As we age, the need for regular medical check-ups increases. Certain conditions become more prevalent with age, so seniors may need to have more frequent tests and exams than before. For others, you may need to be checked for the first time.
We have curated 10 medical tests that seniors should get alongside the recommended frequency:
1. Hearing Test
It’s no secret that hearing loss occurs as we age. Most of the time it’s a natural part of aging, but sometimes it can be a sign of a bigger issue. Maintaining hearing is also a way to ensure that your quality of life doesn’t decrease as you age.
Frequency: If you are suffering from hearing loss, there’s no need to wait to get an audiogram. If you’re hearing is fine, these tests should be done routinely every 2-3 years.
2. Bone Density Scan
Bone mass changes when we get older, so keeping an eye on it can help prevent more serious injuries later on. A small fall could turn into a more critical injury if you’re suffering from untreated osteoporosis. Here are some tips for fall prevention.
Bone density scans are recommended, especially for women who are more prone to osteoporosis than men, regularly after age 65.
Frequency: Work with your doctor to determine your need for a scan and the frequency that you should be checked.
Mammograms are simply X-rays of the breast. Doctors use mammograms to look for early signs of breast cancer.
Frequency: If you’re a female between ages 50-74, mammograms should be done on a yearly basis. If you are older than 75, the need for screening reduces.
4. Blood Test
Blood tests come in numerous forms, but there a few common tests that you should have more regularly as an older adult.
The first is a Complete Blood Count (CBC). This will give your doctor a sense of your white and red blood cell count as well as information like your hemoglobin and platelet count. A CBC can help diagnose things like anemia and bone marrow irregularities.
Frequency: Doctors will recommend how often they think these tests are needed, but a general rule of thumb is every 5 years.
5. Colorectal Exam
Most new cases of colorectal (colon) cancer are in adults over the age of 50, thus screening becomes more important as you get older. These screenings are not diagnostic, but are used to find symptoms of what could develop into colon cancer later on. In some cases, these screenings do find early stages of colon cancer, which is when the cancer is the most treatable.
Frequency: Screenings should be done every 10 years, or more frequently if any irregularities are found at your initial screening. If you are over the age of 60 and have not had a colorectal screening, don’t wait to talk to a doctor about scheduling a screening.
6. Cholesterol Screenings
Cholesterol screenings are technically a blood test, but so important they deserved their own section.
The blood test that screens for cholesterol is called a Lipid panel. This bloodwork will show your levels of HDL and LDL, otherwise known as “good” and “bad” cholesterol. High levels of LDL in a lipid panel can help identify cardiovascular risks. This test can help your doctor devise a prevention plan for future heart-related risks.
Frequency: This bloodwork should be done every 4-6 years, or more frequently based on your doctor’s recommendations.
7. Dental Exam
Oral health is an important and often overlooked aspect of overall wellbeing. Many medications seniors take can have a negative impact on oral health. Paired with natural aging, the need for seniors to have regular periodontal exams increases. Most systemic diseases have oral symptoms, so regular dental checks can also be a preventive tactic for more serious issues.
Frequency: Dental exams and oral cleanings should be performed by a dentist twice a year.
8. Kidney Function Test
Kidney function tests are used to test for stages of end stage renal disease. Blood and urine tests can both be used to indicate kidney function levels, though an analysis of your urine is the simplest.
You may want to be tested for kidney function if you are experiencing high blood pressure, blood in your urine, frequent, difficult, or painful urination, or excessive swelling of the hands and feet.
Frequency: If you are not experiencing any of these symptoms, a general practice is to check every 5 years.
9. Skin Check
Skin cancer risk increases as you age due to accumulated exposure to UV rays and sunburns. This makes checking for skin abnormalities as you age more important.
Frequency: Skin checks should be performed on your own on a regular basis. If you see a new mole or skin spot that is raised or increases in size, you should consult with a dermatologist. In addition to self-exams, a yearly visit to a dermatologist is recommended for older individuals.
10. Vision Exam
Like hearing, vision loss is a normal part of aging. Getting older also means increased risk of eye diseases, such as glaucoma.
Frequency: Annual vision exams are recommended for older adults, especially if you wear contacts or glasses.
Most of these tests and screenings require a consult with your doctor. Keep in mind that they may want to screen you for additional conditions and may need to limit or increase the frequency of certain screenings based on your health, age, and medical history.
Nurse Next Door is an advocate of seniors’ health. Read more articles like this one on The Caring Blog, or learn more about our home care services!
Jenny Hart is a health and wellness writer with a passion for travel, cycling and books. Her focus is topics related to the effects of aging on health and she is interested in research that can help people age better. When she isn’t writing or travelling, she’s traversing NYC with her two dogs Poochie and Ramone.