Most patients are not fans of medical tests conducted by doctors because they typically involve being poked and prodded by needles or other devices. There are some activities, however, that people can perform on themselves that could detect early warning signs of some illnesses, helping improve senior wellness.
The AARP recently described these fairly simple tests that are lesser-known than most performed by medical professionals but can still alert people of the early signs of diseases such as dementia and premature death.
One test recommended by AARP comes from a study conducted by Northwestern University. The "Famous Faces" test, developed by the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine can help detect early-onset dementia in people aged 45 to 60.
The test calls on participants to identify famous faces such as Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and Albert Einstein. If a senior can't remember the person's name, they should contact their medical professional for further help.
The "peanut butter test," can help detect signs of Alzheimer's disease, which typically affects a person's sense of smell, because the form of dementia first shows signs in the brain's olfactory cortex, which processes odors, according to the AARP.
A researcher at the University of Florida developed the test, because the scent recognition of peanut butter is not one that is usually lost over time. People who want to test themselves should get a partner to hold a jar of peanut butter a foot from their nose before slowly nearing a nostril, while the other nostril is plugged. Measure the distance from which the participant can first smell peanut butter, which should smell the same in each nostril and from the same distance. The distance the participant can start to smell the peanut butter should be the same with both nostrils. If there is a discrepancy in smell between nostrils, it could be an indicator of Alzheimer's disease.
Early risk of death and disability
A simple test to determine whether a person has an early risk of death is the "sit down, stand up" test, which was published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. Study researchers asked adults aged 51 to 80 to sit on the floor and stand up. They were given 10 points, with one point subtracted every time a hand, forearm or knee was used for support to stand up. This is key, because falls are a major health risk for seniors, and the harder it is to stand up, the likelier they may suffer falls later in life.
Those who don't score well on this test should see a doctor and stick to an exercise routine – even if for just 30 minutes a day.
To detect the chance of future physical disability, seniors should do things like attempt to open a tight jar lid, pick up a gallon of milk and carry it across the room or lift a pan's handle with one hand. If you experience any difficulty gripping these things and maintaining a grip, go see a doctor, as it could increase your risk of disability in the future.
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