Prevention 101: 50s to 80s and Beyond

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Dr Stacy KehlBy Dr. Stacy Kehl

In the last couple of issues, I’ve discussed the importance of getting in to see your healthcare provider for routine checkups and care. Seeing your primary care provider is a key step in preventing, detecting, or controlling chronic disease. The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) provides evidence-based clinical guidelines for prevention of many types of diseases and conditions based on age, gender or risky behaviors (e.g., tobacco, alcohol, sedentary life to name a few). Last month, I discussed age-based recommendations from the USPSTF from your 20s through your 40s. This month, I continue to outline recommendations for the next four decades, your 50s through your 80s. Discuss these recommendations with your healthcare provider, and see which recommendations apply to you, depending on your medical history and lifestyle. For more detailed information, readers can also review USPSTF recommendations online at uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/recommendation-topics/information-for-consumers.

50s “You’re gonna put that where?” Yes, friends, time for a screening colonoscopy at age 50. There are other options for detection of colon cancer that you can discuss with your healthcare provider, but given that colon cancer can go undetected for a long time, this is an important screening, and you don’t want to overlook it. Other prevention strategies in this decade include what was previously mentioned (last month) for your 20s, 30s, and 40s (including sexually transmitted disease detection and prevention). We are also concerned about preventing heart attack and stroke, and those with certain risk factors are recommended to start a daily baby aspirin (81mg), and possibly cholesterol medication. Continue daily exercise and heart-healthy diet, as well, to mitigate risks for cardiovascular disease.

60s You’re actually pretty young, considering that the average American lives into their 80s, you still have 20+ years to go! In this decade, we are concerned with preventing injuries and maintaining health, so a home safety assessment is a great idea. Many of the recommendations from previous decades continue through our 60s, including cancer screenings (breast, colon, and cervical); add to that list a prostate check for the men and a lung cancer screening for anyone who has ever smoked. Women should also continue to check for osteoporosis. Remaining active through these years is important, although we may not be pumping iron anymore, as excessive weight gain increases risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions. Continuing daily walks and light resistance training is a great regimen to remain fit.

70s Got grandkids? It’s been a long time since you chased around a toddler! Keep an eye on the blood pressure and make sure your home is safe to prevent falls and accidents, not just for the kids, but for you too. Osteoporosis risk factors and screenings should also be discussed with your provider, as broken bones in your 70s can cause lengthy rehab. USPSTF recommends healthy diet, blood pressure control, and cholesterol control to help prevent heart attack and stroke for people in their 70s. If you are a man aged 65-75 who has ever smoked, you should discuss with your healthcare provider having a screening test for abdominal aortic aneurysm. Being 70 doesn’t mean you have to lay down and watch the world go speeding past, but keep in close contact with your primary care provider for their recommendations for safety and health.

80s and beyond You’ve come a long way, baby! And for that, most people can get a pass on the colonoscopies and cervical cancer checks. Yay! Keep seeing your primary care, control your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, and stay safe in your living environment. As providers, we focus on quality of life in the eighth, ninth and even tenth decades. Medication lists should be reviewed at each visit, as sometimes “less is more” when it comes to medications for older individuals. Unfortunately, alcohol abuse is sometimes overlooked in these generations, but it is a real concern. Individuals should still be screened for substance abuse/overuse (including prescribed drugs) at their healthcare visits. Additionally, the elderly should have screenings for depression, sleep patterns and dietary intake.

Your primary care provider is the “captain of your healthcare ship.” With regular check-ups, health can be smooth sailing. Everyone should see a health care provider on routine intervals; depending on your age, family history, and lifestyle factors, visits should occur at least once a year. Even if you don’t have health insurance, there are resources in the community that can assist you in finding the provider that’s right for you. If it’s been years since you’ve seen a provider, consider taking the first step in protecting your health, and go get a check up!

Dr. Stacy Kehl is a Family Nurse Practitioner with Elements Primary Care, 8406 Panama City Beach Pkwy., Suite K, Panama City Beach. Call (850) 708-1623 or visit ElementPCP.com.