Preventive care is an essential tool in helping to maintain your overall health — especially if you’re an older adult. Preventive health services can stop the onset or progression of disease and disability, ultimately helping patients avoid trips to the emergency department. “The importance of preventive care cannot be overstated,” says Huntington Health-affiliated emergency medicine physician David Ulick, MD. “Many diseases are treatable or even curable with early detection.”
The specific health screenings and services you need may depend on your gender, age, race, personal and family history. Common examples are:
- Annual check-up: No matter your age, it’s crucial that you visit your doctor once a year to catch health concerns early.
- Mammogram: This is routine x-rays of breast tissue to check for cancer. Starting at age 40, women who are at average risk for breast cancer should get a mammogram every year.
- Colonoscopy: This exam is used to find problems in the colon or rectum, such as colorectal cancer. All adults aged 45 to 75 should be screened at least once every 10 years.
- PSA blood test: Starting at age 50 (or 45 for African Americans and people with first-degree relatives who had prostate cancer), men should discuss prostate cancer screening options like the PSA blood test with their doctor.
- Pap test and/or HPV test: Women should get screened regularly for cervical cancer, typically every three to five years. Women who are 30 or older should talk to their doctor about which testing option is right for them: a Pap test, an HPV test or both.
- Osteoporosis screening: Women ages 65 and over should get tested to detect their bone strength every 15 years.
- Immunizations: Important shots for older adults include the COVID-19 vaccine, the annual flu vaccine, the pneumococcal vaccine and the shingles vaccine.
Talk to your doctor about what other preventive care steps are right for you. “It all begins with a visit to your primary care physician,” says Dr. Ulick. “Don’t wait until you have symptoms to see your doctor.”
Below are some pro tips for scheduling your appointments:
- Call your doctor early: Call first thing in the morning if you can. Avoid calling when the office is closed, such as after hours or during lunchtime. Visit www.huntingtonhealth.org/doctors if you need to find a trusted physician to help keep you healthy.
- Schedule efficiently: Set up your next annual physical exam at this year’s check-up. Schedule a “day of prevention” by lining up a few appointments; you may want to start your day with a physical exam, since routine blood tests may require fasting beforehand.
- Don’t forget: Keep all appointments on your calendar. Set up reminders via alarm or designated accountability partner such as a spouse, family member or friend.
As you schedule and attend your appointments, remember: Your caregiving team is doing everything they can to help you. Please practice patience and kindness.
Sources: AARP; CDC; NIH; and Healthline.