By: Jana Royer-Morian Owner & Acupuncturist at Inspired-Wellness.com
At Inspired Wellness Center, we see a lot of women, and I can’t tell you how many times women come in and tell me stories of a basic health exam shedding light on an issue that has gone un-noticed, that could have turned into a major problem. A woman’s health depends on many 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. In fact, health screenings can make keeping tabs on your health simple.
So what screenings should you be getting? These 10 are a good start.
1. 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 mmHg (millimeters of mercury)
2. Cholesterol check. Women should have their cholesterol checked at least every five years starting at about age 20. This screening is important for decreasing your risk of heart disease, and can be done at your doctor’s office or at a lab with a doctor’s order. The test only involves drawing a blood sample.
3. 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 to check for any abnormalities in the reproductive system. Your doctor can also screen for sexually transmitted diseases.
4. Mammograms and breast exams. Starting around age 20, women should have a clinical breast exam at least every three years until age 40. At 40 is when this should be done annually, according to most experts. Mammograms are done every one or two years once you turn 40. Despite a recent government task force recommendation to push the start of mammograms back to age 50, the American Cancer Society still recommends earlier screenings.
5. Bone density screen. Women should start getting screened for osteoporosis with a bone density test at age 65. Women with risk factors for osteoporosis, such as having a slender frame or a fractured bone, should be screened earlier. The frequency of this health screening varies from woman to woman based on bone density and risk factors.
6. Blood glucose tests. Women should get a blood glucose test every three years starting at age 45 to test for diabetes or pre-diabetes. Before age 45, you may need to have your blood glucose levels tested if you have symptoms of diabetes or several risk factors. The range of normal test results can vary, but generally a test result of 100 mg/dL or higher indicates pre-diabetes or diabetes.
7. Colon cancer screening. Colon cancer screening tests for women generally start at age 50. Depending on the type of test, you will have this health screening at a doctor’s office or a hospital. Unless a problem is found, a sigmoidoscopy needs to be repeated every 5 to 10 years and a colonoscopy only every 10 years. The non-invasive virtual colonoscopy is another option. People with a greater risk of colon cancer may need earlier or more frequent cancer screening tests.
8. Body mass index. A full yearly physical exam includes measurements of your height and weight and a calculation of your body mass index (BMI). You can also calculate your BMI at home using an online BMI calculator. BMI indicates obesity, which can assess the risk of serious health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
9. 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. Women should carefully inspect the skin all over their body, looking for any new moles or changes to existing moles to spot the early signs of skin cancer.
10. Dental check-up. Good dental health is important from the moment your first baby tooth sprouts, and all adult women need twice-yearly dental check-ups and cleanings. Regular dental check-ups, which involve examining the teeth and sometimes taking X-rays, can keep teeth healthy and spot early signs of decay or any problems with the mouth or teeth.
Because these tests are considered preventive, many insurance plans cover them. However, there may be certain criteria that you have to meet, such as the reason for the test, the time elapsed since your last test, your age at the time of the test, whether the provider is in your plan’s network, and other rules. While vital for your continued good health, these tests can be expensive — so call your insurance company or check your plan’s certificate to determine coverage before making an appointment.