Essential tests for common women’s health issues

Health checks for women become more important the older you get.

But with so many things on your plate, it’s hard to know which health tests to put on your must-do list.

To make this easier, we’ve prepared a list of four health checks for women over 40. The best part is, you can organise most of them from home.

Please keep in mind that depending on your age, family history and health, additional (or different) health checks might be needed. If you have any specific health concerns, do make time to discuss these with your doctor.

Four health checks for women over 40. Are you up to date? #womenshealth #over40 Click To Tweet

1. Blood sugar and diabetes

About half a million Australians are living with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes, which can cause serious health complications like blindness, kidney damage, heart attack and stroke.

One of the best ways to prevent type 2 diabetes is to find out if you’re at risk before it even occurs.

Pre-diabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as having type 2 diabetes.

There are often no symptoms of pre-diabetes, but you can check your risk with a simple at-home blood test.

This diabetes (HbA1c or glycated haemoglobin) test measures your average blood sugar level over the previous three months.

You doctor can order a HbA1c blood test for you to take at a pathology collection centre, or you can order our fingerprick blood test online.

The test collection kit is mailed to you and we only need a few spots of blood from your fingertip for our Canberra-based pathology lab to analyse your sample.

A benefit of using the MyHealthTest service is that you can monitor how your levels are tracking over time.

Do you know your average blood sugar levels? There’s a simple test to check your risk of pre-diabetes #womenshealth #HbA1c Click To Tweet

2. Tired? Test your thyroid

Health checks for women: MyHealthTest’s Thyroid Blood Test service allows you to monitor your TSH levels and share your results with your doctor

An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) often develops over time, so you might not notice the symptoms straight away, or you might put them down to just being busy.

Thyroid hormones control your metabolism – so they determine how your body uses energy. If your thyroid gland doesn’t release enough hormones, your metabolism slows down, potentially leading to a range of health issues.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism can get worse if left undiagnosed and untreated, so it’s important to act on any signs early.

If you’re feeling tired, lethargic, breathless, or gaining weight or retaining more fluid than usual – your doctor may recommend a blood test to check the amount of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood.

You can either have this test by visiting your doctor and getting a referral to your local pathology centre, where they’d do a needle-in-vein blood test, or you can order the test yourself and do a fingerprick thyroid (TSH) blood test from home.

A simple at-home check like this may give you peace of mind or the information you need to respond to a health issue early and get more medical advice.

Underactive thyroid symptoms are easily missed. Check your #thyroid with a simple at-home fingerprick blood test. #womenshealth #over40 #healthchecks Click To Tweet

3. New cervical health test

If you’re due (or overdue) for a pap smear, it’s important to know that cervical screening has changed in Australia.

The pap smear test, which was a two-yearly examination to detect early signs of cervical cancer, has now been replaced with a new cervical screening test that’s done every five years.

The test is a simple procedure to check the health of your cervix. It feels the same as the pap smear, but tests for the human papillomavirus (known as HPV).

Importantly, starting in 2018, there’s also a new option offered specifically to under-screened women who are over 30.

This will give eligible women the option of collecting their own sample for testing, known as self-collection.

You can find out more about the new cervical screening test self-collection from the Cancer Institute NSW.

Did you know 2-yearly pap smears have been replaced by a new 5-yearly cervical screening test? #womenshealth #healthchecks #papsmear Click To Tweet

4. Cholesterol and your heart health

Did you know that heart disease kills almost three times more Australian women than breast cancer? In fact, it’s one of the leading causes of death for women – many heart attacks in women occur without warning and sadly 40% are fatal.

A 2010 national report on Australian women found the most common risk factors for heart disease were high cholesterol, being overweight or obese, and physical inactivity.

High blood fats like cholesterol and triglycerides are major risk factors for heart disease because they cause narrowing – or complete blockages – of the arteries, leading to heart attack or stroke.

If you’re over 45, or an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman over 35, the Heart Foundation recommends seeing your doctor for a heart health check, which includes a cholesterol blood test.

Did you know many heart attacks in women occur without warning and sadly 40% are fatal? #HeartDisease #healthchecks #womenshealth #over40 Click To Tweet

Speak to your doctor

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, you can organise a whole raft of women’s health tests from the comfort of the couch, but don’t forget to make time to check in with your doctor too.

A doctor who knows your family and medical history is extremely important to your long-term health and wellbeing. They’ll also be able to advise you on any additional health checks you might need, how often to test, what your results mean, and what to do next.

While you can organise lots of #womenshealth checks from home, don’t forget to make time to check in with your GP too. #healthchecks #over40 Click To Tweet

For more information about health checks for women, please talk to your doctor.

Additional information is also available from Jean Hailes for Women’s Health and the Better Health Channel.

Womens health check

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