For Women Only: Know your Health
Staying healthy means more than good dental hygiene and eating right. And women, especially ones with families, are known for being the caretakers of everyone around them, which may mean sometimes neglecting themselves. Well-accepted advice to eat healthily, be active, schedule regular checkups with a qualified health professional annually, take care of your mental health, avoid taking unnecessary risks, like texting while driving are all valuable suggestions, whether you're male or female, young or old, rich or poor. And prevention is an important factor in reducing the risk for any number of illnesses and diseases at any age, as well as regular screenings, is the best defense anyone has to stay healthy. But which medical tests are critical for women’s health? Below are some factors specific to women to keep an eye on their health.
In your 20s and 30s
This is the time to work on building a relationship with your doctor and gynecologist. Understanding your body and any conditions are very important, as well as knowing your family's medical history. The more you and your doctor(s) know about your history, the better! Keeping accurate medical records and staying current on recommended vaccinations is the way to go. A healthy lifestyle (maintaining a healthy weight and daily activity), and regular screening will go a long way in keeping you healthy in the years to come. Get an annual check-up including a comprehensive blood test (CBC) with a cholesterol check. Already at 18, your blood pressure should be checked as well as undergo a full pelvic exam and Pap smear. Nowadays, medical guidelines related to monthly breast exams vary, so talk to your doctor directly about any pain, swelling or discharge if you have these symptoms. A clinical exam may be recommended. Multivitamins can also support good health, especially for those who’d like to get pregnant. Talk to your physician about your needs.
In your 40s
Once you’ve reached middle age, the risk for many serious health problems increases, among these is Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity, and cancer. Also, reproductive issues and menopause are still relevant at this age, even if you’re not planning on having children. Contraceptive methods may need to be changed. A Pap smear is still important, especially if you are sexually active.
According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular problems are the number 1 killer of women worldwide. In fact, just as in men, 1 in every 3 women has some type of cardiovascular disease. If you don’t have your weight and diet under control, now is the time to reach your recommended weight and maintain it. Other goals might be to:
- • Quit smoking and tobacco use,
- • Reduce (or eliminate) alcohol intake to 1 glass or less,
- • Sleep at least 7- 9 hours per night,
- • Minimize stress and other negative triggers,
- • Increase your physical activity level to at least 30 minutes per day, 4-5 days per week,
- • Eat more fruits and green, leafy vegetables and less saturated or trans fats.
In your 50s and “Silver Sister” years
In addition to the medical screenings at the previous ages, colonoscopy, bone density, thyroid tests, and mammograms are common recommendations at this stage. Also, checking your skin, eyes and hearing at least every two years are a vital step in keeping you safe and comfortable in your surroundings. Maintaining an active physical and social lifestyle will help keep you physically and mentally stimulated. See your physician regularly and do not miss an appointment because when a condition or illness is diagnosed early, it is easier to treat and has a better outcome. Remember your health is your most valuable asset, and it's never too early (or too late) to take better care of yourself.
Please be sure to talk with a qualified health care provider for your best medical advice. More frequent screenings may be recommended based on your personal health history and risk factors. Stay current with all preventative screenings according to your age and medical history. Your good health and well-being is the greatest gift of all – for you and your loved ones.