It is indisputable that turning 50 is a big deal for many people. The surprise parties, gag gifts, and jokes about getting older are almost inevitable. However, turning 50 isn’t all fun and games. It is also a time when medical needs start to shift and routine screenings become more pressing. If you’ve recently reached this milestone birthday, it’s time to talk to your doctor about the following 6 tests.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. Yet, screenings are available for many of its risk factors, such as hypertension and high cholesterol levels. If you are over 50, you should consider scheduling screenings for blood pressure and lipids with your annual exam.
Lifestyle factors, such as smoking and a lack of physical activity, can increase your risk of developing heart disease. If you are concerned about these, talk to your doctor for helpful strategies to help you overcome barriers and start living a healthier life.
An annual eye exam is a must for anyone, regardless of whether you wear glasses or not. This is especially true after the age of 50. A knowledgeable optometrist will screen you for several common age-related eye disorders. If you need vision correction, she can also help you pick out attractive and comfortable designer frames that fit your lifestyle.
A few of the most common age-related eye disorders include:
Glaucoma — This easily detectable eye disorder can lead to total blindness if untreated. It is caused by increased pressure within the eye.
Macular degeneration — Though not all cases of macular generation are age-related, a good number of them are. In fact, the National Eye Institute lists it as a leading cause of vision loss among older adults. It is important to catch this disease early while it is still treatable. However, there are often no signs of trouble in its earliest stages, which makes regular eye exams crucial to detection.
Cataracts — Blurry vision and halos around lights are telltale signs of cataracts. They are caused by clouding of the lens, which restricts light from passing through it. Cataracts are easily treatable in most cases.
Presbyopia — This is commonly called farsightedness, and it is most prevalent after age 40. Presbyopia is characterized by difficulty reading small print or viewing other up-close items. For most people, this is easily correctable with the right prescription.
The American Cancer Society recommends screenings for colon cancer starting at age 45, while the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force suggests screenings between the ages of 50 and 75. Despite common perceptions, a colonoscopy isn’t the only way to screen for colorectal cancers.
Some of your other options include at-home fecal exams which usually need to be repeated annually, a new fecal DNA exam that can be done every three years, or a non-invasive CT scan that needs to be repeated every five years. Keep in mind that a positive result on a different screening tool will usually require a follow-up colonoscopy.
Bone density begins to decline in later years, especially among post-menopausal women. If undetected, osteoporosis can limit your activity and negatively impact your quality of life. However, caught early, new treatments can slow — and sometimes reverse — bone loss. There are several screening stools that can be sued to detect changes in bone density, but the most commonly used is a non-invasive test called a DEXA scan.
Most adults in their 50s, even those with healthy lifestyles and normal BMIs, should have a blood sugar screening done at least once every couple of years. Any abnormal results should be verified and discussed with your healthcare provider.
The most common test used to check blood sugar is the fasting plasma glucose test. It measures blood sugar levels after an 8-hour fast. A result of 100-125 mg/dl indicated prediabetes, which can often be managed with lifestyle modifications. A reading over 126 mg/dl is considered diabetes.
Skin cancer risks are not purely age-related. In fact, for women, the risk of melanoma decreases after age 50. Performing at-home checks and reporting any symptoms may be sufficient if you have never noticed anything unusual on your skin. However, you should continue having an annual skin exam performed by your doctor or a dermatologist if you have a history of skin cancer or any unusual moles.
Once you turn 50, it’s a good idea to talk with your healthcare provider about recommended screenings. Tests for eye health, certain types of cancer, diabetes, and heart health may be in order.