Going to the dentist or visiting the doctor is probably no-one’s idea of good fun. We’ve all felt the temptation to procrastinate booking the next appointment with our GP! But there’s always a very good reason why certain health checks need to be repeated each and every year. Whether it’s to keep your teeth strong and healthy, or it’s to detect the potential onset of specific diseases, scheduling in regular health check-ups is the best way to take care of your overall health and longevity.
When it comes to looking after your mind and your body, it’s important to be diligent, because you never know when you might unexpectedly fall ill or experience other health problems. If you’re unsure what aspects of your physical wellbeing need to be looked after on a regular basis, keep reading to discover all those vital health checks you should be keeping on top of.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Australian Government have recently identified eye health as a significant health problem. Chances are, you’d probably notice if your eyesight significantly declined in a short amount of time, but would the same be true if losing your eyesight was a much slower process? Typically, this is how eyesight deterioration tends to occur. One day you might realise your eyesight isn’t as sharp as it used to be, but you may not be able to pinpoint the exact time when this began to occur. It makes a great deal of sense that eye health is an increasing health concern. In the modern world, we tend to spend a great deal of time straining our eyes, whether we do so by staring at computer screens, squinting at our phones, or watching the television. Using these technological devices day in and day out can have a highly significant impact on your eye health over time, so it’s imperative to have your eyes checked on a regular basis. Everyone can benefit from having routine eye exams, but people who have a family history of poor eyesight should be especially vigilant about arranging regular check-ups. This becomes increasingly important as you grow older and your eyesight begins to naturally deteriorate.
Eye exams test both the strength of your eyesight and the health of your eyes, and can help you to detect the early signs of:
- Glaucoma, a common eye disease which is the leading cause of irreversible blindness
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which commonly affects those over the age of 75 and can cause either a gradual or sudden decline in vision
- Cataracts, which is the clouding of the clear lens in the eye that leads to vision impairment
- Diabetic retinopathy, which occurs when diabetic complications cause damage to the retina
Eye problems are one of the most common health concerns the world over. In Australia alone, over ten million Australians have reported a long-term eye problem, which comprises roughly half the country’s population. As a person’s eyesight can change markedly over the course of a few years, you can see why it’s a good idea to pencil in that appointment with the optometrist.
A trip to the dentist is more often than not groan-inducing, and it’s not hard to see why. No-one really enjoys having a stranger poking and prodding around in their mouth with sharp tools! However, spending an hour each year getting your teeth checked, and taking care of your teeth yourself, is by far preferable to the potential alternative – namely, suffering from a variety of painful teeth and gum diseases. Dental decay, which is caused by plaque, is the most common disease to affect teeth. It occurs when the bacteria in your mouth and the sugar in the food you eat produce acid, which dissolves the crystals of your teeth and can result in white spots and cavities. Plaque can also cause gum disease, by building up on the gum line of teeth and causing the gums to become inflamed. The good news is that you can actively prevent tooth decay and gum disease, simply by practicing good oral hygiene. Consider the following suggestions:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day, ostensibly in the morning and at night, or after meals
- Use floss and mouthwash for further decay prevention, if your teeth aren’t too sensitive
- Limit your intake of sugary foods and drinks
- Drink plenty of fluoridated water
In addition to your own oral care regime, you should arrange to visit the dentist once every year to keep an eye on your oral health. These appointments are simple routine check-ups, in which your dentist will examine your mouth, teeth and gums. They may also ask you a few questions about, and offer advice on, your general health and your oral care habits. When it comes right down to it, the anticipation of the trip to the dentist is generally more unpleasant than the actual appointment itself! Remember that to keep your teeth strong and healthy in the long run, it’svery important to keep returning for your dental check-up every year.
It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about your everyday wellbeing, but there’s many reasons why you should begin to consider your heart health more seriously. There are various lifestyle factors, such as the food you consume and the amount of physical activity you engage in, that can significantly affect your blood pressure, your blood cholesterol,
your weight, and your overall cardiovascular health. Many heart diseases and disorders may not seem obvious, so even if you don’t have a family history of heart problems, it’s still important to schedule regular check-ups with your GP or another medical professional. While there are certain risk factors for heart disease that you can’t control, such as your age, there are lifestyle changes you can make which can drastically improve your heart health. These include, but are not limited to:
- Refraining from actively smoking, and trying to avoid exposure to second-hand smoke
- Eating a healthy and nutritious diet, including plenty of fruit and colourful vegetables
- Staying active and regularly engaging in some form of physical exercise
- Limiting your consumption of foods that contain trans-fat, such as deep-fried foods, takeaway meals and commercially-baked goods
Leading a sedentary lifestyle and indulging in an unhealthy diet can heighten the risk of multiple health problems, such as increased blood pressure and the increased tendency of blood clots. This can lead to heart complications in the near and/or far future, which is why you should begin establishing heart-healthy lifestyle habits as soon as possible. If you’re feeling worried about your family history of heart health, it’s a good idea to have a chat to your doctor about your concerns. Your doctor will be able to advise you on any additional steps you can take to improve your overall health and wellbeing, and having your blood pressure checked periodically will allow you to stay ahead of and plan for your unique health situation.
Once you become sexually active, having regular sexual health check-ups is a definite priority. Men and women both should arrange to have a routine check-up once every two years. Discussing your sexual history and sexually related health concerns can be embarrassing, so it’s very important that you find a doctor you feel comfortable with. You may decide to visit your family doctor, find another doctor of your own, or visit a sexual health clinic – the choice is yours.
Sexual health check-ups will typically involve standard physical examinations, to check that you are healthy down under and are not suffering from any diseases or infections, sexually transmitted or otherwise. These tests may be a little uncomfortable but they should not be painful, so be sure to ask your doctor to explain the procedure(s) beforehand if you’re feeling apprehensive. Your doctor will also ask you about your sexual history at your check-up, and may ask you to detail your sexual behaviour, relationship history, and past and current health problems. It’s important to be honest when answering these questions, as they are necessary for your doctor to accurately determine your sexual health status. If you suspect that you may have contracted a sexually transmitted disease or infection (STD or STI), it is advisable to see your doctor as soon as possible. However, even if you’re feeling perfectly healthy, it’s still imperative for you to have your sexual health check-up on a regular basis. If you have any further questions about sexual health, be sure to book an appointment with your GP, or otherwise consult the Australian government’s sexual health information resource.
Put Your Health and Well-being First
When it comes to health problems, prevention is always better than treatment. That’s why it’s so important for you to arrange routine check-ups for the various aspects of your physical health. While we can all adapt our lifestyles in certain ways to keep ourselves feeling strong and healthy, sometimes we do need a helping hand, and that’s what the medical professionals are there for. Take advantage of their expert advice and take better care of yourself today by booking in your next doctor’s appointment.