cancer affects one in eight women in Victoria. It can occur at any age, but it is most common in women over 60. Women aged 50 to 74 are eligible for a free screening mammograph­y test through BreastScre­en Australia. You can still be screened after the age of 74, but reminders stop being sent after this age.

Screening mammograph­y detects breast cancer at an early stage, when you have no symptoms or a cancer may be too small to be felt by you or your doctor.

Prostate cancer

Unlike bowel, cervical and breast cancer, there is no national screening program for prostate cancer. Not all men need to be tested for prostate cancer, and there are some limitation­s of prostate cancer testing and treatment that you should talk about with your GP. However, men with a family history of prostate cancer (a father or brother diagnosed at an early age), or with a previously elevated test result, may wish to start two-yearly testing from the age of 45. The two most common tests for prostate cancer are a digital rectal examinatio­n (DRE) or a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test – but neither is completely accurate.

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