You get one body to live with and you want to keep it moving and functioning. Getting older shouldn't automatically mean you slow down. One of the best ways to stay on the move is with preventive health care. Key screenings and tests can help your doctor find medical problems early -- before they cause bigger problems that make them more complicated to treat.
Don’t let the cost keep you from having these tests. Most health plans, including Medicare, pay for preventive tests. Your doctor can help make the case if you need a test and may be able to direct you to free or low-cost programs.
Did You Know?
1. Blood pressure check. You can have a heart attack, a stroke, and eye and kidney problems without ever knowing you have high blood pressure. It’s a condition without symptoms. That’s why it’s important to get your blood pressure checked, even if you don’t think you have a problem. If your blood pressure is lower than 120/80, at least once every two years is fine. If your blood pressure is between 120/80 and 139/89, be sure to have it checked yearly.
2. Cholesterol screening. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. One of its main risk factors is a high blood cholesterol level.
It's recommended that you start getting your cholesterol tested at least once every five years at the age of 20. A simple blood test shows your levels and risk for heart disease.
As you age, your risk for heart disease increases. So in your 50s, it's vitally important to continue getting screened.
3. Mammogram. As a screening test for breast cancer, experts agree that a mammogram is the best way to find breast cancer early. There's some debate about how often you should get one.
- The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all women between ages 50 and 74 have a mammogram once every 2 years.
- The American Cancer Society recommends a mammogram each year for women after age 40.
Talk with your doctor to determine the best schedule for you, based on your family history and other risk factors.
4. Colon cancer screening. Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. When you turn 50, your chance of developing it increases. So -- unless you're at an above average risk -- 50 is the age when your doctor may recommend you start getting screened. The good news: there are several tests that can help detect colon cancer early. How often you're screened depends on which tests you and your doctor decide you should have, and what the results of your tests are. Some commonly performed screenings include:
- Colonoscopy, once every 10 years
- Fecal occult blood test, once a year
- Sigmoidoscopy, every 5 years, combined with a fecal occult blood test every 3 years