People are living longer thanks to technological and medical advances. With this comes the prospect of healthy aging. Exercising regularly, eating well and avoiding harmful vices are part of this process, but so is undergoing consistent health screenings. From blood work to checking on thyroid function to the dreaded colonoscopy, maintaining your health through frequent and various testing has become a necessity.
Why? When it comes to good health, information is the greatest tool we can have at our disposal. Also, with increased longevity comes an increased risk of developing chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and malignancy. In fact, roughly half of adults older than 60 have at least one NCD and a third have at least two. Such diseases could lead to a diminished quality of life as well as significant disability.
Arguably the best approach to these ailments is through prevention and early detection. What does detection look like? The process differs from one person to the next based on sex, age and a host of other factors, but there are general testing standards. Here are just some of the important screenings needed as we age and their advised timeframes.
For women: Mammograms are x-ray examinations of the breasts. Experts advise that women should have one every two years beginning at age 40. Those with a family history or genetic disposition may choose to screen sooner. Bone density scans are another test more specific to women. These are also performed with an x-ray and can determine bone health as well as the risk of fractures and osteoporosis. Starting at 65, women should undergo bone scanning annually or bi-annually.
For men: While monthly self-checks for irregular moles are recommended for both sexes, men have a higher rate of incidence for skin cancers than women. It’s advised to start looking for abnormalities long before being a “senior,” however, the probability does go up with age. Such self-inspections as well as examinations conducted by a dermatologist are fundamental in early detection. Next for men is prostate screening. While these exams might be awkward, men are highly encouraged to have an annual exam starting around 55 years old. Lastly, inspection via an ultrasound is encouraged for men 65 to 75 years of age — especially smokers — to look for an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Just 70 years ago, only 8% of the world’s population was over 60. By 2050, that demographic is expected to reach 21%. It’s anticipated we’ll see medical innovations that can help prolong life even longer during this shift, as added focus is placed on healthy aging. Until then, we have medical standards such as these screenings and more to guide us. Keep in mind that the ages listed in these policies are generalized. Be sure to speak with your doctor, as everyone’s health is different and may require certain testing sooner or later.
For additional screening guidelines recommended for seniors and healthy aging, please see the accompanying resource by Senior Healthcare Direct.