Senior Citizen Annual Physical Exam: Updated Guidelines

Sep 20th, 2010 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Lifestyle, Health & Fitness

SCJ editors recently researched several online websites for new information about annual medical examinations for senior citizens. We found some new suggestions that we want to pass on to our readers.  But first, a reminder… In addition to the need to pay attention to one’s body, it is also crucial for senior citizens to keep mind and spirit in good health.  Taking care of oneself with happy social activity, good friendships, stimulating reading and conversation and regular faith renewal are as important as caring for one’s physical health.

In order to avoid confusion, we are incorporating the annual well-person information with the original recommendations we published two years ago.  THIS IS NOT TO BE CONSTRUED AS MEDICAL ADVICE; YOUR PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN IS THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN PROVIDE YOUR MEDICAL ADVICE AND CARE; DO NOT SUBSTITUTE THIS LIST FOR MEDICAL CARE WITH YOUR PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN.  You and your doctor need to assess each of the following issues in your annual well-woman/man visit (annual physical/medical examination):

  • Height and Weight: seniors need to be sure their height and weight are both age appropriate and fall within normal ranges; we tend to lose some height because our spine shrinks a little in length; this needs to be watched carefully by your primary care physician (PCP).
  • Body Mass Index (BMI): this value needs to be determined in order to address any obesity problems.
  • Vision Screening: your PCP needs to be aware of any changes in your vision, and coordinate evaluation and treatment with an Ophthalmologist.
  • Dental Screening: we seniors tend to have more dental issues as we age; your PCP needs to be aware of any symptoms you have identified, and insure you are getting appropriate care from a dentist.

  • Blood Pressure: your systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) pressure needs to be assessed every time you see your primary care physician; she/he will recommend treatment if the numbers get beyond the recommended healthy level; most University medical centers now say systolic should be at or below 120 and diastolic should be at or below 80.
  • Cardiovascular disease: regular screening for cardiovascular disease should begin at age 55, according to most University medical center websites; your PCP and you need to determine what tests/exams needs to be conducted to identify any potential cardio problems.
  • Cholesterol (lipid) testing needs to be conducted annually, and more often if the good and bad cholesterol figures are beyond normal range; you and your PCP may want to consider treatment if your cholesterol numbers indicate problems.
  • Diabetes screening: you and your PCP need to know if you are at risk for Type 2 diabetes, and your blood screening needs to include this test on an annual basis.
  • Mammography (women): screening for breast cancer in high risk women needs to begin no later than 50, and earlier for some women at very high risk; consult your PCP regarding history of breast cancer in your family to determine your risk level.
  • Colorectal screening: a simple test needs to be done annually to determine if there is any fecal blood present; your PCP will talk with you about how often you need a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, based on your family and life history.
  • Osteoporosis screening: needs to begin at age 65 for women, earlier if you have a family history of osteoporosis; men need to consult their PCP to determine how often they need the screening; again, your PCP and you need to make the determination of how often this screening test is done.
  • Cervical cancer screening/pap smear (women): you and your PCP need to discuss the frequency of these screening tests; it varies depending upon your individual circumstances.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases:  if you are still sexually active and/or have more than one sexual partner, you need to talk with your PCP about screening for STDs.  Don’t let archaic embarrassment get in the way here!
  • Tobacco/Nicotine use: if you smoke or use tobacco, you need to talk with your PCP about cessation programs; tobacco use of any kind is deadly.
  • Alcohol/Illicit Drug Abuse: talk with your PCP about how much alcohol/beer/wine is okay for you to consume, and follow her directions! If you use illegal drugs and cannot stop on your own, you need to be referred for treatment.
  • Immunizations: consult with your PCP about the frequency of immunizations such as tetanus and diphtheria, shingles, flu, pneumonia, bacterial meningitis, Hepatitis A and B.
  • Nutrition: take advantage of all the information available on the Internet about good nutrition; talk with your PCP about your nutritional needs and ensure they are being met if you are having difficulty eating a healthy diet.
  • Physical Activity: talk with your PCP about the amount of exercise and physical activity you do on a daily basis; follow her advice if she thinks you don’t get enough exercise!
  • Prostate Screening (men): men need to consult with their PCP regarding frequency of prostate cancer screening (the PSA test); your PCP may want to refer you to a urologist for more testing if your PSA level gets too high.
  • Sun Exposure: your PCP will examine your body for any lesions that look abnormal and may need to be biopsied; you need to tell her about any that you are aware of; be sure you use sun block when you are outside and in the sun, with an SPF of 30 or more.
  • Depression screening: we seniors are at high risk for depression and need to talk with our PCP about any symptoms we experience, e.g., sleeplessness, change in appetite, feeling sad, crying a lot, change in level of social activity; your PCP will be able to refer you for appropriate testing, counseling and possibly medication to treat depression.
  • Injury prevention: be sure you use seat belts every time you get in an automobile; if your PCP has recommended a walking cane, walker or other assistive device, USE IT!  Continue to read about what you can do to prevent injury as you age.

Again we remind you, this information is NOT to be used in place of seeing your Primary Care Physician.  It is intended as a guide for the kinds of issues you can talk with her/him about when you schedule your annual physical/medical examination.



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