The definition of what age you need to be in order to be considered “aging” is pretty muddy. We’ve seen anywhere from 45 to 65, and everything in between. It doesn’t make a ton of sense when you think about it, because what it boils down to is that all of us are aging.
Regardless of our age, we are, in fact, aging right now.
At the risk of getting too philosophical about all that, we’ll just get back to basics. No matter what your age, take care of yourself, and take your joy where you can find it.
Beyond that, the undeniable reality is that as we get older, we need some extra support. We want to give you a gentle reminder of the things we should all be doing at our regular checkups to take stock of our health for the long haul.
Really, there’s a reason. Changes in our vision are normal with age, but anything sudden or dramatic can be a sign of something really wrong. Because our eyesight is a good indicator of our overall health, have your vision checked regularly and talk to your doctor about any issues or concerns you may have.
Just like with vision, hearing loss is more common the older we get, but even things like drug interactions and prolonged exposure to loud noises in our lives that we managed to “tune out” can affect our hearing health.
You’d be surprised at how often people go for long periods of time without a hearing screening, only to discover they’ve been hearing impaired but had gotten so used to it, they didn’t realize it.
In fact, the National Institute of Health states that roughly 17% of adults (in the U.S.) suffer from some form of hearing loss.
It’s true, dental issues may be an indication of other health problems but lets not forget, the main reason to get a periodontal exam is to keep our mouth, teeth, gums, and throat healthy. Everyone wants to keep their teeth as long as possible, this is the first line of defense against the kinds of periodontal disease that will take them from us.
Skin cancer is another one of those pesky things that plague us more as we age. The best way to prevent it and/or catch it early is to get an annual screening to check for suspicious marks, discoloration, moles, etc.
Hopefully, you’ve been doing this one all along, but it bears repeating. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg. If you’re looking at a reading of 140/90 mmHg or above, you’re looking at hypertension, which is scary of course because it increases your risk of heart attack and stroke. If you do suffer from hypertension, partner with your doctor for a plan of attack (against heart attacks…), including changes in diet, exercise, and steps toward stress reduction.
Monitoring your cholesterol and triglyceride levels is essential to maintaining good health as we age. High levels of either put you at a higher risk of heart attack and stroke (are we repeating ourselves, here?), and your doc may recommend, again, changes in diet, exercise, and steps toward stress reduction.
Diabetes is an ever-increasing condition that puts people at risk for all kinds of terrible health problems, not the least of which is death. The American Diabetes Association recommends regular screenings beginning at age 45 with a fasting blood sugar test.
A quick and easy blood test is recommended to measure the level of hormones your thyroid is cranking out. If it’s not enough, it can lead to weight gain, fatigue, achiness, and general feelings of yuckiness.
Osteoporosis is a big concern as we get older, particularly for women. Along with regular strength exercises and a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D (more on that in a sec), regular bone scans are recommended after 65 to measure bone strength and density.
Vitamin D serves so many healthy functions in our bodies,, it seems really unfair that as we age, our bodies have a harder time synthesizing it. Along with calcium, we need it for healthy bones, but it may also help defend against diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
Beginning at 50, it’s recommended to have a colonoscopy every 10 years to scan the colon for cancerous polyps. A colonoscopy is a test where a doctor uses a camera to scan your colon for cancerous polyps. If polyps are found, or if you have a history of colorectal cancer in the family, your doctor may recommend more frequent exams.
Everyone should be getting a yearly flu shot, and the CDC recommends a tetanus booster every 10 years. Beyond that, at 65, your doctor may recommend a pneumococcal vaccine to protect against infections like pneumonia, sinusitis, pericarditis, meningitis, and endocarditis. Also, it’s recommended that all over 60 years of age should receive a shingles vaccination.
Most doctors recommend women between 45 and 54 should have an annual breast exam and mammogram screening, although some say two years is best. Either way, if you have a family history of breast cancer, your doctor will most likely insist on an annual screening.
Regular pap smears and pelvic exams are important to a woman’s health at any age, but since the risk of cervical or vaginal cancers increase as we age, it’s important to remain vigilant and see your GYN for regular recommended checkups.
The American Cancer Society recommends regular prostate screenings for men beginning at age 50 if its been determined they’re at average risk for prostate cancer. Those who are at higher risk, meaning they have a family history or an immediate relative that has died from prostate cancer should begin screenings at 40 or 45.
We hope you take a little time to reflect on your health this month, and what you can do to maintain it. If you haven’t been to your doctor in a while (or you can’t remember the last time you went…) we strongly suggest that you reach out and go get your checkup! It doesn’t really matter what age you begin practicing healthy habits, as long as you begin practicing.