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Routine tests that protect your health after age 50

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From page C4 | January 19, 2014 | Leave Comment

Regular check-ups are even more important as you age. The following are test recommendations for men and women starting at age 50:

Blood pressure: You should check your blood pressure at least once a year. High blood pressure is a silent, painless condition that affects your heart, arteries, brain, eyes and kidneys.

Cholesterol: Cholesterol is a waxy substance that can build up in blood vessels and cause blockages. High levels of cholesterol can lead to heart attacks and strokes. You should test once a year.

Blood sugar: Diabetes is a potentially life-threatening, but treatable, condition. Have a fasting blood sugar test at least once every three years. Any sugar levels higher than normal are unhealthy and called prediabetes. More than 79 million people in the U.S. have prediabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. It is possible to prevent the progression of prediabetes to diabetes with diet and exercise.

Skin: Regularly check for moles and other skin changes. Most skin cancers are curable if caught early.

Hearing and vision: It is recommended that you have both your hearing and vision checked at least once every three years. Eye diseases – such as glaucoma and macular degeneration – are common with age. Beginning at age 65, have a vision test every year.

Vaccinations: People over 65 need a pneumococcal vaccine to protect them from one form of pneumonia. Annual flu shots are recommended for anyone over age 50. Everyone should get a tetanus vaccine every 10 years. And a vaccination against shingles is now advised for people older than 60.

Rectal exam: To detect tissue masses or subtle bleeding, have a rectal exam every year. It can offer early detection of colon and prostate problems for men.

Colon cancer: A colonoscopy should be done every 10 years beginning at 50.

Thyroid hormone: Screening tests every five years for women are important to prevent hair loss, weight gain or weight loss, fatigue and depression.

All women: Women over 60 still need pelvic exams and pap smears because they can get cervical or vaginal cancer. Because of the risk of breast cancer, it’s important to get a mammogram every year until age 70. Women should have bone density tests at 65, or at age 60 if their risk of osteoporosis is higher.

All men: Prostate exams should be done annually, beginning at age 50. The PSA test, when combined with the rectal exam, can help detect prostate cancer. Recommendations for the PSA test vary, so discuss this screening with your physician.

Weight: Last, but important to people of any age. Don’t avoid the scales when you visit your doctor. Obesity is defined simply as too much body fat and close to one in three adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Being obese puts you at a higher risk for health problems such as heart diseases, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and more. If you are overweight, losing just 10 to 15 pounds can make a big improvement in your health. And, if you are worried about your knees, each pound of weight puts four pounds of pressure on your knees.

Marilyn Ranson is a public relations specialist with NorthBay Healthcare in Fairfield, which is a partner of the Solano Coalition for Better Health.

Marilyn Ranson

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