As we age, we become more at-risk for certain diseases that impact older adults more often than younger adults, even if you live a fit and healthy lifestyle says health and wellness expert Jeff Behar
“Individuals over 50 should be screened regularly for a variety of health problems, because preventive health screenings like prostate cancer screenings and mamograms can detect conditions early, and allow for earlier treatment that saves lives,” says Jeff Behar.
“I lost a friend to melanoma, and an aunt to breast cancer. Earlier screenings would have saved their lives”, says Jeff Behar.
Various health institutions, including the American Cancer Society, the National Institute of Health, the National Cholesterol Education Program, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend adults over age 50 take advantage of the following preventative health screenings:
1. Prostate Cancer Screening
The Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test is a blood test used to suggest the presence of or monitor prostate cancer. It is used to help detect prostate cancer at its earliest stages .
The “normal” PSA serum concentration ranges between 1.0 and 4.0 ng/mL. However, since the prostate gland generally increases in size and produces more PSA with increasing age, it is normal to have lower levels in young men and higher levels in older men.
Approximately a third of all men over fifty have cancer in their prostate gland. While this type of cancer may never cause a problem, that is not easy to tell at an early stage. Early discovery via screening may prevent catastrophic consequences from prostate cancer.
A mammogram is an X-ray image of your breast used to screen for breast cancer.
Mammograms can be used to check for breast cancer in women who have no signs or symptoms of the disease. This type of mammogram is called a screening mammogram. Screening mammograms usually involve two x-ray pictures, or images, of each breast. The x-ray images make it possible to detect tumors that cannot be felt. Screening mammograms can also find microcalcifications (tiny deposits of calcium) that sometimes indicate the presence of breast cancer.
Mammograms can also be used to check for breast cancer after a lump or other sign or symptom of the disease has been found. This type of mammogram is called a diagnostic mammogram.
Mammograms play a key role in early breast cancer detection and help decrease breast cancer deaths.
During a mammogram, your breasts are compressed between two firm surfaces to spread out the breast tissue. Mammograms play a key role in early breast cancer detection and help decrease breast cancer deaths.
The American Cancer Society recommends that women start having a yearly mammogram after age 40. However, women should talk to their doctors to see what’s right for them, especially if they are considered high-risk.
Colorectal cancer is a problem for both genders, but it can often be detected through a colonoscopy. Colonoscopy is one of many tests that may be used to screen for colon cancer. Other tests include flexible sigmoidoscopy, CT colonography, fecal occult blood test, double-contrast barium enema, stool tests, and computed tomographic colonography.
The American Cancer Society recommends men and women have a colonoscopy every five to ten years starting at age 50, depending on risk factors.
Which screening test you choose depends on your risk, your preference, and your doctor. Talk to your doctor about what puts you at risk and what test is best for you
4. Heart Disease Screening
The key to preventing cardiovascular disease, also called coronary artery disease (CAD), is managing your risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high total cholesterol or high blood glucose. But how do you know which risk factors you have? The best way to find out is through screening tests during regular doctor visits.
Here are the key screening tests recommended for optimal cardiovascular health:
Blood Pressure. Blood pressure is one of the most important screenings because high blood pressure usually has no symptoms so it can’t be detected without being measured. High blood pressure greatly increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. If your blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg, be sure to get it checked at least once every two years, starting at age 20. If your blood pressure is higher, your doctor may want to check it more often. High blood pressure can be controlled through lifestyle changes or medication. After age 65, women have a higher risk of high blood pressure than men, and African-American adults of all ages have a higher-than-average risk.
Fasting Lipoprotein Profile (cholesterol and triglycerides). You should have a fasting lipoprotein profile taken every four to six years, starting at age 20. This is a blood test that measures total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides. (Learn more about cholesterol and triglyceride levels.) You may need to be tested more frequently if your healthcare provider determines that you’re at an increased risk for heart disease or stroke.
Older women tend to have higher triglyceride levels than men. Like high blood pressure, often cholesterol and triglycerides can be controlled through lifestyle changes or medication.
Blood Glucose. Starting at age 45, you should have your blood glucose level checked at least every three years. High blood glucose levels put you at greater risk of developing insulin resistance, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Untreated diabetes can lead to many serious medical problems including heart disease and stroke. If you’re overweight AND you have at least one additional cardiovascular risk factor, your doctor may recommend a blood glucose test even if you’re not yet 45, or more frequently than every 3 years.
Screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm. Age and other risk factors (like a history of smoking) raise the likelihood of an abdominal aortic aneurysm. At-risk individuals should undergo the aortic aneurysm screening annually.
Body Weight. Starting around 20 years old, your healthcare provider may ask for your waist circumference or use your body weight to calculate your body mass index (BMI) during your routine visit. These measurements may tell you and your physician whether you’re at a healthy body weight and composition. About two of every three adults are now overweight or obese. Being obese puts you at higher risk for health problems such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and more.
Smoking, physical activity, diet. Smoking is the most important preventable cause of premature death in the United States. If you smoke, tell your doctor at your next healthcare visit. If you smoke, your doctor can suggest approaches to help quit. Also discuss your diet and physical activity habits. If there’s room for improvement in your diet and daily physical activity levels, ask your doctor to provide helpful suggestions.
5. Pap Smear Test (Women)
Pap tests are capable of detecting cervical cancer. Until she gets to 65, a woman should have a pap smears at least once every three years. If the results have been normal up that point, she can stop getting the tests at 65 or 70, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
5. Bone Density Screening
In the past, osteoporosis could be detected only after you broke a bone. By that time, however, your bones could be quite weak. Bone density scans have the A bone density test determines if you have osteoporosis — a disease that causes bones to become more fragile and more likely to break. The test enhances the accuracy of calculating your risk of breaking bones.
Bone density tests differ from bone scans. Bone scans require an injection beforehand and are usually used to detect fractures, cancer, infections and other abnormalities in the bone.
It is recommended that women start getting screened for this condition at age 65 and men at age 75. Women at a higher risk should start getting screened at menopause and men at age 50, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
Take charge of your health by talking to your doctor to learn more about which preventative health screenings you should be having and how often you may need them.
About the Author Jeff Behar
Jeff Behar, MS, MBA, is a well-known health, fitness, wellness author and anti aging, champion natural bodybuilder (2014 Masters Grand Prix Champion, 2015 California State Masters Champion), and a recognized health, fitness and nutrition expert with over 30 years of experience in the health, fitness, disease prevention, nutrition, and anti-aging fields.
As a recognized health, fitness and nutrition expert, Jeff Behar's has been featured on several radio shows, TV, and in several popular bodybuilding publications such as Flex, Ironman and in several highly regarded peer reviewed scientific journals. Jeff Behar is also the CEO and founder www.MuscleMagFitness.com and www.MyBesthealthPortal.com and a Medical Commentator on exercise for The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, the worlds largest medical academy for anti-aging and regenerative medicine, provides medical professionals with the latest Anti-Aging, regenerative, functional and metabolic medicine.
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