What to Expect During a Senior Preventive Health Screening

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June 27, 2024

So, you’ve decided to take charge of your health and schedule an appointment for a preventive health screening. First off, give yourself a pat on the back! Making smart decisions about your health, especially as a senior, is something to be proud of. Although you are on the right path, you may feel confused or anxious about your preventive health screening, especially if it is your first one. Don’t worry, this is normal. But, we are here to help. In this blog post, we will walk you through what to expect during a senior preventive health screening, from the moment you step in to sign in at the front desk until you’re out the door. 

What is a Preventive Health Screening?

If this is your first preventive health screening, you may be unsure of what this appointment entails. A “preventive health screening” can be considered an umbrella term encompassing a group of tests that can help provide insights into your well-being and raise awareness for any concerns. The tests involved in preventive health checkups and screenings may differ depending on patient characteristics, but the most common often include [1]: 

  • Blood Pressure Screening: This screening checks if you have high blood pressure, which can lead to serious health issues like heart disease and strokes. There are often minimal noticeable symptoms of high blood pressure, so it is important to get it screened. 
  • Cholesterol Test: High cholesterol can increase your chances of heart disease and strokes. This test measures your levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, along with HDL, or “good cholesterol, and triglycerides. 
  • Colorectal Cancer Screening: Colorectal cancer is extremely common, but preventable with early detection through screening methods like colonoscopies, stool tests, and sigmoidoscopies. 
  • Mammography: Breast cancer screenings, or mammograms, are X-rays of the breast tissue that can detect breast cancer. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the more treatable it is. Doctors recommend that women get regular mammograms starting at age 40 or earlier, depending on their risk factors. They also encourage self-examinations. 
  • Pap Smear: The pap test, or pap smear, is performed to detect abnormal cells in the cervix, which can be a sign of the development of cervical cancer. Women should begin getting regular pap smears each year starting at age 21 and continuing until age 65. 
  • Prostate Cancer Screening: Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests measure the level of PSA in your blood. A heightened PSA level could indicate prostate cancer, although test results should be discussed with a healthcare provider. 
  • Bone Density Screening: Bone density scans assess the risk of fractures and/or diagnose osteoporosis. These tests are performed on women 65 and older and men 70 and older. 
  • Diabetes Screening: This screening may be a fasting blood sugar test, oral glucose tolerance test, or hemoglobin A1c test. The early detection and treatment of diabetes can help prevent heart disease, kidney disease, and nerve damage. 

Detecting potential issues early is imperative to properly take care of your health. The sooner you screen, the better — many disorders can be properly treated and managed when detected in the early stages. 

The Importance of Preventive Health Screenings for Older Adults

Being a senior comes with many health hardships. Seniors are more susceptible to illnesses and disorders due to weakened immune systems [2], which makes it especially important for them to get properly and regularly screened for various disorders and diseases. 

It may feel like a pain to get all these tests, but in the end, it will be well worth the time and effort it takes to get screened. Wondering if your test will detect a disorder can feel scary, but not knowing and having your health dwindle is even scarier. Preventive screenings can detect issues early and give you the chance to intervene and mitigate the risks of more dangerous issues while you still can. This can greatly improve your quality of life, as well as the longevity of your life. 

What Do Preventive Health Screenings Look For?

Senior citizen’s preventive health checkups and screenings aim to detect any warning signs of serious issues in older adults. For example, cholesterol tests examine if your cholesterol levels have risen from normal to heightened, which increases your chance of heart disease and other ailments [3]. By knowing that your cholesterol levels are raised, your doctor can step in and provide treatment tips, such as changes in diet, or prescribe medication so that you can get your levels back to normal and avoid developing serious disorders. 

Common conditions targeted by preventive health screenings include but are not limited to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, vision and hearing loss, cognitive dysfunction, and infections. Comprehensive screenings, which encompass multiple medical tests and evaluations, promote proactive overall health and reduce future health risks. By staying up to date with your comprehensive screenings and a senior, you can be sure that you know what health conditions you must pay attention to, if any. It can give seniors peace of mind, a proactive mindset, and increased life longevity. 

