Your 30s are a time to focus on good habits and get tested for some important medical issues. Australian Medical Association Vice President, Dr Tony Bartone, explains how some check-ups can prevent health problems arising in the future.
Health checks continued from your 20s
Heart disease, stroke and complications from diabetes are all leading causes of death in Australia. The regular checks you should start getting in your 20s of your blood pressure, cholesterol and weight, should then continue every two years during your 30s. “In terms of physiology, there’s an overlap between a person in their 20s and 30s,” says Dr Bartone. “Blood pressure checks are a necessity, no matter what your age.”
Routine pelvic exams (including the five-yearly human papillomavirus [HPV] test) for women, testicular exams for men and skin checks are also still advised. Why? “We see the predictors of some of these diseases in our 40s and 50s, but maybe even our 30s, depending on genetics, lifestyle and diet,” Dr Bartone reasons.
Mental illness affects one in five Australians each year. If you are concerned you may be suffering from mental illness, check in with a health care professional. Treatment or support can be provided for conditions such as depression, anxiety and stress-related disorders. A physical exam, lab tests or a psychological evaluation may be used to provide a diagnosis, or rule out other problems (like thyroid issues) which may be causing symptoms.
“Mental illness is an often-overlooked condition by the general population, but it has significant impact,” stresses Dr Bartone. “By the time someone’s contemplating suicide it has significantly progressed, but often there are warning signs.” According to AIHW, for men and women aged 25-44, suicide was the underlying cause of death.
Preconception and pregnancy
More Australian women are now delaying pregnancy. “People in their 30s are probably in more stable relationships and wanting to start a family,” Dr Bartone reasons. However, a decline in fertility speeds up after the age of 35, with a greater risk of miscarriage, birth defects and pregnancy-related complications.
“Basic checks include a blood examination to determine that you’re not anaemic, and that antibody levels and vaccinations are up to date,” describes Dr Bartone. “Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) testing might also be needed.” For instance, chlamydia can cause infertility, while a lack of immunity to German measles (rubella) can seriously harm your baby. Also, your doctor will advise on medications and supplements (like folic acid), or further screen for genetic conditions (like Down syndrome).
Hormone levels of this neck gland are checked using a blood test. Your thyroid can become cancerous, overactive or underactive and point to problems including autoimmune disease. “Thyroid dysfunction can be caused by iodine deficiency,” Dr Bartone clarifies. Women (especially those experiencing infertility) are among those most at risk, which increases with age. A urine test can determine your iodine levels.
However, a family history of thyroid issues pre-determines that you might be susceptible. “It’s one of those general things to screen for, especially if someone has been unwell for a period and is not responding to other measures. They may be feeling lethargic, or have unexplained weight loss or gain,” he shares.
- Alcohol and drug dependency
If you drink more than the recommended guidelines, or need help withdrawing from smoking or addiction, your doctor can assist with detoxification or counselling. “Dependency issues are obviously a significant part of society today and that forms part of the screening,” Dr Bartone advises.
Also, chronic abuse leads to many additional health complications. Liver diseases such as cirrhosis and hepatitis, mental health disorders, lung, breast and many other cancers are linked to substance use disorders. “We'll ask about family history, drug and alcohol issues and smoking,” adds Dr Bartone. “Depending on the analysis and your condition, we may include further things like a liver function test.”
Test timings are recommended as general guidelines only. If you have a family history or are at high risk of a disease, get checked more frequently according to your doctor’s advice.
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