Medical Screening for Seniors

HOBBIES ARE GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

Do you have a hobby? Hobbies can give meaning and purpose to your life in retirement. As Robert Putnam points out in his book, Bowling Alone, it’s easy to discount the importance of hobbies and social engagements. Putnam details the widespread decline in civic engagement, from PTA memberships to neighborhood potlucks and bowling leagues. Over a couple of generations, Americans have misplaced the concept of free time.

SPECIAL PLANS FOR YOUR SPECIAL PEOPLE

Lily is a beautiful, active and full of personality toddler who happens to have Down syndrome. Lily’s parents and I have been friends for years and I have the continuing pleasure of watching Lily and her siblings grow up. While Lily is becoming a physical therapy rock star and hitting all her milestones in a timely fashion, her parents have started planning for the future.

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WHY WE ENJOY OUR HOBBIES

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a hobby as “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation, engaged in especially for relaxation.” Hobbies include anything from playing a musical instrument to gardening, bird watching or sewing. A hobby is a way of focusing on something you enjoy just for the sake of that enjoyment. It may also be a way to clear your mental palette. You could be stressed out by a situation at work or the challenges of raising children and need an escape.

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While women should be getting routine bone density scans beginning at age 65 years (or earlier, depending on their risk factors), these are not only for women. Men age 70 years and older also need to get a bone mineral density test to check for osteoporosis. This weakening of the bones is often considered a silent disease because its symptoms can develop unnoticed until a bone fracture occurs. Osteoporosis begins later in men than in women and progresses more slowly, but the problem is growing among men who are age 70 years-plus, says the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Indeed, by age 65 or 70 years, men and women are losing bone mass at about the same rate, making this screening test critical for everyone over age 70 years.


A flu shot can be lifesaving for older adults. The CDC recommends a yearly flu shot for everyone, especially those who are chronically ill. Discuss with your health care provider vaccinations against pneumonia, tetanus, shingles, sinusitis, endocarditis, pericarditis and whooping cough. Get a tetanus booster every 10 years.


Health Screenings for Senior Women

Mammograms. The American Cancer Society says women between the ages of 45 and 54 years should have an annual clinical breast exam and a screening mammogram. Women over age 55 years should have an exam every two years or every year if they choose. However, if your risk for breast cancer is high because of family history, your doctor may suggest an annual screening.


Pap smears and pelvic exams. Many women over age 65 years may need a Pap smear, which can detect cervical or vaginal cancer. Pap smears are recommended for women every three years. If a woman is older than age 65 years and has had several negative Pap smears in a row or has had a total hysterectomy for a non-cancerous condition such as fibroids, her doctor may tell her a Pap test is no longer needed. Women who no longer have a cervix may stop getting Pap smears. A pelvic exam helps with health issues such as incontinence or pelvic pain.


Health Screenings for Senior Men

Abdominal/aortic aneurism testing. This test should be administered to men between ages 65 and 75 years who smoke, including smokers who have quit. This one-time test may be a lifesaver for those who are positively diagnosed with an abdominal or aortic aneurism.


Prostate cancer. Although it is the second leading cause of cancer death among men, prostate cancer can be treated if detected early. Annual PSA tests and digital rectal exams are recommended for men over age 50 years with a life expectancy of at least 10 years.


RESOURCES

As you age, you need to get regular medical screenings done so you can be proactive about your health and monitor any changes in your body.


Here is a list of screenings as well as immunizations seniors need so they can continue Living Well 60+. These are based on recommendations from the National Institute of Aging and the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force.


Health Screenings for Men and Women Age 50 Years and Older

Blood pressure and cholesterol should be tested at every medical exam. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 64 percent of men and 69 percent of women between the ages of 65 and 74 years have high blood pressure.


The American Diabetes Association recommends people with high blood pressure have an annual fasting blood glucose test to check for diabetes. This test is especially imperative if you have risk factors for diabetes, such as a family history.


Vision tests can help detect diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration. The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests adults get a baseline screening at age 40 years followed by annual vision screening.

MEDICAL SCREENING FOR SENIORS

Colorectal cancer screenings are important, especially if it runs in your family. Get a colonoscopy every 10 years or a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years and have a fecal occult blood test each year. Have these tests more frequently if polyps are found.


Hearing screenings can help determine whether you need hearing aids. You should have an audiogram, which checks your hearing at a variety of pitches and intensity levels, every two or three years.


Oral health becomes vital as you age. Certain medicines, such as antidepressants, diuretics and antihistamines, can have a negative effect on dental health. Your dentist should perform a periodontal exam during one of your twice-yearly cleanings. He or she will X-ray your jaw and inspect your mouth, teeth, gums and throat for signs of problems.


Depression evaluations are necessary because seniors experience important life changes, such as the loss of a spouse, that can lead to depression.

HARLEENA SINGH

Harleena Singh is a professional freelance writer and blogger who has a keen interest in health and wellness. She can be approached through her blog (www.aha-now.com) and Web site, www.harleenasingh.com. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

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