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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Top 10 Preventive Care Tips at 50+

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Sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy are two cancer screenings that can also help prevent cancer from developing. During these screenings, your doctor can find and remove precancerous polyps from your colon.

5. Pap test. This test checks for cervical cancer, which is easy to treat when caught early. Although your risk of cervical cancer decreases with age, your need for routine Pap tests doesn’t stop with menopause. You may have a Pap test every three years if you have had three normal Pap test results for three years in a row (if you have no past history of a precancerous Pap test result, no HIV infection, no weakened immune system, and no history of in utero exposure to diethystilbestrol). Women who have a higher risk of cancer may need a Pap test more often. Your doctor can recommend what is best for you.

6. Bone mineral density scan. This screening checks your risk for osteoporosis. It's recommended for all women at age 65. If you are at high risk, your doctor may recommend this test once you turn 60.

Men, ages 70 and older, may also benefit from this screening.

7. AAA screening. Experts recommend a one-time abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening for men ages 65 to 75 who have smoked at any point in their lives. This ultrasound screens for an enlarged blood vessel in the abdominal area that can cause severe bleeding and death if it ruptures. If your blood vessel is enlarged, surgery can correct it.

8. Depression screening. Depression is a common cause of disability in adults, although it’s often overlooked. It frequently arises with chronic illness and aging. Depression isn't a normal part of aging, and you can get treatment. If you're feeling sad, hopeless, or not interested in your regular activities, talk with your doctor. She can see if you're depressed by having you fill out a questionnaire or by asking you a few simple questions.

9. Diabetes screening. Almost 9% of all Americans have diabetes -- including nearly 27% of people ages 65 and older. Uncontrolled diabetes can cause complications such as blindness, kidney disease, and the need for limb amputation. Ask your doctor about how often you need diabetes screenings.

10. Immunizations. As you age, you need a few extra vaccines to help you stay healthy.

  • Flu shot:  Recommended yearly for everyone, 6 months of age and older.
  • Pneumonia vaccine:  Recommended if you're 65 or older, and if you have diabetes, liver disease, asthma, any other type of lung disease, or problems with your immune system.
  • Shingles vaccine:  Recommended if you're 60 or older.

Remember, there's a lot you can do on your own to stay healthy as you age.

  • Don't smoke.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Practice safe sex.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on September 21, 2012

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