Health checkups for the elderly
Dr. Parul R Sheth
Early diagnosis and treatment is very important for all. But diagnostic tests and preventive health check-ups are more essential for the elderly. There can be many medical problems that may arise suddenly and may require prompt treatment.
To keep yourself healthy, happy and safe over the age of 60, you need to undergo simple medical tests on a routine basis. But before you go on for tests, check your family medical history, review your lifestyle choices such as your eating habits, how active you are, whether you smoke or you are a heavy drinker and many more.
The examinations and screenings depend upon your age, family history, your lifestyle choices and your overall health. The WHO classifies people aged between 45 and 59 as middle age, 60 to 74 as elderly and over 75 as old.
If you are over 60, 70 or 80 even though you seem to be hale and hearty, a physical exam including your height, weight and body mass index (BMI) measurement, routine blood tests, urine tests, stool test, an electro cardiogram (ECG), a chest X-ray etc, once every year can help detect many ailments including anaemia, infections, heart ailments, respiratory ailments, kidney problems, diabetes etc.
You also need to get a routine check up if you already have chronic illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, asthma, respiratory problems, kidney problems etc.
Ageing also affects your memory. According to Mumbai-based neurologist Dr. Janak Nathan, “The risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is higher after the age of 80.
The cells in the brain begin to die causing degeneration and progressive mental deterioration. The best way is to remain mentally busy and fit.” Depending on your health status your doctor can recommend you to get a general health check up every year.
Common tests for the elderly and old
Weigh yourself: As you enter your 50’s and 60’s and you age further, your muscle mass is being replaced by fat. The fat collects at your waist. Your body’s metabolism is slowing down; you do not burn as many calories as before. Beware of weight gain at wrong places. Check your diet plan and increase your physical activity.
Blood pressure: High blood pressure or hypertension is a silent killer. Get your blood pressure checked every year. If you already have high blood pressure, get into routine monitoring and taking your medications on time without skipping a dose.
Cholesterol and triglyceride levels in blood: High cholesterol and triglycerides can put you at a risk of heart attacks and stroke. Regular monitoring therefore is important. Lifestyle changes and medications can help you get back to your normal levels.
Blood sugar: The American Diabetes Association recommends that a fasting blood sugar test be done at least once every three years, so you can detect diabetes early and manage it.
Thyroid hormone test: Screening for thyroid problems is a must once every five years, especially for women. Supplementing thyroid hormones can help hypothyroidism.
Bone density test: Women are prone to osteoporosis as they age. A bone density test is recommended for women over the age of 60.
Eye tests: Macular generation and glaucoma begin to appear with age. You need an eye check-up every one to two years after the age of 60. Screening of eyes can help solve vision problems.
Hearing check: Around 30 per cent of people have some hearing loss after the age of 60. You can get tested at least once in three years. The problem is treatable.
Skin changes: Look out for unusual moles or unusual changes on your skin.
Dental examination: Your teeth, gums, mouth and throat need to be examined by a dentist regularly. Brushing after every meal and flossing helps keep up your dental health. Get prompt treatment if for any dental problem. With the latest techniques such as permanent implants and dentures etc. you can still maintain that lovely smile.
Cancer screening: Colonoscopy is generally done every 10 years after the age of 50. Computed tomographic colonography or virtual colonoscopy is a preferred technique. Doctors recommend a rectal exam and a stool test and faecal occult blood test (FOBT) every year to detect the presence of a mass or any internal bleeding that cannot be seen with the naked eye or to detect treatable problems in your colon or prostate in men. Sigmoidoscopy, an internal examination of the lower large bowel (colon) and rectum, is advised after every five years.
Prostate screening test: Increased prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels in the blood indicate enlargement of the prostate and prostate cancer in men. Digital rectal examination is also done for screening prostate problems.
Breast cancer screening: A mammogram every one to two years and breast exam helps in breast cancer detection. Your risk of breast cancer increases with age.
Pap smear: Regular pelvic exam helps detect many problems related to vagina, cervix and uterus. Pap smear to detect cervical cancer is recommended for women every three years. If a woman is over 65 years old and has had three negative pap smears in a row or has had a total hysterectomy, a pap smear is not necessary.