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Manage your health in your 40s

9-minute read

Key facts

  • Ask your doctor about screening tests for heart problems and cancer.
  • Your doctor can also screen for diabetes, kidney disease and osteoporosis.
  • Aim for a healthy lifestyle by eating well, being active and limiting your alcohol intake and not smoking.
  • Have regular eye tests and dental check-ups.

What health screening tests should I have?

Once you reach your 40s you should know about some conditions that start to become more common after this age. Talk to your doctor about what tests you need based on your health and family history.

You may be eligible for the one-off health assessment for people aged 45 to 49 years who are at risk of developing chronic disease.

Most healthy people in their 40s should have these screening tests:

Every year

Every 2 years

Every 3 years

  • have a diabetes risk assessment
  • have an eye test

Every 5 years

At regular intervals

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

What can I do to stay healthy?

To help stay healthy, you can:

  • quit smoking
  • eat well
  • limit your alcohol intake
  • be physically active

This will help to reduce your risk of:

Quit smoking

You can get support to quit smoking from your doctor, who may also give you nicotine replacement therapy or other medicines to help. Read about how to quit smoking, or try a service such Quitline — 13 7848.

Eat well

It's important to have a balanced diet and to stay within a healthy weight range.

Try to eat to eat 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables a day. A healthy diet also includes:

  • grains
  • lean meats
  • poultry — such as chicken and turkey
  • fish
  • milk, yoghurt and cheese

Limit sugar, saturated fat and salt.

Limit alcohol

Drink no more than 10 standard alcoholic drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day.

If you are driving or taking part in risky activities it's best not to drink.

If you have a condition that can be made worse by alcohol, your doctor may advise you not to drink any alcohol.

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning a pregnancy it's safest not to drink alcohol.

Be physically active

Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most — preferably all — days of the week.

Moderate-intensity physical activity is an activity that is energetic and raises your heart rate such as fast walking. Also include muscle strengthening activities 2 times a week.

Any physical activity in your 40s is better than none. Try to avoid sitting for long periods.

Are you at risk?

Find out if you're at risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes or kidney disease using our Risk Checker.

How can I prevent health problems?

The following health problems may become more common in people aged 40 years or over, especially if you have other risk factors.

However, there are some things you can do to help prevent these conditions from developing or getting worse.

Cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) includes heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease.

If you are aged 45 years or over, you should have a cardiovascular risk assessment every 2 years. Your doctor will ask you some questions and test your blood pressure and cholesterol as well as checking for other health conditions.

If you are an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person these checks should start from age 35 years.

You can help prevent CVD by following the healthy lifestyle recommendations above, as well as by reducing high blood pressure and cholesterol.

High blood pressure

How often you need a blood pressure test depends on your cardiovascular risk.

Your blood pressure should be checked:

  • every 2 years if your cardiovascular risk is low
  • every 6 to 12 months if your cardiovascular risk is moderate risk
  • every 6 to 12 weeks if your if your cardiovascular risk is high

If your blood pressure is high you will need to follow the lifestyle recommendations to try to reduce it. You may also need to take antihypertensive (high blood pressure) medicine.

Cholesterol and lipids

From the age of 45, you should have your cholesterol and lipids checked every 5 years. If you have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease this check should be every 1 to 2 years.

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people are advised to have tests from age 35 years.

You can help maintain a healthy cholesterol level with exercise and a healthy diet. You may need to take cholesterol lowering medicine.

Type 2 diabetes

If you are aged over 40 years you should be screened every 3 years to see if you have risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

If you are at high risk for diabetes a blood glucose test should be done every 3 years.

If your blood glucose test has been abnormal before you may need a test every year.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be screened regularly for diabetes from age18 years.

The healthy lifestyle recommendations can help prevent type 2 diabetes.

Stroke

If you are aged over 45 years your doctor may ask you about symptoms and risk factors related to stroke.

If you have atrial fibrillation or another reason to be at high risk of a stroke, your doctor should assess you every 12 months. Your doctor may recommend medicine for atrial fibrillation or other risk factors to reduce the chance of you having a stroke.

Kidney disease

If you are at high risk for kidney disease this should be checked every 1 to 2 years. Your doctor will arrange a blood test and a urine (wee) test.

Breast cancer

You should be familiar with the look and feel of your breasts and should see your doctor straight away if you see or feel any unusual changes.

Between the age of 40 and 49 years you can access a free screening mammogram through BreastScreen. However, research shows that most females in this age group won't benefit from regular mammograms.

Females with a family history of breast cancer may have an individual screening program developed by their doctor.

Skin cancer

Once you reach 40 years, your doctor may check your skin when you have an appointment for another reason.

If you are at high risk for skin cancer, you should have a complete skin check every 6 to 12 months.

If you notice any new or changing skin spots you should see your doctor.

Ensure that you are SunSmart and protect your skin from future sun damage.

Cervical cancer

If you're a female in your 40s you should continue to be screened for cervical cancer. The cervical screening test has replaced the Pap test. It detects human papillomavirus (HPV) and is more effective than the Pap test. HPV is a common infection that can lead to cervical cancer.

If you've had a Pap test, your first HPV test should be 2 years after your last Pap test. After that, you only need to have the test every 5 years if your result is normal.

Prostate cancer

If you're a male in your 40s and have risk factors for prostate cancer you may wish to talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of prostate cancer screening.

Colorectal (bowel or colon) cancer

If you're in your 40s and you have a family history of bowel cancer, you may need to do a faecal occult blood test (FOBT) or have a colonoscopy.

You can get a FOBT kit from your doctor or pharmacy and take a sample of your faeces (poo), yourself.

Depending on your results your doctor may recommend that you have a colonoscopy.

Osteoporosis and fracture

Osteoporosis is when your bones lose minerals and become more brittle. If you have osteoporosis you are at risk of fractures.

If you are a postmenopausal female over 45 years, your doctor may ask you some screening questions to assess your risk of osteoporosis.

To help prevent osteoporosis in your 40s, ensure you have 1,000mg calcium a day, this can come from food, drinks, or supplements.

Follow the lifestyle recommendations above, and get enough vitamin D.

Tooth decay and gum disease

You can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease at any age by:

  • brushing your teeth twice a day with a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste
  • using dental floss daily
  • limiting foods and drinks that are high in acid and sugar, especially between meals
  • visiting a dentist at least once a year

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Resources and support

You can call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Sources:

RACGP (Guidelines for preventive activities in general practice, 9th edition. Introduction.), Services Australia (Screening, tests and scans), Australian Government Dept Health (Medicare Health Assessment for People Aged 45 to 49 Years Who are at Risk of Developing Chronic Disease)

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2023


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