Your Health Begins with You

When was the last time you saw your doctor?

The guidelines below from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) can help spot an issue before you even have symptoms. If you’ve been putting off seeing a health care provider, take action now. As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Well-Woman Visits The ACOG says that all women need annual “well-woman” office visits in order to assess overall health and minimize health risks. A physical exam generally includes blood pressure, weight, body mass index, palpation of the abdomen and lymph nodes, and a general assessment of your overall health. It also gives your doctor the chance to catch anything that seems “off,” as well as administer specific screenings, evaluations, and immunizations based on your age and health history.

Heart Health Women should begin blood pressure testing at age 18. If a woman’s blood pressure is at a normal level (120/80) or below, the doctor will simply monitor her stats every two years. If her numbers lie outside the normal range, she will need to head to the doctor more often.

Regular cholesterol testing should begin at age 20. Ask your doctor or nurse how often you will need your cholesterol tested.

Bone Health All women age 65 and over should get bone density testing, even if they have no other risk factors for osteoporosis. Women age 50 and older should get bone density scans if they have risk factors that increase the likelihood that they could experience a fracture within the next 10 years.

Diabetes The American Diabetes Association recommends blood glucose screening for any woman, regardless of age, who has a body mass index higher than 25  along with additional risk factors for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. If no risk factors are present, a woman should receive an initial screening at age 45 and continue every three years if results are normal.

Breast Health Women in their 20s and 30s should develop breast awareness and begin performing monthly breast self-exams to look for unusual lumps and shape changes. They should also get a clinical breast exam every three years. Women 40 and over should have a clinical breast exam and mammogram every year.

Reproductive Health Women 21 or older who have a cervix should get a pelvic exam every year and a Pap test every three years. Women who are 30 and older can consider getting a Pap test every five years instead of every three if the procedure is combined with HPV testing. All sexually active women should undergo sexually transmitted disease (STD) screening, including tests for syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia.

Colorectal Health  Beginning at age 50, a woman should schedule a colonoscopy every 10 years, or more often if she has risk factors like family history or a history of colon polyps.