Important Health Screenings Seniors Need Right Now

Important Health Screenings Seniors Need Right Now

For many seniors, going to the doctor means answering lots of questions, talking about health issues you might not want to deal with, possibly being poked and prodded, and maybe being forced to confront that extra 10 pounds – again.

But going to the doctor is vitally important to maintaining good senior health and independence. This is true even when you’re generally in excellent shape and great health.

During those visits, your doctor can screen for serious issues and catch them before they become long-term problems. They can make sure you are up-to-date on all your vaccinations and lab work and help you with lifestyle changes. They can also use every appointment to get to know you better, so that when you do get sick or injured, they have a baseline knowledge of who you are and what your life is like.

And remember, there are many health issues that offer few or no symptoms. These are only caught with a doctor’s exam or testing. For instance, you can’t feel that you have high cholesterol or even high blood pressure; but the tests the doctor runs can spot these things right away, and you can get the appropriate (sometimes life-saving) treatment.

Your doctor might choose to do a variety of assessments as you get older that you haven’t had before. One of these is a fall risk assessment. This can help determine what your risk is for serious falls and how you can best protect yourself. An alert system for elderly adults with fall detection is one way your doctor might recommend you stay as safe and secure as possible.

The Screenings Recommended for Seniors

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force publishes a list of screenings recommended for seniors aged 65 and older.1 The idea is that these screenings will help elderly adults catch potential problems in the early stages, when it could be relatively easy to treat or even eliminate these health concerns.

Blood Pressure Check

Having your blood pressure checked at least once a year is essential to catch problems before they become serious. Though you can use the machines at grocery stores or pharmacies to check your blood pressure, don’t rely on those for the best results; always see your doctor to get the “official” reading, as well as to compare your results with previous readings. Remember that you might need to have your blood pressure checked more often than once yearly if you fall into any of these categories:

·        You have chronic conditions such as diabetes, kidney problems, or heart issues

·        You are overweight

·        You are African-American

·        You have a first-degree relative with high blood pressure (such as a parent)

·        Your blood pressure during any check has a top number higher than 120 and a bottom number higher than 70

Cholesterol Test

This is checked with a simple blood test. If it comes back within normal range, your doctor might want to check it every five years. Many doctors will choose to check it every year during an annual examination, as most insurance companies will cover the test each year. You definitely need to have it checked annually if you have gained weight, made changes to your diet, or have been diagnosed with other medical conditions, such as diabetes. High cholesterol can be genetic, so even if you eat a “clean” diet, you may still have the condition, which could increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.

Breast Cancer

Though adult women are encouraged to perform monthly self-exams of their breasts to feel for lumps or abnormalities, experts are on the fence about whether they are actually reliable at detecting breast cancer. If you are under the age of 75, your doctor might recommend a mammogram every one to three years, depending upon your risk factors for breast cancer. For those over the age of 75, getting a mammogram is up to your wishes and doctor’s recommendation.

A point to remember for the guys: men can get breast cancer, too. So if you notice anything unusual or changing about your chest, tell your doctor.

For Women: Cervical Cancer

The cervical cancer screening is called a Pap test, and most women are quite familiar with them. Though most adult women get one every year, those who are over the age of 65 can back off that regimen. In fact, they can stop having screenings altogether if they have had three consecutive negative Pap tests or two consecutive negative Pap test and HPV tests within 10 years. However, you should always ask your doctor about their recommendations for your particular health situation.

Colon Cancer Screening

Starting at the age of 45, you should begin having regular screenings for colon cancer. This should continue up until age 75. Seniors aged 76 and up should ask their doctor if they still need to be screened.

Fortunately, there are numerous types of screenings available, from stool-based sample testing (not at all invasive) to colonoscopies (the most invasive). However, you need more advanced and frequent screenings if you have:

·        A family history of colorectal cancer

·        A history of colorectal cancer diagnosis

·        Ulcerative colitis

·        Growths in your colon

Dental Cleanings

It is important to go to your dental office at least once a year for cleaning of your teeth. During that time, the hygienist and dentist will perform an examination of your mouth, lips, tongue, gums, and teeth. They will look for any redness, tenderness, growths, or unusual spots. If they find something suspicious, you will be encouraged to undergo more frequent screening or treatment. Dental plaques have been associated with heart disease. According to Harvard Health, people with gum disease have 2 to 3 times the risk of having a heart attack or stroke than those who don’t.

