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Health checks in your 70s

Find out about the health checks you need in your 70s

A grey-haired woman in her 70s laughing with a friend while holding an acoustic guitar in her yard
A grey-haired woman in her 70s laughing with a friend while holding an acoustic guitar in her yard

If you danced to the music of Elvis Presley, remember racing home to catch Leave it to Beaver on the TV and looked forward to meatloaf every Friday night, it’s likely you’re in your 70s. 

By now, you’ve probably had your fair share of regular health checks, but now you’re in your 70s it’s important to have regular and in-depth health assessments. These assessments will provide you with a structured way of identifying health risks, issues and conditions, many of which can be preventable.

We’ve put together a few key health checks that are important in your 70s but for personalised advice, the best port of call is your GP (general practitioner) – they can outline a plan based on your medical history and concerns.

For men:

For women:

Blood pressure check

Your GP will want to regularly check your blood pressure from the age of 18 years because high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke and problems with your kidneys. You usually won’t notice any symptoms, so make sure you request a check at your next doctor’s appointment.

What is a blood pressure check?

A blood pressure test measures the pressure in your arteries as your heart pumps. This test is conducted in a doctor’s surgery using a blood pressure machine and cuff.

How often should I have a blood pressure check?

At least every two years.

Who does the check?

A doctor or nurse.

Related: How to check your blood pressure from home

Skin check

In Australia, we have one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, with two out of three Aussies diagnosed by age 70. Regardless of your skin type, it’s time to get familiar with how it looks and consult your doctor if you notice a new spot or change in a mole. If you have a fair complexion or have had skin cancers in the past, this is even more important!

Depending on your skin cancer risk, your doctor may suggest occasional skin checks for melanoma and other skin cancers. Finding a melanoma early can save your life.

Keen to find out your risk of skin cancer? Take the personalised nib skin self-assessment now! Alternatively, if you've got a spot, mole or freckle you want to check out, it might be time to download the nib SkinVision app? With nib SkinVision, you can check your skin for signs of skin cancer anytime, anywhere – it’s as easy as downloading the app and taking a photo. You’ll receive personalised advice in minutes after uploading the photo.

What is a skin check?

A skin check involves a doctor checking over your entire body for skin cancers or suspicious lesions.

How often should I have this check?

There are no set intervals for most people.

For people at high-risk (anyone who’s had melanoma or who has more than five moles with an unusual appearance), skin self-examination should be done every three months and full body examination by your doctor every 6-12 months. Finding a melanoma early can save your life.

Who does the check?

Your GP or a dermatologist (skin specialist).

Related: How a skin cancer check can save your life

Heart health test

Cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke, impacts one in six Australians. The good news is that heart disease can be preventable.

From the age of 45 (or 35 in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders), your doctor would have checked your risk of developing cardiovascular disease (which includes conditions such as heart attack and stroke). Now that you’re in your 70s, this check becomes even more regular and specialised. Your doctor will ask whether you smoke or have diabetes and again recommend several simple tests.

What is a heart health check?

This simply involves having a chat with your GP about your family history of heart disease, your exercise routine, diet and whether you smoke or drink alcohol. Your GP will also check your blood pressure and cholesterol and, based on the results, they might recommend that you make some lifestyle changes or start medication.

How often should I have a heart health check?

This depends on your risk, but at least every 2 years.

Who does the check?

Your GP can do the test for you.

Related: How a heart health check can save your life

Diabetes risk test

More than 1.2 million Australians over the age of 18 now live with type 2 diabetes – a chronic disease where our body becomes resistant to insulin, or gradually stops producing enough. All people aged over 40 should be tested to check whether they are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. As we get older, our chances of developing diabetes and symptoms of diabetes increase.

What is a diabetes risk check?

The Australian Type 2 Diabetes Risk Assessment Tool is a questionnaire that estimates your risk of getting type 2 diabetes in the next five years. Those at high-risk should have blood tests to check their sugar levels every 1-3 years.

How often should I have a diabetes risk check?

Every three years.

Who does the check?

Your GP will ask you a series of questions.

