There are a number of ways that you can improve and maintain your health, including engaging in regular medical checkups, taking part in important medical screenings, receiving vaccinations and following other important preventive healthcare tips.
Your regular medical checkups are your opportunity to discuss new or worsening symptoms with your doctor as well as review your current medications. By undergoing health screenings, illnesses can be detected early or prevented entirely. Vaccinations save lives. In fact, there are a number of terrible diseases that have become incredibly rare in the United States due to vaccinations over the last several decades. By following important preventive healthcare tips, you can take charge of your life by getting the most out of your doctor’s appointments, maintaining your weight, preventing falls and more. To learn more about preventive health care for seniors, review the information provided in the sections below.
Why Seniors Need Regular Medical Checkups
It is important to keep up on regular medical checkups in order to review your overall health, discuss your current medications, manage any chronic illnesses that you may have and prevent the development of other medical diseases. Typically, you will need to visit with your physician at least once a year. You may be required to make an appointment more frequently if you have a chronic illness, such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Additionally, it is important to always schedule an appointment with your doctor if you begin to feel under the weather or you experience new symptoms. Always speak with your doctor about symptoms that you may be experiencing, such as:
- Memory loss or loss of focus.
- Confusion of disorientation.
- Loss of appetite.
- Weight loss or gain that is unintended.
- Persistent fatigue.
- Frequent urination.
- Pain or stiffness.
Even if you think a symptom is small or not a big issue, it is still important to discuss them with your doctor. There are a variety of illnesses that start small and treating something right away can improve treatment odds.
Discuss lifestyle changes with your doctors and any falls that you may have experienced. Your doctor will likely screen you for dementia like symptoms and inquire as to your ability to handle self-care tasks such as bathing, dressing and eating.
Important Screenings for Seniors
It is important to participate in early detection tests, or screenings, even if you feel just fine. Medical screenings can help to ensure that you live a longer and healthier life. Regular screenings can prevent illnesses as many risk factors will be seen long before you begin to feel ill, experience symptoms or develop a disease. Illnesses such as heart disease and cancer can be caught early, increasing your odds of a successful treatment and a full recovery. Each medical health screening will have its own period of time that is recommended for you, depending on your health and any other conditions that you may have. While some screenings are performed once a year at your annual checkup, there are many that may need to be done more often or less frequently. Common and important medical screenings include:
- Blood pressure screening.
- Cholesterol screening.
- Colon cancer screening.
- Diabetes screening.
- Osteoporosis screening.
If you are a woman, annual mammograms should be performed until after you become 75 years of age. Additionally, it is recommended that you perform monthly breast self-examinations and report any changes, lumps or bumps to your primary care physician. Pap smears are, generally, only required until the age of 65, unless you have a history of cervical cancer or pre-cancer.
If you are a man, it is important to speak with your doctor about your risks for prostate cancer that will make screening necessary. In recent years, it has been determined that the potential benefits of a prostate screening do not always outweigh the potential risks, unless you experience symptoms or you have additional risk factors, such as a family history of prostate cancer.
Recommended Vaccinations for Senior Citizens
As part of your routine medical checkup, it is important to ensure that all of your vaccinations are up to date and that you obtain your annual flu vaccination. Vaccinations save lives as they help your body to become resistant or immune to deadly viruses and diseases that can cause paralysis, pain, broken bones or death. If you followed a regular vaccination schedule as a child and young adult, you will have likely already received vaccinations for:
- Measles, mumps and rubella.
- Human papillomavirus.
- Hepatitis A and B.
If you did not receive one of these vaccinations, it is important that you get vaccinated right away. There are a number of vaccinations that you will need to get as an older adult as many of these diseases are most dangerous to infants and senior citizens. Most of the diseases are contagious, making it imperative that you get vaccinated in order to protect yourself and others. These vaccinations include:
- Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. A booster is recommended once every 10 years along with the initial vaccination.
- Pneumococcal vaccination once within your lifetime
- Meningococcal vaccination once within your lifetime
- Shingles vaccination once within your lifetime, even if you have previously had shingles
Additionally, it is important to get your flu shot annually as the flu can lead to serious complications in senior citizens, especially if it develops into pneumonia.
5 Preventive Health Care Tips for Senior Citizens
In order to further take charge of your health and prevent a number of chronic illnesses, it is important to follow these preventive health care tips that are designed for senior citizens.
Make the most out of your visit with your physicians by preparing ahead of time. Make a list of topics that you would like to discuss with your doctor, including your current list of medications, any changes to your responses to medications, any worsening or new symptoms and any changes in your activities. Leave space after each note so that you can write notes about your doctor’s answers and suggestions that they may have. If you could not hear or understand something that your doctor said, be sure ask the doctor to repeat what was said.
While falls are common among senior citizens, there are several steps that you can take to reduce your risk of a fall. Engage in an exercise routine that will improve your balance, flexibility and strength. This can help you prevent falls and avoid injuries if you do happen to fall. Discuss your risk for falls with your primary care physician and review your current medications in case they produce side effects that can increase your risk of falls. Ensure that your home is free of tripping hazards, has an adequate amount of light. Install grab bars at key areas of your home, such as inside the shower or bath tub.
Protect your skin in order to avoid skin cancer. As you grow older, your skin loses much of the elasticity that it once had and it may take you longer to heal from cuts and bruises. Too much of the ultraviolet rays from the sun can cause skin cancer in anyone, but senior citizens are more at risk. Always use sunscreen to protect your skin if you intend to be in the sun for a long period of time.
Schedule regular appointments for dental, vision and hearing checkups. Dental checkups, along with brushing and flossing each day, can help you ensure that your teeth and gums stay healthy throughout your life. Generally, cleanings should be scheduled twice a year. Hearing tests are also invaluable and should be performed every one to two years in order to determine whether or not you have experienced hearing loss and assess your need for a hearing aid. Vision tests are also crucial, especially if you are experiencing any symptoms of blurred vision. You should get your vision checked at least once every 2 years, but you may require tests more often if you have certain medical conditions like diabetes.
By maintaining a healthy weight through a healthy diet and a regular exercise routine, you can reduce your risk for chronic illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. If you need to lose weight, try cutting back on calorie intake by 500 to 750 calories each day. Set realistic goals for yourself and aim to lose 1 to 2 pounds each week. Cut back on sugar and avoid sugary drinks. If you are unsure whether or not you are currently at a healthy weight, speak with your doctor or refer to the Body Mass Index (BMI).