A wellness routine can help with the early detection of diseases, which is especially important as you age. Maintaining health starts with prevention.
“Feeling well is not necessarily synonymous with being well,” says Dr. Robert Sawyer. “Don’t use how you feel as a litmus test for when you should be seen.”
Seeing your primary care provider regularly allows you to bring up even small changes in how you feel and discuss your doctor’s recommendations.
“If you’re an adult over age 55, visits every six months make the most sense to detect trends and initiate therapy without losing valuable treatment time,” Dr. Sawyer says.
Visits allow you to discuss recommended health screenings with your doctor to ensure you are as healthy as you feel.
Since cardiovascular disease is something Dr. Sawyer commonly sees in an older population, he recommends regular blood pressure checks and heart screenings to catch a problem before it has noticeable effects. Symptoms of a cardiac event often come on quickly and severely, so early detection can be key.
With certain conditions, health screenings may be the only way to detect a problem before the onset of symptoms.
“People have the opportunity to have tests that detect conditions potentially with very long asymptomatic phases like breast and colon cancer,” Dr. Sawyer says. “People are not always excited to pursue those because the screenings can be uncomfortable. But we know that in the end, it will prevent an adverse outcome.”
Dr. Sawyer also recommends screening for osteoporosis, particularly for women for whom hip fractures have a similar mortality risk to heart attacks when they’re over 65.
Screening and evaluating for diabetes is particularly important as the number of people diagnosed with diabetes continues to increase.
“Not only is the prevalence of diabetes going up, but also the presence of metabolic syndrome,” Dr. Sawyer says. “It is expected that with advancing age, both blood pressure and fasting glucose levels will go up.”
Screenings can help detect these heightened numbers and allow for early treatment of metabolic syndrome, which can prevent the development of diabetes.
Share symptoms with your doctor
While screenings and checkups are crucial even if you’re feeling well, sometimes you will experience symptoms before the onset of a condition. You should check with your doctor when those occur.
Dr. Sawyer lists some common symptoms that people tend to ignore, whether they are embarrassing to talk about or assumed to be a normal part of the aging process:
- Unanticipated, significant weight changes
- Night sweats
- Excessive thirst and urination
- Bowel habit changes
- Exertional chest pain
- Exertional shortness of breath
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