Related: How a diabetes risk test can save your life

Weight check

Keeping within a healthy weight range is essential to both looking and feeling your best. Being overweight or obese puts you at risk of many chronic diseases, so it’s important to get help early if you’re gaining unhealthy weight. There are a number of things you can start to do today to reduce your risk of obesity and associated chronic disease.

What is a weight check?

Your GP can conduct this quick test by measuring your height and weight. These numbers will be used to calculate your BMI. As part of this appointment, your waist circumference will also be measured to help determine your health.

How often should I have a weight check?

Every year or two, depending on your risk.

Who does the check?

Your GP can do the test for you.

Related: How a weight check can save your life

Eye test

As you get older the likelihood of developing problems with your eyes increases, so it’s important to see your optometrist regularly!

Glaucoma - a condition that causes increased pressure inside the eyes – affects more than 100,000 Aussies aged over 55. It doesn’t cause symptoms until your eyesight has been significantly affected, so it’s worth taking an eye test to check for it and start treatment if needed. Other conditions, such as long- or short-sightedness, can also be picked up during an eye test.

What is an eye check?

During an eye check, an optometrist will examine the outside of your eye and test your vision. They will also test how well you see colours and look at the internal structures of your eye.

Your optometrist might put drops into your eyes to dilate the pupils, put your eyes through a ‘puff test’ to check the pressure inside your eyes or suggest you have a digital retinal scan. This is a special photo of your retina, which is kept to compare with your next scan.

How often should I have an eye check?

Your optometrist will let you know how frequently you should be tested, as it depends on your overall risk. Some people are at increased risk of glaucoma, a disease which results in progressive loss of sight.

Who does the check?

An optometrist or ophthalmologist (eye specialist).

Related: Do I need an eye test?

Dental check-up

Regular dental check-ups are recommended throughout life to keep your pearly whites in
good nick. The health of your teeth and gums can have an impact on your overall health, so dental check-ups have wide-ranging benefits. To keep your teeth in tip-top shape, brush at least twice a day, floss once a day and book in a dental appointment at least once a year.

While you can go to any dentist recognised by nib, by visiting an nib Dental Care Centre1 eligible members can receive 100% back on dental check-ups. Book an appointment online today.

What is a dental check-up?

This includes an examination of your mouth, teeth and lips. Dentists also usually clean the teeth and gums, and may offer you a fluoride treatment.

How often should I have a dental check-up?

At least once a year, but ideally every six months.

Who does the check?

Your dentist.

Kidney health check

Referred to as ‘the silent disease’, kidney disease often has no symptoms until it is well advanced, so kidney health checks are important for those thought to be at increased risk. Ask your doctor if this applies to you.

What is a kidney health check?

A kidney health check has three components: a blood pressure check, urine test and blood test. Your GP will also ask you a series of questions about your lifestyle.

How often should I have a kidney health check?

Every three years.

Who does the check?

Your GP.

Bone density test

Bone density tests can detect osteoporosis, a condition where your bones become less dense and prone to fractures. Women in their 70s tend to have other factors that can increase their risk of osteoporosis and may be offered this test - it’s something your GP can refer you for.

What is a bone density check?

A bone density check is a simple scan. Taking just 15 minutes, you lie clothed on a table as the scanner arm passes over you.

How often should I have a bone density check?

The frequency at which you should repeat the scan depends on your initial results.

Who does the check?

A GP measures your risk and a radiographer does the bone scan.

Hearing Test

Age-related hearing loss (or presbycusis) is the loss of hearing that gradually occurs in most of us as we grow older. It’s a common condition affecting approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74.

What is a hearing check?

An audiometry exam tests both your hearing function and balance. It uses decibels (dB) to measure the intensity of sounds your ear can detect (20dB for a whisper or 18dB for a jet engine). It also uses Hertz (Hz) to measure the tone of the noise. Did you know that humans can hear between 20 Hz – which is like a very low bass guitar – all the way up to 20,000 Hz – which is super high pitched. Any sounds above 20,000 Hz are known are ultrasounds.

How often should I have a hearing check?

An audiometry test can be done as part of a routine screening or in response to a noticeable loss of hearing. Your GP will know when it’s time to refer you on.

Who does the check?

