As you age, it may seem like you can skip regular checkups and just visit the doctor when you have concerns or are sick. However, it is important to have regular visits with a primary care provider or general physician for preventative health reasons.
Getting a routine checkup will help determine which health screenings you may need done so that some health issues can be caught early on. Many health issues can have no symptoms and be caught with a simple screening such as a lab test.
If you have family history of certain diseases, you may also benefit from some extra or earlier screenings. As you age, you still need certain vaccinations to keep you protected from some preventable illnesses. Keeping up with yearly health maintenance is important, so don’t skip it!
Getting ready for your checkup
Going to a checkup can feel overwhelming. Before you go:
- Make a list of questions that you may have so you don’t forget to ask while you are with your provider
- Similarly, keep a list of symptoms or worries that might be keeping you awake at night
- Brush up on your family history so that your provider can help identify if you have any risk factors for disease or need any additional testing. Family history of some health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke as well as certain cancers can increase your risk and warrant extra discussion, lifestyle changes or testing.
Talking to your doctor about lifestyle changes and preventative health
Be truthful about your lifestyle. Your provider needs to know the truth about exercise, your diet, drug and alcohol use and sexual history. Knowing more about you and your body will help your provider to determine which tests are most appropriate and could help identify disease. Your specific plan of care will directly be related to your lifestyle.
Thinking about your long term plan and risk for disease is important to review not only with your provider, but with yourself. Write down your goals for health and try to make small goals that you can try to achieve. Whether it is cutting down on alcohol use or taking daily walks or exercise, lifestyle is an important piece of the healthcare puzzle.
Common testing for middle-aged adults
Regular exams and testing can catch some health problems early or before they start. Common testing and concerns for adults include the following:
- Breast and Cervical Cancer
- Colorectal Cancer
- High Blood Pressure
- Oral Health for Adults
- Prostate Cancer
- Skin Cancer
- Sexualy Transmitted Disease
Discussing these topics with your primary health care provider can help catch some health care issues early. Men and women have different needs and testing requirements, and age can determine when you get some of these tests. Read about the tests men and women should have in more detail in our men’s health screening article and women’s health screening article. Health history and provider preferences are varied, so it is important to have a plan that meets your needs for preventative health care.
Preventative health that everyone needs
Besides the age and sex specific care you may need that is broken down in detail above, there are a few tests that everyone can benefit from in staying healthy. Whole body care including mental and physical health is key to keeping healthy and detecting disease early.
Taking care of your teeth and mouth is important. Try to brush your teeth after each meal or at least twice per day. Everybody should also be flossing daily and get regular (every 6-12 month) teeth cleanings. These cleanings will remove plaque and help prevent tooth and gum disease. our dentist will also check for mouth and gum cancer while they are in there.
Get those eyes checked! From age 30-39, two eye exams are recommended to be sure you aren’t in need of glasses or tweaks in your current contact prescription. If you already have glasses or eye concerns, you might be recommended to be seen yearly. Check with your eye doctor to see when they prefer to have you back in for another checkup. At age 40, an eye appointment to check for any early eye disease or issues is recommended. Glaucoma and macular degeneration are two age related diseases that can be detected with eye screenings. If you have any vision changes or difficulty seeing normally, don’t delay getting those eyes checked!
Based on your risk factors and history, your provider may recommend annual skin exams. You can track moles that might be concerning and also screen for skin cancer regularly with these exams. Discuss with your provider how often you should be getting your skin checked out.
Each time you have a new sexual partner, it is important to have screenings for HIV, Hep C and other Sexually Transmitted Disease (STI) such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and HPV. Of course if you have any symptoms of STIs, you should be seen sooner. Read more about STIs for men and women and what your next steps should be.
Mental health is just as important as physical health. Make sure to talk to your provider or reach out for help if you feel like sadness, anxiety, or other overwhelming feelings prevent you from going about your normal, daily activities. Some primary care providers will automatically provide mental health screenings for middle-aged patients, but not all. Getting to know your doctor and feeling comfortable talking to them will help them to identify any concerns early.
It is important to keep up with your vaccinations as an adult—they aren’t just for kids! Some vaccinations are important to be sure to get, and some will depend on your health history. Vaccines not only prevent disease, but also help protect others. Here are a few you should be sure to discuss with your provider:
- All adults should get an annual flu shot in the fall or winter to protect themselves and others
- Anyone over the age of 65 might need to be vaccinated with pneumococcal vaccines. There are different types, so talk to your provider about which one might be right for you based on your health history.
- The Tdap vaccine is a combo vaccine that includes tetanus (for when you get those rusty cuts) and pertussis (whooping cough) coverage. It is required every ten years as well as with every pregnancy.
- Anyone over 50 years of age should have the varicella zoster (shingles) vaccine
- Chat with your provider to see if you need any other age and health history specific vaccines
Discuss your short and long term plans for testing as well as your lifestyle changes and concerns so that you know what to expect for your preventative health planning each year. Chat with a nurse first if you have questions about which test you might need or what your healths screenings might mean for you. We are here to help and know that staying on top of your preventative health can be very overwhelming. We care and are here for you!
The opinions expressed in Nurse-1-1 Health Center Blogs are solely opinions of the writer. Other than information received directly by you from your personal provider, the health center blog should not be considered medical advice. Read more.