We all need to take good care of ourselves, whatever our age. Still, the list of risks and potential ailments does increase with age. It is important that seniors understand the dangers of becoming older and services currently available to them. Prevention is always better than the cure, so it makes sense to take advantage of screenings and medical testing when possible.
The following list highlights some of the critical areas of health and disease relevant to the health of seniors. Some tests are applicable from an earlier age, such as 45 onward or 50 onward. They are still part of a bigger network of medical tests for seniors. A combination of these medical tests could help to prolong life and manage many significant conditions. It all starts with a wellness physical exam.
It is essential that all seniors have a yearly physical exam to help determine some critical issues and warning signs. The first step here is to look at primary weight, height, and body mass index (BMI). This helps with fitness and weight issues.
Physicians will also ask questions about current medications and prescriptions, as well as general information on substance use, diet, and exercise. Seniors that drink, smoke, and don’t exercise are at a much higher risk of developing an illness. Some will also talk about mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.
Cardiovascular health checks and seniors
Heart health and blood testing are crucial with health checks for senior patients. Older hearts face great strain and risk, especially in those with damage through a long life of bad habits. There are many tests that physicians will administer to help in this area.
One of the most important regular tests for patients over 65 is blood pressure. This is quick, non-invasive check, but one that can highlight essential problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 64% of men and 69% of women from 65 to 74 years of age have blood pressure at a high level.
This means that the systolic number is between 120 and 139 or the diastolic number is between 80 and 89 mm Hg or higher. This could have major implications on the risk of stroke, heart attack, and hypertension. It is essential that patients undertake these tests regularly after one bad result to stay on top of the issue.
A good physical exam from a medical professional should involve an active blood panel. This simple test looks at the health of the blood for indicators of health and disease. This blood work will vary from patient to patient depending on medical history and the conditions highlight. Still, all will involve a blood count and glucose tests as standard. Again, those over 65 should provide these samples on an annual basis.
There are other heart and heart medical tests that are important for seniors on a regular basis. Abdominal aortic aneurysm scans come recommended to all those between 65 and 75 that smoked in their lifetime. This is a simple ultrasound screening that can save lives. Then there are tests to look out for a problem with high levels of cholesterol and triglyceride.
These substances can lead to cases of strokes and elevated heart attack risks. These test results will then result in a talk about improvements in lifestyle and diet, as well as some form of medication to lower the level to acceptable parameters. Regular subsequent testing should keep everything in order from there on.
Chest screenings for issues with lungs and breasts
When we look at heart health, it also makes sense to check lung health in seniors. A good, healthy respiratory system is essential to pump a reliable supply of oxygen around the body. Older women may also benefit from chest screenings in the form of mammograms. Annual chest x-rays are necessary for lung health and signs of lung cancer.
There is some debate over the frequency of the test, but some do so annually. Doctors should offer annual analyses to those with a history of heavy smoking, especially those still smoking. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends this until the age 80.
The American Cancer Society recommends that women between 45 and 54 receive a clinical breast exam each year. This involves a mammogram to check for the signs of breast cancer on a deeper level. Those older, especially those with a family history of the illness, may choose to continue with the screening each year. Others over 65 can drop down to every two years.
Other health screenings for older women
Mammograms and chest screening are just the starts for women’s health in the senior population. We often associate smear tests and pelvic exams with younger generations. There are still cancer risks and other health issues in the older population. Pap smears are still an essential tool for senior patients because they detect cervical or vaginal cancer.
This risk does not disappear in old age. There is also the fact that some patients may have both an active sex life and active bladder so that pelvic exams can help in many respects. These medical tests determine causes of incontinence or pelvic pain and can help to guide doctors towards the right solution.
Screenings for seniors to determine the health of the colon and prostate
The risks of colon and prostate cancer increase in older patients, so it pays to have regular health checks to look for warning signs. No patient wants to have to deal with a colonoscopy. It is one of the more unpleasant health tests for seniors on this list. These procedures can save lives. The good news here is that this isn’t annual. Patients over 50 should get one every ten years for routine checks, and more frequently with a history of polyps of colorectal cancer. It also helps to get an additional fecal occult blood test each year. This spots blood in the stool and highlights risks of disease before they get too dangerous. Then there is the less intrusive prostate exam. Again, the frequency can vary depending on risk factors. Regular tests are essential for all those over 50 with an average to high risk of prostate cancer.
Eyes, ears, and teeth medical tests for seniors
It is easy for patients and healthcare providers to focus on the most pressing issues when it comes to the health of patients. Heart problems and cancer screening are a priority. Seniors cannot overlook some more basic health needs, such as sight, hearing, and oral health. Each deteriorates with age and requires regular checks to keep on top of problems.
