Preventative Health Care

The importance of women’s health cannot be overemphasized.

As vital members of the community, the workforce and the family unit, the overall health of women must always be a top priority. This, unfortunately, is not always the case.

Routine Examinations and Tests

By Julianne Hale

As caregivers, women tend to give selflessly to their jobs, their communities and their families, always putting the needs of others ahead of their own. In the end, this well-meaning cycle of giving can actually take a very costly turn when the health of a woman suffers as a result of her unwillingness to place her own health among the top priorities in her life. Taking care of herself is the best thing any woman can do for herself, and ultimately for her family, her community and her career.

In order to ensure a long and healthy life, women must focus on living well, both physically and mentally. According to the Center for Disease Control’s Office of Women’s Health, ten simple things can help women to lead a healthy life. These include eating healthy and drinking plenty of water, maintaining a healthy weight, staying away from all tobacco products, exercising regularly, getting regular check-ups, getting appropriate vaccinations, managing stress, maintaining awareness of genetic risk factors for certain diseases, practicing basic safety: sunscreen, smoke alarms, hand washing, etc., and doing their best to enjoy life. Most of these recommendations are common sense, but they are not all practiced regularly. Some of the most important recommendations are ignored because of time restraints, lack of knowledge or, perhaps the most common reason, fear.

Women can empower themselves and ensure their futures by going to the doctor for a check-up every year and having basic preventative screenings. These screenings are simple procedures that can, quite literally, save the lives of women. Routine, preventative tests should begin when women reach their twenties, but which ones are needed then and throughout the decades that follow? Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates recommend the following tests for women:

 Tests During the Twenties

• Height and Weight should be checked by a medical professional every three years.

• Blood Pressure will be checked at every doctor’s visit and should be checked a minimum of every three years. If your blood pressure is high, the frequency of testing will increase.

• Cholesterol should be checked every five years at minimum, more if it is high.

• Diabetes Screening should be done every three years for women with risk factors.

• Chlamydia and STD Screening should occur once a year for women up to age 26 who are sexually active and after for those at risk.

• Glaucoma Screenings are needed every 3-5 years for women at risk and at least once in their twenties for all other women.

• Melanoma Screenings should be scheduled every 5 years or once a year for women at risk.

• Breast Cancer Screenings should be conducted every three years; a mammogram may be needed for high risk patients.

• Cervical Cancer Screenings or pap tests should be conducted every one to three years dependant upon risk.

 Add Two for Your Thirties

In their thirties, women need to continue the screenings they began in their 20s and add or modify two others.

• Glaucoma Screening should be scheduled every 2-4 years.

• Cervical Cancer Screenings for women at low risk can be reduced to every three years after three consecutive annual negative pap test results.

 For your Forties

All previous screenings still apply and the following ones should be added or modified.

• Diabetes Screenings begin at three-year intervals for women at risk or women over 45.

• Mammograms every 1-2 years should be added to the clinical breast exam.

• Colorectal Cancer Screening by means of a colonoscopy is needed every 10 years for women at risk, or for others fecal occult blood tests every year and a sigmoidoscopy every 5 years are recommended.

Fitness for the Fifties

Only minor modifications in existing testing and one additional exam are suggested for women in their fifties.

• Blood Pressure should be checked at least once a year or more frequently if the numbers are high.

• Diabetes Screenings are needed every three years.

• Osteoporosis Screenings are added no more than every 2 years for postmenopausal women at risk.

• Clinical breast exams and mammograms should be done every year.

 Screenings for Sixties

Women in their sixties should maintain all previous screenings and add or modify the following:

• Osteoporosis Screenings continue every two years for women over 65.

• Glaucoma Screenings should be conducted every 2-4 years up to age 65 and every 1-2 years after that.

Seventies Plus

The recommendations for women age 70 and above remain the same with one further consideration.

• Cervical Cancer Screenings should be scheduled every 1-3 years at the doctor or patient’s discretion.

Women of all ages take their health for granted. When they are young, they feel invincible and tend to forget or discount the importance of overall wellness and preventative care. As they mature, they become wives, business women, mothers and caregivers and tend to put their own health needs behind those of their loved ones. By following common sense lifestyle guidelines and scheduling routine preventative health screenings, women can ensure that they stay healthy and vibrant for their families, their communities and, most importantly, themselves.