Preventative Health and Screening

Understanding your risk of developing health problems is a first step toward good health.

Maintaining good physical and mental health, a well-balanced diet and an active body will ensure you stay healthy and well. Regular physical checks, routine health screening tests and vaccinations help to keep you in shape. They can help ensure that common, serious health concerns and conditions like diabetes, cancer, or heart disease are detected and treated early. During check-ups, your health care providers can also suggest ways to make lifestyle changes to stay healthy and prevent future health problems.

A useful website containing information about a range of conditions is HealthInfo.

Healthy Eating

A healthy diet protects you against many chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Eating a variety of foods and consuming less salt, sugars and saturated fats, are essential for healthy diet. Talk with your doctor, nurse or health coach about maintaining a healthy weight. For more information on healthy eating, visit NZ Nutrition Foundation.

Healthy Weight

Obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. A healthy diet and regular physical activity help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight starting at an early age and continuing throughout life. Many factors can contribute to gaining too much weight including eating patterns, physical activity levels, sleep routines, genetics, and certain medications.

Check weight annually if Body Mass Index (BMI) is within normal range. More frequently if participating in a weight loss management program.

Talk with your doctor, nurse or health coach about maintaining a healthy weight.

Being Active

Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Being active can improve your brain health, help manage weight, reduce the risk of disease, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve your ability to do everyday activities.

Below are the levels of physical activity WHO recommends for people of different ages.

  • Children and adolescents aged 5-17 years – At least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily.
  • Adults aged 18–64 years – At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or a combination of both
  • Adults aged 65 years and above – At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or a combination of both.

Mental Wellbeing

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make life choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Mental health affects overall health.  For example, depression increases the risk for many types of physical health problems, like diabetesheart disease, and stroke. On the other hand, chronic health conditions can increase the risk for mental illness.

Doctors on Riccarton have a behavioral health team working alongside our doctors and nurses to support you to make lifestyle changes to improve your health. Te Tumu Waiora (To Head Towards Wellness) team includes Health Improvement Practitioners and a Health Coach. They can look at what you eat, how you sleep, personal and work stresses, smoking and alcohol etc.

Stop Smoking

Stopping smoking (smoking cessation) is one of the most important health changes a patient can make.

Smoking increases the risk of many conditions:

  • respiratory
  • cardiovascular
  • diabetes
  • cerebrovascular
  • peripheral vascular
  • cancer (lung, laryngeal, oro-pharyngeal, stomach, pancreatic, renal cell and bladder cancers)
  • Smoking cessation will have almost immediate effects on the reducing the risk of cardiovascular events.
  • The major risks can reduce within 2 to 5 years of stopping smoking but for some conditions the risk never returns to that of non-smokers.
  • 80% of adult smokers begin as children. Ensuring young people avoid smoking is important as nicotine addiction can occur rapidly at this age.
  • For every year that you continue to smoke after the age of 40, life expectancy will decrease by 3 months.

Talk to our doctors and/or nurses today if you wish to stop smoking.

Impacts of Alcohol

Alcohol contributes to the development of over 200 health conditions that can affect our quality of life. It is also one of the biggest risk factors for cancers, stroke, cardiovascular diseases, assaults, falls, car accidents, and drowning.

What is safe or healthier drinking?

Plan to have at least two alcohol-free days every week.

And when you do drink, keep to:

  • Two standard drinks a day for women and no more than 10 standard drinks a week.
  • Three standard drinks a day for men and no more than 15 standard drinks a week.

Reduce your risk of injury on a single occasion of drinking by drinking no more than:

  • Four standard drinks for women on any single occasion.
  • Five standard drinks for men on any single occasion.

Talking about your condition with a health professional can help you to develop a plan that is achievable, safe, and suits your lifestyle.

Personal Health Checks and Screening

We recommend that all patients have regular personal health checks so that we can discuss with you how to keep yourself healthy throughout your life. These health checks include talking to you about current health issues, asking about symptoms you may have, reviewing past medical problems, discussing significant family medical problems and reviewing general lifestyle issues like diet, exercise and smoking behaviour.

We usually do some tests, like blood and/or urine tests, and in some cases recommend further special tests. Our suggestions for the frequency of these medicals are 1 medical before 30 years, at least 2 medicals in your 30s, every 2 years in your 40s and yearly over 50. Your doctor may suggest having a medical more frequently in some circumstances.


