As we age, many of us can start to feel as though our bodies are turning against us, with new ailments and various health concerns presenting themselves. This is why it’s crucial for individuals past the age of 65 to prioritize preventative care. This will allow you to maintain your good health while also detecting possible health issues at their earliest stages.
There are many types of screenings and assessments available to you to monitor your health, including bloodwork, bone density scans, prostate exams for men, and mammograms for women. With these methods, you can proactively manage your health to help ensure your ongoing well-being.
Let’s look at them individually:
By early adulthood, most of us are familiar with bloodwork. This is an essential tool for all ages, granting insight into one’s overall health and aiding in the early detection of numerous conditions. There are many types of blood tests, including complete blood counts (CBC), comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP), lipid panel and more. Blood tests help your doctor identify risks related to liver function, diabetes, anemia, cholesterol and many other conditions. Changes over time can be tracked through blood tests, allowing for personalized treatment plans and the possibility of timely interventions to keep you healthy.
- Bone Density Scans
Bone density scans are used to assess bone health and can be used to diagnose osteoporosis, a bone disease in which the creation of new bone cannot keep up with the loss of old bone. This leads to weaker bones and a greater risk of fractures. Because older adults, particularly women over 65 and men over 70, are susceptible to osteoporosis, regular testing assists with early detection, allowing for treatment through a variety of methods that might include medication, supplements and changes to your lifestyle.
ECG, or electrocardiogram, is a non-invasive test used to record the heart’s electrical activity. This is an important screening tool that can identify cardiac abnormalities and help in assessing cardiovascular health. It can be used to detect heart blockages, arrythmias and signs of past heart attacks. With routine ECGs, it is possible to reduce the risk of heart-related complications. If you are experiencing palpitations, chest pain, or shortness of breath, your doctor may recommend an ECG as part of your annual checkup.
- Pap Smears
Pap smears are a normal part of women’s preventative health care. This test involves collecting cells from your cervix to detect cervical cancer or pre-cancerous changes in the cervix. It is usually done in conjunction with a pelvic exam. Pap testing begins at an early age, and the risk of cervical cancer decreases over time. In Ontario, the guidelines are for women to be tested every three years until age 70 and then women can stop if their test results have been normal in the previous decade. Tests should be continued past 70 if there is a previous history of gynecological cancers.
Mammography is a method of x-ray imaging that provides an image of the breast which is used to detect early signs of breast cancer. It is a vital test for women aged 65 and older, as the risk of breast cancer increases with age. It is recommended that women in this age group get a mammogram every one to two years. Early detection through mammography can improve treatment outcomes and survival rates significantly, allowing doctors to implement the necessary treatment plans, which include radiation therapy, surgery and chemotherapy. The exact form that treatment takes will be tailored to the patient’s particular needs.
- Prostate Exams
Prostate exams are an essential means of detecting prostate cancer, along with other conditions that affect the prostate gland. They are especially important for men over 65 years of age. Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood tests and digital rectal exams (DRE) are used for screening, sometimes in accordance with transrectal ultrasounds. These tests identify abnormalities, making early detection possible and allowing for early treatment. There is debate as to whether screening should stop after the age of 75, but for those between 65 and 75, a prostate exam may save a life and allows older men to make informed decisions about their health.
Vaccines play a role for everyone, but they become critical for maintaining the well-being of seniors. The influenza vaccine, for example, protects those who are susceptible and those who might suffer severe complications from the flu, reducing their risk of hospitalization and mortality. Similarly, the vaccine for pneumonia is essential, though, unlike the flu vaccine, it is a single dose, so it’s not necessary to get it annually.
It is recommended that individuals over 60 receive the RSV vaccine, which protects against the respiratory syncytial virus, reducing the risk of RSV-related complications by more than 80 per cent.
Most people are familiar with shingles, a virus that causes a painful rash or small blisters. Although shingles is rarely life-threatening, complications can occur in seniors, particularly those over the age of 70, and the related pain can become quite severe. The vaccine lasts about five years and can reduce the risk of shingles by 51 per cent.
Perhaps the most discussed vaccine of recent years is for COVID. While some may be tempted to think that COVID-19 is a thing of the past, it continues to be an issue, with a surge in cases expected in the fall. This makes seeking COVID vaccination important for all, especially seniors who can be more vulnerable.
- Mental Health
Maintaining positive mental health as you age is crucial for overall well-being and happiness. One effective way to ensure this is by finding a purpose in life, such as engaging in volunteer work or any form of service. These activities not only provide a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment, but they also allow individuals to connect with others and make a positive impact in their communities. Additionally, participating in social activities and spending time with loved ones can help combat feelings of loneliness and promote a sense of belonging. Incorporating practices such as yoga and meditation into daily routines can also have tremendous benefits, as they help reduce stress, improve mood, and enhance overall mental resilience.
- Other Preventative Measures
These are not the only measures that should be considered by those who are over 65. Don’t overlook the importance of eye and dental checkups, as both contribute significantly to your ongoing health and quality of life. Dental issues, in particular, can have detrimental effects on your overall health if bacteria enter your bloodstream and reach other organs.
It’s also important to consider the roles of exercise and nutrition. Remaining active can delay or even prevent several health concerns that come with growing older, while also helping you remain independent.
Preventative care is a concern for everyone, but it becomes increasingly important for those over the age of 65. Regular screenings including bloodwork, bone density scans, mammograms, prostate exams and more all contribute to helping you maintain your health so that you can continue to enjoy your life and remain active and self-sufficient.
Working with your healthcare provider will allow you to create a personalized care plan appropriate to your individual needs.
From the Caring Physicians at Eagles Landing Medical Centre In Vaughan Ontario.