Time for a mid-year wellness check-up
By Mary Anna Rodabaugh
Summer is usually associated with leisure activities. But this is also the perfect time to do a mid-year health and wellness check-up.
First, conduct a self-assessment. Think about the past year. Have you had any trouble doing things that you enjoy? Reflect upon your daily tasks to determine if some seem harder than others, as compared to last year. For older adults with a support system, ask someone you trust to provide feedback on how you seem to be doing, physically and mentally.
“Take a global look at your functional status,” recommends Susan Parks, MD, director of geriatric medicine and palliative care at Jefferson Health.
Functional ability refers to basic activities of daily living, including feeding, dressing and personal care. Instrumental ability refers to more complex tasks, such as shopping, meal preparation and housekeeping.
“Ask yourself, ‘Am I still doing the same tasks that I used to? Or, am I having a bit more difficulty?’” Dr. Parks says.
It is also important to reflect on your hobbies and interests. For example, if you enjoy crossword puzzles but find yourself having difficulty seeing the clues or concentrating, you may want to mention this to your physician.
The annual wellness visit is a Medicare benefit that provides a great opportunity to make sure your health screenings are up to date. If you haven’t already had your wellness visit for this year, schedule one soon.
“The annual wellness visit is a nice time to sit down with your provider, talk through all (the recommended) health maintenance items and determine what makes sense (for you), because everyone has different health priorities,” Dr. Parks says.
There are screenings for many different types of cancer, including colon, prostate, breast and cervical cancer. You also may want to ask your practitioner about having an annual skin cancer screening with a dermatologist.
As we age, it is important to monitor our bone health. A DEXA scan measures bone mineral density as a screening tool for thinning bones and osteoporosis.
When considering your overall wellness, your emotional and behavioral health are equally as important as your physical health to monitor and maintain.
“There are screening tools in primary care that we use for depression as part of annual wellness visits,” Dr. Parks says. “Most of the time, cognitive screenings are completed on a case-by-case basis.”
At the Jefferson Center for Healthy Aging, 33 S. 9th St., adults 55 and older are eligible to participate in the Memory and Aging Evaluation Program. Caregivers are welcome to accompany their loved ones to the evaluation.
“We do an evaluation and full screenings for memory loss while helping diagnose conditions, like mild cognitive impairment and dementia,” Dr. Parks says.
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) occurs when a person develops thinking and memory problems that do not interfere with daily functions.
“It is important to catch these things early,” Dr. Parks says. “MCI can be (a symptom of) other things, such as anxiety and depression, and these things are very treatable and reversible.”
Maintaining strength and balance is very important as we age. There are numerous studies that show exercises, like tai chi, are great for preventing falls. Strength training, targeting your quadriceps, can improve balance and increase strength for standing.
“I also want to stress the importance of good hydration for older adults. You do not have a strong thirst mechanism as you get older. I really want to encourage people to stay hydrated, especially as the temperature continues to rise,” Dr. Parks says.
In addition to drinking water throughout the day, you can increase your water intake by eating foods with a high water content, such as celery, watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.
The last component of a mid-year health and wellness check is to review your vaccination record to see if you are due for any shots. Be sure to stay up to date on your pneumococcal vaccine, COVID-19 vaccine and booster, shingles vaccine and flu shot. Ask your health care provider if there are additional vaccinations you should consider.
For more information about the Jefferson Center for Healthy Aging, call 215-955-6664
Annual health and wellness checklist
- Eye exam – Annually
- Hearing exam – Every two to three years
- Dental exam – Two teeth cleanings annually
- Wellness visit – Annually
- Flu shot – Annually
- COVID-19 and booster(s) – As recommended by your health care provider
- Pneumococcal vaccine – After age 65, administered in two doses given one-year apart
- Shingles vaccine – After age 50, administered in two doses given two to six months apart
- Tetanus booster – Every 10 years
Recommended health screenings:
- Blood test for lipids – Annually (during wellness visit)
- Breast cancers screening (mammogram) – Every one to two years
- Cervical cancer screening (Pap test) – Annually
- Colorectal cancer screening (colonoscopy) – Every 10 years, starting at age 45
- DEXA (bone density) scan – Every 15 years, after age 65
- Lung cancer screening (low-dose CT scan) – Annually, age 55-74 for smokers or those who quit within the last 15 years
- Prostate cancer screening – Every two to three years, after age 50
- Skin cancer screening – Annually
- Emotional and behavioral health screening – Annually (during wellness visit)
Discuss your annual health and wellness needs with your physician. Some checkups, vaccines and/or screenings may be recommended more frequently due to your health conditions, family medical history and other risk factors. Source: Healthline.com
Mary Anna Rodabaugh is a writer, editor and writing coach.