Seniors: Protect Yourself with Preventive and Screening Health Measures

Maintaining the best quality of life while approaching the age of 65 calls for increased vigilance. A number of common medical tests can shed light on potential health problems, and recognized preventive measures have been widely shown to reduce the likelihood of ill health. After analyzing data from an extensive range of clinical studies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force have issued recommendations for the following screening measures and vaccinations:

  • Annual blood-pressure checks for all adults.
  • Yearly influenza vaccinations, tailored to closely match the current crop of ever-mutating viruses, for nearly all adults.
  • One-time pneumococcal vaccinations that protect against a common killer of elderly patients.
  • Periodic colon cancer screenings for adults between the ages of 50 and 75 and for other higher-risk individuals.
  • Annual breast cancer screenings, including a mammogram, for women between the ages of 40 and 75 and for other individuals who already are at high risk for the disease.
  • Periodic osteoporosis screenings, including a bone density scan, for women 65 and older and for other individuals at high risk of bone thinning.
  • Annual rectal examinations for early signs of prostate cancer, including testing for “prostate sensitive antigen,” in men who have reached the age of 50 or in men 40 and older who already are at special risk from a family history of the disease.
  • Annual blood tests for lipid disorders in men who are 35 or older and in women who are 45 or older.
  • Periodic screenings for metabolic syndrome in all potentially prediabetic adults suffering from high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, obesity or a prior history of abnormal blood-sugar fluctuations.
  • Shingles vaccinations for most adults who are 50 or older and for all adults 60 and older.
  • Regular screenings of all adults for skin cancer, which can be treated far more effectively if caught as early as possible.

Depending on the specific health of an individual, a personal physician might recommend any of the following screening measures:

  • Counseling for the highly risky habit of smoking.
  • Regular vision and hearing tests to detect slow declines in function.
  • Stress testing of cardiac function.
  • Testing to detect abnormal thyroid activity.
  • Screening for cognitive decline that might indicate common brain problems such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Screening for peripheral vascular disease.

As always, only a primary physician can competently advise individual patients on the merits and possible drawbacks of each medical procedure.