The 21st of March is the first day of Spring – and we spoke to Dr Elizabeth Kershaw-Yates, GP and one of the medical team at TheOnlineClinic, to ask what we can do to have a full “spring clean” of our bodies.
Dr Elizabeth Kershaw-Yates told us what we should be checking for at different stages of our lives, and when.
In your 20s
Women in the UK should be getting screened for cervical cancer from the age of 25 (or 20 in Scotland). Women should do this every three years, up to the age of 49, and every 5 years after that.
For men and women in their 20s, sexually transmitted infections are one of the biggest health risks. People who are sexually active should get annual STI tests – and if they have unprotected sex or have multiple sexual partners they should be tested more frequently.
Remember that many STIs are initially symptomless but may cause infertility, severe complications, and can even be life-threatening if left untreated. It is also important to go for regular health check-ups; for those who need a good dentist, be sure to visit http://www.tallydentalpros.com/.
In your 30s
High cholesterol can become a problem during your 30s. It can lead to the arteries narrowing, stroke, and heart attack.
It’s a good idea to start having your cholesterol checked every five years after the age of 35. If you smoke, have diabetes, or are very overweight you should be tested more regularly. If you discover that you do have high cholesterol – you can begin to make lifestyle changes to prevent the condition from developing any further. To find out more about reducing your cholesterol, visit the British Heart Foundation website.
In their 30s, women should also get into the habit of checking their breasts for abnormalities or lumps at home. To find out details of how to do this, visit Breast Cancer Care UK.
In your 40s
People over 40 should also get their blood pressure checked every five years. If your blood pressure is too high, you can begin to make lifestyle changes to avoid further complications.
From your 40s onwards, your risk of developing diabetes begins to grow. From the age of 45 onwards, it’s a good idea to get checked for either diabetes or pre-diabetes (which is where your blood sugar is high and could develop into full-blown diabetes).
People who are particularly at risk of developing type 2 diabetes are:
• People closely related to someone with diabetes
• People of South Asian, Chinese, African-Caribbean or black African descent
• People who are overweight or obese
In your 50s
Urinary symptoms can begin to be a problem in men over 50. Some symptoms can indicate cancer – so talk to your GP about getting tested if you are concerned. There is no routine NHS screening service offered for prostate cancer, but you can be tested for it for free.
Osteoporosis – a common side effect of the menopause where the bones weaken – can become a problem for women in their 50s. If you are underweight, smoke, drink, and/or don’t regularly exercise, you are particularly at risk of osteoporosis. A DEXA scan tests for this – it is painless and quick and assesses bone density.
Women between the ages of 50 and 70 are also offered a free breast screening every three years of breast cancer.
In your 60s
People over the age of 60 are entitled to a free NHS eye test. The NHS recommends that you have your eyes tested every two years.
The risk of bowel cancer is higher for both men and women in their sixties – so the NHS offers free home testing kits to people between 60 and 74 (or 50 and 74 in Scotland). A colonoscopy procedure is recommended for this age group and even for those who are younger.
Men who are 65 can also be tested for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), a condition in which the main blood vessel leading away from the heart becomes swollen.
70s and older
The NHS does not invite people over 70 for routine screening tests – however that does not mean you are ineligible for free tests. Instead, it is up to you to put yourself forward for screenings and check-ups. Talk to your GP if you notice any new symptoms or changes to your body if you are concerned.
GPs will regularly enquire about memory issues in patients over 70 and will offer tests if you have any concerns.
As well as being aware of the particular health risks that can affect your age group, it’s also a good idea to have regular check-ups with the dentist and to have any unusual skin growths or moles looked at by a doctor.