As we age, life’s daily schedule seems to get tighter and tighter. On the occasional free day (or free moment), we just want to plan (and do) as little as possible, just relax and have fun.
However, as we age, having fun requires that we feel healthy, and sometimes that takes a few extra moments to establish healthy habits. Of course, daily self-care is a great way to keep ourselves feeling energetic and up to daily challenges.
Still, there are parts of us that require expert observation from time to time, to prevent unseen maladies from sneaking up on us in older age.
That is why we should incorporate various health screenings into our routine of self-care so that we stay in the preventative zone.
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When are Health Screenings Recommended?
Showing symptoms is the most obvious way to know when to see a doctor. However, some screenings should be routine, often based on age, even when we don’t see or feel any symptoms.
Here are some examples of important health checks which experts recommend we schedule based on age, assuming that there are no obvious signs of trouble.
Here is a prime example of a serious health concern that does not show early warning signs. As children, our pediatricians performed routine cholesterol checks and, very likely, our levels were normal. As we grew independent, we figured that it was no concern at all, especially without a family history of high cholesterol.
Unfortunately, after a few years of excluding cholesterol checks, we stopped thinking about it all together and suddenly a decade passed.
Keeping tabs on our cholesterol from an early age will 1) help us develop mindful practices that include diet and exercise, and 2) help us make health screening appointments a routine part of our adult life, especially after our 20s vanish!
Regardless of age, the CDC recommends a check every 4-6 years for healthy individuals.
They say that the eyes are the window to our soul. For eye doctors, they are the window to a whole list of potential health issues that are not necessarily eye related.
Eye doctors probably have the clearest view of our blood vessels, and this helps them to detect early stages of glaucoma and macular degeneration, as well as non-eye-related health issues such as lupus, diabetes and high cholesterol.
So even when we are not experiencing vision problems, it is recommended we have vision checks at least once every 5 years throughout our 30s. As we get older, every 1 to 2 years is recommended.
Bone Mineral Density (BMD) Scans
Once again, genes are a tell-tale sign for what to expect as we age. If there is a history of osteoporosis in the family, then scheduling a dual energy X-ray absorptiometry scan (known as a DEXA scan), will allow health professionals to help us combat this.
However, even without a genetic history of osteoporosis, it is natural for bones to lose mineral density as we age, and thus strength. A number of factors can speed up this loss, including a history of smoking, lack of exercise, the use of medication known to weaken bones, and diseases such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
These are all reasons to include a BMD checkup in our self-care playbook.
Even without outward signs, experts recommend that women begin regular bone density checkups as they approach 50, and men as they approach 60.
BMD checkups are also recommended for anyone who has broken a bone after the age of 40. This will give doctors a chance to monitor how well the bone heals and whether or not early signs of osteoporosis are showing.
Fortunately, a modern DEXA Scan does not require high doses of radiation, so always look for clinics that stay current with equipment and that take a comprehensive approach to their patients’ health and wellbeing.
Common Cancer-Forming Areas
Being aware of common cancer-forming areas will give us a distinct advantage over it. Some checkups should begin with our own investigation. Anytime we see spots, lesions or any kind of growth forming on our skin, we should have it looked at by a doctor.
The same is true for signs of testicular cancer. Detection should begin with the individual male or by his spouse or partner. Self-detection is a better way for doctors to take the additional cancer screening check.
For breast cancer in women, self-inspection is also important, but experts do recommend yearly breast exams by age 40.
For areas inaccessible to self-inspection, such as the pelvis in women and the prostate in men, should be checked for signs of cancer by a doctor; in each case, as early as a woman’s 20s and a man’s 40s.
Take Control and Pass it On
Taking control of our health as early as possible is the best way to improve our potential health as we grow older. With good preventative habits, this will not feel overwhelming to us.
Knowing our bodies and the recommended ages for various health screens will help us defend against unhealthy aging. And the best part is, once we are able to take control of our own health, we can pass along what we know to family, friends and colleagues so they too can feel motivated and empowered to age gracefully.