10 medical exams that every older adult should have

Maintaining physical fitness and mental well-being is crucial to living a longer and happier life.

There are about two dozen tests or exams older adults can get to help ensure optimal health and wellness, based on recommendations from the US Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of primary care experts. and prevention, and in Medicare coverage of preventive health services. .

Of course, exactly which tests you need depends on a variety of factors, including your age, weight, gender, family history, and risk factors, as well as your doctor’s recommendations.

The Affordable Care Act requires preventive care with no cost sharing, so in 2011, Medicare began offering a variety of free preventive health services. Some services may need to be requested during an annual wellness visit to be covered; otherwise, you may need to cover the costs out of pocket or with private insurance.

“People live into their 90s, independently and in the community, and they love it. But to get there, you have to do these things,” said Richard Besdine, a professor of medicine and public health at Brown University. “Not all of these are fatal diseases, but they can take the fun out of life. And what’s the point of that?

Besdine said that a Mediterranean-style diet and daily exercise top the list of the most important habits for aging well. Adequate sleep is also crucial, as is quitting smoking and limiting alcohol intake.

Mental health is equally important. Many older adults face depression, loneliness, and isolation amid life changes, such as the loss of a spouse. Ask a doctor to screen you for depression if you or a loved one show signs of depression.

And stay up-to-date with vaccinations, such as those for COVID-19, shingles, and the flu. Also consider receiving the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23), which helps protect against meningitis and bloodstream infections, and the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13), which protects against pneumonia.

Here is a summary of the routine tests you should have as an older adult:

eye exam
Eye health can gradually decline as people age, but changes may not be noticeable right away. Poor eyesight can affect your ability to drive, move around the house, and perform daily tasks. Also, as you get older, your risk of eye problems like cataracts and glaucoma increases.

Additionally, recent research has found that up to 100,000 cases of dementia in the US could potentially have been prevented with better eye care.

According to a study published this year in JAMA Neurology, one of the best things you can do to help reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and related dementias is to correct vision problems with the help of eye exams, glasses, and cataract surgery.

The researchers found that about 1.8% of dementia cases in the US were associated with visual impairment and projected that by 2050, that total would rise to about 250,000 cases. The researchers also found that the incidence of vision problems in older adults was higher for Hispanics, at 11%, compared to 8.3% on average for blacks and non-Hispanic whites.

Last year, a study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology also suggested that certain eye conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and diabetes-related eye diseases, may be associated with an increased risk of dementia.

“Preventing dementia is the number one job of doctors and patients,” Besdine said. “Do everything you can to maintain your mental and physical health.”

hearing test
While we’re talking about dementia, get your hearing tested and get a hearing aid if you need one.

If you have hearing loss, you have a higher chance of developing dementia, according to a 2020 Lancet commission report that listed hearing loss as one of the leading risk factors for dementia.

People with moderate hearing loss were twice as likely to experience cognitive decline as their peers, while people with severe hearing loss faced five times the risk, according to the research.

In the US, hearing aids are now available without a prescription, costing just hundreds of dollars, instead of the several thousand that prescription devices can cost. The White House estimated that people could save nearly $3,000 by buying over-the-counter devices.

Also read: ‘Democratize what you get’: Hearing aids are now available without a prescription – What you need to know

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dental exam
Gum disease increases the risk of a heart attack. That alone should get you to the dentist, but gum health can also be a good barometer of your overall health. Your teeth, gums, mouth and throat should all be checked by a dentist, ideally twice a year. However, Medicare does not cover dental checkups, so private insurance or out-of-pocket payments are necessary.

blood pressure test
High blood pressure or hypertension is common; more than half of adults in the US have it. As you get older, your arteries change and become stiffer. If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to strokes, heart attacks, and heart disease.

diabetes screening
After age 65, both men and women should be screened for diabetes regularly. The American Diabetes Association recommends that you have a fasting blood sugar test at least once every three years to detect diabetes early and manage it so it doesn’t become a life-threatening disorder.

breast cancer screening
Mayo Clinic supports breast cancer screening starting at age 40. Women up to age 75 should have a mammogram every one to two years, depending on their risk factors. Risk factors include having started menstruation before the age of 12, a family history of breast cancer, dense breasts, and genetic mutations. After age 75, women should talk to their doctor about the need to continue breast cancer screening.

osteoporosis screening
As you age, your bones become thinner, which can make you more susceptible to fractures or breaks, especially in the hips and spine. All women over the age of 64 should have a bone density scan at least once a year. Men over the age of 70 should also consider getting screened for osteoporosis, especially if the condition runs in families.

prostate cancer
Prostate cancer is a common disease among men, especially those over 65 years of age. Doctors can detect prostate cancer with a physical exam and blood tests. Some signs of prostate cancer include difficulty urinating, unexplained weight loss, or blood in the urine.

colon cancer screening
Colorectal cancer is more common among older adults, with an average age at diagnosis of 68 for men and 72 for women. If you experience changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, or bleeding, see your doctor.

The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that adults ages 45 to 75 get screened for colorectal cancer. Types of screening tests include stool analysis, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, and CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy). Adults ages 76 to 85 should talk to their doctor about whether to continue getting screened.

skin examination
The American Cancer Society recommends regular screening for skin cancer. Be sure to ask your doctor to check your skin if you have unusual moles or skin changes or if you are at high risk with a history of skin cancer, have close relatives with skin cancer, or have a weakened immune system.

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