The regular checkups that are important for most adults can be absolutely critical to continued good health for people age 65 and older.

“Annual tests and preventive care can detect warning signs before they become medical problems,” says Dr. Patricia Salber, chief medical officer and senior vice president of Universal American.

“Even serious problems such as heart disease – a leading cause of death for American men and women – do not have to be life threatening if they are treated properly.  First, of course, they have to be detected.”

To promote good health and early detection, Dr. Salber recommends an annual physical exam for all older Americans. Here are some of the specific tests you need on a regular, if not always annual, basis:

• Blood Pressure: The only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked. Your doctor should check your blood pressure at least once a year, or more often if necessary. Managing your blood pressure effectively can positively affect your vision, arteries and even brain function.

• Blood Sugar:  More and more Americans are being diagnosed with diabetes, but this potentially life-threatening condition can be managed.  The American Diabetes Association recommends that a blood sugar test be done at least once every three years.

• Cholesterol: High cholesterol levels are a major factor in heart attacks and strokes. By staying on top of high cholesterol with diet and medications, you and your doctor can combat this deadly killer. Annual measurement of your levels of total cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol is vital.

• Colonoscopy: The American Cancer Society suggests that, starting at age 50, everyone should have a colonoscopy every 10 years.

• Prostate: Men should have their prostate checked annually.

• Mammogram: Starting at age 40, all women should consider yearly mammograms.

• Skin Screening:  Melanoma accounts for only four percent of all skin cancers, but it causes nearly 80 percent of the deaths related to skin cancer. Ask your doctor to check your skin head to toe for unusual moles or skin changes once a year.

• Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: If you are between 65 and 75 and have ever smoked, you need to be screened for this abnormally large or swollen blood vessel in your abdomen.
“Most of these tests are simple and non-invasive,” notes Dr. Salber. “Along with good nutrition and moderate exercise, making a habit of regular preventive care can make a huge difference in your health and enjoyment of life.”