A woman's health depends on a lot of factors. Every woman should make time for healthy habits — regular exercise, stress management, choosing the right foods— and she should also be scheduling routine health screenings so potential problems can be spotted early. Talk with your health care provider for specific personal guidance. More frequent screenings may be recommended based on your personal health history. Getting checked early can help you stop diseases like cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis in the very beginning, when they’re easier to treat. Which screening tests you need depends on your age, family history, your own health history, and other risk factors.
What screenings should you be getting? These 10 are a good start:
- Blood pressure screening. Starting at age 18, every woman needs to have her blood pressure checked at least every two years. Ideal blood pressure for women is less than 120/80.
- Cholesterol check. Women should have their cholesterol checked at least every five years starting at about age 20. The ideal level is below 200 mg/dL for total cholesterol.
- Pap smears and pelvic exams. Beginning at age 21, or earlier if you are sexually active, women need to have a pelvic exam and Pap smear every two years. Women age 30 and older only need a Pap smear every three years if they have had three normal tests in a row. Your doctor can also screen for sexually transmitted diseases.
- Mammograms and breast exams. Starting around age 20, women should have a clinical breast exam at least every three years until age 40, when this should be done annually, according to most experts. Mammograms are done every one or two years beginning at age 40. (The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends mammograms beginning at age 50, but the American Cancer Society still recommends earlier screening.)
- Bone density screen. Women should start getting screened for osteoporosis with a bone density test at age 65. The frequency of this health screening varies from woman to woman based on bone density and risk factors.
- Blood glucose tests. Women should get a blood glucose test every three years starting at age 45 to test for diabetes or pre-diabetes. The range of normal test results can vary, but generally a test result of 100 mg/dL or higher indicates pre-diabetes or diabetes.
- Colon cancer screening. Colon cancer screening tests for women generally start at age 50. People with a greater risk of colon cancer may need earlier or more frequent cancer screening tests.
- Body mass index. A full yearly physical exam includes measurements of your height and weight and a calculation of your body mass index (BMI). BMI indicates obesity, which can assess the risk of serious health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
- Skin examination. Women should examine their skin every month starting at age 18, and by the time they’re 20, a doctor or dermatologist should conduct the examination during a routine check-up.
- Dental check-up. All adult women need twice-yearly dental check-ups and cleanings.
Talk to your WHASN Central doctors at your next visit about what screenings are appropriate for you.