Important Screenings for Seniors

Health screenings are a crucial part of maintaining a healthy body as a senior citizen. Through screening, chronic illnesses can be caught early or prevented altogether.

A medical professional can address risk factors that can lead to a serious illness, allowing you to correct them and potentially avoid such an illness. For example, it is easier to correct blood pressure that is a little high than it is to treat hypertension or cardiovascular disease.

The purpose of these screenings is not only to discover illnesses that you may have, but assess your risk for future medical problems. It is very important that you follow recommendations that your primary care provider makes. In some cases, your doctor may want to do a second screening soon after receiving the test results from the first. You should always participate in health screenings as your doctor suggests. To learn more about the important health screenings that are recommended for senior citizens, especially those over the age of 65, review the information that has in the sections below.

Engage in Early Detection Tests and Screenings

Even if you feel fine, it is important to see your primary care provider on a regular basis and participate in early detection screenings, as these screenings can ensure that you live a longer and healthier life. Having these screenings performed on a regular basis can prevent illness or catch an illness at an early stage, allowing for a greater chance of successful treatment. Oftentimes, screenings can detect risk factors long before you begin to feel ill or experience various symptoms of an illness.

Blood Pressure Screening

Generally, it is recommended that you have your blood pressure checked at least once every year. However, depending on the results of your blood pressure screening, it may be recommended to have blood pressure checked more often. Additionally, your doctor will likely recommend more frequent checks if you have a chronic illness such as heart disease, kidney problems or diabetes.

An ideal blood pressure should be within the range of 120 to 139 for the top number (the systolic number) and between an 80 to 89 mm Hg for the bottom number (the diastolic number). If you monitor your own blood pressure, it is important to schedule an appointment with your doctor if the systolic number becomes higher than 140 or the bottom number becomes greater than 90.

Cholesterol Screening

If your cholesterol levels are generally normal, you may only need to have a cholesterol screening once every five years. However, if you have high cholesterol or other chronic diseases, such as kidney problems, heart disease or diabetes, your doctor will likely recommend more frequent cholesterol screenings in order to monitor your levels. You may also be recommended a healthy diet plan that can help you to lower your cholesterol levels.

Colon Cancer Screening

Until you are 75 years old, you should complete the following colon cancer screening tests:

  • A fecal occult blood test once per year
  • A flexible sigmoidoscopy test every 10 years, also known as a digital rectal exam

Or

  • A colonoscopy once every 10 years

If you have risk factors for colon cancer, such as ulcerative colitis, a family history of colon or rectal cancer or a history of growths called adenomatous polyps — you will likely need a colonoscopy more often.

Diabetes Screening

If you are in good health, you will likely only need to be screened for diabetes every three years. However, if you are overweight, obese, have a family history of diabetes or you have any other risk factors for diabetes, ask your primary care provider if you should receive a diabetes screening more often. It is incredibly important to catch diabetes early as unmanaged diabetes can lead to other complication such as blindness and permanent hearing loss.

Vision Exams

It is important to continue to have vision exams once every one to two years, especially if you are still driving. Due to the risk to vision that diabetes poses, it is recommended that you have a vision exam more often if you have been diagnosed with diabetes. Additionally, schedule a vision exam with your doctor if you experience symptoms such as blurred vision or a reduction in overall vision.

Mammograms and Pap Smears

It is recommended that you perform a monthly breast self-examination and report any lumps, bumps or changes to your primary care physician. However, experts agree that self-exams are not enough to rule out breast cancer. Therefore, it is recommended that you have a mammogram performed every one to two years. Some experts do not recommend having mammograms after the age of 75, so talk with your provider in order to determine what is best for you after 75.

If you are 65 years of age or older and you have never been diagnosed with cervical cancer or pre-cancer, you can stop having pap smears if you so choose to do so, so long as you have had three negative tests within the past 10 years. If you are younger than the age of 65, it is important to continue receiving pap smears on an annual basis.

Prostate Cancer Screening

In recent years, prostate screening has no longer been performed routinely on men that have shown no symptoms as the potential benefits do not always outweigh the potential harm of testing. Therefore, it is crucial that you speak with your doctor about prostate cancer and if you have any risk factors that may make a screening more necessary.

Osteoporosis Screening

Osteoporosis commonly affects senior citizens, especially women. Therefore, it is important to speak with your doctor about the exercise routines that can help you to prevent osteoporosis, relieve symptoms or delay the onset of osteoporosis. It is also recommended that you have a bone density test done, especially if you have risk factors such as:

  • Long term steroid use
  • Low body weight
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Fractures or broken bones after the age of 50
  • A family history of osteoporosis

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