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Planning Retirement Online

Key NHS Checks for our Age Group

December 2013

Goodness, how age creeps up on us! But also how good it is that today there are so many relevant health checks available for our specific time in life. Once you reach 50, and again once you reach 60, it is worth speaking to your doctor to see what checks are recommended for your specific age group. There may well be some key areas that had not occurred to you.

For over 50s, it is a good idea to have regular checks on certain aspects of our health that we may not have considered at all in our younger years.

Blood pressure and cholesterol levels are two key checks, and at this age we also need to keep a more careful check on our eyesight and hearing as problems increase with age. Most GPs will readily undertake these for you on a regular basis as part of their overall healthcare plan.

For women, cervical cancer screening and breast cancer screening should already be part of your normal health check list.  A thyroid hormone test is a good idea at 50, especially for women who are at greater risk of this problem, and a rectal examination can give early indications of problems such as colon cancer or prostate problems for men.

When you reach your early sixties, whether we like it or not, we become more likely to develop conditions that are rare in younger people, and this means it is worth spending a little more time ensuring your health is good.

Interestingly though some tests you had routinely on the NHS when you were younger may now change.

For instance, after the age of 65, women will no longer be sent an invitation for cervical cancer screening unless they have had a previous abnormal screening result during their last three tests.

Breast cancer screening will continue - from 2016 it will continue until you are 73. After that, you can still obtain a check by contacting your local screening unit yourself, but it won’t automatically be arranged for you.

However, along with continuing the tests you have been having in your fifties, there are some additional tests that may be appropriate now. These can include:

A test for anaemia
The symptoms include tiredness, faintness and sometimes difficulty in breathing. Your GP can do a simple blood test that will measure the level of red cells in your blood to confirm if you are anaemic.

Respiratory test
Several conditions can affect your ability to breathe properly and your GP can perform a peak flow test to give a good idea of your health in this area. It is a simple procedure where you blow hard into a handheld peak flow meter. If there appears to be a problem, then further tests will be recommended.

Heart tests
The possibility of having a heart attack can be a big cause of concern for many people as they grow older. If you have concern, your doctor may recommend an ECG. This stands for an electrocardiogram which checks the rhythm and electrical activity in your heart and gives some information about its overall condition.

Prostate Cancer
There has been a lot of effort undertaken recently to lift awareness of prostate cancer and men are increasingly being encouraged to have a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test, especially if they find they are urinating more frequently.  A PSA test checks the blood level of PSA, a protein that is produced by the prostate gland. The higher a man’s PSA level, the more likely it is that he may have prostate cancer although there can be other causes for a high PSA reading.

Test for osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is most common in older women and is a dreadful disease, causing bones to become weak and brittle. A DEXA bone scan helps to check whether you are at risk of this disease.

Kidney disease test
Kidney problems can increase as we age and can be associated with high blood pressure and also diabetes. A simple blood test can give a good indication of the state of your kidneys and how they are functioning.

The NHS offers free glaucoma testing for people over 60 and is well worth having done. Glaucoma occurs when pressure builds up in the eye leading to damaged vision and can eventually lead to blindness. Again it is a quick and simple test that most opticians offer as a matter of routine.

There are of course a wide range of additional tests that can be undertaken for specific problems; and if you have concern over any area of your health, your GP will be able to advise you on the best next steps to take.


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