Vaccines and Health Screenings for the 50+ Set
Courtesy Ashford Family Medicine, Denton County LIVING WELL Magazine
If you want to keep something running in tip-top condition, you have to treat it to an occasional tune-up. The same holds true for your body.
Much like your car or your air conditioner (especially here in Texas), you require regular “preventive maintenance” to keep you running and feeling your best. Unlike a costly repair bill, prevention-based screenings and immunizations for your body are relatively inexpensive or even free for many seniors.
“As an adult medicine specialist, it’s my aim to prevent, detect and treat conditions before they become serious or chronic as a person ages,” said Shane Ashford, D.O., of Ashford Family Medicine. “To help ward off illness, I encourage my patients who are 50+ to visit with me regularly about the proper recommendations. Sometimes the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) change their recommendations so it’s important to do a review with a physician periodically.”
The Vaccines You Need at 50+
Vaccines are not just for kids. Even adults age 50+ need to get vaccinated against certain diseases. Always discuss any risk factors or concerns you may have with your physician before getting a vaccine. Here are some recommended guidelines provided by the CDC (www.CDC.gov):
- Annual Flu Vaccine. Unless you have had a severe reaction from the flu shot in the past or are allergic to eggs, you should be vaccinated yearly. Influenza, or flu, is responsible for thousands of deaths every year in the United States, and older Americans are among the most vulnerable groups. If you are 50+, we don’t recommend the nasal spray form of the vaccine because it hasn’t proven to be especially effective.
- Pneumonia Vaccine. Even seniors who are diligent about getting their annual flu shot sometimes forget to get a one-time pneumonia vaccine. Both should be an important part of preventive health care for adults 65+ and people 50+ with certain risk factors.
- Tetanus Vaccine. If you’ve never received a Tdap vaccine for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, you should be vaccinated once for these illnesses. Due to a rise in pertussis, or whooping cough, cases in the U.S., the Tdap vaccine is especially crucial for people who have close contact with infants younger than 12 months of age––including grandparents. If you have received Tdap in the past, you should get a tetanus/diphtheria booster every 10 years.
- Shingles Vaccine. Some experts recommend getting the shingles vaccine only if you’ve had a prior episode of chicken pox. The CDC recommends everyone over 60 get vaccinated because more than 99% of Americans over age 40 have had chicken pox. Also, the older the person affected, the more severe the case.
Health Screenings at 50+
A variety of health issues can arise during your adult life. That’s why it’s important as you age to get regular screenings, along with the proper immunizations.
“If you’re someone who only visits the doctor when you have an ache or are sneezing, you may sell yourself short on realizing your healthy potential over time,” says Dr. Ashford. “Your best line of defense against major health issues should include ongoing screenings appropriate for your gender and age, as discussed with your physician.”
The screenings recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (www.USPreventiveServicesTaskforce.org)––an independent panel of preventive medicine and primary care experts––are good ones to follow. They include:
- Cholesterol Screening. An important screening that can help detect conditions that may lead to a heart attack or stroke.
- Breast Cancer Screening. Aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the U.S., according to the CDC. Screening mammograms are recommended once every 12 months for women 50+.
- Osteoporosis Screening. Although most common in postmenopausal women, this brittle-bone disease can also affect men. The condition can be diagnosed through bone mass measurement, recommended every two years for adults 50+.
- Colorectal Screening. Of cancers affecting both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. Recommendations for this screening vary by age and risk factors, but should be considered beginning at age 50.
Some other screenings you may want to discuss with your physician, depending on your sex, age and medical history, include diabetes screening, glaucoma testing and prostate cancer screening. It’s never too late to start taking a few preventive measures aimed at keeping you in tip-top shape. Vaccines and screenings are a great way to boost your health in your golden years.
Ashford Family Medicine is part of Texas Health Physicians Group. The Texas Health network is one of the largest health care providers in North Texas, dedicated to keeping you well. Dr. Ashford may be reached at 940-323-3426 or www.ashfordfamilymedicine.com.