South San Francisco, CA April 23, 2020 by Jenny Hart
10 Medical Exams Older Adults Shouldn’t Skip
Routine medical check-ups are essential for people of any age, but as you get older, they become increasingly important to your health, especially amid a global crisis like COVID-19. Currently, medical professionals and essential workers in the South City area are fighting off this disease from the front lines in defense of vulnerable populations, including seniors.
Adults over a certain age are more susceptible to certain conditions, which requires more diligence with your regular examinations and more frequent tests. As you get older, incorporating the following exams into your regular check-up routine can help prevent and manage any conditions you’re prone to contracting:
- Blood test
Blood tests tell doctors a lot about your overall health condition. Tests such as a Complete Blood Count (CBC), can even help diagnose anemia and bone marrow abnormalities. It’s recommended by medical professionals to get a blood test done every five years, unless otherwise instructed by your doctor.
- Cholesterol screening
Speaking of blood tests, cholesterol screenings can also fall under this category. These exams show your HDL and LDL levels, a.k.a. “good” and “bad” cholesterol. Cholesterol screenings show potential cardiovascular risks and can help doctors establish a preventative treatment plan. As a general rule, you should have a cholesterol screening performed every 4-6 years.
- Bone density scan
Bone mass decreases naturally as you age, so staying aware can help prevent serious injuries down the road. For older adults, a small fall could turn into a critical injury, especially if you’re suffering from untreated conditions like osteoporosis. To prevent or manage this, bone density scans are recommended regularly after 65, particularly for women, who are more prone to develop osteoporosis than men.
- Colorectal exam
As you get older, your chances for developing certain cancers increase. A colorectal exam is used to identify signs or symptoms that could turn into colon cancer. These exams do not declare a diagnosis, but are still important, as most new cases of colon cancer occur in patients over the age of 50. If discovered early, your doctor can treat these symptoms relatively easily. Make sure you schedule a colorectal exam every 10 years if no abnormal results are found.
Other cancers to look out for include breast cancer, which is more prevalent in women between the ages of 50 and 74. A mammogram is a test used to detect early signs of breast cancer and should be scheduled annually. Once you reach 75, the frequency of these tests can be reduced.
- GFR test
Did you know your kidneys are the primary filtration system in your body? Your estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) is tested to determine how well your kidneys are cleansing toxins and waste out of your blood, determining your risk for chronic kidney disease or informing you of which stage you are in. Doctors calculate GFR by measuring the amount of creatinine in your blood. When the kidneys are damaged, this waste builds up in the bloodstream and may cause high blood pressure. A GFR test should be performed every 6 to 12 months.
- Dental or periodontal exam
There are many medications that are recommended for older adults with side effects that impact oral health. Quite a few systemic diseases have oral symptoms as well. This means that as you age, it’s even more important to stay on top of your bi-annual visits to the dentist for cleanings and exams.
- Hearing test
Some core functions like hearing become more difficult as you age. Hearing loss is quite normal most of the time, due to the changing structure in the ear, but getting regular hearing tests can help prevent further damage and ensure your quality of life. Audiograms should be done every 2-3 years, but can be performed any time.
- Vision test
Like hearing tests, annual vision exams can help maintain your quality of life as you age. Vision loss may start early in life and is a normal part of aging. However, getting older also increases your risk of eye diseases, such as glaucoma or cataracts. Regular eye exams can help detect early signs of disease and lead to preventative treatment.
- Skin check
Aging increases your risk for skin cancer due to years of exposure to UV rays, especially in San Francisco or anywhere else near the coast. Schedule a skin exam with your dermatologist every year if you are an older adult. You should also be aware of what to look for when performing self-exams.
Getting older is a natural part of life that can be vibrant and beautiful with the right care. Stay in communication with your primary care physician to determine exactly which health tests you should prioritize, based on your age and medical history, and make sure you are up-to-date on all of the major vaccinations, including pneumonia, sinusitis, meningitis and a yearly flu shot.
There are plenty of clinics, doctors and exam centers in South San Francisco, if you’re ready to take the next step in your health.
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.