Maybe you’ve heard that 50 is the new 30. I don’t know if that is true, but I will tell you that I am happier and healthier now (at 54) than I was at 30 because for the last few years I have taken control of my health.
When you’re over 50 your body is not as resilient as it was when you were 30 and being proactive about diet and medical treatment goes a long way to keeping you healthy long term.
Being proactive about your medical treatment means that you are going to need to get in the habit of visiting doctors when you’re not sick.
When you were 30 it might have been fine to see the doc when you already had a problem – after 50 it will be much better not to have the problem or get sick in the first place.
1. Annual Physical
You know the drill, open up wide and say ahhh –
The nice doctor shines a light in your ears and in your mouth and up your nose – It’s not fun.
But when you’re over 50, it’s worth it. Health issues are more frequent, and there just aren’t any heath problems that you’re better off not knowing about.
Almost all insurance covers an annual physical and you should take advantage of that benefit.You have paid for it.
Most of these recommended tests on this post should be part of your annual physical, but some doctors may not include them unless you ask.
You may want to make a list and take it to the exam to make sure you don’t forget anything. They are going to draw your blood anyway so you want to make sure they check it for everything.
Before I was 50 I probably had 10 “annual” physicals and 5 of them were when I was in the Army. The other five were because my job forced me to go and any extra tests were because my wife insisted.
Now I get them every Fall, that way at Thanksgiving I can confidently be thankful for my good health.
Everyone knows that being over weight is not good for your health, but day to day most people don’t really notice a pound or two.
It is hard to notice a half of a pound a week, but a half- pound a week for a year is 26 pounds.
For the over 50 crowd, carrying extra weight is hard on your joints. It’s especially hard on your knees, hips, and ankles.
About 10% of the fat we store is visceral fat which is stored in and around the organs in your abdomen. For us over 50 folks it can be a real problem.
Excess visceral fat pressures your heart liver and digestive tract making it so they have to work harder.
Visceral fat is also associated with blood sugar issues like insulin resistance and type II diabetes.
If you find that you need to shed a few pounds, take some time to find a diet/lifestyle is sustainable for you.
Significant Involuntary Change in Weight
The other reason that your weight is an important part of a medical exam is that significant involuntary changes in your weight can be the first signs of some problems.
Stuff like diabetes, thyroid problems, heat disease and even cancer may first be indicated by a simple comparison of your weight from one year to the next.
Sensitive about the Weigh-in?
I googled “why do they weigh me at the doctor’s office” and what I got was a a bunch of articles about whether your doctor has to put you on the scale and whether you have the right to refuse the weigh in.
If you are don’t want to step on the scale, you absolutely can refuse. You doctor works for you.
On the other hand, you should consider this carefully because the reason that you are getting a check-up is for your health.
Your doctor is not judging you – She is only trying to get information.
So, you can refuse – that is your right – but before you do you probably ought to discuss it with your doctor.
3. Blood Pressure
Your blood pressure reveals tons about your overall health. And, especially your heart and vascular health.
I can’t remember a time when I went to the doctor when they didn’t check my BP, so it is probably not something that you will need to ask for specifically.
1 in 3 Americans have high blood pressure.
HBP often has no symptoms – I can confirm this from personal experience.
Unaddressed or untreated, high blood pressure can lead to heart attack and stroke.
High blood pressure can be both the cause and result of inflammation which recent studies have shown to cause many other health problems.
If you’re not the sort who likes to take pills HBP can be addressed with diet. (I had extremely high blood pressure that I medicated for years, I changed to low carb diet and now I take no pills at all)
4. Blood Sugar
This has become more and more of a problem for all Americans, but for us over 50 folks high blood sugar can be the root of almost all metabolic issues.
Full disclosure here, I am a low carb enthusiast & the main Keto writer for CastleintheMountains.com. I have followed a ketogenic diet for 2 years.
Blood sugar test is a normal part of most annual physicals, but you should make sure you get this test.
People over 50 have a higher risk of diabetes and insulin resistance.
It is important to catch these conditions as early as possible because treatment is easier – they can even be reversed if you find them in the earlier stages.
This is generally part of a regular annual physical.
We need to have cholesterol. It makes up most of our cell membranes and it’s an important component in the production of bile & other digestive acids as well as vitamin D and certain hormones.
But cholesterol can also harden and clog our arteries, causing bad stuff like heart attacks and strokes.
There are several different theories about what causes our bodies to produce cholesterol. But if you have high cholesterol you absolutely should talk to your doctor about what to do about it.
There are dietary ways to reduce cholesterol with out taking medications. You should ask your doctor about low inflammation diets.
You can have a thyroid problem at any age so this is a test that you should get even if you’ve not yet reached that half century mark.
Thyroid stimulating hormone aka TSH regulates many of your bodies, and if TSH is out of balance it can cause weight gain, weight loss, hair loss to name just a few symptoms.
TSH also regulates many other hormones. So if you have a hormone imbalance it may ultimately be a thyroid problem.
Hypothyroidism affects woman much more often than men.
If you notice symptoms like losing or gaining weight without explanation or hair loss, weakness, dry skin, sensitivity to cold or chronic fatigue, definitely talk to your doctor and ask for a TSH test.
7. EKG (Electrocardiogram)
The EKG is a way that your doctor can check the mechanical workings of your heart.
It allows your doctor to get a moving picture of how well your heart is working.
EKG checks rhythm, blood flow, valve function, muscle strength etc.
It’s a little like one of those diagnostic computers that your mechanic uses to diagnose problems with your car.
Because those of us over 50 have a higher risk of arrhythmic heart, atherosclerosis, and heart disease, you should get this test at least once just after you turn the big 50 to establish a baseline and give your doctor an idea of what to watch out for to keep you in optimum health.
