You know the drill – diet and exercise are vital to good health. But If you are over the age of 50, you should consider preventive healthcare. Like taking your car to the shop for its regular oil change and a check under the hood, the old bod’ needs a checkup as well! An annual physical examination can spot health problems before they become serious. Usually included is a check of your history, vital signs, blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate, temperature and general appearance, and may include heart (EKG), lung, head and neck, abdominal, neurological, dermatological and extremities exams. A blood count, chemistry panel and urinalysis allows your doctor to see your good and bad cholesterol numbers, vitamin D, kidney functions and the like – the tests tend to be individualized based on your history, age, and ethnicity.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is a panel of experts that works to improve the health of all Americans by making recommendations about preventive services such as screenings, counseling, and medications. The recommendations are intended to help healthcare providers and patients decide together if a service is right for the patient. Preventive recommendations for older adults include things like cholesterol screening, mammogram, colorectal cancer screening and diabetes test. Here is a link to the USPSTF website where you can explore recommendations for yourself.
As you age, you may also need vaccinations to help you stay healthy. Some adults assume that the vaccines they received as children will protect them for the rest of their lives, but for those who were never vaccinated as kids, did not have the newer vaccines available to them, or whose immunity has lessened with age, getting vaccinated later in life can prevent serious conditions. Also, susceptibility to disease caused by common infections like flu and pneumococcus increases as we age, so vaccines can be crucial. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) publishes recommendations on immunizations for adults by age and by health condition at their National Immunization Program website. They recommend that adults over 50 years gets:
A flu vaccine every year;
A Td/Tdap booster every 10 years;
A shingles vaccine if you are 60 years or older, even if you have had shingles before; and
A dose of PCV13 and PPSV23 (Pneumococcal) depending on your age and health condition.
Most insurance plans cover most, if not all, of the cost of a physical and vaccinations. Check with your insurer. And then make an appointment with your doctor.