You are over age 50 and for your next chapter, you plan on living your best life. Don’t let an illness rob you of your health! Preventive screenings are a plus at any age but especially as you get older.

Aging equals a greater chance of getting an ailment. African Americans are generally at higher risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma, pneumonia, diabetes and HIV/AIDS according to the U.S. Department for Health and Human Service.

The stigma of mental health isn’t new to the Black community. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reportedly had severe depression during periods of his life and unfortunately, that scenario continues to be common today, with African Americans not seeking mental health care because of stigma.

Black people are far less likely to seek care. Statistics tell us that about 25% of African Americans seek mental health treatment, compared to 40% of white Americans. Sixteen percent (4.8 million) of Black and African American people reported having a mental illness, and 22.4 percent of those (1.1 million people) reported a serious mental illness over the past year.

Make sure you receive a physical every single year to stay on top of your health. The following tests may save your life! But please be aware, your physician may order additional testing based on your particular health status.

Cholesterol–African Americans are at a higher risk for heart disease, and high cholesterol adds to the risk. High cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease are closely linked, so it is important to understand good and bad cholesterol and how it affects your body. The only way to know if you have high cholesterol is to have a simple blood test. Controlling your cholesterol can add years to your life.

Diabetes–In the U.S., Black people are twice as likely as their white counterparts to die of diabetes. According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, 13.4% of Black men and 12.7% of Black women have been diagnosed with diabetes. Combined, their rate is 60% higher than that of white people.

Simple blood test options include A1C and fasting and glucose tolerance, notes the Mayo Clinic. “Typically, if you have a parent or a sibling with diabetes, you are at risk,” says Omar El Kawkgi, MBBCh, an endocrinologist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The standard A1C test may not be enough to receive a diagnosis in Black Americans. According to a review published in PLoS One in September 2017, about 11 percent of Black Americans have a gene variant that may make the A1C test ineffective. If all signs point to diabetes, ask your doctor for another test, such as a fasting or glucose tolerance test, to check for diabetes.

Pelvic exam and Pap smear (for women)–Combining a Pap test with a human papillomavirus (HPV) test can safely extend the interval between cervical cancer screenings from 3 years to 5 years in many women between the ages of 30 and 65. Women over age 65 can stop getting screened if they’ve had at least three consecutive negative Pap tests or at least two negative HPV tests within the previous 10 years, according to the guidelines. But women who have risk factors for cervical cancer such as smoking, a history of HPV, or a more advanced precancerous diagnosis should continue to be screened.

Mammogram–Black women still have a 4% lower incidence rate of breast cancer than White women but a 40% higher breast cancer death rate. Mammograms are one of the most thorough ways to discover the early onset of breast cancer. How often you should get one? Well, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says all women between ages 50 and 74 should have a mammogram every 2 years. The American Cancer Society contends that if you’re over 40, getting a yearly mammogram is the best route to go. Speak with your doctor about your family history and other reasons and he/she will come up with the best plan for you.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening–Medical experts say you should get this if you’re a man 65 to 75 who’s smoked at any point in your life. It’s an ultrasound that looks for an enlarged blood vessel in your abdomen that can cause severe bleeding and death if it ruptures. If your blood vessel is enlarged, surgery can often fix it. If you have a family history of this, talk to your doctor as they may recommend screening.

Depression screening–Too often, Blacks try to tackle depression on their own. The Black community suffers from an increased rate of mental health concerns, including depression. Older adults are at increased risk of depression and are frequently misdiagnosed or under treated. Depression is more common in older adults with one or more illnesses, such as heart disease or cancer. According to statistics from Mental Health America, the second highest suicide rate in the country occurs in those 85 and older.

Depression is not a normal part of aging, and you can get treatment. If you are feeling sad, hopeless, or not interested in things you used to enjoy, speak with a doctor. They can diagnose depression by having you fill out a questionnaire or by asking a few simple questions. Depression can be identified and treated using methods such as the Geriatric Depression Scale.

Prostate cancer screening–At age 50, men should discuss with their doctor whether they should be screened for prostate cancer and when that screening should happen. African-American men, and those with a close relative who had early-onset prostate cancer, should talk to their doctor at an earlier age about testing.

Testing for a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) found in the prostate and blood. There are a number of factors that cause PSA to rise, including age, prostate enlargement, prostate infection, and some medications. Most men with a PSA blood level below 4 ng/mL do not have prostate cancer, although the American Cancer Society has advised that about 15% of men with a PSA level below 4 actually have cancer that is only revealed after a prostate biopsy. PSA levels between 4 and 10 have a 1 in 4 chance of having prostate cancer. When the PSA level is above 10, there is a 50% chance of prostate cancer. If your PSA levels are above 2.5 ng/mL after your first test, yearly follow-up testing is recommended.

Bone mineral density scan–This checks your risk for osteoporosis, a condition that weakens your bones. It’s recommended for all women at age 65. If you’re at high risk, your doctor may want you to do it earlier. This screening ia also recommended for men ages 70 and older.

Colon cancer–This screening is recommended for everyone starting at age 45. Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. African Americans are about 20% more likely to get colorectal cancer and about 40% more likely to die from it than most other groups. After age 45, your chance of getting it increases. Colonoscopy is the test most frequently recommended to check for colon cancer, though there are other options. Ask your doctor which screening test is best for you.

Lung cancer screening–You should have an annual screening for lung cancer with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) if all of the following are present:

  • You are age 50 to 80 years AND
  • You have a 20 pack-year smoking history AND
  • You currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years