Important health checks for every decade of your life

Written by Trudie McConnochie for Real Life Insurance.

When it comes to your health, the old adage is true – prevention is better than cure. Even if you’re feeling well, it’s a good idea to visit your healthcare professional regularly so they can check for any early signs of health issues, such as heart disease.

“Health checks are important for preventive medicine,” confirms Dr Bindiya Sethi, spokesperson for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. “We want to prevent some diseases from happening or detect them early if they are starting to happen, so that you can have a healthy lifestyle.”

Depending on your age, ethnicity, lifestyle, risk factors and family history, the specific health checks you need will vary. For example, if you have a family history of heart disease more regular blood pressure checks than the general population could be recommended by your doctor.

So, what are your next steps?  Firstly, you should read about all these important health checks but remember to always consult your GP about what’s right for you. 

In your 20s

Young man in his 20s eating an apple in rural landscape

While there are no official guidelines for skin cancer screening, Dr Sethi recommends all adults check their skin regularly from their 20s onwards. If you’re considered high risk – for example, you have fair skin or a lot of moles, have been badly sunburned, work outside or have a family history, your GP may recommend you book a skin check with a doctor or dermatologist every six months.

Please note, skin checks should also continue throughout your later decades, as skin health is an important factor no matter your age. According to the NSW Cancer Council, Basal cell carcinoma can develop in young people, but it is more common in people over 40, while Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) occurs mostly in people over 50.

In your 30s

Woman in her 30s riding a bicycle

For women, consider getting into the habit of self-checking your breasts, and see your GP if you notice any changes, such as lumps, thickening or contour changes.

“Once a month, [self] breast examination is important. You can speak to your GP about how to do a breast examination if you’re not sure,” Dr Sethi says. Note, breast checks (like skin checks) should continue throughout your lifetime.

In your 40s

Happy woman in her 40s posing with an avocado

Although mammograms don’t become standard until you reach 50, Dr Sethi suggests women talk to their GP about whether it’s worth starting earlier.

“When you turn 40, you should start thinking about getting mammograms done,” she advises. Mammograms should also continue through your decades; ensure you get your GP’s advice and guidance.

In your 50s

Happy man in his 50s on the beach

For men, prostate cancer testing is an option every two years from ages 50 to 69, but experts are divided on whether it’s necessary for those at low risk of prostate cancer, so talk to your GP. If you are high-risk, prostate checks could continue throughout your decades, at your GP’s advice.

In your 60s

Woman in her 60s doing yoga

In your 70s and beyond

Senior man in his 70s enjoying the outdoors

“With the 70s, we’re looking at the falls risk, and also keeping an eye on dementia, mental health and cognitive assessments,” says Dr Sethi. “If you see your GP regularly, they’re able to do all these preventative tests.”

Looking after those you love is important too

Optimal health throughout your life is the goal for both young, and the young at heart, but we know that anything can happen in life. Consider if you were to fall seriously ill or pass away, what effect this would have on your family financially? Most Australians insure major items such as their home, car or health, but what about the most precious asset: your own life? Find out about Real Life Insurance and how this could help.