Vital health checks for over-65s

Caroline Cassidy
Taking blood pressure
Taking blood pressure

It's only natural that we experience a few more health problems as we get older, but regular checks can help to flag up any potential issues at an early stage and make treatment easier. If you are over 65, these are the health tests you should have and why.

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Cholesterol tests
High cholesterol can build up in the arteries, leading to an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. A healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise will help to keep your cholesterol levels in check, but it is important to get tested because high cholesterol generally won't cause symptoms until something serious occurs. All that's needed is a simple blood test at your local doctor's surgery. If the results show a problem, your GP will be in touch about following up.

Blood pressure
According to Age UK, around 50 per cent of over-65s in the UK have high blood pressure, but it often goes unnoticed by the patient themselves. It is a serious condition though, which can weaken the heart and damage the walls of the arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. A normal reading would be 130/80mmHg, and you should go for this test at least once a year.

Breast screening
Every woman aged between 50 and 70 will receive an invitation for breast screening once every three years. Mammograms usually cause only mild discomfort, because the breast is slightly compressed during the x-ray, and are used to detect the signs of cancer or visible changes in the breast tissue. With early diagnosis, treatment has a greater chance of success, and so it is important to attend NHS screening when invited. If you are over 70 you will not receive an invitation automatically, but you can request one every three years.

Bowel cancer screening
The third most common cancer in the UK, eight out of ten people who are diagnosed with bowel cancer are over 60, with men at greater risk than women. Therefore it is essential that you take the NHS up on its two-yearly invitation (for all men and women aged 60 to 69) for screening. A testing kit called a Faecal Occult Blood Test is sent through the post, with clear instructions on collecting stool samples and where to send them for analysis, so it can be carried out in the comfort of your own home. Should any abnormalities show up, you may be asked to repeat the test, or require a colonoscopy, but only around two per cent require follow-up tests.

Cervical screening
In the UK, all women aged between 25 and 64 are invited for cervical screening every three to five years, and the procedure is designed to detect abnormalities that could lead to cancer. Although women over 65 are not automatically invited, if an abnormal result has occurred in any of their three most recent previous tests, you will be invited to go for another smear test. Since early diagnosis and/or treatment are key to successful treatment, or even prevention, it is important that you attend.

Skin checks
Because the effects of sun exposure accumulate over time, the over-65s are at greater risk of developing skin cancer, with deaths from the disease in that particular age group tripling over the last 30 years. It is essential that you check your own skin for any changes in the colour, size or shape of any moles, which may indicate a malignant melanoma, and visit your GP straight away if you spot anything suspect. Alternatively, there are specialists who can check for you, and these services are available at a number of Boots and Superdrug stores.
Eye tests
Everyone over the age of 60 is eligible for free NHS sight tests, yearly if you are over 70, and these tests can detect far more than what is needed to correct your sight. During the examination, an optometrist will examine your eyes for any signs of injury, disease or abnormalities, and can pick up early signs of conditions like diabetes and glaucoma.

Do you regularly go for these health checks? Leave your comments below...

How Does High Blood Pressure Raise My Risk of a Heart Attack or Stroke?
How Does High Blood Pressure Raise My Risk of a Heart Attack or Stroke?