Staying Healthy as You Age
As you get older, staying on top of your health becomes essential. While eating right, getting enough exercise, and getting plenty of rest are the cornerstones of staying healthy, there are also certain medical exams that you should be sure to get as you age. From making sure your blood pressure is in a healthy range to keeping close watch on your hearing, medical screenings can help you live a longer and more healthy life. Find out what tests you may be missing today!
High blood pressure can lead to a myriad of health conditions, and is increasingly prevalent in our society. The incidence of high blood pressure in adults 60 years or older are as high as 65 percent of the population! High blood pressure can put you at risk of heart attack, stroke, and congestive heart failure. The scariest part of high blood pressure is that there can be no symptoms, and many older adults may be at unnecessary risk of complications due to undiagnosed high blood pressure. If you are over 40 you should have your blood pressure checked at least once a year, usually at your annual physical. If you have already had high blood pressure readings, or you have other conditions that predispose you to having high blood pressure your physician may recommend that you have screenings more frequently. Because high blood pressure responds well to treatment, it is imperative that you catch it early. Another reason to get your blood pressure checked is to establish a baseline. Your blood pressure may naturally be low, and if you are not monitoring it regularly it can be hard to see when it starts to rise. Frequent screenings will help you spot rising blood pressure before it becomes dangerous.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, and early detection is key. Because colorectal cancer slowly develops over a period of 10 to 15 years, screenings can reduce the chance of dying from this deadly disease. Your risk of developing colorectal cancer increases as you age, and almost all cases occur in individuals 50 and older. The United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that adults age 50 to 75 be screened for colorectal cancer, and that adults age 75 to 85 talk with their doctor. If you are 75 or older and have never been screened, you stand to benefit the most from a screening. Colorectal cancer screening can be through a stool test, a colonoscopy, or a flexible sigmoidoscopy, all of which can lead to early detection and treatment. The stool test can be done each year, while the sigmoidoscopy is recommended to be paired with a stool test every 5 years. Colonoscopies are recommended every 10 years. The USPSTF has found that adults age 50 to 75 benefit the most from colorectal cancer screening, but one third of this population has never been screened. If you have not had a medical exam in awhile, or if you have not talked to your doctor about colorectal screening, you should make it a priority.
Diabetes is on the rise in the United States and is potentially life threatening. The standard testing for monitoring the body’s response to glucose is a fasting blood test that is recommended every three years after age 45, or more often if there are other factors that predispose you to developing diabetes. The USPSTF recommends that adults age 40 to 70 who are overweight or obese should get screened for abnormal blood glucose. If you have a family history of diabetes or are part of a population that is more prone to diabetes you should consider screenings earlier. The earlier that abnormal blood glucose readings are found, the better an intervention involving diet and exercise can help to remedy the problem.
Women have specific testing that they should incorporate into their medical routine as they age. Breast cancer increases with age, and it is important to get an annual mammogram and breast exam starting at 40 or 50 every one to two years. Your doctor can advise you if they think that you need more frequent breast exams, or if you are at an increased risk of breast cancer. While it might seem that as you age you no longer need a pelvic exam or Pap smear, it is still recommended that women over 60 get regular pelvic exams and Pap smears. There are other conditions that a pelvic exam can help detect (such as incontinence), and you are still at risk of cervical or vaginal cancer as an older woman. If you have had a total hysterectomy for a non-cancerous condition, or if you are older than 65 and have multiple negative Pap smears in a row, you do not need to continue getting tests.
Millions of Americans over 50 have osteoporosis, and osteoporosis can lead to fractures, chronic pain, disability, loss of independence, and a decreased quality of life and increased mortality. Bone density testing can detect the early signs of osteoporosis and early intervention can help to stop bone degeneration. The USPSTF recommends that women over 65 or women younger than 65 who have risk factors should get screened. An estimated 34 million older adults have low bone mass, which puts them at risk of developing osteoporosis. Because rates of osteoporosis increase with age, and as many as one in two postmenopausal women and one in five older men are at risk of osteoporosis-related fractures, this is an important screening to consider as you age.
Along with high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels are a major risk factor in having a heart attack or stroke. Detecting high cholesterol levels early allows for drug intervention and lifestyle modification that can reverse the damaging effects of high lipids. Men who are older than 35 are recommended to get cholesterol screenings, even if they don’t have any factors predisposing them to coronary heart disease (CHD). Women over 45 who are at an increased risk for coronary heart disease should also get screened. Men even as young as 20 who are at an increased risk of CHD should get screened! As you can see, men are at an increased risk of developing CHD and should take regular screenings seriously.
Having your skin regularly screened for cancer is essential as you age. Although most of your sun exposure is received before you are 18, skin cancers can take 20 years or more to develop, and you should routinely have your skin examined. Most skin cancers are curable, and The American Cancer Society recommends regular screening. See your physician right away if you have unusual moles or skin changes.
The health of your teeth and gums can be an indication of your overall health. Keeping your regular dental checkups ensures that your teeth, gums, mouth, and throat are being evaluated by a dentist for anything unusual. Keeping up a routine of regular brushing and flossing helps to keep your mouth healthy, but even with great dental hygiene you should still see the dentist regularly. Gum disease can increase your risk of a heart attack, so keep those dental exams for great health.
Many people think that if they got their immunizations as a child they are all set, but there are vaccines that are recommended for older populations as well. If you are over 65 you should get a pneumococcal vaccine that protects against pneumonia. Pneumonia can be deadly when you are older, and can even affect how you think and result in delirium or confusion. A shingles vaccine is also recommended by the CDC for people over 60, and all adults should get the flu vaccine annually. There is also a one-time diphtheria tetanus booster that should be followed up with another booster every 10 years. If you think you may be overdue for a vaccine, check with your physician.
As you age, eye disease like macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts become more common. Macular degeneration causes the retina to deteriorate and can impair your vision. Although there is no cure for macular degeneration, it can be treated if caught early. Cataracts are cloudy areas in the lens of the eye that can interfere with vision and can be treated with surgery. Glaucoma damages the optic nerve and builds up pressure in your eye over time. Glaucoma can lead to permanent vision loss, but with early detection can be treated. If you are over 40 and have a family history of glaucoma you should get tested as there are no early symptoms or pain. Vision loss can severely impact your quality of life, keeping you from driving, watching television, reading, and being able to participate in your normal social activities. Regular vision screenings as you age will help you preserve your vision and seek the treatment you need.
As we age our hearing can also become compromised. Two percent of adults 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss, and that increases to 8.5 percent for adults who are 55 to 64. As you get older the incidence of hearing loss gets worse, and nearly 25 percent of people age 65 to 74 and 50 percent of adults over 75 have disabling hearing loss. This is a huge portion of the population! Thankfully, hearing aids today are extremely effective at restoring hearing, but only one in three adults over 70 who could benefit from them have ever used a hearing aid. Even fewer adults in younger populations have tried a hearing aid, and this is the time period when using hearing aids could help stop or slow hearing loss. At Factory Direct Hearing we want to remedy this problem, and that is why we provide hearing aids that you can order online at a fraction of the traditional cost. Hearing loss can be devastating, and can impact your physical and mental health. Incorporating routine hearing screenings into your medical wellness plan can help catch hearing loss early and allow you to do something about it. If you have been having trouble hearing in crowded restaurants, on the phone, or while watching TV, you should have your hearing tested. If you find that your hearing is impaired, don’t despair! Using hearing aids can restore lost sounds and keep you involved in a healthy lifestyle!