Preventive Care Tips at 50+

One of the best ways to stay on the move is with preventive health care. Key screenings and tests can help your doctor find medical problems early — before they cause bigger problems that make them more complicated to treat.

1. Blood pressure check. High blood pressure can cause a heart attack, a stroke, and eye and kidney problems — without you even knowing your blood pressure is high. That’s why it’s important to get your blood pressure checked, even if you don’t think you have a problem. If your blood pressure is lower than 120/80, at least once every two years is usually fine. If your blood pressure is higher, then your doctor will likely want to check it more often.

2. Cholesterol screening. Heart disease is the top cause of death in the U.S. One of its main risk factors is a high blood cholesterol level. It’s recommended that you start getting your cholesterol tested at least once every four to six years beginning at age 20. A simple blood test shows your levels and risk for heart disease.
As you age, your risk for heart disease increases. If you are in your 50s, it’s vitally important to continue getting screened.

3. Mammogram. As a screening test for breast cancer, experts agree that a mammogram is the best way to find breast cancer early. There’s some debate about how often you should get one.

• The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all women between ages 50 and 74 have a mammogram once every 2 years.
• The American Cancer Society recommends a mammogram each year for women after age 40.

Senior man chasing woman through countryside

4. Colon cancer screening. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. When you turn 50, your chance of developing it increases. So — unless you’re at an above-average risk — age 50 is when your doctor may recommend you start getting screened. The good news: there are several tests that can help detect colon cancer early.

5. Pap test. This test checks for cervical cancer, which is easy to treat when caught early. Although your risk of cervical cancer decreases with age, your need for routine Pap tests doesn’t stop with menopause. The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that women ages 21 to 65 have a Pap test every 3 years. Women ages 30 to 65 may have screening every 5 years using a combination of Pap test and human papillomavirus (HPV) testing. Women who have a higher risk of cancer may need a Pap test more often. Your doctor can recommend what is best for you.

6. Bone mineral density scan. This screening checks your risk for osteoporosis. It’s recommended for all women at age 65. If you are at high risk, your doctor may recommend this test once you turn 60. Men, ages 70 and older, may also benefit from this screening.

7. AAA screening. Experts recommend a one-time abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening for men ages 65 to 75 who have smoked at any point in their lives. This ultrasound screens for an enlarged blood vessel in the abdominal area that can cause severe bleeding and death if it ruptures. If your blood vessel is enlarged, surgery can often correct it.

Tensed mature woman sitting in bed

8. Depression screening. Depression is a common cause of disability in adults, although it’s often overlooked. It frequently arises with chronic illness and aging. Depression isn’t a normal part of aging, and you can get treatment. If you’re feeling sad, hopeless, or not interested in your regular activities, talk with your doctor. She can see if you’re depressed by having you fill out a questionnaire or by asking you a few simple questions.

9. Diabetes screening. More than 9% of all Americans have diabetes — including nearly 28% of people who are undiagnosed. Uncontrolled diabetes can cause complications such as blindness, kidney disease, and the need for limb amputation. Ask your doctor about how often you need diabetes screenings.

10. Immunizations. As you age, you need a few extra vaccines to help you stay healthy.

• Flu shot: Recommended yearly for everyone, 6 months of age and older
• Pneumonia vaccine: Recommended if you’re age 65 or older, and if you have diabetes, liver disease, asthma, any other type of lung disease, or problems with your immune system; a series of two different vaccines is now recommended.
• Shingles vaccine: Recommended if you’re age 60 or older.