8. Mole Check
Skin cancer should be concern at any age.
Of coarse you should wear your sunscreen but after 50 years you have probably had enough sun exposure that you should be concerned.
Over 100,000 new melanomas (skin cancer) will be diagnosed this year.
About 60,000 in men and 40,000 in women.
Caucasians have the highest risk of skin cancer (1 in 38) followed by Hispanics (1 in167) and then African Americans (1 in 1,000). The lighter your natural skin-tone, the higher the risk.
The earlier you catch a problem in this arena, the better.
A precancerous mole can be frozen off in the doctors office. (I had three of these frozen on my last visit)
If left alone about 1 in ten precancerous lesions will become malignant.
If you catch a malignancy early while it is still localized, it can normally be removed without causing further problems.
9. Mammogram (for Women)
I don’t have boobs, but there are many people who I love very much who do.
I have been told that mammogram is not the most pleasant experience, but it is an extremely important test.
1 in 8 women in the US will get breast cancer in her lifetime.
It is estimated that in 2020 there will be 276,000 new cases of breast cancer in the US.
The American Cancer Society recommends that an “average risk” woman should get a mammogram every year starting at age 45, and then every other year starting at age 55.
Your risk may be higher depending on diet, lifestyle (especially drinking and smoking) but the two biggest risk factors for breast cancer are age and family history of breast cancer.
Definitely talk to your doctor about your own risk factors, because breast cancer is like most all cancers, survival rates go way up with early detection.
10. Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) Test (for Men)
Don’t worry guys, there is a unpleasant man-specific test that you should be getting too.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men (skin cancer is first).
This year there will be an estimated 174,000 new diagnosis of prostate cancer in the US.
If prostate cancer is discovered before it has spread, the survival rate is nearly 100%.
This disease almost never happens to men under 40, and most cases are in men over 65.
You should talk to your doctor about your specific risk factors, there is a higher risk for men with a family history of prostate cancer, and if you smoke or drink excessively.
The PSA or Prostate Specific Antigen Test is a blood test that can be added to your blood panel on your annual physical. Most insurance companies will pay for PSA test annually for men over 50.
If the blood test shows elevated level of PSA your doctor will probably verify the result with another PSA test.
And if that comes back elevated but you show no symptoms of prostate cancer, your doctor may monitor your prostate with the good ole “DRE” (digital rectal exam).
11. Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal is another one of the cancers that you want to catch early.
If you are in the low to average risk group, you can do an at home test that your doctor can prescribe. You poop in a cup and send it back to the lab.
If you’re in the higher risk group you may need to get a colonoscopy which is more involved.
Discuss this medical test with your doctor. If you have a family history of colon cancer, if you drink excessively, use tobacco products, or have a bad diet, you are at a higher risk for colorectal cancer.
12. Bone Density
With age you experience more health complications – that’s part of the deal. One of the things that happens as we age is that we don’t rebuild our bones mass as quickly as lose it.
But for some people this happens much faster than it should and bones become weak and brittle.
If you have this condition, – osteoporosis you can find out with a bone density test.
A fall that might not even be too painful to a person with normal bones could cause a fracture for a person with bones weakened by osteoporosis.
You will want to know if you have osteoporosis, not only so you can be more careful but so that you can also discuss exercise and treatment options as soon as possible.
13. Hep C
This is one that is really important for the Baby Boomers. According to the CDC, People born between 1945 and 1965 have a higher risk of having Hep C, and they should definitely get this test.
Hepatitis C is contagious but it is only transmitted through blood to blood contact.
Risk factors include:
- blood transfusions before 1992
- use of clotting factor concentrates before 1987
- re-use of needles
- sexual contact where blood was exchanged.
There are more, and like these most of them are of concern to people who were young adults in the nineteen-eighties.
Hep C inflames and infects the liver. It can cause serious complications but it can also be managed. Learn More about Hep C.
14. Flu Shot
I know that this is controversial. If you do not believe in vaccines please feel free to scroll past this one. We will not be arguing this in the comments.
The flu is no joke. Last year – 2019 – it killed more than 8,000 people.
The people who are most likely to have life threatening complications to the flu are people younger than 4 and older than 50, that is why the CDC says those are top priority for getting the flu vaccine.
When your over 50 you should get a yearly flu shot to build your immunity to the basic influenza virus. That way even if you are not immune to the particular strain that is going around, your immune system won’t have as much work to do.
You will have a much milder sickness than someone who didn’t get the shot.
15. Eye Exam
There are tons of reasons that you need to be able to see well.
Not only to we need our eyes to do our work, and almost anything that we do for fun, but bad vision can be dangerous if you are driving or operating machinery.
Your vision generally don’t change in any noticeable way from day to day, which is one reason it is important to have a yearly eye exam.
Another reason is that your eyes are closely related to your overall health.
Sure they want you to read the chart and update your glasses prescription. And you would expect that your eye doctor will check for cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.
But especially after you turn 50, an eye exam can also alert you to some other serious health risks like thyroid diseases, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and certain types of cancer.
I know you might hate the dentist.
I have heard people say they’d prefer a new addition of the Spanish Inquisition than a visit to the dentist.
But as a grown-up, and person over 50 who is concerned with your own health, you really should try see your dentist as a nice guy (or gal). Your teeth and gums along with the rest of your mouth is extremely important to your overall health.
In addition to filling cavities and scraping of the plaque that you missed with your regular brushing and flossing, your dentist also checks your mouth gums and tongue for signs of cancer.
She also is trained to check your neck lymph nodes and jawline for any swelling, lumps or other abnormalities.
If abnormalities are found it could be a sign of a major health issue that you will be glad to find early.
Once you reach 50 years old and health issues start coming at a faster pace your dentist can be another defense against illness- and maybe you’ll get a pearly white smile out of the deal.