Are You Healthy?

What you should be checking for as you age

It’s easy to forget a doctor’s appointment for that annual check-up, then never reschedule – especially during the aftermath of a pandemic or hurricane – so much so that you realize a few years have gone by and you still haven’t made it there.

That isn’t a good thing.

 As we get older, aging and how we treat our bodies take a toll. While illnesses can strike at any age, here are guidelines for what you need to be checking on.

It’s important that you have a primary healthcare provider as a source of regular and steady care — and while the below are general recommendations, it’s essential to also check with your doctor if these apply to you or have any questions.

Please note that these don’t include recommendations for pregnant women.

Also, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so it’s a good time to schedule a mammogram. 


 

20s & 30s

Cardiovascular

Depending on your lifestyle, BMI and family history, the frequency of checking blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes screenings should be discussed with your doctor.

As a general rule, you should get your blood pressure checked every two years; cholesterol tested every three to five years starting at age 35, (though could be as early as 20 because of family history); and get checked for diabetes every three years if there’s a family history, if you’re overweight or obese or if you have high blood pressure or cholesterol. 

STI screening

Testing should be done once a year if you’re sexually active. Get tested for HIV at least once. 

Colon Cancer

Though the recommended age for the first test is 45, if there’s a history of it in your direct family, check with your doctor about being tested earlier. At this age, get the test every 10 years. 

Eye exam

Even if you don’t have glasses or contact lenses, it’s good to have an exam occasionally as a baseline. If you do have vision problems, get an exam every two years, and every year if you have diabetes. 

Dentist

Depending on the health of your teeth, schedule a visit once or twice a year for an exam and cleaning.


Women’s Health

Cervical cancer

Pap smears should start at age 21, repeated every three years. By age 30, add an HPV test.

Breast cancer

Do a breast self-exam once a month; and if you have a family history of breast cancer, a baseline mammogram should be completed by at least age 35.


 

40s & 50s

Cardiovascular

Depending on your lifestyle, BMI and family history, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and thyroid screenings should be annual. Ask your doctor if you need an annual EKG or stress test.

STI screening

Tests should be done once a year if sexually active. 

Eye exam

Every two to four years ages 40 to 54; every one to three years ages 55 to 64. Every year if you have diabetes.

Dentist

Depending on the health of your teeth, a visit once or twice a year for an exam and cleaning.

Colon cancer

Testing should start at age 45, and then every 10 years if you get a normal reading. With an abnormal reading, testing should occur every three years. If there’s a direct family history of colon cancer, testing should be more frequently. 


Women’s Health

Cervical cancer

Pap smears should be every three years; HPV testing every five years. 

Breast cancer

Mammogram recommended every one to two years, but the frequency can be based on your family and your own health history.

Osteoporosis (bone density)

If there’s a family history of it, or if you have a low body weight, smoke, have thyroid disease, regularly use prednisone or if you suffer frequent fractures, you may want to start at 50.

Perimenopause/Menopause

The average age to get menopause is 51, but it can happen in your 40s and 50s. Menopause is diagnosed after you’ve gone 12 months without a menstrual period. 

Perimenopause happens in the months or years leading up to menopause, when women may experience irregular periods, chills, hot flashes, night sweats, thinning hair, sleep problems, mood changes, dry skin and weight gain with a slowed metabolism.

Treatments for both can include lifestyle changes or hormone therapy. See your doctor if you need some relief or treatment of symptoms.


Men’s Health

Prostate cancer

If you’re between 55 and 69, talk to your doctor about getting the PSA test. If you’re 55 or younger, screening generally isn’t recommended unless you have a family history (particularly if a father or brother have had it) or are Black. 

Osteoporosis (bone density)

Yes, men can get osteoporosis. Ask your doctor when you should have your first bone density test, but guidelines say low-risk patients can start at age 65 and have it done every two years. If there’s a family history of it, or if you have a low body weight, smoke, have thyroid disease, regularly use prednisone or if you suffer frequent fractures, you may want to start at 50.


 

60s & beyond

Cardiovascular

Blood pressure should be checked every two years; cholesterol every three to five years, depending on results; diabetes, depending on weight and family history; a fasting blood glucose test; and an HbA1c test to measure blood sugar every three years, depending on results. 

Ask your doctor if you need an annual EKG or stress test. 

STI screenings

Tests should be done once a year if sexually active. 

Colon cancer

Get a test every 10 years if you get a normal reading. With an abnormal one, every three years. If there’s a history of colon cancer with direct family, testing should be more frequent. 

Eye exam

Testing should be done every one to three years ages 55 to 64, and every one to two years ages 65 and up. Get tested every year if you have diabetes.

Osteoporosis screening

Bone density tests should start at age 65 for low-risk patients and be done every two years. 

Dentist

Depending on the health of your teeth, schedule a visit once or twice a year for an exam and cleaning. Unfortunately, Medicare, which covers medical care for people 65 and older, doesn’t include routine dental care. 


Women’s Health

Cervical cancer

After 65, if previous Pap smears and HPV are negative, Pap smears generally aren’t needed, but check with your doctor. 

Breast cancer

Mammogram recommended every one to two years, but the frequency can be tailored to your family and your own health history.

Menopause

See your doctor if you need relief from symptoms, be it a lifestyle change or hormone therapy. 


Men’s Health

Prostate cancer

If you’re younger than 69, talk to your doctor about getting the PSA test. At this age, screening generally isn’t recommended except if you have a family history (particularly if a father or brother have had it) or are Black. 


 

Mental Health Resources 

The need for mental health services is 24/7, and in New Orleans there are resources that can help. And, with Hurricane Ida recently hitting southeast Louisiana, those who were affected by it need a helping hand. 

Not all these services require insurance and can be paid on a sliding scale or are free. Some also take Medicare and Medicaid. 

 

National Suicide Prevention Hotline & Veterans Crisis Line Free. 800-273-8255 

Disaster Hotline A 24/7, 365 days a year multilingual national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling to people experiencing emotional distress or mental health issues due to any natural or man-made disaster. 800-985-5990

Behavioral Health Center at Children’s Hospital 504-896-7200; BehavioralHealth.chnola.org

Broadmoor Improvement Association Provides counseling to individuals, couples and families on a sliding-fee scale. 504-249-5130; BroadmoorImprovement.com/services

Central City Behavioral Health Clinic 504-599-0245

DePaul Community Health Centers For children, adolescents and young adults (ages 6 to 24). 504-207-3064

Jewish Family Services Telehealth counseling to adults. 504-831-8475 for telehealth and Lifeline; JFSNewOrleans.org/covid19

LCMC Health Virtual Care LCMCHealth.org

Metropolitan Human Services District Serves Orleans, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes. 504-568-3130; MHSDLA.org 

NAMI New Orleans 504-896-2345; NAMINewOrleans.org

New Orleans Health Department Behavioral Health Crisis Resources Available 24/7 in Orleans, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes. If someone is having a behavioral health crisis, call 504-826-2675; other services: vialink.org/our-resources.php

Ochsner Mental Wellness Program 504-842-4025 for department of psychiatry; Ochsner.org/services/ochsner-mental-wellness-program

St. Thomas Community Health Center 504-529-9144; StThomasCHC.org

Tulane Institute of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Center Free mental health consult for individuals caring for young children (0-6): 504-264-1287; Tikes@tulane.edu; Medicine.tulane.edu/departments/clinical-sciences/psychiatry/research/tikes

Categories: Feature, To Your Health