What are the Must-Have Preventative Health Tests for Senior Citizens?

In 2017, senior citizens made up approximately 15.6 percent of the US population. But by 2050, people ages 65 and older will represent 22.1 percent of the nation. Although life expectancy is on the rise, that doesn’t always mean our quality of life increases along with it. In fact, it’s quite often the opposite.

We’re living longer, but the health problems we experience aren’t improving. Roughly 80 percent of all older adults have at least one chronic disease, with more than three-quarters of seniors being diagnosed with at least two. As we age, our physical and cognitive function starts to decline. In order for senior citizens to preserve their good health for a long as possible, there are certain health examinations they should undergo on a regular basis.

Cancer Screenings

Cancer is one of the top three leading causes of death among people aged 65 and older in the United States. That means that many seniors can’t afford to skip out on the recommended tests that may detect these conditions. That means older individuals will need to have a colonoscopy performed once every 10 years after age 50. Most women should undergo breast examinations and mammograms every one to two years, depending on recommendations from their physician. Pap smears and prostate exams can also allow doctors to catch the signs of cancer early on. While some of these tests do come with the possibility of false alarms, most professionals agree that it’s better to err on the side of caution when it comes to a potential cancer diagnosis.

Eye and Hearing Exams

For seniors, ear and eye health should be a top priority. Glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration are common among older adults, as is hearing loss. In fact, nearly 25 percent of adults between the ages of 65 to 74 have disabling hearing loss. Not only can hearing and vision loss have a profound effect on a senior’s ability to partake in enjoyable activities, but it can also keep him or her from being able to drive safely or to age in place without injury. Seniors should most likely undergo an eye exam every year (particularly if they wear contacts or glasses) and should schedule an appointment right away if they notice any worsening issues. Hearing tests should typically be performed every two years, though your physician recommend they be done yearly if you’ve experienced atypical hearing loss.

Dental Check-Ups

Sadly, many seniors forgo dental exams due to a lack of insurance coverage or the misguided impression that these appointments don’t have a huge impact on overall health. But to the contrary, oral health can be an excellent indicator of an individual’s health overall. For instance, gum disease increases heart attack risk and poor tooth health can make it far more difficult for seniors to properly care for themselves. Seniors should prioritize dental services twice per year and should make sure to see their dentist if they experience oral discomfort, pain, or loss of function.

Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Tests

Statistics show that one in three adults has hypertension, a condition often referred to as “the silent killer.” Elevated blood pressure can increase your risk for a heart attack or a stroke, while the arteries, kidneys, brain, and eyes can also be negatively affected by high blood pressure. Therefore, you should have your blood pressure checked at least once a year when you have your annual physical. Cholesterol tests are important too, though they don’t always need to be performed with the same frequency as a blood pressure exam. For many people, every three to five years is sufficient. Since high cholesterol can also lead to heart attack and stroke, catching this early on can allow your doctor to recommend lifestyle changes and medications to get your health back on track.

Bone Density Scan

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that one in four Americans aged 65 and above fall every year. If that doesn’t sound serious enough, consider the fact that an older American is treated in the emergency room for a fall every 11 seconds. For seniors who have osteoporosis, a simple fall could lead to permanent disability or even death. Although women are more likely to be affected by osteoporosis, men can be diagnosed with this condition as well. A bone density scan, which measures bone mass (a key indicator of bone strength), should be performed on a regular basis after women turn 65. Some men may not have to undergo this test until they reach the age of 80, though it’s best to follow your doctor’s recommendations.

Growing older is a fact of life. But that doesn’t mean you have to accept the prospect of being in ill health during your golden years. Although these screenings may not be able to stop the wheels that are already in motion, they can often allow patients and medical providers to slow down the progress of diagnosed diseases or even take steps to prevent them from ever appearing. If you prioritize healthy habits and undergo health-related examinations as recommended, you should be able to safeguard your health for as long as possible.