As we get older, we need to be on higher alert for certain medical conditions and health problems that present a greater risk with increased age. Different illnesses and diseases pose a larger threat at different ages. For example, our vision typically undergoes noticeable changes as early as age 40. However, a high risk of developing serious eye problems like macular degeneration is often not an issue until much later in life. Regardless, it is still recommended to get regular eye exams for adults over the age of 60 to prevent permanent vision loss.
Eye exams are just one example of regular testing that seniors should undergo to maintain health and the ability to live independently.
Critical Medical Exams for Seniors
Since eye exams have already been discussed, it will not be included in the following list. Here are some other important health tests for older adults to stay current with.
- Blood Tests
- Kidney function assessment
- Cancer Screening
- Vitamin D checks
- Bones and Teeth
Regular blood tests can encompass screening for a range of potential health risks, including hypertension, high cholesterol, high blood-glucose, and several other potential issues. There are many specific blood tests that can be done to screen for particular ailments.
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
This is a good blood test to start with, as it helps determine the health of the cells in your blood. CBC tests assess things like white blood cell count, red blood cell count, and hemoglobin and platelet count. This general blood test is often used to detect issues like anemia, infection, and bone marrow irregularities.
Blood Pressure Exams
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a serious concern for many older adults. High blood pressure can lead to a variety of more serious health problems like weakened arteries and blood vessels, stroke, and heart attack. Seniors should have blood pressure assessed at least once a year to determine related health risks.
Testing for blood lipid levels can help determine the levels of HDL (high-Density Lipoproteins) and LDL (Low-Density Lipoproteins) in the blood. LDL is what is known as bad cholesterol because excessive levels result in buildup and plaque forming on arteries and blood vessels. This in turn leads to higher risk of stroke and heart disease. HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, is referred to as good cholesterol because it helps remove LDL from the arteries, carrying it to the liver for break down.
Kidney Function Assessment
The kidneys are extremely important organs for purifying the blood and removing waste from the body. The kidneys get a heavy workout over a lifetime, and it is even more strenuous for people with poor nutrition, lack of exercise, excessive alcohol consumption, and other unhealthy lifestyle practices. Kidney failure can be debilitating, and in the in the most severe cases where kidneys are no longer functional, dialysis is required to manually remove waste from the system.
Blood and urine tests can be used to determine kidney health, and should be done at least every 5 years for people that are not experiencing any unfavorable symptoms.
Cancer is becoming a shockingly widespread health problem worldwide, for people of all ages. The risk of cancer also increases with age, regardless of how healthy your lifestyle is. Since cancer becomes exceedingly more difficult to treat and manage as the disease progresses, it is critical to catch the illness in its early stages if there is any hope of recovery.
Specific checks can be done to test for various types of cancer. Some of the most prevalent forms of cancer that should be regularly screened for, are:
- Skin cancer
- Lung cancer
- Colon cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Breast cancer
- Cervix cancer
It is recommended to get screened as soon as possible if you are experiencing any painful symptoms or irregularities. Overall health exams can also be helpful when done regularly.
Vitamin D Checks
Many older adults are vitamin D deficient, which can result in a higher risk for health problems like osteoporosis, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Seniors that don’t get enough sunlight may have insufficient vitamin D levels. Also, with age, our bodies have a more difficult synthesizing vitamin D to use it effectively. Good vitamin D levels are essential for maintaining healthy bones and teeth.
Bones and Teeth
Osteoporosis is a common affliction among older adults, which is a condition where bones become thinner and weakened. This puts these individuals at a higher risk for fractures and serious injury. Bone density scans should be done regularly after the age of 65.
Good dental health is also a good indicator of overall health, and regular dental appointments are critical to help detect and prevent other health conditions.