Now is not the time to skip those doctor visits.
This decade is the perfect time to prioritize your health. Even if your dinner plates are full of greens and your Pilates instructor knows you by name, you’ll still want to take an active approach in monitoring your health with your doctor.
Not to sound too dramatic, but some health conditions or problems can sneak up on you, often from factors you can’t always control. Perimenopause and menopause, for example, can affect your heart health. And certain cancers, like colon cancer, are more likely to strike as you get older.
To detect any potential health problems early, regular and thorough health screenings are vital. Dr. Preeti Parikh, MD, recommends the following 12 tests women in their 50s should prioritize.
Check your blood pressure every two years if it’s normal (anything under 120 over 80), or yearly if it’s higher. Monitoring your blood pressure is especially important after reaching menopause; blood pressure levels can rise due to hormonal changes during menopause.
Get your cholesterol levels checked every five years. “Bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides often increase during menopause.
Get tested for diabetes once every three years, especially if you had gestational diabetes or have other risk factors for diabetes.
Get a mammogram every one or two years, and be sure to speak with your doctor about any family history or risk factors of breast cancer you have.
For many people who are at normal risk for colon cancer, colon cancer screening begins at age 50; colonoscopies are then recommended every 10 years. Your doctor may recommend additional or more frequent screenings if you have a family history of colon cancer.
Get screened for lung cancer if you’re a smoker or former smoker. Most doctors recommend starting tests for lung cancer at age 55.
Continue visiting your gyno for Pap smears and pelvic exams every three years, especially if you’re sexually active. If your Pap and HPV tests are negative, every five years is sufficient. (Here’s how to prepare for an ob-gyn visit.)
Get skin and mole checks by a dermatologist. FYI, around half of Americans who live to age 65 will have non-melanoma skin cancer at least once.
Get a bone mineral density test if you have a history of fractures or other osteoporosis risk factors.
Make appointments with your eye doctor for vision checks at least every two years. Many women in their 50s need to start wearing glasses or change their prescription during this period. You may be prone to vision problems if you have diabetes, a family history of glaucoma, or take certain medications.
Visit the dentist for a dental exam and cleaning once or twice a year.
Get vaccinated. Get an annual flu shot, a Tdap vaccine if you’ve never had one, and a Td booster every 10 years.
If you are neglecting health tests due to money, remember that a variety of programs and organizations exist to make these screenings more affordable⸺or even free. The American Diabetes Association, for example, often provides free screenings at a touring health expo. Call your city, county, or state health department to see what other resources are available for you.
Dr. Parikh, a board-certified pediatrician affiliated with The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, is HealthiNation's chief medical editor.
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Once you hit your 50s,
it's time to reclaim your health and
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make sure your wellness is top priority.
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You may be going through perimenopause or
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menopause which can affect your
heart health and other conditions.
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Cancer screens become more important
now and not just for breast cancer.
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Here's a rundown of screenings I wish
all women in their 50s would prioritize.
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You should get your blood pressure tested
every two years if your number is normal,
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which is anything less than 120 over 80.
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If your blood pressure's higher,
get tested every year.
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Even if you've never had
high blood pressure before,
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it starts creeping up after menopause,
so it's important to get checked.
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Your cholesterol level may
also start rising in your 50s.
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Menopause can cause bad LDL cholesterol
and triglycerides to increase.
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Have your cholesterol checked every five
years if you're at risk for heart disease.
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Once you're in your 50s,
you should be getting tested for
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diabetes every three years.
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Diabetes screenings are especially
important if you had gestational diabetes
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when you were pregnant.
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Research shows women who
had gestational diabetes
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have a much higher risk of
getting diabetes later in life.
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Your 50s is also a key time to start many
cancer prevention screenings available.
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Whether or not you've been getting
mammograms already, most experts generally
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agree that these should start by age 50,
then done every one or two years.
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Talk to your doctor about your personal
risk factors to see what's best.
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Once you turn 50, it's time to start
getting screened for colorectal cancer.
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This usually involves
a colonoscopy every ten years, but
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your doctor may run other
tests more frequently.
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If you have a family history of colon
cancer, you should be screened earlier.
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If you are a smoker or used to smoke,
talk to your doctor about lung
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cancer screening, it may be recommended
for some women starting at age 55.
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You may wonder whether you
still need pap smears and
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pelvic exams and the answer is yes,
especially if you are sexually active.
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You should get these tests every three
years or every five if you have a pap and
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HPV test and are negative.
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Years of sun damage can accumulate
which is why mole checks and
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skin cancer screening are important for
women in their 50s.
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Research shows that up to half
of Americans who live until
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age 65 will have non-melanoma
skin cancer at least once.
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Your 50s are a critical time for
taking taking care of your bone health.
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If you have a history of factors or
other risk factors for
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osteoporosis, talk to your doctor about
getting a bone mineral density test.
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Getting vision checks
are important at this age.
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It might be harder to see things close up,
for example, and
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you might need to start wearing glasses or
change your prescription.
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You may also be prone to vision
problems if you have diabetes,
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a family history of glaucoma or
take certain medications.
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Get your eyes examined every two years or
more often if your doctor recommends it.
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Don't neglect your teeth, you should
go to the dentist for an exam and
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cleaning at least once a year,
twice a year is even better.
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Finally, don't forget about vaccines,
your kids and
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grandkids aren't the only
ones who need shots.
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You still need an annual flu shot,
at this age,
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we recommend a tetanus,
pertussis vaccine if you've never had one.
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Otherwise, you need tetanus
diphtheria booster every ten years.
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Take the time for yourself to make those
doctor appointments, and get tested.
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Your 80 year old self
will thank you one day.
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Health screening - women - ages 40 to 64. Bethesda, MD: US National Library of Medicine, 2015. (Accessed on September 27, 2016 at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007467.htm.)