Think you're in pretty good shape, despite getting on a bit? Dr. A. Marc Gillinov, a cardiac surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, US, has devised something he calls the 'sit-rise' test. Though simple, the exercise is a good indicator of strength and balance – and how long you're likely to live. As Gillinov says: "If you're in better physical shape, you're overall in better health."
So how did you score?
You get five points for sitting down on the floor and five more for getting up. Subtract one point each time you use a hand, forearm, knee or side of the leg. You also lose half a point if you lose your balance. If you scored 8-10 points you're in great shape. If you scored 0 to 3, you're six-and-a-half times more likely to die than those who scored a high rate.
While the sit-rise exercise is an interesting observational test, there are other ways to see how well you're ageing. Regular health checks can catch any problems at an early stage and improve your treatment outcome. If you are over 65, here are the health tests you should consider and why.
High cholesterol can build up over time, increasing your 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 there's a problem. A simple blood test at your local doctor's surgery is all that's needed.
Around half of the over-65s in the UK have high blood pressure, according to Age UK, yet many people are unaware they're heading for the danger zone. High blood pressure can weaken the heart and damage the walls of the arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. See your GP for a test at least once every 12 months.
Every woman aged between 50 and 70 will receive an invitation for breast screening once every three years. Mammograms usually cause only mild discomfort, as the breast is slightly compressed during the x-ray, and are used to detect the signs of cancer or visible changes in 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
Eight out of ten people who are diagnosed with bowel cancer are over the age of 60, with men at greater risk than women. The NHS offers to screen all men and women aged 60 to 69 every two years. A testing kit called a Faecal Occult Blood Test can be sent to your home, with instructions on collecting a stool sample and where to return it for analysis.
Because the effects of sun exposure accumulate over time, the over-65s are at greater risk of developing skin cancer. Check your skin for any changes in the colour, size or shape of any moles, which may indicate a malignant melanoma, and see your GP straight away if you spot anything unusual. Alternatively, there are specialists who can check for you, and these services are available at a number of Boots and Superdrug stores.
Everyone over the age of 60 is eligible for free NHS sight tests, yearly if you are over 70. 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, as well as check your sight.
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