Waiting for symptoms to pay a visit to the doctor due to time or financial constraints is often a step too late for most chronic and terminal illnesses. Therefore, in addition to the yearly medical exams, here is a list of preventative or early-detection tests and screenings for people over 35, as majority of serious conditions set in after this age:
1- A Heart Check:
To determine the risk of dyslipidemia (disruption of fat metabolism), heart disease and stroke via a blood pressure check and Lipid Profile Test for measuring the levels of ‘bad’ LDL and ‘good’ HDL cholesterols, and triglycerides. A family history of cardiac disease might warrant a High-Sensitivity CRP test to measure inflammation levels.
Every 2 years for a normal blood pressure, i.e. 120/80 or lower, and 5-yearly gaps for cholesterol checks; with annual check-ups for both after 45.
(Lipid profiles provide best results after 9-12 hours of fasting).
2- Skin Examination::
For early detection of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, via a complete dermatological examination for suspicious moles or growths, in addition to monthly skin self-exams all over the body, particularly the lower half.
Once or twice a year after 35 years of age.
3- Comprehensive Eye Examinations:
For early detection of glaucoma, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, diabetes, and hypertension.
Every 3 and 2 years after 35 and 45 years of age respectively, and annually after 65 years of age. For contact lens wearers and those with a family history of eye conditions, hypertension, and diabetes, annual checkups are recommended after reaching an age of 35 years.
4- Diabetes Test:
For preventative or early detection testing against diabetes or prediabetes via a hemoglobin A1C blood test, a Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) test, or an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT).
Every 3 years after 45, with 1-2 years for prediabetics. However, smokers, obese or other high-risk individuals with hypertension, high cholesterol or a family history of diabetes should start early testing.
(Fast for 8 hours before the test for accurate results).
To check for and remove polyps (small growths that eventually become malignant) in the colon, for early detection of colon cancer.
Every 5-10 years after 50 or 40, depending upon a family history of the disease.
6- Thyroid Test:
To check for under- or overproduction of the thyroid hormone that may lead to Hypothyroidism or Hyperthyroidism, respectively.
Every 5 years after 40, or earlier (at 35), in case of early appearance of symptoms.
7- Bone-Density (DXA) Scan::
This X-ray is used for early treatment of osteopenia and prevention of osteoporosis by measuring the amount of calcium and minerals in bones.
Every 5 years, beginning at age 65 for women and 70 for men. Women who weigh less than 127 pounds, were smokers, or have a history of bone fractures and a family history of osteoporosis should get tested at menopause.
8- Depression Screening:
To avoid dire, depression-fueled consequences through a conversation with a mental health care provider, since the condition manifests in most adults due to work-life stress.
Annually if you are at a higher risk or every 2-3 years.
9- Dementia and Alzheimer’s Screening:
For early detection and subsequent delay of further symptoms through a physical examination and laboratory testing.
Annually after 60, as the condition is prevalent among older individuals.
For early breast cancer detection and successful treatment, either digitally or through an x-ray film.
While manual examinations by a gynecologist should be conducted annually after 20 years of age, mammograms should be done every year after 40 years. Women whose mother or sister(s) has / have been diagnosed with breast cancer should have their first mammogram 5-10 years earlier than their relative’s age at the time of their diagnosis.
Note: Schedule mammograms 2 weeks after your period, when breasts are less tender.
2- Full Gynecological Exam:
This includes a manual pelvic and breast exam for abnormalities such as suspicious growths, lumps, rashes, and nipple discharge, a Pap smear and an HPV test for cervical cancer detection.
Annually after 35 years of age. However, Pap tests frequency can be increased to every 5 years if both Pap and HPV tests are normal.
Note: Avoid using vaginal medication and do not have sexual intercourse 1-2 days before a Pap test for accurate results.
1- Testicular Cancer Screening::
For early detection of the disease via medical examinations and blood tests, due to a 25% increase in mortality rate since 1995 in Pakistan.
Every year after 35 years or earlier, in individuals with a family history of the disease.
Most diseases are completely curable if detected early, so never miss out on medical health check-ups, particularly if you are at risk of any of the above conditions. Therefore, the best way to remain fit and healthy is to maintain a balanced lifestyle and get a regular medical checkup.