With the passage of time, it is inevitable that we will experience some changes in our physical health. There are several ways to address these changes, for example by keeping active and healthy eating. However, even with these efforts it isn’t always possible to know everything that is going on within our bodies.  

This is why routine and thorough health checks should be an essential part of your self-care. It has been found that age is a risk factor for certain conditions such as heart disease and cancer, and this is why there are particular health checks that are recommended for people who are over 50. 

In many cases, they are a critical preventative measure that will notify you of any potential problems before they become serious. For some people, they can save lives. The following article provides a detailed list of the recommended health checks for over 50s.

Health Checks for Over 50s

1. NHS Health Check

First and foremost, there is the NHS Health Check. It is a brilliant resource that can be accessed by anyone aged from 40 to 75. It is completely free of charge, and it is a comprehensive review of your health that will determine your likelihood of developing certain conditions. 

For example, conditions such as heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, diabetes and dementia. Every five years you should receive a letter requesting you to attend an appointment, and it is an opportunity that should definitely be availed of. The NHS Health Check will be conducted by a healthcare professional such as a GP, nurse, doctor or pharmacist. 

As well as assessing your risk levels for the aforementioned conditions, you will be offered advice on how to protect yourself from them in the long-term, identify any concerning symptoms and signs in the future, and how to manage any existing conditions that you may have.

2. Blood Pressure Test

In the United Kingdom, approximately one in three adults have high blood pressure. Chronic hypertension, which is consistently high blood pressure, can place an immense strain on your arteries and organs. In turn, this significantly increases your risk of suffering from a heart attack or a stroke. On the other hand, if your blood pressure is low then it can cause symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness and even fainting. 

Checking your blood pressure is incredibly easy, and it can be done either by a healthcare professional or at home with a blood pressure testing kit.  Your healthcare professional will probably use a device that consists of a stethoscope, arm cuff, pump and dial. The arm cuff will be placed around your arm and it will be tightened with the pump. The pressure in the cuff will then be gradually released, and the stethoscope will measure your pulse in order to obtain a blood pressure reading. 

Typically, it is recommended that your blood pressure is checked every five years if you are over 50. 

3. Cholesterol Test

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is present in your blood. If your cholesterol levels are high, they can begin to block your blood vessels and increase your likelihood of developing a problem such as heart disease or a stroke. 

Moreover, high cholesterol doesn’t usually exhibit any obvious signs or symptoms, so the only way you can ensure that your cholesterol levels are healthy is by having them checked by a healthcare professional. 

There are a couple of ways that they can test your cholesterol, either by taking blood from your arm or obtaining some with a finger-prick test. The sample is then analysed in a laboratory, and you will be informed of your results within a few days or a couple of weeks. You may be offered one during your NHS Health Check. If not, then it is recommended that you have your cholesterol tested every five years or so.

4. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening

An abdominal aortic aneurysm screening will check if there is a swelling or bulge in your aorta. The aorta is the central blood vessel that runs from your heart through to your stomach. This swelling or bulge is an abdominal aortic aneurysm, and if it is undetected or untreated that it could potentially rupture and become a life-threatening medical emergency. 

There aren’t any symptoms before it ruptures, so attending this screening is the only way to identify its presence before it becomes a problem. The NHS offers abdominal aortic aneurysm screening to men after their 65th birthday, since this is the demographic that is most likely to be affected. 

Screening isn’t usually offered to women or to men who are under 65, although if you are concerned you can always request it. The screening is a simple ultrasound of your stomach, and you will be informed of the results immediately after the screening. 

5. Bowel Cancer Screening 

Bowel cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers in the United Kingdom, and it is often diagnosed in people who are over 60. Anyone who is registered with a GP and is aged between 60 and 74 is entitled to bowel cancer screening. 

Whilst this screening doesn’t diagnose bowel cancer, it can identify potentially concerning abnormalities before the appearance of any symptoms. Usually, you will receive a FOBt, or a Faecal Ocult Blood Test, through the post. Stool samples will then be collected over several days on a special card, which is then sent to a laboratory for analysis. 

You should receive the results within a couple of weeks, and if there are any abnormal results then you will be invited for some more tests. Considering that this is such a common cancer, the screening for it shouldn’t be overlooked. The quicker it is detected, the easier it is to address and the greater the chances of survival.

6. Breast Cancer Screening

Screening is probably one of the most effective ways to diagnose breast cancer as early as possible. During their lifetime, around one in eight women within the United Kingdom will be diagnosed with breast cancer. The procedure, known as a mammogram, will be conducted at your local breast screening clinic. 

During the mammogram, an x-ray image will be taken of each breast, where each breast will be placed on the machine and firmly but gently compressed with a clear plate. Some women experience discomfort, but it won’t last longer than a few seconds. You’ll then receive your results within a couple of weeks. 

You should be sent an invitation to attend an appointment between your 50th and 53rd birthdays, and you will then be invited every three years until your 70th birthday. Of course, you can continue to request breast cancer screening every three years, even after you have turned 70. 

7. Cervical Cancer Screening

Every year, approximately 3,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed within the United Kingdom. Since the cervical cancer screening programme was introduced, however, this number has been falling by around 7% each year. 

During the screening, a healthcare professional will insert an instrument called a speculum to slightly open the vagina, and then sweep a small soft brush on the cervix. Many women say that it is uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be painful. The sample will then be tested for any abnormalities which could potentially develop into cervical cancer. 

You should receive the results within a couple of weeks. If anything is detected it will be investigated further, although it is worth mentioning that many abnormal changes will end up not being cancerous. The NHS offers this screening every five years to women aged between 50 and 64.

Final Thoughts

Many people become increasingly concerned with their health as they age, and will adopt lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and healthy eating. However, health checks are just as important when it comes to preventing, identifying and diagnosing those health conditions that don’t necessarily have any symptoms. 

In this article, we have listed the health checks that you should definitely consider if you are over 50. Covered by the NHS, these health checks are a brilliant way for you to take control of your health. Being aware of the options that are available to you is incredibly empowering, so that you can make informed decisions regarding your health.