A doctor who specialises in diagnosing and treating hearing loss called an audiologist generally administers the test.

Flu vaccine

You likely already know about the seriousness of the flu virus (influenza), but did you know that over 70s are even more susceptible and more likely to have complications as a result of it?

And, even if you aren’t affected by the flu, you can still catch it and pass the virus onto loved ones. To keep you safe, flu vaccinations are available from GPs and even some pharmacies.

What is the flu vaccine?

The flu vaccine is updated every year to keep up with the ever-changing virus and offers protection against seasonal influenza. It reduces your risk of catching and spreading the virus, as well as reducing the seriousness of symptoms and long-term complications as a result of catching it.

How often should I get the flu vaccine?

It’s best to be vaccinated every year as the virus mutates and becomes resistant to last year’s vaccine.

Who administers the vaccine?

A registered nurse at your local GP will be able to administer the vaccine.

Related: 6 flu myths debunked

70 year old man in a blue plaid shirt talking to his male doctor

Bowel Cancer Test

Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in Australia and the Cancer Council Australia recommends people aged 50-74 complete a bowel test every two years, so if you haven’t already been tested, it’s time to get (your bowel) moving.

What is a bowel cancer check?

From the age of 50, all Australians are sent an invite for a bowel cancer test kit. The FIT test is very simple and involves putting a tiny sample of toilet water onto a test card and posting it to the lab. The results are sent to you and your GP.

How often should I have a bowel cancer check?

Every two years.

Who does the check?

The test is done in your own home… and it’s free!

Related: How a bowel cancer test can save your life

Cholesterol and lipid check

A person with high cholesterol will usually experience no symptoms, and unfortunately, being a healthy weight is no guarantee that your cholesterol levels are ideal. High cholesterol and blood lipids (also known as blood fats) can lead to heart and blood vessel disease but, once diagnosed, it can be treated effectively.

What is a cholesterol check?

A cholesterol test is a simple blood test (and nowadays overnight fasting isn’t usually required, so you don’t have to go hungry!).

How often should I have a cholesterol check?

At least every five years, starting at age 45. Depending on your risk, you may need testing more often.

Who does the check?

Your GP can do the test for you, or provide you with a pathology request to have it done.

Related: Healthy cholesterol levels in Australia

Mental health check

In Australia, it’s estimated 45 per cent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, with three million Aussies currently living with depression or anxiety. So if you’re suffering with your mental health, rest assured; you’re not alone.

If you’re trying to improve your own mental health or support somebody else with mental health issues, Head to Health provides links to trusted Australian resources and treatment options.

What is a mental health check?

A mental health check is designed to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression.

How often should I have this check?

You should seek help if you have concerns about your mental health, or if you’ve noticed changes in the way you’re thinking or feeling.

Who does the check?

Your GP will conduct the initial assessment and can provide you with a referral to see a psychologist for up to six Medicare rebatable sessions. Once those six sessions are up, you can head back to your GP to ask for a referral for more rebatable sessions, with a maximum of 10 each calendar year.

Related: 6 ways to get help for mental health - and you won’t have to pay a thing!

Fall Test

Did you know that the average hospital stay as a result of a fall injury is approximately 15.5 days? That’s a long time to be away from your friends and family.

Which is why it’s so important to minimise your risk of a fall by taking a fall test.

What is a fall test?

A fall check involves standing on one leg for 10 seconds (with your eyes open) and then switching to the other leg. You’ll likely be asked to repeat this three times.

Next, you’ll be asked to complete the ‘timed up and go test’. Start sitting in a chair, then standing and walking at a comfortable pace for three metres in a line, before turning and returning to sit in the chair.

How often should I have this check?

At least once a year or as discussed with your GP.

Who does the check?

Your GP or healthcare professional.

For men:

For men in their 70s, urinary tract infection, prostate cancer and testicular cancer are real risks, so it’s important you visit your GP if you notice anything abnormal.

Self-check of testicles

Testicular cancer is treatable and formal screening tests aren’t needed, but the Cancer Council Australia recommends that men are aware of how their testicles normally feel. That way, if any lumps, changes or symptoms develop, you’ll be able to book an appointment to discuss with your doctor as soon as possible.

