Wellness

Identifying Health Concerns Early: Preventive Care for Older Employees

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In the 1700s, American politician Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” His sage advice initially applied to fighting fires. But today it applies across the board, especially when it comes to maintaining good health.

Medical professionals have embraced Franklin’s philosophy, emphasizing the benefits of preventive health tests that often can identify signs of potential disease or other medical problems. And the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law in March 2010, reinforces the importance of healthcare screenings with its requirement that most insurance plans pay for preventive care.

As the American workforce ages, preventive care options are an important tool for early detection of possible health problems. But scheduling these important screenings often is dependent upon a referral from a physician’s office. A recent study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute discovered that nearly 25 percent of individuals over age 50 appear to be skipping or postponing doctor visits and changing their prescription medications in an effort to save money. Those surveyed cited the challenging economy and higher prices for food, gas and electricity as reasons for cutting expenses.

Healthcare professionals have developed helpful guidelines for screening tests. However, some doctors and health insurance companies may have different frequency preferences. Prior to scheduling a recommended evaluation, employees should verify their insurance coverage.

Here’s a list of suggested screenings for individuals over age 50:

Women

  • Annually – Skin, breast, mammogram, fecal occult blood, pelvic and Pap tests; dental checkup (or more frequently, as directed by the dentist)
  • Every two years – Blood pressure screening
  • Every two to five years – Thyroid-stimulating hormone and fasting plasma glucose tests; vision exam; hearing evaluation
  • Every five years – Cholesterol test (or every three years for those age 65 and older)
  • Every five to 10 years – Colorectal cancer test (or more frequently per the physician’s discretion)
  • After age 50 – Bone mineral density baseline exam

Men

  • Annually – Skin, digital rectal exam, prostate specific antigen (PSA) tests; dental checkup (or more frequently, as directed by the dentist)
  • Every two years – Blood pressure screening
  • Every two  to five years – Fasting plasma glucose test; vision exam; hearing evaluation
  • Every five years – Cholesterol test (every three years for those age 65 and older)
  • Every five to 10 years – Colorectal cancer test (or more frequently per the physician’s discretion)

Older employees are encouraged to be proactive in taking care of their health. Not only will they feel better, they will have an opportunity to address health issues before they become painful, costly major medical events.

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