The regular health checks you should take advantage of

by Ruth Nichol / 08 February, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - Health medical checks

Photo/Getty Images

You don’t have to be sick to have a medical health check, but if you have cause to see your GP, ask for one of these.

Kiwis don’t typically have annual medical check-ups in the way that President Donald Trump and many of his fellow Americans do. Wellington GP and medical director of the Royal New Zealand College of GPs Richard Medlicott says there’s a good reason for that: “There’s no evidence that people who have an annual health check are any better off than those who don’t.”

However, he says it is important to visit your doctor if you have symptoms you’re concerned about. You can also take advantage of a range of health checks, tests and vaccines to help you stay healthy during 2018.

  1. Cardiovascular risk assessment

Your doctor uses a range of measures to calculate your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. These include your blood pressure and cholesterol and blood-sugar levels. They’ll also take your family history and assess risk factors such as smoking, obesity, diabetes and previous high blood pressure.

Men aged 45-plus and women aged 55-plus should have a cardiovascular risk assessment every five years. Those of Māori, Pasifika or Indo-Asian descent or with a family history of heart disease or diabetes should start 10 years earlier.

If you have a risk score of 10% or higher, your doctor will recommend lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise and eating better. You might also be prescribed medication to help lower your blood pressure.

  1. Bowel cancer screening

Three district health boards already provide free tests to those aged 60-74 under the national bowel-screening programme. The Southern DHB will offer the free tests this year, followed by six other boards by the middle of next year, five more in the 2019/20 financial year and the last five in 2020/21.

The two-yearly test involves screening for blood in bowel motions. If you have a positive result, you might be referred for a colonoscopy to investigate further. Eligible participants will be contacted once their DHB joins the programme.

  1. Skin cancer checks

Check your skin every three months and see your doctor if you notice a new skin lesion or a mole or freckle that’s changed. If you’re fair skinned, you work or spend a lot of time outdoors or you have a lot of moles or a family history of skin cancer, talk to your GP about whether you need to have regular skin checks at their surgery.

  1. Regular mammograms

If you’re a woman aged 45-69, you’re eligible for a free two-yearly mammogram through BreastScreen Aotearoa. Younger women with a family history of breast cancer may also be eligible. You should be invited to join the programme when you turn 45 – contact BreastScreen Aotearoa if you haven’t been.

  1. Cervical screening

All New Zealand women aged 20-70 are eligible for a free three-yearly smear test for cervical cancer. This will change later this year. The tests will be offered every five years to women aged 25-69. The test itself is also changing. Instead of screening for abnormal cell changes, the test will initially screen for the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes most cases of cervical cancer.

  1. Prostate cancer checks

The jury is still out on the value of running national screening programmes for prostate cancer. If you’re a man aged 50 or more, talk to your GP about whether you should have a digital examination and a blood test to measure your levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which may indicate you have a prostate tumour. Have the conversation when you’re 40 if your father or brother has had prostate cancer.

  1. Shingles vaccination

From April, everyone aged 65 or older is eligible for a free dose of shingles vaccine Zostavax. If you had chicken pox as a child, you’re at risk of developing shingles when the varicella zoster virus reactivates, resulting in a painful rash that might cause vision problems and long-lasting nerve pain. The older you are, the more likely you are to get shingles.

This article was first published in the January 13, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

How to lose weight without a diet
87141 2018-02-25 00:00:00Z Nutrition

How to lose weight without a diet

by Jennifer Bowden

"The irony is the intentional pursuit of weight loss – dieting, in other words – is actually a predictor of future weight gain."

Read more
Baby boomers are rethinking retirement for a later-life reboot
87313 2018-02-24 00:00:00Z Social issues

Baby boomers are rethinking retirement for a later…

by Sally Blundell

The biggest cohort of baby boomers is reaching retirement age – and many are not planning a quiet dotage.

Read more
School shootings and Russian indictments
87455 2018-02-24 00:00:00Z World

School shootings and Russian indictments

by Joanne Black

Slaughter in a school and Russian social-media mischief: the US is under siege.

Read more
Beck to go back to basics at Auckland City Limits
87417 2018-02-24 00:00:00Z Profiles

Beck to go back to basics at Auckland City Limits

by James Belfield

Before headlining Auckland City Limits, Beck talks about celebrating his musical past on stage and on record.

Read more
Islands of the Gulf: How the Hauraki has changed
87427 2018-02-24 00:00:00Z Television

Islands of the Gulf: How the Hauraki has changed

by Fiona Rae

A broadcaster revisits her mother’s iconic Islands of the Gulf TV series to see what’s changed since the 60s.

Read more
Hokianga's Wild West fest's unusual way of fundraising
86388 2018-02-24 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

Hokianga's Wild West fest's unusual way of fundrai…

by Peter De Graaf

Once a year, the Wild West saddles up and rides into Waimamaku for a day of highway robbery.

Read more
Back on track: $60m to go into regional rail
87519 2018-02-23 14:43:30Z Economy

Back on track: $60m to go into regional rail

by Jane Patterson

Five regions will receive just over $60 million for rebooting rail in the first chunk of money from the Provincial Growth Fund.

Read more
Ricky Houghton is about finding innovative solutions to the issues facing Māori
87510 2018-02-23 14:21:31Z Profiles

Ricky Houghton is about finding innovative solutio…

by Clare de Lore

No government on their own can fix the problems facing Māori in the Far North, warns Local Hero of the Year Ricky Houghton.

Read more