Whenever our cars have reached a certain age they require a full annual inspection to make sure they are in good condition and to spot any potential problems. But what about ourselves? Surely maintaining our own bodies is much more important than our cars? Is it time you took yourself in for an MOT? Our resident physician Dr. William Shields shares some valuable advice about keeping an eye on your overall health.

One of the most important messages I give to patients, as well as to friends and family who are over 65 is to be diligent about check-ups and vigilant for changes. Here are ten things that should be part of your regular personal health checks.

Dr. Will

Blood Pressure

If you’re over a certain age, your doctor will probably check your blood pressure every time you visit, even if you’ve gone to see them for something totally unrelated, like a bad back. The truth is, it’s very important to keep an eye on your blood pressure especially as you get older. High blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. While low BP can cause light head, dizziness, fainting and leave you susceptible to falls.

Cholesterol

Not all cholesterol is the same, in simple terms, there’s good and bad. A simple blood test will reveal the level of cholesterol in your blood. High levels of bad cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. The sooner you become aware of it the sooner you can take steps to address it – and there are lots of things you can do to reduce your levels bad cholesterol.  

Routine Blood Tests

Regular blood testing is one of the most important ways to keep track of your overall physical well-being. Having blood routine blood tests can reassure that all is well and can also highlight any need for further investigation. Your doctor will typically recommend that you get routine blood work at least once a year, around the same time as your yearly check-up.

Vaccines

Vaccines can help you avoid a lot of unwanted and potentially serious conditions. There’s the annual vaccine for seasonal flu but there’s also a vaccine to prevent shingles, a common and painful skin disease. There’s even a vaccine for pneumonia. Unlike the flu jab, people over 65 only need to be vaccinated for shingles and pneumonia once and you can have the vaccinations at any time of the year.

Bowel Cancer Screening

An easy, quick and non-invasive test is available to check for signs of bowl cancer. It’s advisable to get this done, especially for those over 60, as early detection makes a huge difference to the treatment and the outcomes.

AAA Screening

This one is just for the guys.  AAA stands for Abdominal Aortic Anuerism screening.  This is a test to check for enlargement in the artery in the abdomen, which can often go undetected in older men causing serious complications.

Prostate Check

Another one for the boys. An essential test for older men who notice symptoms such as urinating more often, waking more often at night to use the toilet or a change in the flow or stream of urination.  The test involves an examination of the prostate, where the Doctor places a gloved finger a short distance into the rectum.  This a short, straightforward check which can save lives.  A blood test is also required.

Breast Cancer

Screening is fast and pain free.  It is recommended for all women aged 50 and over, and for men and women of any age who notice changes or concerns.  Ongoing self-checking is vital as it’s the best way to ensure early detection and successful treatment. 

Skin checks

Check all areas your skin and make note of the size, shape and colour of moles or areas of pigment.  Taking a photo of areas of concern can help you to compare and record any changes over time. Have anything you’re not sure about checked by your doctor.

Memory and Mood

Be aware of any changes in your memory and mood, particularly those which linger or appear to advance.  You may wish to ask trusted friends or family if they have noticed changes too. Your doctor can provide you with checks and assessments to reassure you, or to help you get any treatment, help or support you need.