When it comes to illness and physical disorders, the old saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is more than apt. Almost 70% of Americans who are over 65 have more than one chronic condition to deal with, and today’s Americans in the 50s are living with diabetes and high cholesterol and high blood pressure at rates much greater than their parents ever had. Whether it’s a blood pressure screening or a glucose screening, your best chance at beating these odds is to get screened early and head off these conditions before they become a serious problem.
How Screening Recommendations Are Divided
Screenings are generally recommended based on national population averages, and they’re divided by age and sex. In other words, there are certain screenings that men over the age of 50 should be getting that men under 50 don’t generally need to worry about; and ones that women over 65 should be concerned with that women in the 20s and 30s don’t have to think about yet.
The problem with recommendations for things like glucose screening or hypertension screening is they are based on general risk factors. These general risk factors aren’t enough if you have other risk factors. For example, if you have multiple close relatives who have had cancer, or if the men in your family have had heart disease or diabetes for as long as everyone can remember. In those cases, glucose screening or other medical screening may be indicated even if other people of your age and sex don’t need them.
Screenings for Men
If you are a man over the age of 50, there are several screenings you should be getting. Every two years you should have a blood pressure screening unless your numbers are already high. In that case, get screened every yearm and add heart health screening to the list, as well. Colorectal cancer is another killer that the American Cancer Society recommends men over 50 be screened for every five years to ten years. Again, if an issue is highlighted that five-year screening should be moved shortened to two.
Screenings for Women
Women over 50 should get a yearly breast cancer screening, and should also be screened for cervical cancer every three to five years. If you’re over 60 or are postmenopausal, add an osteoporosis screening to the list, at intervals your doctor recommends.
Screenings for Everyone
Some screenings are not sex-specific, and these including getting a glucose screening at least every three years. The glucose screening will highlight any possibility of diabetes before it becomes full-blown. Also, all adults–especially older adults–should get depression screening when they have a regular wellness exam. For adults over 50, it’s also wise to get vision screenings every few years. For the sexually active, regular HIV, syphilis, and gonorrhea screenings are also important.
Regular health screenings are crucial to long-term wellness. Whatever age you are, talk to your doctor about what preventative health screening tests are right for you at your time of life and given your personal risk factors.