This post is part of The Gorgeous 50’s series inspired by a book given to me by one of my sisters on my 50th birthday – ‘Grown-Up and Gorgeous in your 50’s’ by Pamela Robson. I will be sharing some of Pamela’s words and my own thoughts along the way. To see all posts published as part of this series, go here.
This is an introduction post to a string of posts within this series on the subject of health in your 50’s.
I know it’s very tempting to bury our heads in the sand and not think about things that could go wrong with our health, but the reality is that those days are over. We’ve reached an age where we really need to stay on top of things, so let’s face it head on and have a look at what we should be doing to take the very best care of ourselves so that we can be out there living and lovin’ life!
Your 50s is the time to take stock of your health. If you are still smoking and drinking the way you did in your 20s, you have some serious choices to make. What you do now can set the scene for the rest of your life.
Non-negotiable health checks for your 50’s:
Bowel cancer (colorectal cancer): you should have a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) at least every two years.
Cervical cancer: all women who have had sex and have not had a hysterectomy should have a pap smear every two years.
Coronary disease: you should have a cholesterol and triglycerides blood test every five years.
Dental health: have regular check ups.
Diabetes: if you are at risk of Type 2 diabetes – such as by having high blood pressure and being overweight – you should have a fasting blood sugar level test every three years.
Eye test – glaucoma/sight degeneration: women over 50 should have their eyes tested every five years.
Obesity: have your BMI – Body Mass Index – checked. You should do this about every two years or, if you are overweight, every 12 months.
Osteoporosis: about the time of menopause, all women should have a bone mineral density test. This is even more important if you have increased risk through early menopause, having a small frame, being a smoker or an excessive coffee drinker.
Skin cancer – melanoma: everybody should check their skin regularly – at least every three months. You should see your doctor every 12 months and they can direct you to a specialist if needed.
Vascular disease: you should have your blood pressure measurement taken every year.
Of course, if you have a family history or other increased risk factors for any of these conditions,
your doctor will probably recommend more frequent screening.
100% agree that your 50s is the time to take stock of your health. We can no longer handle abuse of our bodies (like smoking and drinking too much) and we can no longer ignore the fact that bad things can happen to good people (the big C is the main thing that comes to mind). None of us are immune, so it’s best to be proactive and on top of things so that anything nasty is detected early and can be nipped in the bud immediately and with a much higher chance of complete recovery. Hopefully nothing is ever detected but isn’t it best to know!
Love Pam’s list of non-negotiable health checks. Boy do I have some catching up to do! I wanted however to check that the facts she has stated are still current and also to provide links to further information, so here are my findings:
Bowel cancer: Bowel Cancer Australia say that screening every 1-2 years can save your life.
Breast cancer: BreastScreen Australia invites women aged 50-74 to have free two-yearly mammogram. Women aged 40-49 and 75 and over are eligible to receive free mammograms but do not receive an invitation to attend.
Cervical cancer:The Cancer Council of Australia advises that the National Cervical Screen Program (introduced in Australia in 1991) offers a free Pap test every two years to women between the ages of 18 and 70.
Coronary disease: Here’s what the Heart Foundation advises to do in order to keep your heart healthy.
Dental health: Everything you need to know about dental health here at the Australian Dental Association.
Diabetes: Find out here at Diabetes Australia if you are at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, and access information on what you can do to lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Eye test – glaucoma/sight degeneration: All you need to know about your eye health and vision and ageing at Optometry Australia.
Obesity: I’m personally not a fan of the BMI (Body Mass Index). It is good to use as a guide but I don’t believe it is completely accurate. It can’t distinguish between fat and muscle, which tends to be heavier and can tip more toned individuals into overweight status, even if their fat levels are low. Nor does it take into account age, bone density, overall body composition, and racial and sex differences. If you’d like to check your BMI as a guide, then there are heaps of BMI calculators available online, like this one at BUPA. If you are overweight or obese then the starting point for your treatment plan would be to seek appropriate advice and adopt a healthy lifestyle – healthy nutritious diet with portion control and regular activity.
Osteoporosis: Everything you need to know about detecting Osteoporosis here at Osteoporosis Australia. A bone density test will determine if any action is needed to improve your bone health. The result will indicate if your bones are in the range of either – Normal, Low bone density (called osteopenia), or Oesteoporosis.
Skin cancer – melanoma: There is currently no formal screening program for skin cancers in Australia. However, regular skin checks are highly recommended. Cancer Council recommends all adults should check their skin and moles every 3 months. Those at risk should have a trained doctor examine them at least once a year. Melanomas can develop in between visits to your skin cancer doctor, therefore you should know how to check your own skin and moles.
Vascular disease: I wasn’t sure what vascular disease actually was to be honest, so I did a little Google search. Vascular disease is an abnormal condition of the blood vessels. Blood vessels (arteries and veins) are the tubes through which blood is pumped throughout the body. Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to nourish every part of the body, including the brain, kidneys, intestines, arms, legs, and heart itself. It’s a sub-group of cardiovascular disease. Getting your blood pressure checked is important because the higher your blood pressure is, the higher your risk of health problems in the future. If your blood pressure is high, it is putting extra strain on your arteries and on your heart. This may also cause a heart attack or stroke. I couldn’t find information on recommended frequency of checks but I find that my doctor checks my blood pressure nearly every time I go for appointment these days, because of my age I suppose! It would be a good idea to get into the habit of asking your doctor to take your blood pressure when you visit, at least once or twice per year I would think (but ask your doctor what he or she recommends because frequency would depend on whether your BP is normal or not).
Are you having all those health checks done? Find a few that you were unaware you should be getting done? Let’s not bury our heads in the sand. Let’s be happy and healthy and live fun and active lives!
Ciao for now,
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