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Your Best is Ahead with Preventative Care

couple in their 50s on a dock watching the lake in wisconsin

What Health Screenings Should I Get at Age 50?

By: Kris Roloff, Quality Care Coordinator

Turning 50 is a momentous occasion in anybody’s life. The half-a-century point is described by many 50-year-olds as a great age due to the mental clarity and self-awareness that comes with age without most of the common physical ailments that can occur to older populations showing up quite yet.

Still, it’s good to be aware of this age as a crucial time to have important screenings done to ensure you can use this decade to enter your silver and golden years healthy, happy and with eager expectation for later chapters.

Here are screenings you should be considering and scheduling once you turn 50.

Depression screening

Depression is common and has a range of life-affecting symptoms and severities. Despite years of research and publicity about the problem, depression often goes unnoticed.

A potentially life-saving depression screening isn’t a long or intense process, however, and can be done with a simple two-item questionnaire.

Colon cancer screening

Colorectal screenings are recommended for everyone at age 50. Although there are multiple options, a colonoscopy is the colorectal screening test that is most frequently recommended. Ask your personal doctor which screening test is best for you and make time for this crucial exam.

Stepping on the scales

For a variety of reasons, many people start gaining weight around age 50. It’s important to monitor added weight carefully and eat healthily and exercise. Being overweight puts you in a high-risk category for developing several diseases like heart disease, diabetes Type 2 and stroke. Ask your personal doctor for more information on healthy weight guidelines and strategies for healthy weight management.

Blood pressure

Untreated hypertension (high blood pressure) is an equal opportunity killer that can mortally injure your heart, brain or kidneys. It can even make you blind. Make sure your personal doctor is checking your blood pressure at every visit to ensure you are keeping it within a healthy and worry-free range.

Cholesterol profile

If you’re over fifty, you may have high cholesterol and not even realize it. Checking your cholesterol levels with a simple blood test can make you aware of and better able to control life-threatening symptoms that can develop down the line. Controlling your cholesterol can add years to your life.

As far as treatment goes, high cholesterol levels can be treated by diet and medications. The opportunity for treatment makes regular measurement of HDL “good" cholesterol and LDL "bad" cholesterol crucial for health.

Blood sugar test

High blood sugar is a sign of diabetes. A fasting blood sugar screening can offer a lot of information about whether you’re in prediabetes or even diabetes territory. Untreated diabetes can destroy your health, causing heart disease, kidney failure and blindness. Get tested for diabetes or prediabetes. 

Hepatitis C screening

Hepatitis C was discovered in 1989, meaning blood transfusions and other risk factors went undetected until that year. For this reason, if you were born between 1945 and 1965, you’re five times more likely to be infected with Hepatitis C than other adults. Over time, Hepatitis C can damage the liver, increasing the risk of liver cancer and organ failure. 

Pelvic exam and Pap smear 

Combining a Pap test with a human papillomavirus (HPV) test can safely extend the interval between cervical cancer screenings from three years to five years in those between the ages of 30-65.

Women over age 65 can stop getting screened if they’ve had at least three consecutive negative Pap tests or at least two negative HPV tests within the previous 10 years, according to the guidelines. Those with risk factors for cervical cancer such as smoking, a history of HPV or a more advanced precancer diagnosis, however, should continue to be screened.

Mammogram

At this age, all women should have started routine mammograms to help detect any early signs of breast cancer.

>>> READ MORE: Understanding Your Risk for Breast Cancer <<<       

Prostate cancer screening

If you’re a man 50 or older, you should talk to your personal doctor about whether you should be screened for prostate cancer. Certain risk factors may dictate earlier screenings than at 50. African-American men and those with a close relative who had early-onset prostate cancer, should talk to their doctor at an earlier age.

Osteoporosis screening

If you are between the ages of 50 and 70 and have risk factors for osteoporosis, discuss screening with your provider. Risk factors can include long-term steroid use, below-average weight, smoking, heavy alcohol use, having a fracture after age 50 and a family history of osteoporosis. 

Dermatological screenings

Skin cancer is a common ailment often found in those 50 or older. If you have a family history of skin cancer or tan (especially with a tanning bed), you are at an increased risk. Inspect your skin for any unusual spots or moles. Check with your healthcare professional if you notice anything new or unusual.

Experts recommend frequent screenings for those who have had skin cancer in the past.

Dental exam

In your 50s, you may be at higher risk for gum disease, cavities, worn teeth, dry mouth, discolored teeth and loose teeth. None of this is to say anything about aging dental restorations like crowns and fillings that are likely at or near their end-of-useful-life.

If you smoke, it is especially important to be checked for mouth cancer on a regular basis. Continue to see your dentist every six months for an exam and cleaning to maintain healthy gums and teeth.

Eye exam

Eye diseases become more common as you age. For instance, presbyopia (stiffening of the eye lenses) is an age-related issue. Reading glasses can be a temporary solution. You may also benefit from bifocals.  Macular degeneration, another common eye problem, can lead to blindness. 

Glaucoma is another issue that can cause vision loss and is most common in those aged 50 and older. With the number of eye complications that can result in these years, it is important to get your eyes examined regularly after age 50.

Immunizations

People over age 50 should get the flu shot every year.

Another important immunization is the tetanus booster shot which is often combined with the pertussis vaccine for whooping cough.

The CDC recommends the shingles vaccine for those over age 50 as well. Ask your healthcare professional about any additional immunizations you might need. 

Lung cancer screening

If you’re a current or recovering smoker above age 50, experts recommend an annual screening for lung cancer with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT). Experts define past smoking as high-risk if over 30 packs were smoked in a year and less than 15 years have passed since quitting.


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