We all know the guilty feeling of giving up a New Year's resolution halfway through January. Here is one healthy change for the new year that isn't too difficult to get right. It doesn't involve running a marathon or starting a new fad diet. It's a simple step, but an important one that points you in the right direction to help prevent chronic disease and potentially an early death.
All it involves is picking up the phone and making an appointment with your GP to get your regular health checks.
"Health checks are one of the most important ways you can take care of your body and your health," says Jean Hailes Specialist Women's Health GP, Dr Amanda Newman. "Health checks are an excellent way to assess your current state of health, but they are also very useful in protecting your future health."
Health checks not only help your doctor diagnose health conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes, they can also reveal early warning signs of several other conditions.
"Cancer screening tests, for example, look out for any changes and early signs of the disease," says Dr Newman. "The tests can pick up things before the cancer has even developed and before you are experiencing any of the symptoms.
"In this way, a health check can be the first step in doing something about a health issue before it really becomes an issue."
The type and timing of health checks depend on many factors: your age, medical background, individual risk factors and family history. Your GP will be able to guide you through which tests are recommended for your specific needs and how often you may need them.
"Some of the common health checks for women include heart health checks (blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index), blood sugar tests for diabetes, mammograms for breast health, Pap tests for cervical cancer, bone density tests and bowel cancer screenings," says Dr Newman.
Research tells us that Australian women often avoid getting regular health checks because they are uncomfortable, embarrassed or feel like they are too busy.
"Some women find the actual tests a little uncomfortable or awkward and some women find it confronting to actually think about and talk about their health," says Dr Newman. "For these women, it can be helpful to remember that health checks are there to prevent ill-health and give you peace of mind.
"Plus, knowledge is power and when you know what you're dealing with, you're more empowered to do something positive about it."
One of the most important steps in getting your health checks in order is finding a GP with whom you are comfortable, and who understands your needs.
If you don't feel comfortable with your existing GP, ask a friend or family member for a recommendation for a new one. If you are attending a new clinic, ask the reception staff to tell you a bit more about the GPs who work there.
"The important thing is to have a health professional on your side – someone who you can call on for your regular health checks, who can put you in the best position for good health," says Dr Newman.
Read more about health checks on the Jean Hailes website, including the recommended tests for different ages and life stages.