What is a testicle check?

This is where you roll each testicle between your thumb and fingers, checking for any unusual lumps or thickened areas.

How often should I check my testicles?

It’s an ongoing self-assessment – there is no official guidance on how often to do this check. If you ever notice any changes or find anything unusual, see your doctor.

Who does the check?

You do.

For women:

Cervical cancer test

Cervical cancer is almost always caused by a persistent infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV). Current screening methods test for these high-risk types of HPV and for precancerous changes in the cervix.

The HPV test detects infection with the virus before it causes precancerous or cancerous changes in the cervix, and has replaced Pap tests for cervical cancer screening.

What is a cervical cancer screening test?

During this test, a sample of cells is collected from your cervix, just like in a Pap test. The cells are then sent to a lab and tested for HPV (human papillomavirus).

How often should I have a cervical cancer screening test?

Your first HPV test should be two years after your last pap test, and then every five years after that if the results are normal.

Who does the check?

Your GP or practice nurse.

Related: How the new cervical cancer test can save your life

Breast cancer test

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Australian women. Fortunately, mammograms (a type of X-ray) can detect breast cancers at an early stage - much earlier than you can. This allows for more treatment choices, fewer mastectomies and fewer deaths.

As well as regular mammograms, you should also get familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts and do regular checks; if you find any changes report back to your GP.  Here’s a guide to performing a self-examination for breast cancer.

What is a breast cancer check?

A screening mammogram (a type of X-ray) of your breasts.

How often should I have this check?

BreastScreen Australia offers all women over 50 a free mammogram every two years. You can book an appointment by calling 13 20 50.

Who does the check?

A radiographer.

Need some extra support?

At nib, we’re committed to keeping you at your healthiest, which is why we offer a range of Health Management Programs available at no additional cost for eligible members 3.

These programs are delivered by qualified health professionals and designed to be tailored to your needs – whether that's to help get you in shape, keep you out of hospital, improve your physical and mental wellbeing or to aid a quicker recovery after you've had surgery.

For more information, check out our Health Management programs page.

Is it time for a health cover check-up?

Everyone’s health cover needs are different. To help you understand what level of cover is best suited to you, get in touch with our cover experts today to learn more about what people like you are commonly claiming on and what cover would be the best fit.

If you’re not with nib, but you’d like to find out more about our cover options, get a quote today or contact our award-winning member service team on 13 16 42.

Please note: This is not an all-inclusive list; there may be other health checks that are recommended based on your age and individual circumstances. The tips throughout this article serve as broad information and should not replace any advice you have been given by your medical practitioner. Please make an appointment with your GP to receive advice on the health checks you will need based on your personal circumstances.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at increased risk of many diseases, and so are often recommended to start health checks at an earlier age. You may also be recommended to have the tests or checks more often. Please see your GP for personalised advice.

1Payment by nib of dental benefits is subject to serving relevant waiting periods, annual limits and service limits. Check your cover by visiting Online Services or call 13 16 42. The dental check-up covers an examination (011, 012), scale and clean (114) or removal of plaque (111), fluoride treatment (121) and bite-wing or periapical x-rays (022, maximum of 2 per year), as deemed necessary and appropriate in the clinical opinion of the dentist (dentures not included). The services provided will be deducted from your annual limits and/or service limits. The 100% back offer is not to be used in conjunction with any other offer or government scheme, nor substitutable or redeemable for cash and is only available with dentists who have a preferred provider agreement with nib. ~nib Dental Care Centres are owned and operated by Pacific Smiles Group Limited ABN 42 103 087 449. The nib Dental Care Centre trademark is owned by nib health funds ABN 83 000 124 381 and is used under license by Pacific Smiles Group Limited.

2Bulk-billed eye examinations are subject to Medicare eligibility. nib Eye Care Centres are owned and operated by The Optical Company (NSW) Pty Ltd ABN 32 153 741 970. The nib Eye Care Centre trademark is owned by nib health funds ABN 83 000 124 381 and is used under license by The Optical Company.

3Available to eligible nib members who’ve held Hospital Cover for 12 months and served their relevant waiting periods. Additional criteria vary according to each program.

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