Important Health Tests to Take as you Grow Older

Whether you’re a carer, or concerned about someone who’s being cared for, it pays to be proactive with health check-ups.

15/01/2021

Whether you’re a carer, or concerned about someone who’s being cared for, it pays to be proactive with health check-ups.

As we outlined in last month’s blog, the healthier you are, the more you can cope with life’s ups and downs. Likewise, if or when you suffer from health issues, the faster you can treat or manage them.

With that in mind, we thought we’d continue our recent blog theme by looking at the important health tests to take as you grow older.

 

What are the recommended medical tests by age?

These are what we see as the most important health tests to take as you grow older, along with ages at which you should consider them.

Under 40

There are many important health tests the elderly should take. However, being mindful of your health can (and should!) start several decades before you collect your pension.

Everyone
  • Skin and mole check: Skin cancer is the UK’s most common  form of cancer, and can be caused by simply spending too much time in the sun. From the age of 30 you should be watchful for any abnormal rashes or moles on your body. If one appears, visiting your GP is the best way to catch it before it progresses.
     
  • Cholesterol: Heart disease caused more than a quarter of all deaths in the UK in 2019. A cholesterol test is therefore one of the single most important health tests to take as you grow older. You’d ideally get your first one around the age of 35. If your results come back normal, you’d then have it every five years. If they show an issue, you should continue to have it annually.
Men
Women
  • Pelvic exam and pap smear: Around 850 women  die of cervical cancer in the UK every year. However, 99.8% of cervical cancer cases are treatable. A cervical smear every three years from the age of 21 will help to keep you in that overwhelming majority.

  • Breast lump check: According to research and care charity Breast Cancer Now, 47% of women do not check their breasts regularly enough. A YouGov survey commissioned by the charity says that one in 10  women have never checked them at all. If you do, and find something unusual, your GP should be your first port of call.

Man sat with doctor for recommended medical test

Ages 40-64

As you enter middle age, your body’s susceptibility to illness increases. Many of the tests outlined above become more regular fixtures, and you should also be mindful to consider the investigations below.

If you searched ‘what medical tests do I need at 50?’ this is the section you’re looking for. In truth however, many of these exams start even earlier than that.

Everyone
  • Blood pressure: The higher your blood pressure, the greater your chances of developing heart disease. A once-a-year check-up from age 40 onwards can help to catch potential problems early.
     
  • Colonoscopy: Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, with the chances of developing it increasing with age. It’s therefore one of the most important health tests to take as you grow older. From age of 50 you should screen for it every five years. If your family has a history of it, starter earlier and test more often.
     
  • Diabetes screening: If you’re older than 44, you’re at a higher risk of developing diabetes. Even more so if you’re overweight and/or live a generally inactive lifestyle. If you’re in that bracket, asking your GP about routine testing is a very good idea.
     
  • Joint care assessment: Most knee replacements happen between the ages of 45 and 65. Visiting your GP should be the first bastion if you find your aches and pains starting to increase in intensity and duration.
     
  • Vision exam: As your eyes age, your lenses can harden – leading you to lose the ability to focus your vision. It can impact your ability to drive, and may result in you needing to wear glasses. This is much more likely to happen after the age of 50, so make sure to visit your optician regularly from there on in if you don’t already.
     
  • Dental exam: should visit your dentist once to twice a year for a regular check-up. This will help you check for bite and jaw problems, evaluate tooth decay and take preventative action, and also catch problems early before you need more extensive work like fillings or tooth restoration/replacements.
Men
  • Prostate screening: In the UK, upwards of 130  new prostate cancer cases are diagnosed daily. The odds of being in that unfortunate group increase above 50, making it one of the more important health tests to take as you grow older. A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, conducted through your GP via bloodwork, is usually the first line of detection.
Women
  • Breast cancer screening (mammogram): While you should start checking for lumps in your 30s, regular mammograms should be on your radar from around your mid 40s. Due to increased risk, you should make them an annual fixture from your 50s onwards.

Smokers
  • Lung cancer: The UK’s third most common cancer kills upwards of 45,000 people every year. Over 90% of those cases in men, and 80% in women, are due to tobacco. If you are or were a heavy or long-term smoker then this will undoubtedly be an important health test to take as you grow older. You should be screened for it annually, with screenings stopping once you’ve been free of tobacco for 15 years.

Lady sat with doctor for medical tests

Ages 65 and older

If you searched ‘What medical tests do I need at 65’ (or similar), this is the list for you. These are the most important health tests the elderly should take.

Everyone
  • Vaccinations: While not strictly ‘tests’, it’s important to support your immune system by keeping on top of vaccinations. If you’re over 65, you should certainly have an annual flu shot. Additionally, you should have a tetanus-diphtheria booster every 10 years, and one shingles vaccination (if you need it) after the age of 50. A pneumococcal disease jab meanwhile will protect you against pneumonia and a range of other infections.
     
  • Osteoporosis: Affecting more than twice the number of people that dementia does (over 2 million, according to one study), osteoporosis is the condition that leads to brittle bones. While you might seek a bone density test starting in your 50s, you should definitely do so with increasing urgency into your retirement years. According to statistics, this is especially true if you’re female.
     
  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) screening: After 65 your thyroid can stop functioning as well as it once did. If you notice you’re feeling unusually sluggish, achy, or keep putting on weight unexpectedly, a simple TSH blood test could rule out thyroid problems.
     
  • Hearing test (audiogram): A loss of hearing is especially common as you age. If you find yourself suffering from that as you get into your twilight years, visit your GP. They may organise an audiogram to check the pitch and intensity levels you’re experiencing.

It’s also wise to prioritise some of the tests we mentioned earlier as you enter your sunset years. With health issues becoming more chronic after retirement, in many ways these are the most important health tests the elderly should take:

  • Blood pressure
  • Colonoscopy
  • Dental exam
  • Diabetes test
  • Eye exam
  • Mammogram
  • Pap smear
  • Prostate cancer screening
  • Skin check-up

So, that’s our comprehensive list of the important health tests to take as you grow older, arranged by age. How many have you considered?

If you’re caring for a loved one with health concerns, and you find you could do with extra aid, please take a look at our blog about carer’s fatigue or get in touch – we’re here to help.