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Healthy Aging (cont.)

Getting the Medical Care You Need

Medical prevention, regular checkups, and prompt treatment play a key role in your quality of life as you age.


Your grandparents' generation had few protections from life-threatening conditions, but you now have the advantage of immunizations and regular screenings. To maximize your odds of living a longer, higher-quality life, make sure you get all screenings and immunizations that are recommended for all people over age 50:

  • Preventive health screenings for both men and women include blood pressure checks, cholesterol screening, colorectal cancer screening, hearing and vision tests, and dental exams. Men are also advised to discuss prostate cancer screening with their doctors. Women may be advised to also have a regular breast exam and mammogram as well as a pelvic exam and Pap test to screen for breast cancer and cervical cancer. For detailed information on these and other recommended health screenings, see the topic Early Disease Detection.
  • Recommended immunizations include tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis boosters, a yearly influenza (flu) shot, shingles vaccine, and pneumococcal vaccine. For detailed information on these and other recommended immunizations, see the topic Immunizations.

For more information, see the Interactive Tool: Which Health Screenings Do You Need?Click here to see an interactive tool.

Managing your health care

Be an informed health care consumer. When concerned about a medical condition, read as much as you can about it and its possible treatments. Make a list of unanswered questions and talk to your doctor about them. Explore all treatment options before deciding how to treat a problem, and get at least one second opinion if you're considering a surgery, medicine with dangerous side effects, or experimental treatment. For more information, see the topics Making Wise Health Decisions and Making the Most of Your Appointment.

Be your own best health advocate. Make it your goal to work in partnership with your health professionals. In general, people who make health decisions with their health professionals are happier with the care they receive and the results they achieve. It's important to share in every decision about your health. The decisions you make influence your overall well-being as well as the quality and cost of your care. Whenever you have a medical appointment:

  • Bring your health and medicine history with you, as well as a list of questions you want answered during your appointment.
  • Make sure you understand your doctor's key points about your health and any possible tests and treatments.
  • You can bring along a friend or family member to support you and help you remember key information for later on. This can be especially useful when you're under a lot of physical or emotional stress.

For more information about how to work in partnership with a doctor, see the topics Work Closely With Your Doctor and Smart Decisions: Know Your Options.

Get organized. Feeling organized and in control of your health care can be a challenge, especially when something comes up unexpectedly. Your best approach to managing your health care is to get organized now—create a personal medical information file, including an ongoing record of your:

  • Health professionals' names and numbers.
  • Medicines, herbal supplements, and vitamins. For each, include the dosage, who prescribed it and why, and any side effects you have had. Use this form.Click here to view a form.(What is a PDF document?)
  • Any known allergies to medicines, foods, or insects (include the type of allergic reaction).
  • Immunization record.
  • Symptoms, health conditions, and treatments. For each, jot down dates and any details that you might easily forget. Use this form.Click here to view a form.(What is a PDF document?)
  • Exam and test results.
  • Emergency medical information, such as pacemaker use or chronic disease diagnosis.
  • Insurance policy and payment receipts.

For more information on how to organize your medical information, see the topic Home Medical Records.

Advance directives such as a living will and a medical power of attorney can ensure that you will get the care you want if you become physically or mentally unable to make your own medical decisions. A living will states your wishes about your medical care; a medical power of attorney gives a person you choose (your health care agent) the authority to make medical decisions for you if you become unable to make these decisions for yourself. In addition to putting your advance directives in writing, also be sure to clearly communicate your choices to all family members who might be involved in your health care in the future. For information about writing advance directives or selecting a health care agent, see the topics Writing an Advance Directive and Choosing a Health Care Agent.


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