Article written by :
Dr Manisha Das Mondal
MRCP (UK), MRCP (Ire)
Associate Consultant General Physician
Health check ups are important at all stages of life. Regular check ups are needed to diagnose any condition at an early stage or simply to control existing conditions. For senior citizens, health check ups are done to evaluate and monitor their overall health and well-being. Here is a list of common and important tests that doctors often recommend for seniors.
Senior citizen health check up: Common tests
- Hemogram or CBC: A hemogram or a Complete Blood Count (CBC) test, provides valuable information about a senior’s blood and health. It is a very common type of blood test which provides information on each blood component, which is further used for detecting various medical conditions such as anaemia, infections and bleeding disorders. Hemogram measures various components of blood such as:
- Red blood cells (RBCs) – which carry oxygen throughout the body
- White blood cells (WBCs) – which help fight infection and disease
- Platelets – which help the blood to clot
This test barely takes a few minutes and there are no such changes to a senior’s diet or regular routine.
- Kidney Function Test: Kidney function tests are a set of tests that evaluate the health and functioning of the kidneys. These tests help diagnose kidney disease, monitor functioning of the kidneys and help doctors make informed treatment decisions. Some of the common kidney function tests include:
- BUN test: Blood Urea Nitrogen test is done to measure the amount of nitrogen present in the blood that comes from urea. An increased level of BUN means that the kidneys are not filtering the waste properly.
- Creatinine test: Creatinine is a waste product produced by the muscles. This test is meant to measure the creatinine levels in blood. Since kidneys usually remove the creatinine from blood, a higher level of creatinine means that kidneys are not functioning properly.
- Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) test: GFR test measures the rate at which the kidneys filter waste from the blood. A GFR test helps identify the progression of any existing kidney disease. For most adults, a GFR of over 90 is considered normal.
- Urine albumin test: It measures the level of albumin, a type of protein, in urine. An increased level of albumin indicates decreased kidney functioning.
- Urinalysis: It tests the presence of blood or protein in urine samples which is indicative of underlying kidney problems.
- Liver Function Tests (LFT): LFTs are blood tests done to assess a senior’s liver function. Some common liver function tests are:
- Alanine transaminase (ALT): In case of liver damage, ALT is released into the bloodstream. An elevated ALT level can indicate liver disease or liver damage.
- Aspartate transaminase (AST): An increased level of AST indicates possible liver damage, disease or muscle damage.
- Alkaline phosphatase (ALP): Higher levels of ALP indicate liver diseases such as cholestasis, hepatitis, cirrhosis or liver cancer. However, ALP levels can also be elevated in case of bone disorders, such as Paget’s disease or bone cancer.
- Bilirubin: Increased levels of bilirubin indicates liver damage or disease and certain types of anaemia.
- Gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT): Higher levels indicate liver or bile duct damage
- Prothrombin time (PT): Higher PT indicates liver damage.
- Lipid profile: Lipids usually refer to fats, cholesterol and triglycerides that circulate in the bloodstream. Common lipid profile tests include:
- Total cholesterol: This is the overall cholesterol level in the blood which includes the count of LDL, VLDL and HDL.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol: Itis also known as “bad cholesterol.” It can collect in the blood vessels and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol: It is produced in the liver to supply the tissues with a certain type of fat called triglycerides. An increased level indicates abnormal lipid metabolism.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: It is also known as “good cholesterol” as it helps decrease the buildup of LDL in the blood vessels.
- Triglycerides: Triglycerides are a type of fat from the food consumed, an excess amount of which in the blood are associated with cardiovascular disease and pancreatic inflammation.
- Thyroid profile: Thyroid profile is a blood test intended to measure the different hormones produced by the thyroid gland. A thyroid profile involves the following tests:
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) – TSH is produced by the pituitary gland which signals the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones. High TSH levels signal an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) while low TSH levels indicate an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism).
- Thyroxine (T4) – T4 is the primary hormone produced by the thyroid gland. Low levels of T4 indicate an underactive thyroid, while high levels of T4 level can indicate an overactive thyroid.
- Triiodothyronine (T3) – T3 is an active form of thyroid hormone that is produced from T4. Lower T3 levels indicate an underactive thyroid, while higher T3 levels indicate an overactive thyroid.
- Urinalysis: Urine tests or urinalysis is recommended in case of any kidney related issues or UTIs. Doctors usually suggest urinalysis when seniors experience symptoms such as:
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Back pain
- Increased confusion
- Metallic taste in the mouth.
- Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA): This test is done specifically for male patients. It determines the presence of prostate cancer which does not grow beyond the prostate gland, hence it can be difficult to detect until any symptoms show up. Undergoing PSA can lead to early diagnosis. A normal PSA score should be somewhere between 1.0-1.5 ng/ml.
- Bone densitometry: With age, the bones tend to become weaker and prone to damage and fracture easily. This test is a kind of X-ray scan done to identify and treat osteoporosis.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG): ECGs are done to detect any kind of cardiovascular issues by examining the electrical activity generated by the heart.
- Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is useful in producing more red blood cells in the body and maintaining proper functioning of nerve cells. Anaemia, neuropathy and cognitive impairment can occur when the body is unable to absorb the vitamin. It is thus important for seniors to get tested for vitamin B12.
- X-Ray of Chest: This test is done to diagnose any issues in the lungs, heart, aorta and bones of the thoracic area. It helps to detect diseases such as pneumonia, bronchitis, cysts, tumours, cancer and even fractures.
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