Aging & Health A to Z
Basic Facts & Information
Some factors that affect your health are outside of your control, such as your family history of certain diseases. However, many important risk factors are within your power to change, through steps such as quitting smoking and exercising regularly. These vital steps can help prevent many diseases or slow down an illness you may already have. By making small changes in your daily life, you can stay active and independent as you get older. It is never too late to start on the road to better health.
The following simple steps will go a long way in helping you take charge of your health:
- Have regular check-ups with your healthcare professional.
- Get screening tests that are recommended for older adults.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Exercise regularly.
- Quit smoking.
- Drink alcohol in moderation.
- Make sure your healthcare provider is aware of every medication you take, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, and herbal remedies.
- Take part in social activities often, and keep in touch with family and friends.
- Get vaccinations recommended for older adults.
You can really make a difference in your health by taking control of the things that you can change.
Preventive Recommendations for Adults Aged 65 and Older
The following table lists recommendations that help prevent illness in older adults. It is healthier to prevent an illness from happening than to treat it after it develops. These are general guidelines and the frequency of some screening tests are under study by the healthcare community. Your particular health status may call for screenings more or less often. Always check with your healthcare provider.
|Screening For:||How Often|
|Depression (questionnaire)||Every year|
|Mental function (cognition)||Every year, if you have symptoms|
|Height and weight (obesity)||visit|
|Blood pressure||Every year|
|Vision testing||Every year|
|Glaucoma testing||Every year|
|Hearing testing||Every year|
|Bone density measurement (a test for bone health and osteoporosis)||At least once after age 65 for women; at least once after age 70 for men|
|Skin examination (for skin cancer)||Every year|
|Thyroid function blood test||Women, every two years|
|Lipid levels blood test (i.e., cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides)||Every 5 years; more often in people with coronary artery disease, diabetes, stroke, peripheral artery disease|
|C-reactive protein blood test||At least once in people with at least one risk factor for coronary artery disease|
|Diabetes: Glucose level (test for blood sugar)||Every 3 years, if risk factors are present, such as high blood pressure or obesity|
|Mammogram (breast x-rays)||Every 2 years in women aged 50-75. Consider for women >75 with at least 10 years life expectancy.|
|Pap smear (gynecologic/pelvic examination)||At least every 3 years. Not needed in women 65 and older if they have had 3 normal Pap smears up to that age; if never tested before, may stop after 2 normal annual Pap smears. Not needed for women without a cervix (if the hysterectomy was not due to cancer).|
|Test for blood in stool (FOBT)||Every year|
|Sigmoidoscopy||Every 5 years|
|Colonoscopy||Every 10 years from age 50 to age 75. Possibly beneficial for those aged 76-85 in excellent health with life expectancy at least 10 years. Not recommended for people 85 years and older.|
|Prostate blood test (PSA) and digital rectal examination for prostate cancer||Recommendations vary and range from not recommended to consider for men 50+ (or men 45+ with risk factors) with at least 10 years life expectancy.|
|Abdominal ultrasound for aortic aneurysm||Once between ages 65-75 for men who have ever smoked.|
Other Health Promotion Factors
|Get vaccinated for:|
|Influenza (flu)||Every year|
|Pneumonia (pneumococcal vaccine)||Once at age 65 (if healthy); if originally given before age 65 the vaccine should be regiven once after age 65 and 5 years later. It should also be regiven if you are immunosuppressed.|
|Tetanus||Every 10 years|
Once if immune system is intact. If taking an immunosuppressant medicine, stop the medication 1 day before the herpes zoster vaccine and resume it 2 weeks later.
Updated: March 2012
Posted: March 2012