Starting with the health of the eyes, many American seniors will notice a worsening of their eyesight. This is one of the reasons why the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommend a baseline screening for all adults at the age of 40 and beyond. In addition to the general deterioration of vision, there is the increased risk of cataracts and glaucoma in older patients. Annual tests should spot the signs before it is too late.
When it comes to the teeth, seniors will benefit from a periodontal exam during a regular check-up or cleaning session. This involves a simple x-ray of the mouth for a closer look at the teeth, gums, and jaw. The risk of damage and poor oral health can increase with age, and some may experience some interactions with medications.
Then there are the ears. Like sight, hearing is a sense that slowly worsens with age. Some will experience less sensitivity to frequencies, while others deal with arthritis of the ear and hearing loss. An annual hearing test will spot the signs of hearing loss with ease.
Bone health and vitamin testing for seniors
Another common issue in older patients is a loss of bone density that results in a higher risk of osteoporosis and other bone problems. Medical tests can help to spot warning signs, as can tests for levels of vitamins that may be deficient. Statistics from the International Osteoporosis Foundation show that as many as 75 million people suffer from osteoporosis in the United States, Europe and Japan alone.
There are more women sufferers than men, but all seniors should receive bone scans to determine bone density. There are also countless Americans with a Vitamin D deficiency, which relates to bone health. A test of vitamin levels could help with treatment options here. Improved Vitamin D levels can also protect against heart disease and some cancers.
Important vaccinations for seniors
(Source: Alliance for Aging Research)
Many people associate vaccinations with two periods of life. We get lots of injections and boosters in childhood and adolescent to ensure immunity to significant disease. Then we top ourselves up with shots for significant illnesses when we travel – such as malaria and other tropical diseases. Vaccinations are not something that we associate with old age. If we haven’t caught it yet, we’re probably not going too.
However, there are still essential vaccinations that seniors need to consider. The need for treatments will depend upon the current health records of the patients and other risk factors. There are four essential shots that all senior patients should consider. They are the tetanus shot, which occurs every ten years, the annual flu shot, a pneumococcal vaccine and one for shingles. Flu and pneumonia are common killers in the elderly, especially when patients struggle with respiratory issues. Vaccinations can hold off the worst strains.
Cognitive health and memory
Many healthcare professionals and official sites tend to focus on the physical side of health care and testing for seniors. Heart health, respiratory illness, and cancers are top of the list. They will promote blood tests and physical screening that can detect signs of physical disease and other conditions. One of the most significant problems in the elderly population is dementia and Alzheimer’s.
This degenerative condition robs many seniors of their memories and sense of self. Those that spot the warning signs early, like cognitive problems and senility, can control the situation more easily. Seniors should discuss concerns and solutions with a health care provider on a regular basis.
Screenings and talks for mental health problems in seniors
This also leads to the additional issue of mental health problems in older generations. Again, like some female issues and other procedures, there is an association between depression and younger generations. We forget that older patients are as susceptible due to life events and other traumas.
Recent bereavements, health issues or financial problems in retirement can trigger depression, anxiety, and insomnia. It is essential that practitioners talk about these risks with patients so that problems don’t slip under the radar.
Other essential conditions that doctors may spot with regular senior medical tests.
There are all sorts of conditions and problems that can afflict the elderly and aging population. It makes sense to test for as many as possible to avoid significant problems down the line. Two issues that patients should consider here are thyroid problems and diabetes. Many seniors will undergo a blood test to check levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
This will determine the current function of the thyroid, as well as potential disorders. Warning signs to report to doctors include weight gain, muscle and joint aches and fatigue. Data from the American Diabetes Association showed 29.1 million Americans living with two diabetes in 2012. That figure grows with bad lifestyle choices and old age. Doctors recommend regular screening for all those over 45 to keep on top of risk factors and symptoms.
There is a lot here for the average American senior to consider.
It can seem a little overwhelming when laid out one after the other like this. But, this just highlights the fragility of health in later years and the importance of regular checks. A basic physical is a great start, but there is room for so much more to help bring peace of mind to seniors and their families. Some of these medical tests are once in a blue moon, others annual.
But all have the potential to guard against significant illness and deterioration of health. All seniors and their caregivers should talk to health care professionals about the issues raised, especially in cases with high-risk factors or family histories. It is better to go in and get yourself checked yearly and update all information in your chart, so your doctor is current on your overal well being.