Diabetes is a condition where there is too much sugar in the blood. It occurs when there is not enough effective insulin in the body. Insulin is a hormone which is required to allow the body to use sugar. Untreated, diabetes can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and cause blindness and nerve damage.

What are the symptoms?

  • Passing urine frequently (every hour or so)
  • Feeling thirsty most of the time
  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • A tendency to get infections, especially of the skin
  • (In children) loss of weight

Diabetes which is not managed properly can lead to damage of the heart, eyes, kidney and feet. You can see your doctor for a simple blood test if you suspect you may have diabetes or for any advice. Diabetes screening in asymptomatic people is also recommended for those who are at high risks.

Talk to our doctors and/or nurses today if you wish to discuss further.

Cardiovascular Disease Assessment

A heart attack or stroke is usually quite sudden. However, the changes in your arteries that lead to a heart attack or stroke take place over a long period of time. Most heart attacks and strokes are preventable – this is why it is important to learn what leads to a heart attack or stroke because it will help you to understand why making lifestyle changes is so important. Knowing your personal risk of developing cardiovascular disease is also essential in order for you to reduce your risk.

Your risk of having a heart attack or stroke can range from mild to very high, based on your risk factors. People with conditions like diabetes are at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Your doctor or nurse can assess your risk factors and estimate your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke in the next five years.

For a simple, quick heart check you can do this via the Heart Foundation website.

Click Cervical Cancer Screening for more information on this screening.

Click Breast Cancer Screening for more information on this screening.

Click Prostate Cancer Screening for more information on this screening.

Click Testicular Cancer Screening for more information on this screening.

Bowel Cancer screening

The National Bowel Screening Programme is a free programme to help detect bowel cancer. It is being offered every two years to people aged 60 to 74 years who are eligible for publicly funded health care. Information on who is eligible for publicly funded health services is available on the Ministry of Health website or by phoning 0800 924 432.

If you are eligible to take part, the National Bowel Screening Programme will sent you:

  • an invitation letter
  • a consent form
  • a free bowel screening test kit, with instructions on how to use it.

The test can be done at home and is simple to do. Find out more at Doing the test.

However, international recommendations are that we start thinking about this from age 45. Please discuss with your doctor if you have any symptoms such as change in bowel habit and blood in your stools.

If you are eligible and have not received your screening test kit, please ring 0800 924 432 to request a kit.

Vision/Glaucoma Screening

Glaucoma New Zealand recommends that everyone has an eye examination every 5 years until age 60, and three-yearly after that. Those with risk factors for glaucoma such as a family history of glaucoma or steroid use should be examined earlier. An optometrist will do this. You can find optometry near you to do the test.

Retinopathy eye check every two years is recommended for diabetics. See your GP for a referral.

Audiology/Hearing Test

We can’t easily “see” what is happening with our hearing, so we need to have it tested regularly.

Hearing tests can range from simple screening tests which just let you know whether you have a hearing loss or not – to full diagnostic tests that accurately assess how much you are hearing.

If you have concerns about your hearing, please make an appointment with our doctors to discuss more. We offer simple hearing tests and can refer you to an audiologist or specialist if needed.

Dental Exam

Regular check-ups will enable your dentist to prevent and treat any oral health issues. An annual check-up is usually recommended. However, some people may need more frequent check-ups. A dentist will assist you with this.

Sexual Health Screening

Some sexually transmitted diseases (STD) don’t have symptoms so you might not know you have an STD. Other STDs might have symptoms like discharge from the vagina or penis, pain in the lower abdomen, or sore testicles.

There are many reasons why you might want to have an STD test, such as:

  • if you and a new partner are beginning a sexual relationship
  • if you have had unprotected sex
  • if you think you may have an STI
  • if you just want a routine sexual health check
  • if a condom broke
  • if you are pregnant
  • if you have symptoms or just feel something is not right.

Please make an appointment with our doctors and nurses to discuss more and answer your questions.

Sexual health consultations are free for eligible people 14-17 years.

Vaccination Recommendations

Doctors on Riccarton actively supports immunisations as a way of getting a healthy start to life for children and to protect the community from recurring epidemics. We offer the full range of recommended fully funded vaccinations on the New Zealand National Immunisation Schedule and most non-funded vaccinations.

Please click here for more information on vaccinations.