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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Medical Tests for Your 60s and Up

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You deserve to feel good. Just because you are older than 60, don't think you can't be independent, vital, and healthy. Just look at Sean Connery or Jane Fonda!

But do you know what to do to stay healthy? The United States Preventive Services Task Force and other specialty groups have put together the following recommendations to keep seniors healthy, happy, and safe. These are simple medical tests that can be done or ordered when you visit your regular doctor. Your doctor may recommend additional tests based on your personal health profile.

Did You Know?

Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will cover preventive care services, including checkups, vaccinations and screening tests, at no cost to you. Learn more.

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  • Blood pressure . You could be one of millions of Americans who have high blood pressure and don't know it. Get your blood pressure checked by a health care provider at least every two years if your blood pressure is normal. You may need screening more often if your pressure is higher than normal or if you have other risk factors. Your heart, not to mention your arteries, brain, eyes, and kidneys, will thank you later.
  • Stepping on the scales. Welcome to the weight gain triple whammy: muscle is replaced by fat as we get older. Then, that fat goes to your waist! Also, you don't burn calories as well as before because your body's metabolism is slowing down. Take heed of any weight gain; you could be robbing yourself of good health.
  • Colorectal cancer screening. The USPSTF recommends screening in adults beginning at age 50 years and continuing until age 75. You may need to be screened earlier and more frequently if you have risk factors. Talk to your doctor to see what's best for you. The risks and benefits of these screening methods vary:
    • Fecal occult blood testing (each year)
    • Sigmoidoscopy (every 5 years) paired with fecal occult blood testing (every 3 years)
    • Colonoscopy (every 10 years)
  • Prostate cancer screening. The USPSTF concludes that there is moderate certainty that the benefits of screening for prostate cancer -- measuring a man's prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level -- do not outweigh the harms.
  • For women, a breast exam and mammogram. Know this: Breast cancer risk increases with age. Therefore, it's especially important for you to get that annual mammogram and doctor's breast exam. A mammogram is recommended every one to two years starting at age 40 or 50. Not all breast cancer experts agree. Talk to your doctor about when you should begin regular mammograms.
  • For women, a pelvic exam and pap smear . You may think it's crazy, but many women over 60 still need to get regular pelvic exams and Pap smears. Older women can get cervical cancer or vaginal cancer. And the pelvic exam can detect a host of other conditions that may affect your health and quality of life (think incontinence!). Pap smears are recommended for women every three years. If a woman is older than 65 years old and has had several negative pap smears in a row or has had a total hysterectomy for a non-cancerous condition like fibroids, your doctor may tell you that a Pap test is no longer needed.
  • Protecting your eyes. Eye diseases, such as macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma, are common with age. Screening can preserve and maximize your vision. Ask your eye doctor how often you need to have your eyes checked.
  • Hearing test. At least 25% of people age 65 to 74 have disabling hearing loss, most of which is treatable. That number increases to 50% after the age of 74. Get a hearing test if you are having any trouble hearing.
  • Protect your bones. Osteoporosis is no joke. If you have it and you suffer a fracture -- especially of the hip -- you've significantly increased your risk of permanent disability or death. Get serious and ask your doctor to refer you for a bone density test. Women should have a bone density test at age 65. If a woman is at a higher risk, a screening test may need to be done at an earlier age. Talk to your doctor.
  • Cholesterol screening. High cholesterol levels are a major reason why people have heart attacks and strokes. The good news, though, is that high cholesterol levels can be treated by diet and medications. That is why measuring your levels of total cholesterol, HDL "good" cholesterol and LDL "bad" cholesterol, is important to do regularly. Consider an ‘advanced lipid test’, which gives even more information on cardiovascular risk. Medicare will usually cover these blood tests.
  • Vaccinations. People older than age 65 should get a pneumococcal vaccine to protect against pneumonia. The CDC recommends the shingles vaccine for those over age 60 as well. Also, almost all adults should get an annual flu shot. A one-time diphtheria tetanus booster that also has pertussis vaccine (whooping cough) in it is recommended followed by diphtheria/tetanus booster every 10 years
  • A neurysm. The USPSTF recommends one-time screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) by ultrasound in men aged 65 to 75 who have ever smoked.

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