Questions to Ask Your Doctor in Your 50s
So, you are a half-century old! Hooray! This major birthday marks a time in your life when your health begins to change. Prepare to ask your physician some new questions to match your new age.
There is a wide range of tests you should ask your doctor about if he doesn’t bring it up. You probably look so young that he doesn’t realize your age unless he checks your chart (wink, wink!). Blood pressure is a usual test at your appointment but you probably need to have your cholesterol level checked also. Ask your doctor about your risk level as that will indicate how often you should do this – between every year and every three years.
Weighing in is the norm at medical appointments too. Now is the time to ask your physician about changes in your eating habits that can help you watch your weight easier. These are the years when “new” seniors are often overtaken by creeping pounds because of less exercise. Your body doesn’t need as many calories as it used to and if you continue to eat the same diet you may gain weight. While you are there, ask about a thyroid test because this gland regulates metabolism and changes with aging can cause problems.
Ask your doctor about a bone density test. Osteoporosis is tested in this way. Some medications can raise your risk of lower bone density. It is especially important if osteoporosis runs in your family. One of my friend’s dads looked almost like a hunchback in his last years because of the osteoporosis he had developed. It interfered with his breathing and he lost about six inches in height.
Ask your doctor to check your blood glucose level as type two diabetes can sneak up on you in your fifties. If you are overweight your risk is greater. Also ask your doctor how often you should repeat this test.
Screen, screen, screen
Question your doctor about a colorectal cancer screening. The colonoscopy (usually every ten years) or flexible sigmoidoscopy (usually every five years) are not particularly fun, but then cancer is a lot worse. Your doctor can also do a fecal occult blood test (FOBT, usually every two years). Ask about your risk factors and how often you should have one or more of these tests repeated. If caught early, ninety percent of colon cancer can be treated medically.
Ask your physician to explain how to check your skin monthly for possible skin cancers. Ask an optometrist to check your eyes every year or two. They can do more than prescribe glasses. They can detect glaucoma, macular degeneration, corneal dystrophy and other eye problems that may develop with age. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes or other medical problems, you may need to be seen more often, ask about when your next appointment should be.
Ask your medical provider if your immunizations are up to date. Some vaccinations you received in childhood need to be repeated, while there are many new vaccines that can prevent illnesses that threaten older people like pneumonia and flu.
With a little extra care and some key questions to your medical providers, your body will continue to serve you for decades to come.