As we age, regardless of our health status, we become more susceptible to different disease risks. With proper screenings we can be aware of any potential risks and take steps to prevent certain diseases like heart disease and osteoporosis. Even though some diseases like cancer might not be preventable, with early detection, survival rates can be much higher. The passage of the Affordable Care Act will allow for coverage of preventive screenings at 100% so this is the time to get the tests that are appropriate for you.
Below I have outlined the health screenings that men and women of a certain age need in 2013. I have broken down the list by gender and have included the age at which screening should start and how frequently it should be performed.
• Mammogram – Depending on risk factors like genetics, women should begin getting annual mammograms between ages 40-50. If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, mammograms should begin at an earlier age.
• Blood Pressure Test – Women should have their blood pressure checked as early as 18 and repeat every other year. Checking your blood pressure is a good indicator of heart risk, which increases as we age, so if you haven’t checked it in a while, now is the time.
• Cholesterol – Like blood pressure, women should start checking their blood cholesterol when they are younger and repeat every 5 years. A cholesterol test measures the amount of total cholesterol, “bad” LDL and “good” HDL cholesterol, circulating in the blood. Usually triglycerides (fats in the blood) are tested as well.
• Colonoscopy – Known as the most accurate colon cancer screening, your first colonoscopy should take place at age 50. Many people may dread this certain procedure, but the good news is that it only needs to be done every 10 years. However, if you have risk factors, a family history or history of colon polyps, it’s best to schedule a colonoscopy more frequently.
• Bone Density – Women are at a huge risk for developing osteoporosis, so a bone mineral density test is used as an indicator of bone strength and osteoporosis risk. Women should start at age 65, earlier if a woman has previous fragility fractures; a family history of osteoporosis; on medications that cause bone loss or have problems with calcium absorption.
• Pap smear and pelvic exam – both of these exams should start in your 20s or as soon as you become sexually active. They should continue into menopause since they check for cervical cancer (as long as you still have your cervix) and uterine and ovarian cancer (again, as long as you have not had these organs removed by hysterectomy).
• Blood Pressure – Heart disease is the number one killer of men, so it is important to have the proper screenings to see where you, and your heart, stand. Men should have their blood pressure checked every two years, unless it is on the high side then they should have it checked every year.
• Cholesterol – Men over 35 should have cholesterol screening every five years as long as it is normal, unless you have diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems or certain other conditions than you may need to be monitored more closely.
• Osteoporosis – Like women, men are also at risk for osteoporosis, so they should start screening between the ages of 50-70.
• Colonoscopy – Again it only needs to be done every 10 years, but it is important to start at age 50. If you have certain risk factors, you should have one done more often.
• Prostate Cancer –Because prostate cancer screening has been controversial, men age 50 or older should discuss screening for prostate cancer with their physician. Prostate cancer is the most common cause of death from cancer in men over 75. Men over 60 should especially pay attention and be screened as they have a higher risk. African-American men and those with a family history should start screening at age 45.
These screenings are an important step in taking control of your health and assessing any potential risks. Your overall health and wellness should be a top priority. I recommend having a routine physical every year with your trusted health care professional and discuss the preventive screenings that are right for you.
- Carmella Sebastian , MD, MS, is board certified in internal medicine and holds a master’s degree in healthcare administration. Dr. Carm, as she’s known, is a nationally renowned wellness educator with a special interest in women at mid-life and women’s health. Dr. Carm can be followed on Twitter – @Dr_Carm