Thankfully, most doctors no longer need to see you on an annual basis. However, in your seventies in beyond, ‘periodic visits’ should become part of your plan. Check-ups are an opportunity to discuss preventive medicine, keep immunizations current, and to review your plan for healthy (and long) living in general.
Here’s an agenda for your health that your doctor will review with you, based on Canadian recommendations.
1. Check your blood pressure. As you age, your blood pressure naturally creeps up due to some normal hardening of the arteries. Current Canadian guidelines recommend blood pressure targets of < 140 on top (systolic) and <90 on the bottom (diastolic) until you reach age 80. Over the age of 80, your systolic target is loosened to <150. If you suffer from a medical condition or have a higher risk for heart attack or stroke, your doctor may want your readings lower. Check it periodically at home or your pharmacy.
2. Get a clean bill below the belt. New sexual partner? Consider having your urine tested for gonorrhoea and chlamydia, and blood tests for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis.
3. Rule out diabetes. We routinely screen for diabetes with a blood test called the hemoglobin A1C. It’s done every five years or so — more often if you have other risk factors.
4. Clock your cholesterol. Once you hit 70, there is very little evidence for checking cholesterol, or starting cholesterol pills. If you’ve been prescribed these prior to your 70th birthday, however, you should continue to take them unless otherwise directed.
5. Check your bones. Ensure you have your bone density tested (a series of x-rays of the hip and spine) to screen for osteoporosis or thinning of the bones at least once over the age of 65. Your doctor may recommend repeat testing depending on your result.
6. A note on prostate cancer screening. Recently, there’s been a lot of media focus on whether or not men should be screened for prostate cancer. The bottom line? The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care says “no” unless you have a family history. Dr. Mike Evans has an awesome video that explains some of the controversy. Give it a view.
7. Everyone’s favourite: the poop test. See your doctor for an FOBT test (poop kit test) every two years, or a scope (sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy) to screen for colorectal cancer every 5 to 10 years until you reach the age of 75.
8. New! Men between the ages of 65-80 should talk to their doctor about an ultrasound to rule out an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).
Ensure you’re up to date with Canadian recommendations and continue to get your Tetanus booster every 10 years.
Other vaccines to consider at your age: Zostavax II, the shingles vaccine. If you’ve ever had Chickenpox, you’re at risk of shingles, a nasty virus that can cause an unsightly, painful rash and debilitating nerve pain. Unsure if you had spots as a child? See your doctor — he or she may want to test your blood.
Your doctor will also likely recommend a vaccine to protect you against Pneumonia. Your risk increases with age. And remember to get your annual flu shot! You’re at higher risk of influenza and its complications.
1. Keep your body mass index (BMI) in check. A healthy BMI target is between approximately 18.5-24.9. Over 70, some people also have concerns with becoming underweight. If this is the case for you, consider seeing a dietician or your family doctor.
2. Watch for an expanding waistline. A healthy target waist circumference for men is less than 94cm or 37 inches.
3. Not smoking? Good. Don’t start. Still smoking? Give it up already! There are lots of ways that your doctor can help you quit.
4. Drink 15 or less alcoholic drinks per week. No, you’re not allowed to save them all for Saturday night — binge drinking has a ton of adverse health effects. And spoiler alert: beer goggles aren’t a good look for anyone.
5. Exercise 150 minutes per week at a moderate to vigorous intensity level. You know it’s an effective workout if you have to pause for a breath or you can’t chat with your mate about next week’s fly fishing expedition.
6. Consume a healthy diet that includes many vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats.
7. Wear sunscreen and protective clothing. If you haven’t started to notice sun damage or “liver spots” yet, you’ve been a good boy. If you do see some changes in your skin, see your doctor. Get familiar with spots that sport warning signs for cancer.
8. Practice safe sex by wearing condoms for protection against sexually-transmitted infections. Not only does this protect you, it helps your partners remain infection-free. It’s good fun for everyone.
9. Take a vitamin D supplement of about 1000-2000 IU daily, regardless of dietary intake.
10. Calculate your daily calcium intake here. Aim for at least 1200mg/day of calcium through your diet and top up with a supplement if your diet is lacking.
11. Maintain eye and oral health with regular visits to your optometrist and dentist.
Seventy may be the new 50, but our bodies and minds all age differently. Depending on your circumstances, talk with your family and your doctor about advanced directives, powers of attorney and will/estate planning. If you or your family members have concerns for your memory or stability and falls risk, be sure to mention this as well.
You are your best advocate. Keep your body healthy and get the tests that you do need as you enjoy your seventies and beyond — beautiful inside and out.