health

How many of these 9 things are you up-to-date on?

Natalia Hawk

Confession time: I don’t remember the last time I went to the dentist.

Some people might think this is no biggie. But I’m prone to serious gum problems – it runs in the family (thank you, genetics from dad’s side, I wanted nothing more than a lifetime of flossing like a maniac). As a result, I’m meant to visit the dentist every six months. At least.

But you know what? Life gets in the way. And I can think of at least four hundred other things, just off the top of my head, that I’d rather do than go to the dentist. Even going for a Pap smear. Which, incidentally, I only recently did because my doctor had a note in her system that I was overdue and sprung it on me as a surprise during an appointment relating to something else entirely.

Worst surprise ever.

Nevertheless, it’s no secret that we ladies are terrible at keeping up with our appointments. We get distracted by life. We prioritise everything in front of our own health – including the health of everyone else we know. We underestimate the importance of looking out for our health, despite the fact that we know perfectly well that we’re supposed to put our own oxygen mask on first before helping others.

So here is our guide to the appointments you should be making – and how often you should be making them. Have a read and then pick up your phone and make some appointments if you’re overdue for any…

Every two years

It’s recommended that adults get an eye exam every two years.

1. According to the Australian government’s National Cervical Screening Program, all women over the age of 18 who have had sex should have a pap smear every two years – even if they are no longer sexually active.

You are recommended to continue having pap smears even after menopause… that’s a lot of Pap smears to look forward to. Of course, if a smear shows significant cell changes or if your medical practitioner is concerned, you may have to get them more frequently.

2. An eye exam is recommended for adults every two years. After the age of 40, the Optometrists Association of Australia recommends paying special attention to changes in your vision and making even more regular appointments, as you are at a much higher risk of certain eye conditions, which can lead to permanent vision loss if left untreated. Incidentally, eye examinations provided by optometrists are subsidised by Medicare for all permanent residents of Australia.

3. The Cancer Council of Australia recommends that women aged 50-74 should get a mammogram every two years to check for breast cancer. This involves checking for cancer even if there are no symptoms, and can be an incredibly effective way of picking up cancer in its early stages. Of course, if you notice any changes in your breasts at any age, please go and see a doctor. Appointments are free and women across Australia can book by calling 13 20 50.

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The Cancer Council of Australia recommends that women aged 50-69 should get a mammogram every two years to check for breast cancer.

4. In terms of your blood – the Victorian State Government’s Better Health Channel suggests that you should have your blood pressure checked every two years if there’s no family history of high blood pressure. If there is, you may want to have it checked more often.

5. Blood tests, particularly tests to check cholesterol levels and blood triglycerides, are recommended every two years if you’re over the age of 45; these tests can help pick up on things like heart disease.

Every year

6. The Better Health Channel recommends that women have a general check-up every year, where you chat to your doctor about any concerns you might have, and also mention your family’s history of certain diseases. Often, things like heart disease, diabetes and even certain cancers can be picked up quite early, where you have a better chance of being treated more effectively.

The Cancer Council also recommends making an appointment with your doctor for a check-up if you notice any of the below symptoms, as they could potentially be a sign of cancer:

– Lumps or sores that don’t heal (like an ulcer in your mouth)
– Coughs or hoarseness that won’t go away
– Unexplained weight loss
– A mole or skin spot that changes shape, size or colour
– Changes in your toilet habits

This is a great guide for checking your own skin regularly, and for keeping note of changes to moles and freckles.

Think about checking in to see a dentist every six months.

7. The Better Health Channel also recommends that you are tested for STIs every year between the ages of 15 and 29 if you are sexually active. Don’t wait for symptoms to show up – you may not have any.

8. The Cancer Council suggests that men and women who are 50 years and older should test for bowel cancer every year, using a bowel cancer kit.

Every six months

9. It’s recommended by most dentists that you see them twice a year in order for preventative dentistry – they can give your teeth a proper clean and check for any problems that you won’t see or feel until it’s too late. Think cavities, gum disease and even oral cancer. This is particularly relevant for those in high-risk groups, such as smokers and those with a high risk of gum disease. Those with consistently perfect teeth and gums (lucky you!) can get away with going for less frequent check-ups, but check with your dentist.

Are you overdue for any appointments?BE HONEST!

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