Making appointments to carry out a general health assessment or checkup with your doctor is important especially for the elderly. When we age, our body slows down in its processes and we become more susceptible to diseases and stress.
A periodic checkup or screening helps detect, diagnose and manage diseases early on. It is also important to get checked because of silent disease conditions such as hypertension that only show symptoms when there is significant damage.
Older people can live stronger and age better if they are well managed and carry out recommended screenings. For some of the leading causes of death in the elderly and across all age groups, early screening and management can help improve outcomes. As with most diseases, early management improves health outcomes.
The frequency of these health visits depends on your current health status and your age. For the elderly, a checkup at least once every three years is advisable if they do not have any symptoms or health conditions. However, it is not unusual for people in this age group to have a health condition that warrants follow-up consultations.
WHAT HEALTH CHECKS SHOULD YOU CARRY OUT?
- Annual glucose test to check for diabetes. Type-2 diabetes typically develops over time and may be screened for. If you have diabetes or prediabetes, lifestyle changes and/or medications can be started early as necessary.
- Eye screening and examination every year to assess for glaucoma, cataracts and other common eye conditions. With prompt care, these eye conditions can be efficiently managed or averted.
- Annual prostate cancer screening for men. A rectal examination and a blood test will be carried out to assess your prostate health. A scan may be ordered if there are any grey areas.
- Annual clinical breast examination and mammography for women. This is to help detect breast cancer early.
- Pap smear for women. This is used to screen for cervical cancer. It should be done at least once in three years.
- Blood pressure screenings at each encounter but at least yearly. An uncontrolled blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease and stroke which are common causes of death in the elderly.
- Osteoporosis (bone scan) screening for women. At this age, the bone mass is reduced and the risk of fractures is increased.
- Colon cancer screening. From 50, a colonoscopy at least once every 10 years is important to diagnose colon cancer early. A stool test to check for blood may also be done yearly.
- Cholesterol levels. This may predict your likelihood of having a heart attack or a stroke.
- Mental health assessment for mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety disorder, and medical conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Dental check. You should visit your dentist every year to assess your oral health and address any concerns about your dental health. You can also get your teeth cleaned at this encounter.
WHAT SHOULD YOU EXPECT?
Schedule an appointment with your health provider for a health checkup as appropriate. You will be asked questions about your general health and well-being as well as questions about any long-term conditions. Thereafter, a physical assessment and examination will be carried out to check your blood pressure, weight and height, heart rate and temperature measurement, and other necessary body parts/systems.
The screenings listed above will then be arranged as appropriate. You may require additional tests if necessary. You should encourage your friends, family and colleagues to go in for a health checkup as appropriate. This enables them to enjoy healthier and longer lives. This applies to people around 60 years of age and above.