My husband has always been persistent in getting his yearly physicals, but when he turned 50 years old, I was the one who finally had to call and schedule his colonoscopy. Why? He was afraid of the procedure, and also the result, so he put off scheduling the test.
Regular health exams and screenings can help find problems before they start, or can detect diseases early, while they are easier to treat.
Doctors, as part of a yearly exam, commonly screen for breast cancer and cervical cancer in women, colorectal cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, overweight and obesity. According to http://nihseniorhealth.gov, screenings needed by an adult depend on age, gender, family history, and risk factors for certain diseases. Lifestyle choices (i.e. diet, physical activity level, smoking), and other important factors also impact which tests are needed.
To stay healthy, women age 50 and older need the following screenings:
- Mammogram – Women should talk to their doctor to find out how often to get this test for breast cancer.
- Pap smear – Every three years or a combination Pap smear and human papilloma virus (HPV) test every five years until age 65. Women should talk with their doctor if they are older than 65, or have had a hysterectomy.
- Colonoscopy – Between the ages of 50 and 75, it is recommended that women get screened for colorectal cancer. Several tests can detect this cancer and a physician can help decide which is best. Women between the ages of 76 and 85 should talk to their doctor about being screened.
- Diabetes tests – Women should talk to a doctor to determine if this screening is needed.
- High blood pressure tests – These should be done every two years.
- Blood cholesterol should be checked for women who smoke, are overweight or obese, have a history of heart disease or blocked arteries, have any relatives that have had a heart attack before age 50 (male) or 60 (female), have diabetes or have high blood pressure.
- DEXA Scan – A low-dose x-ray of the spine and hip that shows bone density and osteoporosis risk for women age 65 and older or women younger than 65 who are high risk for bone fractures.
- Body Mass Index (BMI) – This scale determines if a woman is overweight or obese, which can lead to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
For more specific information on these and other screenings for women, check out Women Stay Healthy at 50+, a publication developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Men age 50 and older need the following screenings:
- Colonoscopy – Between the ages of 50 and 75, it is recommended that men get regular screening for colorectal cancer. Several tests can detect this cancer and a physician can help decide which is best. Men between the ages of 76 and 85 should talk to their doctor about being screened.
- Diabetes tests – Men should talk to their doctor to see if they need these tests.
- High blood pressure tests should be done every two years.
- Blood cholesterol should be checked regularly.
- Body Mass Index (BMI) – This scale determines if a man is overweight or obese, which can lead to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
For information on additional tests offered to men who are age 50 and older, check out Men Stay Healthy at 50+, another publication of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
The National Institute on Aging recommends that adults ask their doctors questions before having any test:
- Why do I need the test? What will it show about my health?
- What will it cost and will my insurance cover it?
- What do I need to do to prepare for the test? (For example, do I need to have an empty stomach, or will I need to provide a urine sample.)
- What steps does the medical test involve?
- Are there any side effects?
- How will I find out the results of my test?
- How long will it take to get the results?
- What will we know after the test?
When receiving test results, make sure that the doctor explains what they mean. Ask the doctor for a written copy of the test results. If tests were done by a specialist, have the results sent to your primary doctor.
Is it time to take charge of your health? Schedule an appointment now with your physician or health care provider to discuss what screenings are best for you. By finding the right health services and getting the appropriate screening tests and treatments, you are increasing your chances of a longer, healthier life.