For your entire life, you’ve known how important it is to see a doctor for an annual physical examination. Now that you’re in your 50s, however, taking charge of preventive health requires more than just a yearly check with your primary care physician. Many major illnesses can show up at this stage of life, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. Therefore, it is imperative to catch diseases early on before they progress into potentially life-threatening conditions. Ask your doctor about the following must-have medical tests and discuss other potential exams you may need based on your individual health history.
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
In your 20s your doctor may have ordered a complete blood count (CBC) test. Now that you’ve reached your 50s, your doctor will likely order a CBC, whether you’ve taken this test in the past or not. It is a simple blood test that measures all components surrounding your blood. Specifically, it measures red and white blood cell counts, as well as hemoglobin, the oxygen-rich red blood proteins. Lower measurements of any of these components may indicate allergies, autoimmune disease, arthritis, infections, kidney disease and cancer. A CBC is likely the first step your doctor will take to check your overall health, since the results can help lead to other diagnoses and tests.
Type 2 diabetes is on the rise in the United States, thanks to unhealthy diets and a sedentary lifestyle. Age is also another contributing factor because your risk for diabetes increases as you get older. Silver Innings recommends blood sugar tests every two to three years during your mid-life years—doing so may help detect the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Blood Pressure Check
Every time you see the doctor, a nurse checks your blood pressure. This is true whether you are at a regular checkup, or you’re there for a sick visit. Your blood pressure is an important clue into your heart function. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, means that your heart is working harder than it should to deliver blood to the rest of your body. Overtime, hypertension can lead to heart and kidney failure, as well as vision problems. It may also be accompanied by obesity.
As you get older, your risk for hypertension increases. If you are concerned about your blood pressure, you may even check it at a machine in your local pharmacy. You must heed orders by your doctor if he suspects a problem with your blood pressure. Take preventive measures over your blood pressure risk if hypertension runs in your family, or if you have any underlying risk factors such as high stress, obesity and heart disease.
A cholesterol profile measures both “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels and “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels in the blood. Diet and heredity are the two main factors that contribute to cholesterol. Depending on your individual health profile, you may be at risk of developing dangerous levels of LDL cholesterol by the time you reach 50. A cholesterol profile should be done once every five years, as recommended by Silver Innings. If high cholesterol runs in your family, however, have this test done more often, or as recommended by your doctor.
Eyes & Skin
It’s no secret vision problems increase with age. While you may be avoiding the thought of wearing contacts or prescription glasses for the first time, getting your eyes checked out can help detect major eye health issues. Macular degeneration and cataracts, for example, are easiest to treat when detected early. Even if you have already been treated for eye health issues prior to reaching your 50s, you should still go for an annual eye exam.
Your tanning days may be a thing of the past, but you should still seek your dermatologist for an annual skin check. Melanoma, the most dangerous and deadly form of skin cancer, has a better chance of treatment when caught early. Also be sure to check your skin every month for any suspicious moles or growths.
Tests by Gender
Basic medical tests apply to both men and women in their 50s. However, more specialized tests may apply to different genders. While a rectal exam is recommended for both men and women for the detection of colon cancer, men may also require an accompanying blood test every year to check for prostate cancer. Women should get pelvic exams and mammograms every one to three years, depending on your doctor’s recommendations.
You may have already noticed changes in your metabolism. While metabolism naturally slows with age, drastic changes could indicate a thyroid problem. Your thyroid is a small gland at the base of your neck, which controls all major body functions, including energy and metabolism. Although cases of thyroid disease can occur in any gender, women are more prone to problems with this metabolic gland. Hormone levels can be detected through a CBC, but you may ask your doctor specifically for a thyroid function test if you experience any unusual symptoms.
In your 50s, taking care of your health is just as important as ever. Basic medical tests can help detect potential problems while also giving you peace of mind. Don’t forget to incorporate healthy habits into your daily lifestyle and discuss any modifications with your doctor.