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Medical tests for your 60s and beyond

You deserve to feel good. Just because you are over 60, doesn’t mean you can't be independent and healthy.

But do you know what to do to stay healthy? Experts have put together the following recommendations to keep older people healthy, happy, and safe. These are simple medical tests that you can talk to your GP about.  They may agree that these are a good idea or suggest additional tests based on your personal health profile.

  • Blood pressure: You could be one of the hundreds of thousands of people in the UK who have high blood pressure and don't know it. Get your blood pressure checked by your doctor as often as advised. Your heart, not to mention your arteries, brain, eyes and kidneys, will thank you later.

  • Stepping on the scales: Welcome to the weight gain time bomb: muscle is replaced by fat as we get older. Then, that fat goes to your waist! Also, you don't burn calories as well as before because your body's metabolism is slowing down. Take heed of any weight gain; you could be robbing yourself of good health.

  • The rectal examination: Dread it, hate it, joke with your friends about it. Just make sure you ask your doctor whether you should have one and why. The rectal examination can help to detect any masses and along with other medical tests your doctor may recommend, it may give clues to treatable problems in your colon ( colon cancer) or prostate problems for men. You should automatically receive an invitation through the post to take part in the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme. This service, which runs independently from your GP, offers screening every two years to all men and women in England and Wales aged 60 to 69 (age 50-74 in Scotland) in the form of a faecal occult blood test (FOBT). This test detects blood that cannot be seen with the naked eye. In England people over 70 can request a screening kit by calling a free phone helpline. Ask your doctor for more information if you are not clear about the arrangement.
  • Other colon cancer screening tests: Colonoscopy is just one of several tests that can be performed to look for colon cancer. If you have any worrying signs or symptoms that might suggest a possibility of bowel cancer, or if you have close relatives who have had the disease at a young age, your doctor may recommend that you have a colonoscopy. 

  • For women - mammogram: Breast cancer risk increases with age. Therefore, it's especially important for you to get your free NHS mammogram every three years. This is automatically offered to all women aged between 50 and 70. After 70 you must actively request a mammogram via your GP. The NHS is extending the age range of women routinely invited to have a mammogram to ages 47 – 73 years old.
  • For women - smear test: Many women over 60 still need to have regular smear tests. Women over 60 can get cervical cancer or vaginal cancer. In England and Northern Ireland, women aged 25-49 are invited for a cervical smear test every three years. Women aged 50-64 are invited every five years. In Wales, women aged 20-64 are invited for screening every three years. In Scotland, currently women aged 20-64 are invited for screening every three years. From 2015 women in Scotland aged 25-49 will be invited for screening every three years and women aged 50-64 invited for screening every five years. After 65, only those who have not been tested since the age of 50, or those with recent abnormal tests will be invited for screening.
  • Protecting your eyes: Eye diseases, such as macular degeneration and glaucoma, are more common with age. Your eyes should be checked every one to two years after the age of 65. Screening can preserve and maximise your vision. Go more often if you have vision problems. The NHS provides free eye tests for anyone over 60.
  • Hearing test: At least 30% of people over 60 have some hearing loss, most of which is treatable. Get a hearing test as often as advised. You can get a free test on the NHS if you are concerned about your hearing but you may have to wait a few weeks.  There are many high street services offering tests privately.
  • Protect your bones: Osteoporosis is no joke. If you have it and you suffer a fracture -- especially of the hip -- you've significantly increased your risk of permanent disability or death. Take osteoporosis seriously and ask your doctor about your personal risk factors and whether you need a bone density scan. The Royal College of Physicians in the UK has recommended that bone density measurements should be available to postmenopausal women over 45 years at high risk of osteoporosis.
  • Cholesterol screening: High cholesterol levels are a major reason why people have heart attacks and strokes. The good news, though, is that high cholesterol levels can be treated by diet and medicines. That is why measuring your cholesterol levels is important to do as often as advised.
  • Blood sugar:  Diabetes is a potentially life-threatening condition, but it doesn't have to be. There is no routine screening programme for Diabetes on the NHS but GPs usually recommend that those at greater risk, such as those over 50, overweight or with a family history of diabetes are tested, initially by having their blood sugar levels measured after fasting. Talk to your doctor about whether you should be tested. 

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