Wellbeing / 13 May, 2020

Taking care of your health at every age

Dr Goh Lit Ching

Life changes with every decade and so does your body. Just as you set personal and work-related milestones, you should also set health goals for every stage of life.

This article outlines the most important things you can do for your health at each stage in your life.

In your 20s

  • Establish a healthy lifestyle by having a balanced diet, regular exercise, and a good sleep routine – Eating a balanced diet with the right amount of exercise helps to boost your immunity and gives you the energy to pursue your life goals. An unhealthy lifestyle will have a long term impact on your health, with the potential to develop cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease, joint disease, mood disorders and so on. It is wise to start preventing these diseases early on in life.
  • Avoid dangerous habits such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption – Life in your 20s can be very fun, with social activities such as gatherings, parties and meeting new friends. Peer pressure can be hard to say ‘no’ to, but it’s important to think of the long term impact on your health once you begin unhealthy habits at early stages of life. It can be hard to reverse the damage done to your health now when you want to in the future.
  • Protect your skin health – There are many factors that can contribute to skin breakouts (acne) or dermatitis (such as eczema). These can be a combination of lifestyle factors, hormone changes, stress, dietary factors, and environmental pollutants. It’s very important that you, at a minimum, take care of your skin by daily cleansing, moisturising and making sure your body is well hydrated by drinking enough water each day.
  • Safe sexual practice – For women who are sexually active, a Pap smear test is important for you from the age of 25-years-old and above. Pap smears are used for the detection of abnormal cervical cells which can potentially lead to cervical cancer if left untreated. These abnormal cells are usually caused by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection which is primarily acquired through sexual contact. It is very important for both genders to practice safe sex by minimising your number of sexual partners and using barrier methods such as condoms to reduce your risk of sexually transmitted disease (STD) and HPV infection.
  • Start doing self breast exams – Women should begin doing a breast self-examination at least once a month to familiarise yourself with how your breasts normally look and feel. If you notice anything abnormal, such as nipple discharge, changes in size or colour and any lumps, then make sure you bring it to the attention of your doctor. Most women have lumpy breasts at this age depending on hormonal changes and menstrual cycle, so it is important to get a clinical assessment with your doctor to rule out any other underlying issues.
  • Consider regular health screening – The Health Promotion Board (HPB) recommends screening for BMI, waist measurement and blood pressure for individuals aged 18-years-old and above. Laboratory tests and imaging can also be included for a more detailed screening, especially if you have a family history of a known medical disorder.
  • Vaccination – Vaccinations help develop immunity against infectious diseases and prevent the spread of these in the community. It is always better to get protected as early as you can. Some examples of recommended vaccines include influenza, Hepatitis, measles mumps rubella (MMR), tetanus diphteria pertussis (Tdap), chickenpox, and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccines.

In your 30s

On top of what you should have begun in your 20s, you should also:

  • Take care of your heart health – In your 30s, you might be putting all your time and energy into your career. Excessive stress at work, an unhealthy diet and not having enough time for exercise and sleep are common within the community. Your cardiovascular health might suffer as a consequence. It is important to continue having a well-balanced lifestyle.
  • Take care of your mental health – Mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and panic attacks can affect any age group. However, they can also be triggered by external factors such as major life events, a stressful lifestyle and burn-out at work. Engaging in activities that you enjoy, such as yoga, reading and meditating, can help you relax and feel positive. If you feel it is difficult to cope at any time, you should talk to your doctor or counsellor.
  • Consider family planning – Married couples who are considering to having a family should consider receiving a simple health screening to identify any risk factors or hereditary diseases that can increase maternal and fetal complications during pregnancy.

In your 40s

With stable career advancement and family planning, it’s time to:

  • Make your health a priority in your life – At this age, consider going for health screening packages that are more comprehensive with a greater number of investigations. It is important to screen for diabetes mellitus and high cholesterol if you have not done so earlier. Women aged between 40 and 49 should seek a doctor’s advice on the benefits and limitations of mammography. If a screening is performed, the HPB advises it to be done annually.
  • Be responsible for your health – If you have been started on any medications as advised by your doctor, continue to be on them until told otherwise.

In your 50s and above

  • Continue your healthy lifestyle but choose physical exercises wisely – At this age your risk of falls and fractures increase due to physiological changes, including postural instability. You may wish to consider a safer physical activity that will not cause excessive burden on your joints. Activities such as swimming, tai chi and indoor cycle are suitable.
  • Be more aware of new signs and symptoms in your body – If you are an active person who is used to performing strenuous physical activities, you can continue these activities but should be more alert for any newly onset signs and symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain and giddiness. These may need further evaluation by a sports medicine doctor to rule out any underlying cardiovascular diseases.
  • Screening for high risk diseases – At this age, the HPB recommend regular screening for colorectal cancer and breast cancer even if you don’t have any symptoms. For anyone with symptoms and/or family history, these screenings should begin at an earlier age following consultation with your doctor.
  • Vaccination – On top of your scheduled vaccinations, you should consider pneumococcal vaccination once you reach 65 years of age and above. This vaccine is important for prevention of pneumonia (lung infection) and pneumococcal disease caused by streptococcus pneumoniae Prevention is better than a cure, especially considering the increased risk of morbidity and mortality in older age groups who contract infectious diseases.

Recommended screening tests

At Icon Health Screening, we proudly offer a comprehensive range of health screening tests as recommended by the Health Promotion Board. For more information, click here.

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