So, we find ourselves looking ahead again, to a whole new year.
- What can we do differently this year?
- What changes can be made to ensure we are still here in 12 months time, and looking forward to 2019?
As a 55 year old woman myself, I thought I would remind readers about the range of free, National Health Service (NHS) Health checks, currently available. Time to climb off the sofa and get those dates in the diary!
For middle aged women there is a lot on offer. Generally, it is still true, that prevention is better than cure! Also, that early detection leads to better health outcomes.
A free check up is offered to anyone aged 40-74 registered with a GP. This aims to assess your risk factors for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease and for people over 65, for dementia. This should be repeated every 5 years.
The appointment lasts 20-30 minutes, and involves you filling in a lifestyle questionnaire, a weight measurement, a height measurement and your having your Body Mass Index (BMI) calculated, your blood pressure measured, and a finger prick blood test.
You will be given advice about lifestyle issues such as how to lose weight, diet, exercise, alcohol and giving up smoking. You can arrange a cholesterol test.
Your appointment should be sent through the post from the GP surgery, but you can ring up and request it.
Heart disease and stroke are the major causes of death, and risk factors, such as obesity, smoking, raised cholesterol, lack of exercise are all modifiable.
This check up could save your life!
The cervical screening programme aims to check the health of the cells on the neck of the womb – the cervix. Because cervical cancer takes many years to develop, this lends itself to early detection, by having a cervical smear test.
Since the introduction of the NHS Cervical Screening Programme in the 1980’s, the diagnosis of cervical cancer has reduced by 50%.
Having a smear is generally not very pleasant, BUT, it’s about 30 seconds of embarrassment for something that could save your life! It’s very important to have regular smears.
Your invitation to have a smear should be sent to you in the post.
If you are:
- 25 - 39 you should have a cervical smear every 3 years
- 40 - 65 this should be every 5 years
- Aged over 65 - you only need a smear if you haven’t had one since age 50, or have recently had an abnormal test.
Breast cancer is the most common female cancer, with 1 in 8 women being diagnosed during a lifetime. Early detection increases the chance of survival.
Screening mammography is offered to women between the ages of 50 and 70, every three years.
Mammography is not pleasant, BUT, it is again only a few moments of embarrassment that could save your life!
The screening invitation should come in the post. You can check this up with your GP surgery.
It’s always important to examine your breasts and report immediately any changes, lump, thickening or alteration to the nipple.
If you have a strong family history of breast cancer you may be offered mammography earlier.
I would love to think a menopause consultation could be routinely offered to women over the age of 50. But at present, this is sadly not the case.
Having worked in and run a specialist menopause clinic for many years, I understand the difficulties women experience, in getting the advice and help they need.
The symptoms of menopause can be insidious, bewildering and it’s very hard for a woman to know what to do, or where to turn. Your GP /practice nurse will be the first port of call.
Menopause Matters is the most comprehensive information, support and guidance website on the menopause in the UK. Follow this link for example, put in your postcode, and find your nearest specialist menopause clinic.
For general menopause information, take a look at this factsheet ‘The Menopause,’ from Women’s Health Concern.
Managing the menopause is complex, but for completeness, I wanted to mention osteoporosis prevention.
It is very important to consider your bone health. Your diet, calcium and vitamin D intake and the strength/health of your bones called your Bone Mineral Density (BMD).
Bone thinning is silent and painless – until you have a fracture. Major fractures can be fatal. Having a scan (called a DXA scan) to check your bone strength, should be discussed as part of any menopause consultation.
Women need to use contraception until they have had:
- no periods off hormones, for two years under 50, or
- for one year if over 50, or until their 56th birthday.
STIs occur in people of all ages. There is a peak of infection in those over 40, who may be in new relationships and haven’t had to think about STI protection/ using condoms, for many years! Most STIs have no symptoms. Again early detection is vitally important to reduce the chance of long term complications.
HIV testing is a routine part of sexual health care. It’s very important, to go and ask for an STI screen, including an HIV test if you have never had one!
STI testing is not pleasant, BUT, it is again only a few moments of embarrassment that could save your life!
- Don’t forget your eye tests! - Oh and your dental checkups!
Yes - It’s 2018. And definitely -Time for Better Health!
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