What Happens at a Senior Preventive Health Checkup?

If you have never had a senior preventive health checkup, have no fear! Below is a guide to what you can expect at your first appointment [4]: 

Medical History Review

The healthcare provider will first review your medical history, including past illnesses, surgeries, medications, and family medical history. This will help them gather important information for a more comprehensive and personalized assessment of your health needs. Make sure to bring up any health conditions and/or concerns you have at this time!

Physical Examination

Next, the healthcare provider will check your vitals, such as blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, weight, and height. They will then begin a thorough physical examination of the heart, lungs, abdomen, skin, and other bodily symptoms. They may ask you to report if you feel any pain or tenderness in these areas, or if you have had any trouble with specific bodily functions. Seniors are also assessed for mobility, balance, and cognitive function. 

Blood Tests and Urinalysis

The healthcare provider will likely request a blood and urine test. For the blood test, the physician will clean the area on your arm with antiseptic, use a small needle to collect a sample of blood, and then bandage the area. Blood tests are quick and not painful—they should feel like a normal immunization shot. For the urine test, the physician will request that you urinate in a clean container. After each of the samples is obtained, the physician will analyze the results and report any areas of concern to you. 

The purpose of blood and urine tests is to detect medical conditions. These tests can reveal important information about your overall health that the doctor may not be able to detect during the physical examination. The results will give insight into the functionality of your organs or changes in organ function over time [5]. 

Additionally, seniors often take multiple medications to manage chronic conditions. Blood tests can monitor the effects of these medications and make sure that dosages are effective and appropriate. 

Screening for Chronic Diseases

Depending on your age, gender, and individual risk factors, the healthcare provider may perform a variety of screening tests at this time of the appointment or may encourage you to schedule them sometime soon at a different office. It is important that you listen to your doctor’s advice when it comes to screening recommendations, as these tests ensure you detect any health scares early for effective management. Most screenings 

Importance of early detection for effective management. Most screening tests are performed every 1 to 3 years [6], but the frequency and methods of screening tests differ from person to person. 

Discussion

After the test results are back, you and your healthcare provider will have a consultation on any important takeaways they received from the test. These may be things to look out for regarding existing health ailments, new diagnoses, or general tips for your overall health. You should feel encouraged to bring up any questions you may have during this discussion. After all, it’s called a discussion for a reason — it should be a back-and-forth conversation between you and your healthcare physicians to address all the needs and concerns you and they may have. The end goal of this discussion is to create a personalized preventive care plan to help you work towards a future with reduced health concerns.

When to Schedule a Preventive Health Care Screening

Scheduling regular preventive healthcare screenings depends on many personal factors, which means it is always the best bet to ask your healthcare provider for advice on how often to schedule screenings based on your individual health needs. Your needs will be determined based on your age, gender, family history, and existing conditions. 

It is a straightforward process to schedule a preventive healthcare screening. First, call your healthcare provider and discuss the screening. They will answer any questions you have about the screening, potential costs, and any preparation that needs to be done before your appointment. Next, confirm your coverage for the screening by calling your insurance provider. Many preventive screenings are covered by insurance, but it is always better to double-check beforehand to avoid any unexpected costs. Then, schedule your appointment by calling your healthcare provider’s office or visiting your online patient portal. Follow any preparation instructions given by the provider, which may include fasting or avoiding certain medications. Finally, attend the screening appointment and a follow-up, and maintain communication with your doctor if you have questions. 

Senior Preventive Care Services at Greater Good Health

At Greater Good Health, your health and access to care are our top priorities. We commit to personalized and comprehensive care for seniors. It can feel scary navigating healthcare on your own as a senior, which is why partnering with a trusted healthcare provider for preventive screenings is so important. Greater Good Health offers primary care for seniors, including preventive screenings. Find a Greater Good Health primary care clinic near you, contact us with any questions, and take charge of your health today!