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Senior Citizen Health Checkups—More Than Just the Basics

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Women aged 65 and above and men aged 70 and above should receive a bone density test in order to determine whether their bones are starting to lessen in density so that treatment can be carried out, and fractures prevented.
  • In the case of senior citizens, tests for deficiencies of certain vitamins like vitamin B12 and folate may also be necessary, as these vitamins are important for cognitive and overall brain functions, mood and emotions, the blood and circulatory system, the peripheral nervous system, and overall body strength.
  • Testing of the musculoskeletal function and balance is also important for senior citizens, as falls in the elderly can cause a serious injury. One fall can mean a total change in the quality of life, or even the loss of life for some seniors.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), age 65 years and older is denoted as old age. During this stage, the cells in the human body gradually and progressively deteriorate every single day. Those who are now considered elderly were once younger. As time passes,  the wear and tear of everyday life on the body and organs gradually changes all the systems in our bodies. It’s important, therefore, that health checkups for the elderly do not consists only of a blood test and/or a basic physical examination.

Begin with a Health Assessment

Considering the age factor, senior citizens are required to take a comprehensive health assessment first before further laboratory tests can be carried out. This assessment is divided into 4 main aspects:

  1. Physical: A review and assessment of the patient’s health history, a physical examination and previous laboratory evaluation are completed in order to detect any physical issues or problems.
  2. Cognitive and Mental: A memory and cognitive assessment for dementia screening and emotional status testing are also performed.
  3. Social Support: Due to the changes in their physical condition, the onslaught of a wide variety of chronic medical conditions, and the inability to do certain things that they used to be able to do, senior citizens need a greater deal of social support from those around them. For those who do have a good social support, including caring children who look after them, good friendships, and for patients who regularly take good care of their health, there is a greater likelihood that they will remain healthier and live a longer life than those who live alone without anyone to care for them.
  4. Functional Assessment: Aging means consequent changes in the body, including in the ears, eyes, joints, muscles and even memory, resulting in difficulty in performing basic daily activities such as face-washing, bathing, brushing teeth, or even eating. Because of this, an assessment of each senior’s abilities to carry out their daily chores is the key indicator for whether or not they need extra assistance.

Senior Citizen Health Checkups

Thorough Health History Assessment from Head to Toe

This is not just the basic, general questions. Instead, a full history of their health, from head to toe, must be considered. In addition to questions about any abnormalities or disorders of various systems in the body, there will also be more detailed questions about daily routines, lifestyle, transportation to and from the hospital, and who their primary caregivers are.

A physical examination for seniors focuses on 3 major organ systems:

  1. The Cardiovascular System: This is because many seniors tend to suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, dyslipidemia, heart disease and stroke.
  2. The Brain and Nervous System: Testing memory and cognitive function is an important part of health checkups for senior.
  3. The Musculoskeletal System and Balance: Falls in the elderly can be caused by a variety of factors, such as weakened muscles, bones and joints, or some chronic medical conditions. Also some certain medications can cause falling. Many senior have a fear of falling after the previous falls because they are aware of its consequences.

 

Disease Screening for Older Adults

Blood tests for basic health, cholesterol and sugar levels, kidney and liver health, as well as complete blood cell count are still important for senior’s health evaluations. However, we recommended additional tests, that are thyroid hormone levels, serum Vitamin B12 and folate level. Serum VDRL level may be considered in some seniors with impaired cognitive function.

Screening test for osteoporosis is usually also overlooked.  Women aged 65 and above and men aged 70 and above should receive a bone density test in order to determine whether their bones are starting to thin or lessen in density so that treatment can be carried out, and fractures prevented.

Cancer screening tests are another important part. The recommended cancer screening includes colon cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer and lung cancer (only for those who have a history of chronic smoking).

Other additional tests such as an electrocardiogram, chest x-ray, or treadmill test may also be considered if needed and/or appropriate for the patients, so that we can promptly detect and correct those abnormalities.

When it comes to screening for senior citizens, this should be done in consultation with the patient’s primary physician or with a specialist so that tests can be decided in detail, based on each individual, in order to attain the best possible health and performance for the person.

 

Annual health checkups are necessary for everyone, particularly for seniors, whose bodies have been functioning for over a long period of time, as it is natural that there will be degeneration throughout various body systems.

“Certain ailments and illnesses may not be avoidable, but, at the very least, they can be slowed down and the effects they may have on our lives can be minimized to the greatest degree possible.”


Health Screening Programs for the Elderly


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Tippapa Chutikankosol, M.D. Summary: Geriatric Medicine