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As we age, visiting the doctor for regular check-ups becomes increasingly important. Though you might feel perfectly healthy, only a doctor can properly diagnose health problems and treat them before they become more serious. Though blood tests, health screenings, and vaccinations aren't particularly enjoyable, taking care of your health is one of the best ways to maintain a high of life.
For better wellness at 50 and beyond, keep your eye on these health conditions. Be sure to visit your doctor for regular check-ups and screenings.
Adults over 50 should be screened for diabetes at least once every 3-4 years. If you're overweight or are of Asian descent you should be screened more regularly, as you may be more likely to develop diabetes. Those with high blood pressure should undergo regular screenings to diagnose this condition.
Be sure to have your cholesterol checked at least once every 5 years. If you suffer from heart problems, kidney conditions, or diabetes you may need to have your cholesterol checked more frequently. By doing so, you can maintain healthy blood flow throughout your body, reducing your risk of developing other health problems.
Hypertension can cause a number of health problems ranging from artery damage and heart disease to kidney failure and strokes. Ideally, you should go in for a blood pressure screening every 1-2 years. Those who have systolic numbers between 120 and 140 or diastolic numbers between 80 and 90 should be sure to visit their doctors for annual screenings. Systolic numbers over 140 or diastolic numbers above 90 should be discussed with your doctor. If you have high blood pressure, consider testing yourself at home to get a better idea of how your blood pressure varies throughout the day.
For adults over the age of 50, colon cancer screenings are a must. A fecal occult blood test, which screens for traces of blood in the stool, can be performed annually to determine if the gastrointestinal tract is healthy or not. Undergoing a sigmoidoscopy (partial colon exam) every 5 years or a colonoscopy (full colon exam) every 10 years is also recommended for older adults, though those with family histories of ulcerative colitis or colon problems may need to be screened more often. By undergoing these screenings, you can rest assured that your colon is free of polyps and cancer.
With age, women experience a decrease in estrogen production. Men experience a similar fall in testosterone levels. These hormonal changes, along with other risk factors such as low body weight and a history of smoking, put many older adults at risk of developing osteoporosis. Consult with your doctor to determine whether or not you should be screened for this condition.
Men over 50 should discuss prostate and testicular cancer screenings with their doctors. African-American men and those with first-degree relatives who have experienced prostate cancer are considered high-risk and are more likely to need an exam. Ask your doctor whether a PSA test or digital rectal exam is right for you.
Breast and Cervical Health
Though many women over the age of 40 have already undergone regular mammograms, those who haven’t should begin doing so once they are over the age of 50.
Women over 50 should continue to get regular Pap smears every 3-5 years, even once they are postmenopausal. Those over 65 may be able to discontinue screening if they have had normal Pap test results for more than 10 years. Those who have had total hysterectomies may also discontinue Pap tests.
In addition to these health screenings, older adults should continue maintaining their health in a number of other ways. Annual dental check-ups remain important. Eye exams should be performed roughly every 2 years. At your annual physical, ask about flu shots and any other immunizations you might need. If you notice any unusual spots or moles on your skin, schedule an appointment with a local dermatologist. Those who have regular smoked in the past or currently smoke should also be screened for lung cancer on an annual basis. When in doubt, ask your doctor which screenings and exams he recommends for you.
If you're ever feeling hesitant about visiting your doctor, remember that you might live to be 100 or older! Get regular check-ups and take care of your body for the years to come.
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