The Annual Physical Exam: A Necessity for Senior Citizens

Everybody young and old should get a yearly checkup from their doctor. This allows the doctor to monitor your general health and will give her/him a point of reference should an issue come up. This yearly checkup is especially important for senior citizens, who generally have more health concerns and may need more monitoring than others. Here are the following tests recommended by the American Medical Association that should be done with regularity and why they’re so important for senior health.  The reader is advised to bear in mind that these are only guidelines, and are not to be substituted for advice from one’s primary care physician or specialist.

There are many routine tests that can help maintain and monitor a senior’s health. Blood pressure, height and weight should be checked at every doctor’s visit including your yearly exam. This is for monitoring purposes and because a large drop in weight and height could indicate the beginning of a serious condition. Blood work should be done every year and the tests that are run from this work will vary from patient to patient. All blood work should include a blood count, glucose tests, thyroid tests, and any other tests that will check for conditions relating to your family and medical history. A chest x-ray is generally recommended once a year, although some medical experts do not recommend it that often. This will show the general condition of the lungs, an area that is vulnerable in many seniors. A fecal occult blood test should also be done once every year to check for blood in the stool and could be very helpful in the early detection of colorectal cancer.  A sigmoidoscopy should be done every four years to also help detect colorectal cancer, unless otherwise indicated. Colonoscopies should also be given every five years, except for those that are high-risk or have already been diagnosed with polyps or colon cancer.  Then, obviously, the surgeon’s advice must be followed. 

These are tests that everyone should have done but there are also tests that are specific to men and women that should also be done every year to maintain good senior health. A man should plan for these tests annually: a prostate exam and a prostate specific antigen test (PSA), which is simple blood work that will detect the possibility of prostate cancer. Women should plan on adding to their yearly tests: a mammogram to help detect breast cancer; a pap smear and pelvic exam (some recommend this every 2-4 years); and measurement of bone mass to detect osteoporosis, a condition that occurs mainly in women and causes bones to become very fragile and delicate.

The yearly exam is only one aspect of senior health but it is a very important aspect and should not be overlooked.