It’s important for everyone to get regular medical check-ups. Staying on top of your regular screenings can help you catch early signs of disease and seek treatment (or even preventative care) as early as possible.
Preventative care is especially important for seniors. As we age, many conditions become more common. Incorporating these tests into your routine medical care is a great way to understand your health, and can help you treat problems as soon as they start, when the odds of beating them are at their best.
Please note: Not all the test listed below are covered by Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage, or Medigap supplemental plans. Click here to learn about Medicare’s Preventive screenings and tests. It is also not required to be a senior to qualify for Medicare.
1. Hearing Test
Hearing loss is a common part of aging. It can also be one of the most frustrating, for yourself and the people around you. As the structure of your ear changes, you may find yourself having a harder time hearing those around you.
Regular checkups can help you stay on top of hearing loss and compensate with appropriate hearing aids. You can get an audiogram at any time, but you should be getting one at least every 2 or 3 years.
2. Blood Test
A lot of tests are technically “blood tests”. Blood tests can help us measure everything from cholesterol to kidney function. But the health of the blood itself is important, too.
A Complete Blood Count (CBC) can help you catch conditions like bone marrow issues and anemia. Having a CBC performed every five years or so is a good baseline. (Though if your doctor recommends one sooner than that, it’s probably a good idea.)
3. Cholesterol Screening
Another important blood test is your cholesterol screening, also known as a lipid panel. Knowing your levels of HDL and LDL (“good” and “bad” cholesterol) can help identify potential heart problems as early as possible.
You’ll have to fast for 12 hours before the test, but it’s more than worth it to catch danger to your heart or coronary artery. People at average heart risk should get a cholesterol screening about every 5 years. If you have certain risk factors, you may want a screening more often than that.
4. Kidney Test
Kidney diagnostic tests measure your kidney function by checking the levels of certain waste products in your blood. (For added accuracy, some also check levels of the same waste in your urine, to make sure that your kidneys are processing correctly.)
Most kidney function tests should be performed every five years, but if you’re experiencing any symptoms of kidney disease, such as swelling in your extremities or bloody urine, a kidney function test will be an important part of the diagnostic process.
5. Blood Pressure Test
A blood pressure test is important, as well. If you go to the doctor regularly, you probably receive a blood pressure test at each visit. But if you don’t have keep regular doctor appointments, you should start.
Getting a blood pressure test at least once a year is important in staying on top of your cardiovascular health. High blood pressure can have cascading effects throughout your body, since it can slow the flow of nutrient-rich blood to organs that need it.
6. Blood Sugar Test
Diabetes affects over 10% of the population of the U.S. Diabetes is a chronic illness that can only be treated, rather than cured. But the sooner you start treating it, the better off you’ll be.
And if your blood sugar levels are in the pre-diabetes range, you can still work to lower them before you develop diabetes. It’s important to test your blood sugar at least every 3 years, if you have no other conditions or risk fact.
As of 2021, select Part D and Medicare Advantage that offer drugs (MAPD) plans provide broad access to a wide range of insulin types for a maximum copay of $35 for a 30-day supply. This a large discount over previous pricing.
A colonoscopy is a type of colorectal exam. A doctor will use a camera to scan your colon for signs of unusual growths that may indicate cancer.
Since most new colon cancer cases arise after the age of 50, regular colonoscopies are an important part of maintaining your health. If caught early, colorectal cancer is very treatable. Unfortunately, it often isn’t caught until it’s too late. Colorectal exams should occur every ten years, but if you have a family history of colorectal cancer, you’ll want to get them more often.
(Editors Note: Medicare covers 100% of colonoscopies once every 120 months or once every 24 months if you are high risk for colorectal cancer)
8. Bone Density Scan
Bone density tests are the only way to diagnose osteoporosis, and the only way to screen for osteoporosis before a bone breaks. These tests can warn you if you need to take action to improve your bone density, and help you track whether your bone density is holding steady, decreasing, or improving over time.
Women 65 or older, men 70 or older, or anyone who has broken a bone after the age of 50 should have a bone density test.
9. Dental X-ray
A dental X-ray (as part of your regular dental exam) can be a very important test for seniors. Medications like antihistamines and antidepressants can affect your oral health, and a number of diseases can impact it, too.
It’s important for everyone to have dental check-ups twice a year, but it’s especially important for seniors, who are more likely to be affected by those issues. During at least one of your twice-annual checkups, your dentist should X-ray your jaw.
10. Vision Test
Annual vision tests should be an important part of your routine medical care. Like hearing loss, some vision loss is an expected part of aging. Annual testing can help keep your glasses or contact lens prescription accurate, improving your quality of life.
But screening for glaucoma and cataracts is also important. Catching signs of disease early is important in receiving timely preventative care.
Your senior years can be an important, vibrant time of your life. You may be retiring, giving you new opportunities and new ways to spend your time.
Consult with your doctor about when you should have these screenings and how often, based on your unique family history and medical needs. Regular medical testing can help you get the most out of these years, helping you stay healthy and active so that you can get the most enjoyment possible out of this time of your life.
Jenny Hart is a guest author for Senior65.com.