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September 13, 2021

What To Know About Preventive Care As You Age

What To Know About Preventive Care As You Age

While it’s easy to take good health for granted, staying healthy requires some effort—especially as people grow older.

“When it comes to healthy aging, the most important thing people can do is check in at least once a year with their primary care doctor,” says Harinder Kaur, MD, a family medicine physician with IU Health Physicians Primary Care in Indianapolis. “Regular checkups are necessary not only to check your current health, but also to stay informed about preventive care and review personal risk factors and family history to determine which preventive screenings are needed.”

In terms of cancer prevention, Kaur says one of the biggest changes this past year is new guidance regarding colorectal cancer screening. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and other organizations now advise that colorectal cancer screening begin at age 45—five years earlier than previously recommended.

“We’re finding more colon cancer in younger people, and many of these cancers are in the later stage when detected, making them harder to treat,” Kaur explains. “Colon cancer is easily preventable and has a long progression, so if it’s found early, there are many effective treatment options that can result in cure.”

What are preventive health screening guidelines for women and men?

  • High blood pressure – at least once a year in healthy individuals
  • Hepatitis C – one-time screening for most adults
  • Fall prevention assessment – annual screening for adults age 65 and older who are at increased risk of falling
  • Depression screening – at least once a year for healthy individuals

“I feel strongly that mental health screening is important for everyone,” Kaur says. “Depression and other mental health issues can have a huge impact on overall physical and emotional health.”

Preventive health screenings for women

  • Breast cancer screening (mammogram) – screening beginning at age 50 and repeated every two years; shared decision-making with a doctor is recommended for women in their 40s based on benefits and harms of screening
  • Cervical cancer screening (Pap smear) – starting at age 21, every three to five years, depending on age and risk factors
  • Screening for sexually transmitted diseases (chlamydia and gonorrhea) – annual screening for women age 24 and younger who are sexually active (should be done yearly since most of these infections have no symptoms)
  • Osteoporosis screening (DEXA scan bone density test) – starting at age 65

Preventive health screenings for men

  • Prostate cancer screening – No longer universally recommended; screening depends on personal risk factors, family history and preference; talk to your doctor about what’s right for you

Guidelines for preventive screening are not one-size-fits-all. Kaur says that risk factors, family history and whether you are experiencing any signs or symptoms will determine the preventive tests you need and how often.

Talk to your doctor about what’s right for you. Regular doctor visits are key to healthy aging and important for everyone.

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