Important Health Tests for Seniors
Preventive health care becomes increasingly important as a person ages. Research shows that the leading causes of death in older adults, including heart disease, stroke, and cancer, can sometimes be prevented with lifestyle changes. There are also screening tests designed to detect early changes in the body that may warn of a developing problem.
For these reasons, a senior should be an active participant in his or her own health care, working as a partner with a physician to ensure that all appropriate screening tests are performed as recommended. This includes a periodic, comprehensive screening exam, which provides an opportunity for a physician to review a patient’s complete health picture, including existing conditions, lifestyle habits, and risk factors for developing common health conditions. At that time, the physician can also perform a thorough physical examination and recommend personalized health strategies, including screening tests.
Some commonly recommended screening tests for seniors include:
- Blood pressure – A blood pressure test can detect hypertension, which is often called a “silent killer” because it can lead to a heart attack or stroke without producing any prior symptoms.
- Cholesterol – Cholesterol is a group of fatty substances (lipids) that circulate in the blood. The types are categorized as HDL (high-density lipoproteins), LDL (low-density lipoproteins), and triglycerides. At the proper levels and in the right proportions, these substances are essential to metabolism and bodily function, but too much LDL can significantly increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and atherosclerosis.
- Diabetes – Diabetes is a condition characterized by elevated glucose (sugar) levels in the blood. There are two types: type 1, which is usually treated with insulin, and type 2, which is often treated with lifestyle changes and medications. When undetected or left untreated, diabetes can lead to many serious health problems, including heart disease and kidney disease.
- Colon cancer – When detected in early stages, colon cancer is very treatable and often curable. Screening usually begins with a baseline colonoscopy performed at age 50 for individuals who do not have a family history of colon cancer. If the test produces a normal result, it is usually repeated in ten years.
- Prostate cancer (men only) – This relatively common form of cancer can often be detected early and treated successfully. Screening methods include a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and a digital rectal exam.
- Breast cancer (women only) – Breast cancer is the most common form of non-skin cancer diagnosed in women. A mammogram is an imaging study that can sometimes identify a breast tumor before it can be detected through clinical exam.
- Bone density (women only) – A bone density test can identify osteoporosis, a condition that causes the bones to become thin and brittle, which can increase the risk of painful and debilitating bone fractures.
In addition to having regular screening tests and making health-related lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and managing stress, it is important for a senior to get an annual flu shot, a one-time pneumonia vaccine, and any other immunizations recommended by a physician.
If you have questions about health screening tests or would like to see a physician, please feel free to contact or visit South Tampa Immediate Care. No appointments are necessary at our walk-in clinic.