As you age, your body breaks down and you may need to be more vigilant about regular health screenings. For example, what starts as slightly elevated blood pressure can turn into chronic hypertension, which dramatically increases your risk of stroke. However, if you stay on top of your health screenings and follow your doctor’s recommendations, you can help yourself stay ahead of some of the most common health problems in elderly people.
Preventing the Most Common Chronic Diseases in Older Adults
A variety of chronic health issues affect the elderly at higher rates than younger adults. The most common chronic diseases in older adults are:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Kidney and bladder issues
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Lung disease
- Prostate enlargement
- Macular degeneration
- Cardiovascular disease
Thankfully, there are resources available for treating common elderly diseases. Anyone who qualifies for Medicare can receive regular health screenings and annual exams during which doctors can check for symptoms of the most common elderly diseases.
According to the CDC, 64 percent of men and 69 percent of women ages 65-74 have high blood pressure, or hypertension. You may not notice symptoms until it’s too late. Chronic hypertension can lead to stroke or heart attack, so it’s important to monitor your blood pressure and have your doctor check it once a year during your Medicare annual wellness exam.
Your risk of stroke and heart attack is significantly reduced if you have a healthy triglyceride and cholesterol level. If you’re diagnosed with high cholesterol, work with your doctor to come up with a plan to maintain a healthy lifestyle including a nutritious diet and an exercise program. Medicare will cover a cholesterol test once every five years.
As you age, your likelihood of developing cancer increases. Regular check-ups and testing for cancer is an important step in catching it before it becomes unmanageable. Medicare will cover screenings for certain cancers such as:
Colorectal Cancer Screenings
A colonoscopy is a screening where a doctor uses a small camera to scan your colon for cancerous growths called polyps. You should get a colonoscopy once every 10 years after your fiftieth birthday. Medicare will cover one colonoscopy every 10 years if you have an average risk of developing colon cancer, or once every two years if you have a high risk. You will have the best chance for successful treatment if you catch colorectal cancer early, so don’t skip out on your colonoscopies.
Breast and Cervical Cancer Screenings
Women over 40 should get one mammogram per year, and one clinical breast cancer exam once every two years. Women 65 and older should have regular pap smears and pelvic exams to screen for cervical cancer. Medicare covers these tests as well as other gynecology services.
Prostate Cancer Screenings
A prostate cancer screening generally comes in two forms: digital rectal exams and a check for prostate-specific antigens (PSA) in your blood. Men should start having regular prostate cancer screenings starting at age 50. Medicare will pay for 100 percent of the PSA measurement, but you may have to pay coinsurance or a deductible for a digital rectal exam.
Skin Cancer (Melanoma) Screenings
Skin cancer usually starts small. If you find a new growth on your skin or a mole that changes color, go to a dermatologist for skin cancer testing. Medicare covers medically necessary dermatology services.
Certain moles are skin cancer warnings. They usually have recognizable characteristics. Before you visit the dermatologist, remember the ABCDEs of mole exams:
- Asymmetry: If you can draw a line down the middle of your mole and it the same shape appears on both sides, your mole is usually not cancerous.
- Border: Melanomas can have uneven borders that can look scalloped or notched.
- Color: Benign moles are usually all one shade of brown. Melanomas, however, are not. They can have different shades of brown or black, or even appear red, blue or white.
- Diameter: Melanomas are usually ¼ inch in diameter or larger, whereas benign moles are smaller.
- Evolving: If your mole changes color or starts to evolve in any way, it could be a melanoma.
Bone Density Test
As you age, your bone density may deteriorate. Elderly men are much less likely than women to get osteoporosis. Medicare will pay for one test every two years for women 65 and older, and one test every two years for men 70 and older.
Dental, Vision, and Hearing Tests
Original Medicare does not cover routine dental, vision or hearing services, but certain private insurance policies called Medicare Advantage plans do. Mouth, eye and ear health are still vital components over your overall well-being, so it’s crucial that you include whole-body health in your wellness plan.
It’s common for seniors to develop periodontal disease and start to loose teeth. A thorough daily oral hygiene routine and regular check-ups with a dentist can make a huge difference. A periodontal exam can be part of your semiannual teeth cleanings.
Adults 40 and older should have eye exams every year if they wear glasses or contact lenses. If you don’t need vision correction, ask your eye doctor how often you should take eye exams.
Your hearing will naturally decline as you age, but sometimes infections and diseases result in premature hearing loss. Medicare Part B (medical insurance) will cover a hearing test as a result of an injury or illness.
Another common health problem in elderly patients is diabetes, which is when your blood sugar is so high that your pancreas can’t produce enough insulin. You should undergo annual diabetes testing if you display risk factors for diabetes such as obesity or prediabetes.
Medicare will cover diabetes testing such as fasting glucose tests and/or post-glucose challenge tests for people who have a history high blood sugar, hypertension or a history of high cholesterol.
Thyroid-stimulating Hormone Assessment
The thyroid is a gland in your neck that regulates metabolism, and sometimes it may not produce enough hormones. The lack of hormones may lead to lethargy, weight gain, and aches and pains. It can even cause erectile dysfunction in men. A blood test can assess your level of thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH) and determine if your thyroid is functioning like it’s supposed to.
Vaccinations can drastically reduce the risk of many common health problems in the elderly. Many of these vaccinations are covered in your annual wellness exam, including:
- Tetanus Booster Shots: You should receive a tetanus booster once every 10 years.
- Shingles vaccines: Everyone 60 and older should also receive shingles vaccines.
- Pneumococcal vaccine: In order to protect against pneumonia and other infections, get a pneumococcal vaccine. Pneumococcal disease can result in a variety of health problems, including:
- Inner ear infections
Contact Us Today
Many common health problems in elderly patients can be treated or avoided altogether if they’re caught early. The right Medicare plan can cover elderly health screenings and help pay for treatment. If you need help finding a Medicare plan, call us at 833-438-3676 or fill out this form today.