Health screening tests are used to detect whether any individual is suffering from a disease or is likely to develop a health problem. Regular health check ups are particularly necessary for elderly citizens, since they are at a higher risk of developing old-age related ailments. Early detection of a disease or finding disease-creating symptoms can be vital for preventing, curing and reducing severity of the disease.
There are several types of health screening tests meant for different diseases and parts of the body. Not every elderly person might afford to undergo all tests. Some tests might not even be necessary. Hence, it is best to consult your physician to decide the type of tests to be performed and their frequency.
Following is a list of health screening tests recommended for elderly people:
- Blood pressure: Blood pressure is the measurement of the force that is applied to artery walls when the heart pumps blood to the body. Blood pressure tests give two readings. One is the maximum pressure possible, which happens when the heart contracts, creating a heart beat and is known as systolic pressure. The other is the pressure within the arteries when the heart is not beating, that is in between two heartbeats, as in known as diastolic pressure. Normal blood pressure reading, measured in mmHg or millimeters of mercury, should be less than 120/80 mmHg, or 120 over 80 . Number 120 corresponds to the systolic pressure and number 80 corresponds to the diastolic pressure. Reading above 120/80 but below 140/90 mmHg is called prehypertension. Reading above 140/90 mmHg is high blood pressure and needs immediate attention. High blood pressure is called silent killer due to the lack of observable symptoms, and can cause heart failure, stroke and even kidney failure.
- Cholesterol: This test measures the cholesterol and triglyceride amounts present in serum, which is a constituent of blood. This is essentially a blood test, where blood is drawn from a vein using a needle and a syringe. Increased levels of cholesterol in the blood can lead to heart attack, stroke and blood clots, since it will restrict proper blood flow. This test is best taken in the morning, or after a fast of nine to twelve hours.
- Skin exam: There are several types of skin tests available, such as skin biopsy, allergy tests, infection tests and stain tests. You can even perform self-tests by checking your skin regularly for any unusual stains, marks, colorations or moles. If you experience unusual markings, bleeding, or wounds that will not heal, on any part of the body, consult your doctor immediately.
- Breast exam and mammogram for women: Elderly women have increased risk of breast cancer, and therefore this is the most important test for women. Mammogram is essentially an X-ray test, and scans the breast for miniscule lumps of cancer. Mammograms can help detect breast cancer even before the symptoms appear. Self-breast exams should be performed regularly. If you feel or observe any unusual changes, contact your doctor immediately.
- Bone mineral density test: This test checks the density of the bone, and therefore its strength. Weak bones can result in fractures or osteoporosis. It is essentially an X-ray test. Images of bones located at vulnerable areas of the body such as hips, back, spine, and wrists, are taken and analyzed. Knowing how weak the bones are, the doctor can prescribe a set of medicines, supplements and exercises for slowing down bone loss.