What would you say is truly priceless? What has so much value that there is not enough money to trade for it? Health.
We have to take care of our health. The American Heart Association sponsors “Go Red for Women” because 1 in 3 women die from heart disease or stroke. Often, women do not have “classic” or “textbook” symptoms for health issues that are most known for men. Thus, it is important that we take care of ourselves and we have the recommended exams.
The Vanderbilt Center for Women’s Health recommends the following age specific screenings:
- Pelvic exams, pap smears and breast self-exams: Pelvic exams and pap smears should be done every two years to check for cervical cancer and breast self-exams should be done monthly.
- Women should contact their physician immediately if they notice a change in their breasts. A complete breast exam should be done by a healthcare provider every three years for women ages 20-40.
- Pelvic exams, pap smears, breast self-exams, mammograms and osteoporosis screening: Pap smears should be done once every two years, but pelvic exams may be done more often to check for other disorders.
- Women should contact their physician immediately if they notice a change in their breasts. A complete breast exam should be done by a healthcare provider every year.
- Women over 40 should have a mammogram every 1-2 years depending on risk factors for breast cancer.
- All post-menopausal women who’ve had fractures should have a bone density test and those under 65 with risk factors for osteoporosis should be screened.
- Pelvic exams, pap smears, breast self-exams, mammograms and osteoporosis screening: Yearly pelvic exams and pap smears should be done to test for cervical cancer and other disorders. However, if a woman over 70 has tested normal over the past 10 years, or three years in a row, she may choose not to have any more pap smears, but screening should continue for women who have had cervical cancer or risk factors.
- Monthly breast self-exams should still be done, as well as a complete breast exam by a healthcare provider annually. If a woman notices any changes in her breasts, she should contact her physician.
- Mammograms should still be done every one to two years depending on risk factors to check for breast cancer.
- All women in this age group should have a bone density test. Your doctor may recommend a specific calcium intake and exercise needed to help prevent osteoporosis.
Other preventive testing includes a physical exam. This should be routine with your yearly exam. Your healthcare provider will check your height, weight and body mass index (BMI). Your doctor may also ask you questions about depression, drug and alcohol use, smoking and diet and exercise.
Women in their twenties should have a baseline screening for cholesterol levels and triglycerides, if they are at risk for coronary heart disease. Women over the age of 45 should be screened because heart disease risks increase with age.
Blood pressure should be checked every two years if it is 120/80 or under and annually if it is between 120-139/80-90. High blood pressure is diagnosed when your blood pressure is higher than 140/90.
Vision screenings should be done every other year if you wear contacts or glasses. Diabetics may require annual eye exams.
Dental exams and cleanings should be once annually.
It’s also important to have the flu vaccine yearly. Tetanus-diphtheria boosters should be given every 10 years. And if you’ve never had the chickenpox, you should get the varicella vaccine.
Don’t forget your first line of defense – your skin. You should check your skin often and have any suspicious lesions, moles or dark spots looked at by your healthcare provider.
Women also need colon screenings, hearing tests and other tests based on age and risk factors.
Every recommendation listed above is a suggested guideline and not meant to be medical advice for you as an individual. They may certainly be changed specific to your doctor’s assessment findings, your health history and your risk factors. So, talk to you doctor about when and how you should be screened, and take charge of your health.
The key is to do what we can to take care of our priceless health. After all, we know “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We can’t protect ourselves from every illness or disease, but those we can’t, hopefully, we can catch early.
Here’s to your good health!
More information on women’s health and screenings can be found at www.vanderbilthealth.com.
By Wendy Poe