Senior Health

7/26/2023 | By Craig Belcher

Minding one’s health is important as we age, including regular health screenings for seniors. Screenings can help catch a disease even before symptoms appear, plus treating disease in its early stages is easier and usually more effective.

If you’re over 50, experts recommend several important screenings, even if you’re feeling fine. The U.S. Preventive Service Task Force (USPSTF), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Cancer Society, and other health organizations agree on these recommendations. Consider this guide the next time you chat with your health care provider. Many of these tests can be performed during your regular checkup.

Suggested health screenings for seniors – men and women

Different genders have some differing health concerns. The following health screenings for seniors are recommended despite gender.

1. High cholesterol

A lipoprotein profile blood test should be administered at least once every two years, according to the Mayo Clinic. This test screens for high cholesterol, a waxy substance that can clog arteries and interfere with the blood flow to the heart. Cholesterol levels tend to creep up as we age, and that can lead to serious problems like heart disease, stroke, and circulation issues, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The blood test will gauge your total cholesterol, LDL (considered the “bad” cholesterol), HDL (considered “good” cholesterol) and triglycerides, another type of fat in the blood.

2. Hepatitis C virus (HCV)

All adults, pregnant women, and people with risk factors should get tested for hepatitis C. Also, if you received a blood transfusion before 1992 or if you use injection drugs, or have previously, consider testing on a regular basis.

3. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

If you’re 65 or younger, it’s recommended that you get tested for HIV at least once. If you’re older, have a chat with your doctor and ask if HIV screening is necessary.

4. High blood pressure

Doctor taking a patient's blood pressure. Image by Hongqi Zhang. Article on health screenings for seniors.

Over time, high blood pressure, aka hypertension, can progressively weaken your blood vessels and increase the risk of strokes, heart attacks, kidney problems, and even vision issues. Blood pressure is typically measured using two numbers: systolic pressure (the top number) indicates the pressure when the heart contracts, while diastolic pressure (the bottom number) represents the pressure when the heart is resting between beats. Generally, a blood pressure reading below 120/80 mmHg is considered normal. Prehypertension is characterized by systolic pressure ranging from 120 to 139, or a diastolic pressure between 80 and 90. Anything higher than these values is high blood pressure. According to the CDC, more than half of adults aged 50 and above have high blood pressure.

5. Diabetes

A screening for diabetes or pre-diabetes by age 45 is recommended by the American Diabetes Association, according to Dr. John Clore, an endocrinologist with the Bon Secours Medical Group, especially if you have risk factors such as obesity, family history, history of gestational diabetes, and ethnicity. Diabetes can create problems with many parts of the body, including brain, kidneys, feet, and nerves. Screenings are usually done with a blood test, which should be repeated every three years. If results are positive for pre-diabetes, the test should be done annually. About 37 million people have diabetes (11.3% of the US population), says the CDC.

Related: Six common age-associated changes

6. Colon cancer

Most people have an average risk of getting colorectal cancer and should start getting screened when they turn 45 years old. If someone in your family has had colon cancer, you should start even earlier, according to Dr. Shweta Joshi from Richmond Gastroenterology Associates.

Joshi explained that the chances of getting colon cancer rise as you get older. In fact, about 90 percent of all colon cancer cases occur in people who are over 50. That’s why it’s important to start screening at the right time.

There are different types of screening tests. One is called a colonoscopy, which is done every 10 years. During this test, doctors can remove polyps if they find any. There are also other visual exams that can be done, or you can do a stool sample test every year. Dr. Joshi recommends the colonoscopy because it can help find and remove polyps early.

7. Lung cancer testing

If used to or currently smoke, talk with your medical provider about annual screenings for early lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

8. Vision

Regular eye exams are crucial to preserving eyesight as we grow older. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) suggests that people 65 and over get their eyes checked every year or two for age-related eye disorders such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy. The AAO also recommends a vision test every two years through age of 60 and then annually to check for age-related changes to vision.

Related: Is vitamin D testing worthwhile?

9. Teeth

A teeth cleaning at the dentist’s office should happen once or twice a year, along with an oral exam, according to the American Dental Association. According to Tyler Perkinson, a dentist with Virginia Family Dentistry, seniors may experience receding gums, or dry mouth, which can lead to cavities. During an oral exam, dentists can check for cavities, and for nasal, tongue, throat, and mouth cancer as well.

10. Skin

As the body’s largest organ, your skin requires more attention as the years go by. Dr. Jean Calhoun of Forefront Dermatology recommends a full-body skin exam for people around the age of 50 who live in Virginia and other Southern states. The dermatologist will examine moles for abnormalities and check the amount of sun damage for cancer risk. Calhoun suggests that people without history of skin cancer be screened every one to two years and notify their doctor of moles that have changed shape.

11. Heart disease

As the risk for heart disease increases with age, men should begin cardiac screenings no later than age 50 and women no later than age 60, or post-menopausal, according to Dr. P. V. Ravindra of Richmond Cardiology Associates of Bon Secours Medical Group. If you have a risk factor for the disease, such as high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, smoking, or high blood pressure, you should get screened earlier. Recommended tests for at-risk patients include a CT scan, a stress test, and an ultrasound of the heart to check for blockages. If you don’t have risk factors, an electrocardiogram (EKG) or stress test may be suggested.


Vaccinations also play an important role in a senior’s ongoing health regimen. People of all ages should get an flu shot annually and a tetanus booster every 10 years, according to the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force. Add an annual pneumonia shot to your calendar if you’re over 65. Adults age 50 and older should also get a shingles vaccine, says the CDC.

Maintain your quality of life with early detection, vaccinations, and health screenings for seniors.

This article originally appeared in Boomer Magazine in 2017 as “Body Maintenance Guide for Boomers,” by Paula Neely, and has been modified and updated.

Craig Belcher

Craig Belcher is a former 13-year-old genius and record collector. He has worked as a teacher and reading tutor in Henrico County schools for 12 years.