Note: TMI for some!
I turned 55 this year. Yep, that means I am now a young senior! I hadn’t seen a doctor in a while; no reason. I decided I would catch up, and get some things checked out.
I have a family doctor. The system is needs-based: if I have a problem, I book an appointment. There are no fees. My doctor may order tests, but only to diagnose symptoms that I report. Annual top-to-toe physicals don’t exist; people at risk of, or having, chronic conditions are monitored regularly.
For women, mammograms are recommended every 2 years from age 50 to 70, and Pap tests every 3 years if you’ve had no prior abnormal tests.
So, I have a bit of a history. Six years ago, I went for a mammogram that showed something. I was called back for a second mammo and a needle biopsy. Thankfully, it was diagnosed as a benign cyst. After that, I had to have a follow-up mammogram every 6 months for 2 years. The cyst went away in the first 6 months and never reappeared. After having 6 mammograms in 2 years, I decided I would wait 5 years before going back. This may or may not have been wise on my part.
When I turned 55, I decided to go back. Sure enough, I was called in for a follow-up. They took 4 more images and concluded there was nothing of concern. Apparently 50% of women have either dense breast tissue or fibrocystic breasts, both of which make the images hard to read. So now I am supposed to resume the two-year schedule.
Mammograms use low dose x-rays. I also have bite-wing x-rays at the dentist’s once a year. I had one previous x-ray when I was in my 20s when I sprained a foot! I have no noteworthy lifetime build-up of radiation, other than the normal cosmic kind, so I’m unconcerned.
I will say that the staff at the Breast Screening Program are excellent and so are the staff at Women’s Health at the regional hospital. They communicate clearly, they keep my doctor promptly informed, and results are returned quickly. If I ever did have breast cancer, I would trust them.
I decided that if my breasts were OK, I would treat myself to some new bras, so I bought a couple in the Boxing Day sales!
Meanwhile, the same year, I started having pre-menopausal irregular periods, so I decided to use an IUD for contraception. It was good for 5 years, and since I went through menopause during those years, I never had a period again. In fact, about a year ago, I stopped having hot flashes at night, so I am truly out the other side! I made an appointment to have the IUD removed. The doctor ran a hormone blood test (FSH) which is a marker for menopause. During the same appointment I had the IUD taken out, I had a Pap test (why make two appointments to get in stirrups?)
The nurse practitioner told me that IUDs are now the most common method of contraception and are the top recommendation for everybody.
At the same time I had the FSH test, my iron and B12 levels were also checked and they were good. Which makes me very happy because I’m a vegetarian and I don’t take any supplements, so I’m glad my diet is taking care of me.
The next age-related check-up I had was a hearing test. I had one when I was in my 40s – you can read about why here. Since that time, both of my parents (who are in their late 70s) have experienced significant hearing loss and they both have hearing aids. This was no surprise for my dad who worked as an air frame technician in the Armed Forces for 5 years with no hearing protection provided – he has since been compensated for that! But it seems pretty random for my stay-at-home mom who never had much noise exposure.
I didn’t feel that my hearing was “bad,” but I work with a lot of much younger staff (in their 20s) and I could tell their hearing was sharper than mine. The audiologist said the hearing standard for all adults is the same – a 25 year old and a 55 year old’s hearing are measured on the same scale, which is not adjusted for age. “How can I say this?” she mused. “The difference between you and your colleagues is that, with age, it takes us more time to process what we hear.” OK then! When I had the actual hearing test, it was 100%.
I paid $55 for the test. I don’t understand why hearing tests and hearing aids are not covered by provincial health plans. How can it not be considered a medical issue? But vision tests, glasses, and dental care are not covered either for my age group (basic dental care is covered up to age 14 in my province, and eye exams for kids under 10 or adults over 65). I can submit the audiologist receipt to my employer supplemental health insurance provider and I should get 80% back.
So the other embarrassing thing I had checked out was my feet. Actually, my feet are fine. The podiatrist said they were perfectly good feet 😊 He fixed up a nail that was causing problems. He said I had lost some flexibility in my toe joints. Was I supposed to have been doing toe workouts all these years?
I was thinking of asking my doctor for a baseline bone density test. But a few weeks ago, I slipped on ice (which rarely ever happens – I am an ace ice walker!) I fell astonishingly hard onto my wrist and it did not break or give me any problems in the following days. I am guessing that although I don’t do strength training, my regular workouts and swimming are keeping my bones pretty strong. Nevertheless, all indications are that older women should do strength training, so I plan to take it up in 2019. If the Notorious RBG can do it at 85, so can I!
I am very fortunate that nothing has caught up with me and I am healthy and drug-free going into my senior years. I don’t judge anyone who has health conditions or medications because everyone has their own path, no prevention techniques work in all cases (we can still be struck with random stuff) and there is no cure-all substance. I know I benefit from the social determinants of health: access to free health care, education, income, social supports, genetics and so on. The personal mix that works for me is a blend of behaviours (nutrition, exercise, sleep) and Western medicine.
- How do you rate your health?
- Do you have any health conditions you need to manage?
- Have you had any check-ups or any medical follow-ups lately?