All the Medical Tests You Should Be Getting If You’re Over 50
When you’re over 50, there are a few more health concerns than there were at 20. It’s important to stay on top of your health as you age, since your body isn’t what it once was — and managing your health through diet and exercise becomes more important than ever. Here are 15 tests you should have once you turn 50 to keep yourself in top shape.
1. Blood pressure
Your blood pressure reveals a lot about your heart health. The blood pressure is the force of blood against the artery walls. As you age, your blood pressure is more likely to rise, and high blood pressure can mean heart disease down the road. You should actually start having your blood pressure checked once per year after age 40. This way, any potential problems can be nipped in the bud before they advance into something more serious. 1 in 3 Americans has high blood pressure, so don’t assume everything is fine — high blood pressure often yields no symptoms.
Next: This cancer screening is very important.
2. Colorectal cancer screening
Most colorectal cancer screenings should begin at age 50, and you should be checked at least once every five years. African Americans should start screening at age 45, according to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. And if you have a history of the cancer or any symptoms, make sure to talk to your doctor, even if you are not yet 50. As your body ages, colon cancer becomes more common, so tests are imperative. Men have a 1 in 21 chance of getting the disease; for women, it’s 1 in 23.
Next: This quick test says a lot about your heart.
An electrocardiogram, or EKG (sometimes called ECG), is a way for your doctor to check your heart activity. The EKG is used to check for signs of heart disease. Small electrode patches record your heart’s electrical activity to see if there are any signs of rhythm problems with the heart. According to WebMD, the test allows a doctor to determine how normal your heart rhythm is, see if you have poor blood flow to your heart muscle, diagnose a heart attack, and notice anything abnormal, such as a thick heart muscle. Those over 50 are at a greater risk of heart disease, so it’s important to have an EKG once per year.
Next: You need to stay on top of these levels for good heart health.
4. Cholesterol levels
Cholesterol is essential for the body to function, but at high levels, it can be dangerous. Diet and exercise play a big role in your cholesterol levels, but it’s another problem that often yields no symptoms yet can lead to serious heart problems. Your total cholesterol levels should always be at less than 200 milligrams per deciliter. A simple blood test will tell your doctor your cholesterol levels. A test can show if your levels are high, which would result in recommended lifestyle changes to help you live longer.
Next: Men should get this checked if they’re over 50.
5. PSA check (for men)
Your PSA levels measure how well your prostate is working. A PSA test, or prostate-specific antigen test, tells your doctor how much of the PSA protein is being produced by your prostate. If your PSA levels are higher than normal, it may indicate prostate cancer. If the blood test comes back with a PSA level above 4.0, your doctor may request that you have a biopsy done to check for cancer. The PSA test is typically recommended annually for men over 50. But some doctors suggest African American men should be screened at age 40. However, it depends on the individual doctor’s suggestion for the patient’s situation.
Next: Women definitely need to be checked for this .
6. Mammogram (for women)
Most doctors recommend women start getting annual mammograms at age 50. Mammograms check for breast cancer. However, if you have a family history of the disease, some doctors may recommend getting tested earlier. Breast cancer risk increases greatly at age 50, but it’s at its highest when you’re over 70. Don’t skimp on your yearly mammogram — it could save your life.
Next: These problems can arise with age.
7. TSH test for thyroid problems
Thyroid problems can arise at any time, so this is a test you can actually have at any age. Thyroid-stimulating hormone, known as TSH, is produced by your thyroid and regulates many of your body’s functions, including weight, hair, and hormones. But thyroid problems can throw other bodily functions out of whack, so it’s important to get your thyroid checked periodically — this includes when you’re over 50. And if you notice any symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss or gain, or hair loss, talk to your doctor.
Next: These yearly exams are important in older men and women.
8. Eye exams
As you age, you might notice your eyesight isn’t as sharp as it once was. It’s important to get your eyes checked to make sure your vision is where it should be. Vision problems can pose a danger in everyday life, especially while driving. And after age 40, you may start to lose sharpness in your eyes due to the lens hardening (this is natural with aging). But once you hit 50, the symptoms can escalate, so you should have annual eye exams to make sure your vision is still up to par.
Next: A test for this can diagnose a disease very common in older adults.
9. Blood sugar
As you get older, your body can’t always function as well as it used to. You may have loved grabbing a quick fast food meal when you were younger, but now, your diet and exercise regimens may catch up with you. In your 50s, you should ask your doctor to check your blood sugar (anyone older than 45 is at a higher risk for diabetes). Blood sugar levels determine whether or not you’re diabetic, and it’s better to catch something like that sooner than later. If your blood sugar is normal, you may not need it checked again for a few years. If you’re at a high risk, you may need it checked annually.
Next: One of these each year can take care of a lot of the tests you need.
10. Annual physical
An annual physical should be covered by your insurance, and it’s important that you take advantage of it. Actually, a lot of the tests you should have done on this list can be pulled from a simple blood test during a physical. Plus, doctors often do EKGs during physicals. A physical is basically an annual checkup that lets you know what state your health is in. It can uncover any problems you may not have noticed yourself. And the older you get, the likelier you are to have certain issues such as high blood pressure or cholesterol.
Next: Checking for these is important as you age.
11. Mole check
Skin cancer can arise at any age, but after 50 years of being exposed to the sun, you should start to pay closer attention to the moles on your body. Melanoma, for example, is typically diagnosed in your early 60s, but it can show up in people as young as 30. Most skin cancer cases are easily treated, but melanoma can be very serious. If there are any moles on your body that seem to have changed in size, shape, or color, consult your dermatologist for a professional analysis.
Next: Keeping this in check is a big reflection on your overall health.
12. Weight check
Keeping your weight on track is extremely important. You might gain a few pounds around the holidays or after weekly barbecues in the summer, but keeping a steady weight is extremely important to remaining healthy after 50. The “normal” weight for a 50-year-old depends on gender and height. According to Medical News Today, someone who is 5’10 should weight anywhere between 132 and 167 pounds, and someone who is 5’5 should weigh anywhere from 110 to 140 pounds.
Next: You should definitely get this every year.
13. Flu shot
It’s imperative that you get a flu shot every year, especially if you’re over 50. Those with weakened immune systems, such as older people, are more likely to have serious complications from something like the flu. In some cases, the flu can lead to pneumonia, which can be very difficult to recover from in someone with a compromised immune system — it can be fatal. Shots might not be fun, but a flu vaccine can save your life, or at least keep you from being bed-ridden for a few days.
Next: You’ll definitely want to know if you’re showing early signs of this.
14. Bone density test
Another complication that arises with age is a problem with your bones — commonly, osteoporosis. When your bones lose mass, they become weak, which can make you more prone to fractures. Osteoporosis is the condition where bones become weak and brittle, and it’s important to know if you have it. A fall can be detrimental to someone with osteoporosis even though it may not be too painful for someone without. As you age, you’re more likely to get the disease, so discuss a bone density test with your doctor.
Next: Baby boomers should definitely have this test.
15. Hepatitis C
If you’re over 50, it’s important to get tested for Hepatitis C. According to the CDC, people born between 1945 and 1965 are at a heightened risk of having Hepatitis C and should be tested. You should definitely be tested if you’ve ever been the recipient of blood or organ donation, have ever injected drugs, or if you have HIV. Hepatitis C can be easily spread through needles and other materials. It can also be sexually transmitted, but the risk is low.
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