Our bodies are amazing in that they can repair themselves, but it’s not always easy to detect when things aren’t going well as we age. To stay healthy as we age, we need to be proactive about staying on top of our health and getting the right medical tests done at the right time. If you have turned 50 recently, these are the medical tests you need in your 50s.
Blood Pressure Check
Hypertension affects nearly one in three adults over age 65, and it’s even more common among African-Americans, who are twice as likely to have high blood pressure than whites. Get your blood pressure checked regularly so you can make sure your numbers stay in line. You can check it yourself—that is if you’re able to do it properly. (If not, ask a doctor or nurse.) A measurement of 140/90 mm Hg is considered prehypertensive; anything higher than that puts you at risk for heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.
Immunizations are a crucial part of staying healthy, especially in your mid-50s. Many older adults tend to skip routine shots, so at age 50, it’s a good idea to take stock of your immunization record and make sure you’re up-to-date on all vaccinations. Ask your doctor about any childhood vaccines you might have missed as well as immunizations for hepatitis A and B, whooping cough (pertussis), tetanus/diphtheria/polio (Tdap), and influenza if you’ve never had certain vaccines, including measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) or chickenpox (varicella), talk with your doctor about whether they might be appropriate for you.
The recommendations for what you should get in your 50s vary by provider. Still, a basic blood panel, including a CBC (complete blood count), BMP (blood chemistry profile), and lipid panel, is important to test for risk of heart disease. An elevated triglyceride level, low HDL cholesterol, or high LDL cholesterol indicate a higher risk of developing heart disease. A full cancer screening can also be beneficial, especially if you’re at an increased risk due to your family history. Other screenings depend on your health conditions and family history, so talk with your primary care physician about whether additional tests might be right for you.
Skin And Mole Check
Starting in your 40s, you should get a skin and mole check to monitor for signs of skin cancer. At age 50, you should also have your first colonoscopy to look for polyps that could lead to colon cancer. And every two years after that, you should get screened for it. Some people start getting tested at age 45 or 50 if they have a higher risk of getting cancer in one of these ways: a history of certain types of polyps or polyposis (large collections), known genetic syndromes associated with an increased risk, other kinds of cancers that are more common in those with family histories (e.g., breast and ovarian), or various medical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which is linked to colorectal cancer.
Colorectal Cancer Screening
Most people will have an opportunity to screen for colorectal cancer as part of their routine health care. It’s important to begin screening for colorectal cancer in your 40s because precancerous growths can develop before symptoms appear. If left untreated, these growths can turn into the colon or rectal cancer.