Visiting a doctor is usually not high on the top of anyone’s list of “things I love to do,” but in order to maintain good health and retain the ability to age in place, certain medical tests are recommended as are annual check-ups.
Medical guidelines on required testing are continually changing and if you only visit your physician when you’re ill, chances are you are missing out on medical tests that could catch potential medical issues; the earlier they are caught, the earlier they can be treated. Being proactive about your health is the best piece of advice as you age.
Here are some items to discuss with your physician and some tests that should be performed to keep you healthy as you age:
- Become diligent in setting up an appointment for an annual check-up. When you only visiting the doctor when you’re ill, that is not the time for him to perform an annual wellness check. During an annual check-up, your doctor will gather information about changes in your overall health, your lifestyle, your living situation, any changes in weight and any other concerns you may have. He may also recommend you get the flu vaccine annually. Other vaccines he may recommend include: shingles, this is a one-time shot given to individuals aged 60 and older; tetanus vaccines are given every ten years; vaccines for pneumonia are recommended for individuals aged 65 and older or for those with compromised immune systems.
- Health measurement tests such as having your blood pressure checked and your cholesterol levels monitored are recommended. Your blood pressure is typically checked every time you visit your doctor, should be done at least every two years or annually if your numbers are high. High blood pressure can lead to an increased risk of stroke or heart disease. A baseline cholesterol should be taken at least every five years unless you had a test resulting in elevated numbers.
- When is the last time you visited a dentist? You should be seeing him every six months. A professional cleaning will help catch any potential cavities and check for gum disease. Your dental health can be an indicator to your overall health.
- Having your eyes checked should be done at least every one to three years or even more often if you are having vision problems or feel you need a new prescription for your glasses. In addition to a vision exam, your eye doctor will also be checking for cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma.
- Female-specific testing includes an annual mammogram, unless you are at a higher risk for breast cancer. Your insurance provider and even your gynecologist may debate how often you need a mammogram and she is the best source for advice in this matter. Unless you have had an abnormal pap test, it is recommended to receive a screening every five years.
- Bone density tests are recommended for both men, over the age of 70, and women, over the age of 65. A bone density test shows how many minerals and calcium you have in your bones and can let you know whether you are at risk for osteoporosis.
- When you reach age 50, you should have a colonoscopy and then one is recommended every five to ten years, depending on the results of the initial test.
- Male only testing involves a prostate exam which your doctor will perform when you reach age 50.
Making time to schedule an annual examination with your doctor is an ideal way to not only maintain good health but to catch any potential health issues before they become dire. Prevention can go a long way in your ability to age in place.