Medical Check-ups

Regular physical exams should be a priority for all seniors

Too many people believe that visiting the doctor when you don’t have a specific complaint is a waste of both your time and the medical resources involved.

But nothing could be further from the truth. A growing body of evidence has shown that routine medical check-ups are a vital part of a pro-active health system – and the best way to catch illness when they are still in the early, most treatable stages.

For seniors in particular, regular physical exams should become both a priority and a welcome part of your commitment to aging well.

A physical is when a doctor investigates the body of a patient for signs of disease. It generally includes urine samples, blood work and a series of medical history questions.

For people 60 and older, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends a series of simple physical tests that should be part of your routine annual medical check-ups. They include:

  • Blood Pressure: A regular blood pressure check can help identify silent killers such as hypertension and cardiac disease before it advances.
  • Weight: Weight management is crucial for seniors. Left unchecked it can lead to diabetes, heart problems  and many other debilitating medical complications. Let your physician monitor you weight as you age, and devise strategies to manage weight gain effectively.
  • Blood Sugar: An annual blood sugar test is the surest way to spot the onset of diabetes before it happens.
  • Colon Screening: Have a colonoscopy every 10 years after age 50. And ask your doctor for a digital rectal exam as a way to spot problems in your colon or prostate gland (in men).
  • Bone Density: Have a bone density to mark any advance of osteoporosis before it becomes crippling.
  • Breast Screening: An annual mammogram should be a priority for all women over 50.
  • Eye Exams: Seniors face a variety of degenerative conditions that can affect vision. Have an eye exam every year.
  • Hearing Exams: Many seniors experience some degree of hearing loss, but there’s not reason to let it go untreated. Have an annual check-up and talk to your doctor about ways of improving your hearing as you age.

Finally, don’t forget your shots! Every senior over age 55 should get a yearly flu shot, a pneumonia vaccine and a tetanus booster.

Want to learn more? The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has detailed information on recommended medical check-ups for all patients.