Preventive screenings become more important as you age, according to Flagstaff medical professionals at Northern Arizona Healthcare. By identifying problems early, you are more likely to live a longer, healthier, and happier life.
Does your aging loved one say they’re perfectly healthy and have no health problems? Is that because they haven’t been to the doctor for years or even decades?
If you have a loved one over the age of 65, they may not show any signs or symptoms of any health conditions. Many of the medical conditions that older adults are more susceptible to developing are considered silent conditions, which means that they have no symptoms that are obvious to either of you.
Common silent conditions include rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure. Although these don’t have obvious symptoms, they can have deadly consequences if left untreated. Untreated high blood pressure, for example, can cause early hardening of the arteries, which leads to premature strokes or heart attacks. It can also cause the heart to overwork and strain to pump blood, which results in congestive heart failure.
That’s why proactively talking to your loved one about their health, monitoring changes in their body, and regularly screening for underlying health issues is critical. Here are three preventative questions Flagstaff doctors recommend family caregivers ask their aging loved ones on a regular basis.
1. When Was the Last Time You Checked Your Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure typically increases with age, but high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is often a precursor to serious health issues, including stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and more. High blood pressure is now generally defined as 130 or higher for the first number or 80 or higher for the second number.
If your loved one has hypertension or is at risk of hypertension, checking their blood pressure at home can help you and their doctor make decisions about treatment, such as adjusting dosage, changing medication, or increasing or decreasing activity levels. In addition to tracking their blood pressure, track their daily heart rate as well as systolic and diastolic numbers.
2. Do You Ever Experience Numbness or Lack of Sensation in Your Feet?
Diabetes is another silent disease that millions of Americans don’t know they have, yet it affects 1 out of every 4 adults 65 years of age and older.
You want to ask your loved one about numbness, foot wounds, and infections because uncontrolled diabetes can lead to lack of sensation in their feet. Uncontrolled diabetes also affects the eyes, the kidneys, and the heart, increasing the risk of blindness, kidney failure, stroke, and heart attack.
Diabetics are not often diagnosed until they are hospitalized for one of the complications of uncontrolled diabetes. If your loved one is overweight, ask their doctor to test them for diabetes, even if they don’t have symptoms. The American Diabetes Association recommends that a fasting blood sugar test be done at least once every three years so you can catch diabetes early and manage it. Your loved one may need the test done more frequently if they have other conditions or have other risk factors for diabetes.
3. Are You Gaining Weight Without Trying?
A change in weight can indicate trouble. Weight gain can lead to increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
High cholesterol levels are a major reason why people have heart attacks and strokes. The good news, though, is that high cholesterol levels can be treated by diet and medications. That is why measuring your levels of total cholesterol — HDL “good” cholesterol and LDL “bad” cholesterol — is important to do regularly. Cholesterol levels are checked with a blood test for lipids.
Does Your Loved One Need a New Doctor in Flagstaff?
Nearly one-third of older adults visit at least five different doctors each year. Their primary care doc — the one who usually refers to specialists and coordinates all the care — is an essential member of the team that helps their older patients stay healthy.
Whether your loved one just moved to a new city, changed insurance providers, or had a bad experience with their doctor or medical staff, it’s incredibly important to help them find a primary care doctor who you both feel comfortable talking to. Here are tips for researching and selecting a primary care physician in Flagstaff.
To ensure the doctor provides the best care for your loved one — and to make the most of the limited time you and your parent might have at an appointment — it helps to come to every appointment prepared with your loved one’s current health information. We’ve created a library of helpful Health Information Trackers intended to help you keep track of important information that will ensure your loved one gets the medical care they need. There are also lots of wearable devices that can help track health metrics, physical activity, and sleep habits.
For more tips, articles, guides, checklists, and more, join our mailing list. You’ll get things like advice for family caregivers, checklists to help you stay organized, and information about living in Flagstaff delivered right to your inbox.