Most people between the ages of 50 and 70 are either still vigorously working, preparing for retirement or somewhere in between. No matter which category you fit into, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important. Health screenings and diagnostic tests are one tool to help you and your physician stay on top of your overall health.
Most people in their 50s and 60s should receive regular screenings for cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure. A cholesterol, or lipid test, measures the fats in a person’s blood; a surplus of lipids can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. A fasting blood sugar test — taken only after an eight-hour period of fasting — will reveal if a person has diabetes. An electrocardiogram, (EKG or EGG) will check for problems with the electrical activity of your heart. And a blood pressure check will help indicate an elevated risk for a variety of health issues including heart attack, stroke, heart and kidney damage. These four tests are generally performed as part of a routine physical exam. Personal and family health history and other factors will influence the frequency of testing recommended by your physician.
The American Dental Association recommends an annual exam by a dentist to examine the teeth for decay, gums for disease, and tongue, lips and soft tissues of the mouth for cancer.
To maintain proper eye health, visiting an ophthalmologist or optometrist once every two to four years is recommended. During this exam, the doctor checks eye movement, peripheral vision, eye pressure, color vision, and sharpness of your eyesight. This test will determine if a person has vision difficulties, needs corrective lenses, or is a candidate for vision correction surgery.
Most people in their 50s and 60s continue to experience a slowing of the metabolism that began around age 35. As a result, many people experience weight gain during these years. Your physician will likely check your weight and body mass index (BMI) to determine your risk factors for illness such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and other diseases.
Most colorectal cancers are diagnosed in people over the age of 50. Colorectal cancer screenings are used to detect cancer, precancerous polyps, and/or other abnormal conditions. The most common type of test is the colonoscopy, in which a gastroenterologist examines the length of the colon by using a long, thin flexible tube with a tiny video camera on the tip.
Some exams are genderspecific. For women, a mammogram and clinical breast exam should be performed at least every year or two, and the American Cancer Society suggests that women perform monthly breast self-examinations. A PAP test detects possible cancer and precancerous changes of the cervix; PAP tests are recommended annually for sexually active women. Your family practitioner or gynecologist will recommend the testing frequency right for you.
Men generally begin having prostate exams at age 50. This exam can be performed quickly and easily in a physician’s office using two tests: the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test and the Digital Rectal Exam (DRE).
The years in your 50s and 60s can be full of changes and events that can impact your health. An annual check up can help give an early indication of medical problems that may be developing. Contact your physician to determine a schedule of health screenings that meets your individual needs.
Russell Coryell is a nurse practitioner who practices with Harry Bass, MD. He cares for adult patients and performs a variety of primary care screenings. To schedule an appointment with Russell, call 522-0330.