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July 30, 2013

Recommended Health Screenings for Older Adults

As we get older, it pays to become more conscious of our health. That means eating right and remaining active. It also means keeping tabs on our wellness through regular medical screenings. Preventative health screenings can alert you to changes in your physical health and can give you peace of mind that potential illnesses will be identified and treated early.

Expert recommendations for health screenings vary, so knowing what screenings you should have and when you should get them can sometimes be confusing. Here, we check out some of the health screenings recommended for older adults as identified by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Have you had your annual wellness exam?

Even if you feel great, going to your doctor for an annual wellness exam is a good idea. A wellness exam creates a benchmark for your health, so you and your doctor will be able to tell if there are changes over time. An annual wellness exam is relatively simple and will include checks of your height, weight, and blood pressure. You’'ll also likely answer health assessment questions that will personalize your preventive care. While the wellness exam itself is not explicitly recommended by the CDC, the blood pressure test for hypertension is recommended. This preventative annual exam is now fully covered by Medicare and by most private insurance companies.

Have you received recommended immunizations?

Getting immunized to common illnesses is an important part of preventive care. The CDC recommends influenza, pneumococcal, and herpes zoster (commonly known as shingles) immunizations. The U.S. Preventative Services Taskforce additionally recommends immunization to hepatitis B.

What cancer screenings are recommended?

Both the CDC and U.S. Preventative Services Taskforce recommend colon cancer screening until at least age 65. The decision to be screened after age 75 should be made on an individual basis. A high-sensitivity FOBT, or stool test, should be performed annually, while a colonoscopy should be performed every 10 years, according to the CDC. Breast cancer screenings are recommended every two years for women age 55-74, and, according to the Mayo Clinic, many organizations generally recommend prostate cancer screenings to men between the ages of 40 and 75.

What other screenings should you consider?

In addition to cancer screenings, older adults should also be aware of screening recommendations for bone mass and diabetes. Bone mass screenings are recommended annually after you become eligible for Medicare Part B (at age 65). This screening will help monitor your risk of bone loss, which could lead to frailty and breaks. Diabetes screenings are recommended without age restrictions to those who have risk factors.

Be sure to talk to your doctor about any questions you have regarding preventative health screenings and which ones apply to you. Remember, your doctor knows your medical history best, so he or she is the most qualified to advise you which health screenings to undergo and when.

Want to learn more about staying healthy as you get older? We have a special “Staying Healthy” category just for you on our blog.

Remaining Active photo credit: Christiana Care


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