10 medical tests every older adult should get

There are about two dozen tests or screenings older adults can get to help ensure optimal health and wellness, based on recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts in primary care and prevention, and on Medicare’s coverage of preventive health service.

Of course, exactly which tests you need depends on a variety of factors, including your age, weight, sex, family history and risk factors, as well as on your doctor’s recommendations.

The Affordable Care Act mandates preventive care with no cost-sharing, so in 2011, Medicare began offering a variety of free preventive-health services. Some services may need to be ordered during an annual wellness visit in order to be covered; otherwise, you may need to cover the costs out of pocket or with private insurance.

“People are living into their 90s, independently and in the community, and loving it. But in order to get there, you’ve got to do this stuff,” said Richard Besdine, a professor of medicine and public health at Brown University. “Not all of these are fatal diseases, but they can take the fun out of life. And what’s the point of that?”

Besdine said a Mediterranean-style diet and daily exercise are at the top of the list of the most important habits for aging well. Adequate sleep is also crucial, as are quitting smoking and limiting alcohol.

Mental health is equally important. Many older adults face depression, loneliness and isolation amid life changes such as the loss of a spouse. Ask a doctor for a depression screening if you or a loved one are showing any signs of depression.