ging. It’s inevitable. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the proportion of the U.S. population aged 65 and older will double to about 71 million older adults, or one in every five Americans, by 2030. Though a higher life expectancy is good news, the aging population will include “unprecedented demands on public health, aging services, and the nation’s health care system.”
Health educators and practitioners here at home agree. “People are living longer and need to take care of themselves,” says Donna Goldsborough, a nurse educator and health and wellness instructor at Bayhealth Medical Center. “That’s why Bayhealth offers a free program, Steps to Healthy Aging, to anyone over the age of 50. Through this program, and others like it, we can prevent people from having to wonder what they are supposed to do to get and stay healthy for longer.”
In addition to eating a balanced diet, avoiding tobacco, maintaining a healthy weight and staying physically active, one of the main things you can do to stay healthy and prevent disease is get recommended screening tests.
“Through healthy eating, exercise, and changing lifestyles, we can guide people into better health,” says Peggy Diehl, community health nurse coordinator at Beebe Medical Center. “Screening tests are offered regularly so that we can keep a close eye on a patient’s health.” Regular screenings can detect diseases or problems early, when they are easier to treat.
During your next checkup, ask your doctor or nurse for their recommendations on how to stay healthy, no matter your age. The following list of screenings can be used as a guide. Your primary health provider will be able to recommend which preventive medical tests you need to stay healthy based on your age, health history, family history of disease, and other risk factors.
Body Mass Index Your Body Mass Index, or BMI, is a measure of your body fat based on height and weight. A BMI is used to screen for obesity, which is linked to several unhealthy conditions.
Cholesterol Because high cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for heart disease, have your cholesterol checked every year starting at age 35 (for men) or 45 (for women). A cholesterol screening is recommended for those younger who have diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of heart disease and for people who smoke.
Blood pressure High blood pressure (defined as 140/90 or higher) can increase your chances of stroke, heart disease and kidney disease. Have your blood pressure checked at least every two years.
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Diabetes If you have high cholesterol and-or high blood pressure, ask your doctor about being tested for diabetes.
Breast Cancer Starting at the age of 40, women should have an annual mammogram.
Colorectal Cancer Men and women should be tested for colorectal cancer starting at the age of 50; however, if you have a family history of colorectal cancer, you may need to be screened earlier.
Cervical Cancer Women should have a Pap smear every one to three years to check for cervical cancer.
Other Cancers Talk to your primary care physician to determine if and when you should be screened for prostate, lung, oral, skin or other cancers.
Osteoporosis Men age 60 and women age 45 should have a baseline bone density scan to screen for osteoporosis, or loss of bone density that can lead to several unhealthy conditions.
Depression No matter your age, if you have felt sad, hopeless or down for two weeks or more, talk to your doctor about being screened for depression.
HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections Talk to your doctor to determine if you should be tested for HIV, chlamydia and other STDs.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Men who are between the ages of 65 and 75 and who have smoked 100 or more cigarettes in their lifetime should ask to be screened for an abdominal aortic aneurysm, a large or swollen blood vessel that can burst without warning and cause internal bleeding.
Chest X-ray Men and women who smoke should get an annual chest X-ray starting at age 40.
Electrocardiogram To screen for heart abnormalities, men and women should get an EKG every three to four years starting at age 40.
Luckily for all of us, medical centers in all three counties offer classes, screenings, and free programs to keep Delawareans healthy.
Bayhealth Medical Center offers the Steps to Healthy Aging program free to residents over the age of 50. The program includes discounts, a monthly newsletter, invitations to educational events and workshops, and free periodic screenings. For more information, visit www.bayhealth.org, or call Donna Goldsborough at 744-6144.
Beebe Medical Center’s Community Health Department provides free health screenings, including blood pressure, cholesterol, osteoporosis and some cancer screenings. Group and event screenings also are available in the Beebe service area. Contact the Community Health Department at 645-3337, or visit www.beebemed.org.
Christiana Care offers community cancer screenings at various locations throughout the year. To find out when and where screenings will be offered, call 765-4161. Other screenings and classes—diabetes and depression screenings, for example—are offered on an ongoing basis. Visit www.christianacare.org for more information.
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford offers screenings for various cancers and other conditions. To learn more, call 629-6611, or visit www.nanticoke.org.