Give Yourself a Health MOT

08/03/2016 10:23 GMT | Updated 08/03/2017 10:12 GMT

Are you as healthy as you think? The truth is many of us pay more attention to ensuring our car is roadworthy than to ourselves - and that can include us doctors.

Most of us know we should be routinely checking for suspicious moles, lumps and bumps. But how many of us actually do it?

And, even when it's obvious that our body's trying to tell us something, it's often easier (and sometimes less embarrassing) to ignore it - especially when we're busy with other things.

Often it's nothing to worry about. But in the same way that an annoying rattle in your car can signal a mechanical fault, small problems can sometimes point to something bigger. And the longer you put off having it seen to, the more you risk storing up trouble for yourself.

The same for those pesky health checks you keep getting letters for. They may seem like a pain, but that's nothing compared to the pain of a debilitating and possibly life threatening illness. Which, if you'd only gone for regular checks, might have been prevented.

It's not about acquiring any special skills or knowledge. It's simply getting to know your body - and picking up and acting on anything unusual that could signal that something's wrong.

Here are three essential health checks to help you on your way:

Boob check

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the UK. One in seven women will get it in their lifetime. The risk increases as you get older - 80% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed in the over 50s. But most of us know at least one younger woman who's had it.

So the message to all women is get to know your boobs! Check them once a month at roughly the same time. When having a bath or a shower can work best.

Soap up your hands and feel for any lumps or bumps, then check in the mirror with hands above your head and on your hips to look for anything unusual in skin or shape. But avoid doing it when you have a period, as breasts can be lumpier at this time.

The more you understand what's normal for you, the easier it will be to spot any changes without panicking unnecessarily. And remember, treatment for breast cancer has come on in leaps and bounds, so the early you pick it up, the better your chances of a cure.

Balls check

If you're a young man you may not think about cancer too much. But when it comes to testicular cancer there's something you should know.

Unlike most other cancers, testicular cancer is more likely when you're younger or middle aged (aged 25-49). In fact it's the most common cancer in this age group - though it can affect older and younger men too.

But the good news is that more than 96% of men with testicular cancer will be cured - as long as it is picked up and treated promptly.

All reason enough to do a monthly testicle check. So once a month when you're in the shower gently roll each one between fingers and thumb.

Get to know how your balls feel normally. And if you find something strange, don't stew over it - go straight to your doctor. This will give you the best chance of early diagnosis in the unlikely event of testicular cancer.

Weight and waist check

Keeping an eye on your weight is one of the best things you can do for your health. Piling on the pounds increases the risk of conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even some cancers.

But watching your weight doesn't mean obsessing over the scales. This only increases your obsession with food, and can be counter productive. Weighing yourself once a month is quite enough.

In fact, studies show the proportion of weight you have round your middle is actually a better guide to health - with men particularly prone to putting on weight in this way.

So if your waistband is getting tight, or you have to go up a clothing size, then it's time to act. In particular, if your hip measurement is smaller than your waist measurement.

And by act, I don't mean dieting because the evidence is that dieting doesn't work in the long term. It's about getting the right support to change habits, so you can get the weight off and keep it off.

And if you are apple shaped or overweight, definitely see your doctor for regular health checks.

And more...

Of course these aren't the only checks needed to safeguard your health.

Whether it's your skin, eyes or ears, your mood and energy levels, your loo habits or any unusual aches and pains, to mention just a few, be alert for any changes or warning signs. Particularly as you get older - 50 may be the new 40, but only as long as you get the health maintenance that you need.

The message is simple. Get to know your body and what is normal for you to feel healthy - and don't let your car be the only thing that gets an MOT this year. For more health and wellbeing advice visit www.vavistalife.com