Some people say 50 is the new 30. But it might be difficult to feel that way if you are not aware of all of your screening tests and vaccinations. Many of us are not.
For example, one in three people aged 50 to 75 did not follow their schedule for colon cancer screening. About 30% of people over the age of 65 do not get the flu vaccine every year, and 2/3 opt for the recommended shingles vaccine.
If you've reached half a century, here are the tests and vaccines you need to stay healthy:
Must Get Vaccines
The CDC recommends that all healthy adults 50 years and older receive two doses of Shingrix, the latest shingles vaccine. You should get the shots 2 to 6 months apart. It is much more effective than the old Zostavax. You should get Shingrix even if you have had Zostavaxor before or if you do not remember if you have had chickenpox. Most people have been exposed to the virus.
Seniors should get the flu shot every year. A large majority of those who died or were hospitalized for the flu are elderly. If you are over 65, find out about the high-dose Fluzone vaccine, which contains four times more antigen than regular flu vaccines. Another vaccine called Fluad may also offer more protection for the elderly.
Getting older makes you more likely to get pneumonia, blood infections, or meningitis from pneumococcal bacteria. Two vaccines - PCV13 (Prevnar 13) and PPSV23 (Pneumovax 23) - can protect you from pneumococcal disease. The CDC recommends that all adults 65 and older have the two injections, one year apart, with PCV13 first.
Tdap shot or booster.
If you skipped the recall of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough) in adolescence or adulthood, get one now. Or if you got it but it's been at least a decade, get a booster against tetanus and diphtheria, called Td, every 10 years.
Most men and women should be screened for colon cancer from the age of 50. You can use one of the tests that can detect cancer and polyps, which can become cancerous, or a test that only finds cancer. The first type is better. But it is important to get tested, depending on which one you choose.
If you have a family history of colon cancer, get checked earlier. If you are African American or American Indian, consider starting at age 45.
You can get tested in different ways, each with its own pros and cons. Talk to your doctor about the best options for you. If you have a colonoscopy, your doctor can remove all of the polyps before they become cancerous.
Screening for type 2 diabetes should begin at age 45, then once every 3 years. You may need more frequent tests if your results are not normal, or if you are overweight or have pre-diabetes or a family history of the disease. Your doctor may recommend one of these tests:
This measures your average blood sugar over the past 2-3 months.
Fasting blood sugar.
It checks the blood sugar level after drinking something other than water for at least 8 hours.
Oral glucose tolerance test.
This checks your blood sugar before and 2 hours after drinking a special sugary drink.
Your bones can become more fragile with age. Your doctor may recommend a hip and spine bone density test called a DXA scanner for people at higher risk for fractures.
Women 65 and over: Younger women and men who are more likely to develop osteoporosis, including those who smoke, are underweight, have had broken bones, take prednisone or other steroids regularly, and drink more than three drinks alcoholic drinks per day.
If your results are normal, you will not need another test for several years. But if you have low bone density or full-fledged osteoporosis, you will need to get tested a lot more often.
After age 50, have a full eye exam every 2 to 4 years. After age 55, you may need it as often as every year. If you have diabetes or notice changes in your vision, ask your doctor or ophthalmologist what to do.
Hypertension, or a reading of 120 out of 80 or more, is very common in the elderly. It is best to have it checked annually. If you are obese or overweight, or if your reading is greater than 120, your doctor will help you develop a follow-up plan.
You need a blood test to check your total cholesterol as well as high-density (good) and low-density (bad) lipoprotein cholesterol. Cholesterol turns into a plaque that clogs your arteries, which can lead to a stroke and heart attack. If your levels are high, you may need to test more often.