Monday Medical: Preventive health — Ages 50 to 64
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Editor’s Note: This is part 2 in a three-part series on preventive health recommendations. Part 1 covers preventive health recommendations for adults ages 20 to 49, and part 3 covers recommendations for adults ages 65 and up.
Hitting 50 is a milestone age in many ways, including for your health.
Not only do several preventive health recommendations kick in at age 50, but people may also naturally become more interested in their health.
“They realize they’re no longer invincible and that they have to start paying more attention to their health,” said Dr. Kevin Borgerding, an internal medicine physician in Steamboat Springs and a member of the medical staff at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. “They start to see peers that are having issues and experience their own aches and pains.”
Below, Borgerding outlines preventive health recommendations for adults ages 50 to 64.
Recommended cancer screenings
By age 50, most people will be getting screened for several cancers. Screenings are done for cancers that are common, have a relatively high mortality rate and have an effective screening tool.
“People are sometimes under the impression that standard lab tests can rule out cancer, but that’s not the case. You have to do some form of imaging or invasive screening, like a colonoscopy,” Borgerding said. “Nobody wants to hear that they have cancer, but when caught early, most cancers are very treatable and curable.”
Adults should be screened for colorectal cancer by age 50. The gold standard for this screening is a colonoscopy, in which the lining of the colon is examined with a tiny camera, and polyps or abnormal growths are removed and then tested for early stage colon cancer.
“It’s probably one of the most effective cancer screening tools we have,” Borgerding said. “People shouldn’t be afraid of it or put it off.”
Screenings for prostate cancer for men at average risk of the disease often begin at age 50. The most common screening looks for prostate-specific antigen in the blood.
“This screening has been shown to make only a small difference in mortality rates, so we recommend you practice shared decision-making with your care provider and go over the pros and cons,” Borgerding said.
A relatively new cancer screening is for lung cancer. People age 55 and over who are current smokers or have quit in the past 15 years, and who also have a history of heavy smoking (defined as someone who’s smoked “30 pack years,” or one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years), may be screened for lung cancer with a low-dose CT scan.
Breast cancer screening through regular mammograms should continue, as should screening for cervical cancer.
And regular skin checks are recommended. “We see a lot of skin cancer here in Steamboat,” Borgerding said. “Typically, if a patient comes in for an annual physical at age 50 and above, we ask if there are any skin moles they’re concerned about and look at their skin.”
As with all screenings, your health care provider is your best resource for determining what’s appropriate for you.
Keeping tabs on blood pressure and cholesterol can help patients maintain good heart health. Patients with a family or personal history of heart disease, or various risk factors, including smoking, diabetes and high cholesterol or blood pressure, may be screened through a stress test or coronary calcium scan.
Patients who don’t already see an eye doctor should be sure to see one for a regular eye exam and a glaucoma screening. “You’re not going to know you have the disease until you start losing vision, and then it can be too late,” Borgerding said.
People usually begin to receive the shingles vaccine at age 50, and flu shots are recommended every year. The vaccine for tetanus is recommended every 10 years, and the vaccine for pneumonia is also recommended for high-risk patients.
“We’re trying to reinforce healthy lifestyle habits to keep people healthy for decades to come,” Borgerding said. “It’s about disease prevention and health maintenance or trying to maintain the best health we can for the long term, so we’re not struggling as we mature.”
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