There’s an old saying that goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.” In other words, it’s never too late to make a change for the better, and the new year is the perfect opportunity to kick-off a new approach. For senior adults, one of the best changes you can make this year is by committing to regular health screenings.
“Health screenings are an incredibly important part of staying healthy, especially for seniors,” says Sue Sunderland, Executive Director of The Bridges at Warwick, a supportive personal care community in Jamison, PA. “These preventative tests can detect issues early on, which can literally be a lifesaver. Many serious illnesses, even deaths, could have been prevented if people had done the health screenings recommended by their doctors, because issues could have been caught when chances for successful treatment are the greatest.”
One example, she says, is the screening for colon cancer. This is the most preventable type of cancer, but symptoms don’t occur until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage. By getting routine colonoscopies, doctors can detect problem spots, remove polyps and get a baseline for how often you should be screened based on family history.
“A lot of times the health screenings are pretty routine, but some can be more invasive, and this makes some people hesitate to get them done,” says Sue. “For example, the prep that has to be done for a colonoscopy is not exactly a fun process. Still, I like to look at it this way: would you rather have a day or two of discomfort now, or a lengthy and difficult treatment later on?”
There are a slew of preventative health treatments available these days, but all of them fall into one of three categories:
- Screenings for health issues that aren’t yet causing noticeable symptoms. These include cancer screenings or testing for high blood pressure.
- Checking for common issues that are easily overlooked during routine clinical care. Things like alcohol misuse, depression or increased falls go into this category.
- Vaccinations and preventative medications that reduce the risk of future illnesses. These types of preventative services include things like the flu or TDAP vaccines, as well as taking aspirin for optimal heart health.
The first step towards a healthier future is visiting your primary physician for your yearly check-up. During this visit, you can discuss the different tests and preventative services that you should receive based on your age, your gender and your family history. Most physicians follow guidelines recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), as well as a list of what Medicare and other insurances cover.
Here are some of the most common preventative services and screenings recommended for seniors.
- Influenza vaccine. Nearly 85 percent of deaths from the flu occur in seniors age 65 and older. Getting a yearly flu shot is the best way to prevent this, along with good hygiene practices.
- Pneumococcal vaccines. There are two different vaccines that are used to prevent pneumonia, which can cause life-threatening complications for older adults. Ask your doctor which vaccine is right for you.
- Breast cancer screening. Almost half of new breast cancer occurrences happen in women 65 years of age and older. It’s recommended that women ages 55 and older get a mammogram at least every two years; more depending on your personal family history.
- Colorectal cancer screening. Two-thirds of new colon cancer cases occur in seniors age 65 and older. Starting at age 50, doctors recommend getting a colonoscopy every 10 years.
- High blood pressure screening. Hypertension and high blood pressure can develop as we age. This is something your doctor will check at every visit.
- Diabetes screening. Type II diabetes affects nearly 25 percent of seniors over the age of 60. During your yearly check-ups, your doctor should test your blood sugar and other markers to determine if you’re at risk for this disease.
- Cholesterol screening. High cholesterol puts you at risk for stroke and other heart diseases. Cholesterol levels are checked through a routine blood test, and should be done at least once a year.
- Osteoporosis screening.Women over the age of 65 and men over the age of 70 should receive a bone density test to check for osteoporosis. Treatment of this disease can help you avoid breaking bones during a fall.
- Regular eye exams. Not only will this help keep your eye prescription up-to-date, but it will also be a way to spot age-related eye diseases before they become an issue. Seniors should have an eye exam once a year, more if necessary.
- Skin cancer screenings. Once a year, have your doctor check your skin for moles or problem areas that could become cancerous.
While this is by no means a comprehensive list, it’s a good place for you and your doctor to start.
Whether you’re already taking great care of your health or will be turning over a new leaf in 2019, remember that the most important step is to actually take that step. By receiving the preventative screenings you need, you’ll set yourself up for a healthier you for this year and beyond.
For more information about preventative health screening, or if you’d like more information about our senior living community, contact our staff at The Bridges at Warwick.
Activity. Friendship. Support. Convenience. Value.
You’ll find it all at The Bridges at Warwick, located in beautiful Bucks County, where everyday is a celebration of seniors. Our philosophy of “Celebrating Life” means that our residents enjoy a sense of purpose and contentment along with fun, personalized care and a focus on total well-being.
Our Personalized Supportive Care provides just the right amount of assistance to help you remain independent, along with life-enriching programs, services and amenities. Our exclusive Vista Transitional Living Program offers specialized programming our supportive care residents who have memory challenges but do not yet require a secure residence. For those whose memory loss is more advanced, we offer The Vista, our secure, comprehensive memory care residence.
In keeping with our founder Robert Basile’s personal philosophy, developed during his efforts to find quality senior living for his beloved father, senior adults remain our passion. We fill our residents’ lives with countless opportunities to engage with both new and treasured friends; events and programs to enjoy with family members and loved ones; as well as innovative and creative activities that foster engagement. Our dedication to total wellness – for mind, body and spirit – is woven into our culture every day.
Contact us today or call 215.269.7745 for more information or to arrange a personal tour.