Preventive Medicine if You're 65 or Older
An ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure.
As you age, several medical tests become essential for monitoring your health and catching small medical issues before they become bigger problems. Getting these tests done regularly, especially when you are healthy, provides a benchmark and gives your doctor a powerful tool for understanding small fluctuations in your results that may require further investigation and treatment.
Whether or not you should have a test depends on your unique qualities and potential risk factors, such as your gender, smoking history, and previous test results. But first, here are some tests recommended for everyone over age 65.
Tests for Everyone Over 65
- Blood Pressure Test: Your blood pressure should be checked every two years unless your results are higher than normal. Higher than normal results are a top number (systolic pressure) between 120 and 139 or higher, and a bottom number (diastolic pressure) between 80 and 89 or higher. In these cases, get it checked once per year.
- Cholesterol Test: Your cholesterol should be checked every four to six years, and more frequently if it is high or you have diabetes, heart disease, or kidney problems. Keeping your cholesterol at normal levels helps reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease.
- Colon Cancer Screening: Get a colonoscopy every 10 years from age 50 to 75, a flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, and a fecal occult blood test every year.
- Diabetes Screening: You should be screened for diabetes every 3 years or more frequently if you are overweight.
- Eyes, Ears, and Teeth: Get an eye exam every one to two years, receive a hearing test if you have symptoms of hearing loss, and see the dentist once or twice a year.
- Immunizations: You should have a pneumococcal vaccine (for pneumonia) every five years, a flu shot every year, a tetanus-diphtheria vaccine every 10 years, and the shingles vaccine once if you are over 60.
- Physical Exam: Get a yearly physical exam to track your height, weight, body mass index (BMI), and overall health.
Tests for Men Over 65
In addition to the tests everyone should receive, some men should also be tested for prostate cancer. Prostate examinations and PSA tests may be recommended if you have symptoms or a family history of prostate cancer.
Tests for Women Over 65
In addition to the tests everyone should receive, women should have a mammogram every one or two years, up to age 75. They should also have a bone density test to screen for osteoporosis. Pap smears can be discontinued after age 65 if a woman has not had cervical cancer and has had three negative tests over the last 10 years.
Tests for Smokers and Former Smokers Over 65
If you are a smoker or former smoker, you should have a lung cancer screening every year until age 80. This test is important for anyone who smokes 30 packs of cigarettes per year, and currently smokes or quit within the last 15 years. Male smokers and former smokers should also be screened for an abdominal aortic aneurysm between the ages of 65 and 75.