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Preventive Measures—at Any Age?

seniors elderly man woman Here are some tips to keep you healthy after you have reached your 50th birthday.

Screen Me for What?

There are a number of recommendations from different groups regarding screening procedures. And to be fair, some differ in their recommendations. Based on scientific findings, here is what the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) suggests:

Men and Women

Men Only

Women Only

Of course, there may be other screening tests your doctor may suggest. Also, if you are concerned about any conditions you may think you have or that run in your family, talk with your doctor about being tested for these conditions. For example, you may consider tests for glaucoma or skin cancer. At your doctor's visit, discuss any changes you have noticed in your health, such as vision or hearing changes.

Beyond Screenings, What Should You Do?

In addition to screening tests, USPSTF suggests other ways to maintain your health and prevent serious conditions from creeping up on you.

Prevention in a Pill or Shot?

Aspirin has been shown to prevent heart disease and strokes in some patients. Ask your doctor if taking aspirin is right for you.

Make sure to get a flu shot every year. Other shots to consider include those to prevent pneumonia, and shingles. Influenza and pneumonia vaccines in particular have been shown to prevent hospitalization and death in the elderly population, and potential risks are minimal. Talk with your doctor about which immunizations are right for you.

Also, women who have a family history of breast cancer may want to speak with their doctor about medicines used to prevent breast cancer.

Advice for Every Day

  • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit. Some steps toward quitting include cutting down on the number of cigarettes you smoke each day and switching to a brand that does not taste good. Check out different websites, like http://www.smokefree.gov, that offer ways to kick the habit.
  • Exercise , even if you never have before. If you are new to physical activity, you may want to ask your doctor if you are healthy enough for exercise and how to begin. Try to work up to 30 minutes or more of moderate activity most days of the week. Some moderate activities include walking, dancing, swimming, and even mowing the lawn.
  • Eat right. Take your diet seriously. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk products. Also eat lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts. Avoid or minimize your intake of saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars.
  • Watch your weight. Keep track of the calories you consume and the calories you burn off with activities.Work with your doctor to determine your ideal weight.
  • Do not drink alcohol, or only drink in moderation. Moderate drinking typically means only 1 drink/day for women, and 2 drinks/day for men, although a man aged 65 or older should have only 1 drink/day. One drink is equal to one 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1½ ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.
  • Maintain a thorough, personal medical file. As we age, our medical care increasingly is handled by a series of specialists. Unfortunately, because of this, your primary care physician may not be fully aware of your medical conditions and ongoing treatment. Maintaining a complete and current listing of all of your treatments, including prescriptions and over the counter medicines, as well as diet and exercise routines, is more important than ever. Take your records with you each time you see a doctor.

American Cancer Society

National Institute on Aging


The College Family Physicians of Canadian

Public Health Agency of Canada


Annual mammograms now recommended for women beginning at age 40. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/About%20ACOG/News%20Room/News%20Releases/2011/Annual%20Mammograms%20Now%20Recommended%20for%20Women%20Beginning%20at%20Age%2040.aspx. Published July 20, 2011. Accessed February 10, 2017.

Cervical cancer screening. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116761/Cervical-cancer-screening. Updated October 6, 2016. Accessed February 10, 2017.

Mammography for breast cancer screening. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115728/Mammography-for-breast-cancer-screening. Updated June 9, 2016. Accessed February 10, 2017.

Men: Stay Healthy at 50+—Checklists for Your Health. AHRQ Publication No. 14-IP009-A, 2014 Update. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. Available at: http://www.ahrq.gov/ppip/men50.htm. Updated August 2015. Accessed February 10, 2017.

Osteoporosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113815/Osteoporosis. Updated November 30, 2016. Accessed February 10, 2017.

Prostate cancer screening. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113802/Prostate-cancer-screening. Updated July 7, 2017. Accessed February 15, 2017.

Screening for breast cancer. US Preventive Services Task Force website. Available at: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspsbrca.htm . Updated January 2016. Accessed February 10, 2017.

Screening for cervical cancer. US Preventive Services Task Force website. Available at: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspscerv.htm. Updated March 2012. Accessed February 10, 2017.

Women: Stay Healthy at 50+—Checklists for Your Health. AHRQ Publication No. 14-IP002-A, 2014 Update. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. Available at: http://www.ahrq.gov/ppip/women50.htm. Updated August 2015. Accessed February 10, 2017.

Last reviewed February 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP  Last Updated: 3/15/2013