Why should we test?

Aging affects all parts of the body, albeit at different rates in different areas for different people. Trying to get a handle on our age can be a protracted and expensive process. No single test can confirm we are on the right track.  Tests must include markers of health, as well as disease, predictors of mortality and decline in function, parameters of current function, as well as functional reserve.

To get an accurate indication of our age, the testing process must be comprehensive and reflect the processes of aging across crucial tissues and organ systems. The necessity and frequency of the following tests is determined largely by our age, with some becoming more relevant as we get older.

Most of the tests are recommended for those with average risk. For individuals at higher risk, such as those with a family history of problems or increased risk based on their lifestyle, additional or more intensive monitoring may be warranted in consultation with their health care provider.

Questions to ask when establishing the best tests for you:

Past

  • How does this correlate with changes in our health status? Can it be tested serially?

Present

  • Does the test result correlate with our current performance (in one or several organ systems)? Does the test result correlate with our functional reserve (in one or several organ systems)?

Prediction and prognosis

  • Does the test result change as we get older?  Does the test result predict our rate of aging better than chronological age, either by showing reserve before threshold or rate of change?  Does the test result predict the development and progression of disease? Does the test result predict lifespan and survival?

Prevention

  • Does fixing the test result equate to fewer problems in advanced age, including disability, disease and death?

Practicality

  • Is the test acceptable, minimally invasive and reliably measured? Does the result indicate what is healthy or unhealthy, and the associated risks (not just whether it is normal)?

Testing: what, how, when and where

Cholesterol levels
What to test? LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol
Who does it? GP
How often? Annually, or more often if we want to track our response to interventions
When? Now
Sugar control
What to test? HbA1c, glucose tolerance test
Who does it? GPs and medical specialists
How often? Annually in those with impaired control or risks for it
When? From 40
Kidney function
What to test? Glomerular filtration rate, albuminuria
Who does it? GPs and medical specialists
How often? Annually in those with impaired function or risks for it
When? From 40
Body composition
What to test? BMI, waist circumference, bioimpedanceanalysis (BIA)
Who does it? We can measure our BMI and waist ourselves Bio impedence analysis is availablethrough nutritionists, exercise physiologists and

risk clinics, as well as many GPs

How often? At least annually or more often if we want totrack response to interventions
When? Now
Blood vessel functions
What to test? Systolic blood pressure, pulse wave velocity
Who does it? GPs and medical specialists
How often? Annually, or more often for those with vascular disease or risks for it
When? From 40, or sooner for those with vascular disease or risks for it
Lung function
What to test? FEV-1, FVC
Who does it? GPs, medical specialists, exercise physiologists
How often? Annually for those with vascular disease or risks for it
When? From 50, or sooner for those with vascular disease or risks for it
Strength, fitness and flexibility
What to test? Hand grip test, VO 2 max, walking distance,chair stands, walking speed, standing balance,flexibility (eg. sit-and-reach test)
Who does it? GPs, medical specialists, exercise physiologists
How often? Annually
When? From 40 or sooner if we want to track response to interventions
Bone integrity
What to test? DEXA scans, NTx, bone x-rays
Who does it? GPs and medical specialists
How often? Every 5 years
When? At or around the age of menopause in women If indicated by an increased risk of fracture inmen
Brain power
What to test? Cognitive tests
Who does it? Ourselves, in concert with our GP or medical Specialist
How often? Annually
When? From 40

Last Reviewed 03/Mar/2014

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Dr Merlin Thomas

Professor Merlin Thomas is Professor of Medicine at Melbourne’s Monash University, based in the Department of Diabetes. He is both a physician and a scientist. Merlin has a broader interest in all aspects of preventive medicine and ageing. He has published over 270 articles in many of the worlds’ leading medical journals
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