Health

Tests and Screenings: 50s

Vision changes as we age. Get your eyes checked. Image from nlm.nih.gov.

Thought you could skate through the health maintenance checklists like you did in your 20s, didn’t you? This is the decade where caring for your health becomes critical. Here are some of the key tests, screenings and immunizations that you’ll need in your 50s.

Both Men and Women

  • Annual Checkup: Yes, you really do have to go to the doctor once a year now.
  • Blood Pressure: Have your blood pressure checked at every visit. Healthy blood pressure is below 120/80.
  • Cholesterol Level: Your cholesterol should be tested at least every five years, more frequently if you’re overweight or have a family history of heart disease. There are many factors to cholesterol screenings, but the basic numbers that you’re looking for are an overall cholesterol level below 200 and an HDL level above 40.
  • Diabetes/Blood Glucose: Frequency of testing is based on past results and family history, but the test should be conducted at least every three years. Healthy adults are looking for a fasting glucose level of less than 100.
  • Rectal Exam: No, you’re not going to like it, but I can guarantee that you’ll like colon cancer even less. Get checked.
  • Dental Checkup: Every six months is best, but aim for checkups at least once a year.
  • Eye Exam: Every two years, or annually if you already wear glasses or contacts.
  • Skin Cancer Screening: Every two years, or annually if you have a history of severe sunburns or regular tanning.
  • Immunizations: Annual flu shot; tetanus/diphtheria every 10 years; hepatitis A for those traveling abroad.

Men Only

  • Testicular Self-Exam: Check every three months.¬†The how-to guide can be foundhere.

Women Only

  • Mammogram: Have an annual mammogram to check for abnormalities. Early detection of breast cancer means a higher survival rate.
  • Breast Self-Exam: Check monthly; the guidelines are changing, but it seems that no harm can be done from a habitual check. The how-to guide can be found¬†here.
  • Clinical Breast Exam: Every 1-3 years at the doctor’s office for your gynecological checkup.
  • Pap Smear: Yes, you still need pap smears. This is a routine part of a gynecological exam that checks for cervical abnormalities. Every 1-3 years at the doctor’s office.
  • Thyroid Hormone Test: Have it checked at 50, then every five years thereafter. That little gland in your neck controls metabolic hormones. When it ha problems, you have problems.

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