We’ve scoured medical journals to summarise for you the 10 health checks you should get done this year. They’re easy; they’re free; and while some of them might feel a bit weird, they don’t hurt. So there’s no reason to put off checking that your health is in fine fettle.
1. Weight and BMI
Get on those bathroom scales and check if your weight puts you in the overweight category, which is a risk factor for many, many diseases. Try the Heart Foundation BMI calculator if you’re not sure. This is even easier if you have the Wii Fit because it will weigh you and assess your BMI for you, then help you set a goal and timeframe for how much weight to lose (or gain) and which exercises to do to get there.
2. Skin cancer and melanoma check
You can do this with an app on your smartphone these days, or use a mirror to check your skin all over for any moles that are growing, or other skin abnormalities that show the signs of skin cancer. Don’t rely just on your own “expertise” though – you should also get your GP to do this. They will look over all of your skin for any moles or other skin abnormalities that show signs of cancer.
3. Cholesterol and glucose test
This simple test check for signs of diabetes and high cholesterol levels. We also have some great tips for getting your Type 2 diabetes on track if the results are not what you’d like.
4. Blood pressure
Your doctor will wrap a blood pressure cuff around your arm and check that your blood pressure and your heart’s beats per minute are in the normal range.
5. Pap smear (for women)
Recommended every 2 years for women aged 18 and over, starting within 2 years of becoming sexually active. This test checks for cervical cancer and also provides the opportunity for your doctor to check for thrush or other vaginal problems. The test feels a bit weird, but it doesn’t hurt so don’t worry about it or put it off.
6. Bowel cancer test
The government pays for you to get this test every 2 years at certain ages from 50 years old onwards, but bowel cancer experts recommend you start checking earlier. Bowel cancer causes the second-highest number of deaths (after lung cancer) and it has a very low survival rate compared to other cancers, but it can be prevented and it is easier to treat if you catch it early.
Don’t forget about your immunisation boosters, especially the 10-yearly tetanus-diphtheria vaccine. Make sure your kids get all the immunisations they need, as well.
7. Dental check-up
The Australian Dental Association (ADA) recommends you go to the dentist for a dental health check-up every 6 months to a year!
8. Eye test
Get an eye test including the glaucoma and eye health test. Why not, when it’s free at any optometrist?
9. Mammogram or ultrasound breast screening (for women)
A mammogram is recommended every 2 years for women over 50 years old, and it’s free for women aged 40 and over, and ultrasound breast screening is recommended for younger women. These methods are not dangerous and will not cause cancer to spread, but ultrasound is simply more effective for younger women.
10. Hearing test
In this age of earbuds and headphones, roaring concerts and jet planes, hearing loss is not just a problem for the ageing anymore. You can get a free 5-minute test from most audiologists.
And there’s more…
Obviously there are also many, many more tests that you would only get done if you had symptoms that indicated something was wrong. For example, symptoms of prostate problems are very common for men over 40 years old but don’t usually mean prostate cancer, so your GP would only perform a prostate check if they deemed it necessary. GPs also do not perform routine testes checks because it has not been proven effective in diagnosing or preventing testicular cancer. As with breast cancer, however, the Cancer Council of Australia does recommend that men should become familiar with the usual level of lumpiness of their testicles and visit their doctor if anything changes.
There are also ageing-related health checks that your GP will be able to tell you about. One example is the bone density scan for osteoporosis. This test is usually only done on a GP’s advice for women over 65 years old or women over 45 years old who may have risk factors for osteoporosis.
Finally, there’s one health check you may not think about: Are you taking your annual leave? If not, you could be causing lasting damage to your health. Book a trip now! Research shows that travelling in your holidays is a highly effective way to lower your blood pressure, catch up on sleep to repair your brain performance, and prevent mental health issues.
What health insurance would cover if you found something
Let’s say the optometrist said it’s time for you to start wearing glasses. If you have extras cover, your health insurance would cover a large chunk of the cost of glasses. Or what if the dentist said you need a filling? Again, extras cover health insurance will make that more affordable.
When it comes to more serious things like treating cancer, hospital cover would cover you for a hospital stay as a private patient, including a colonoscopy, chemotherapy, physiotherapy, and even palliative care. Extras cover would help cover some of the costs of non-PBS medicines, psychological counselling, and health aids you may need after treatment.
Private health insurance could make all the difference to treating a serious illness before it becomes irreversible. For example, studies in 2014 showed bowel cancer patients live 8 months longer if they are treated as private patients rather than going through public system waiting lists.
We have provided a comparison table below that displays a snapshot of current low premium hospital and extras policies available. Please note that this table has been formulated based on a single male seeking cover in NSW. You can compare hospital and extras policies for yourself on the CANSTAR website.