Diabetes Testing

Screening for diabetes should take place every year. This will include lab work to test your A1c, which is a measure of blood glucose levels over time. Your doctor might also do a simple finger stick to get a quick reading of your blood sugar at that moment in time.

Screening more often is necessary if you are overweight, have close relatives with diabetes, have a history of heart disease or high blood pressure, or have been diagnosed with prediabetes in the past.

Vision and Hearing Exams

Seniors should have an eye exam every year. Some might need more frequent examinations, such as those who have diabetic retinopathy or glaucoma. If you have diabetes, you should be screened with a specific exam that looks at the blood vessels in and around your retina. This is true even if your diabetes is well-controlled.

Though your doctor might perform a hearing test on you from time to time, most doctors won’t do this one unless you complain of problems with hearing. If anyone around you has mentioned that you can’t hear them when they speak or you’ve noticed that you do things like turn up the television or ask others to speak louder, tell your doctor and make an appointment with an audiologist who specializes in hearing loss.

Remember that any problems with your vision or hearing make you a greater fall risk. If you are dealing with either issue, an emergency button alarm is a very good idea. This senior life-saving alert system can provide you with peace of mind 24/7.


As you get older, you will need to have more immunizations. This screening simply includes your doctor looking over your medical chart to determine what is “due” and giving it to you during the visit. You might need boosters of vaccines or immunizations you’ve had in the past. The most common vaccines you need include:

·        The annual flu shot

·        The shingles vaccine, if you haven’t had it

·        Pneumococcal vaccines

·        Tetanus-diphtheria booster every ten years

·        COVID vaccines

·        RSV vaccine

The CDC offers in-depth information on vaccines and who needs them.

Lung Cancer Screening

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is more common among the elderly and of course, among those who have a history of smoking. And it can be quite an aggressive cancer, killing more people each year than breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer combined.2

Screening is essential if you meet the following three criteria:

·        You currently smoke or have quit within the past five years

·        You smoked 20 packs per year

·        You are between the ages of 50 and 80

Mental Health

Your doctor will want to know how you are feeling, mentally and emotionally. This screening for depression and anxiety is very important because while these problems can greatly diminish your quality of life, they are quite treatable. Be honest when your doctor asks how you are feeling, whether you have been struggling with your mental health or emotions, and if there have been any major changes in your life recently.


If you are a woman over the age of 65, you should have a bone density test, also known as a DEXA scan. This will determine how porous and fragile your bones are. Depending upon the results, the doctor can recommend exercises and other treatments that might help you avoid a bone fracture.

Men who are between the ages of 50 and 70 and have risk factors for osteoporosis should talk to their doctor about the appropriate screening.

If your doctor determines that you have osteoporosis, it’s important to do what you can to decrease your risk of falls and the subsequent consequences if you do fall. A medical alert pendant is a great safety net to have in the event of a fall or other accident. This panic button can ensure that help gets to you right away – and there is plenty of evidence to prove that a faster response to an accident or injury usually corresponds with a better outcome.

Skin Cancer Screening

Our skin changes significantly as we age. And because of those changes, we might chalk up the signs of skin cancer to the aging process. That’s a huge mistake, as skin cancer can be deadly, but is very treatable when caught early. Those who have a weakened immune system, a history of skin cancer, or those with close relatives who had it are at greater risk.

For Men: Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

Senior men between the ages of 65 and 75 and who are current or former smokers should have an ultrasound to screen for abdominal aortic aneurysms. But there could be symptoms of this serious problem in men of other ages, so be sure to talk to your doctor about what to look for and how often to be screened.

For Men: Prostate Cancer

Men between the ages of 55 and 69 might be recommended to take a PSA test. This test will determine if you are at risk for prostate cancer. Those who are over the age of 70 aren’t recommended to be screened at all. This is because prostate cancer grows so slowly that it probably won’t cause you any serious problems in your golden years. And there’s more good news about this screening: the PSA test is a simple blood test.

Don’t wait to get these essential tests performed. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Alert1 wishes you good health and abundant safety!