Combining a healthy lifestyle with annual check-ups is essential to maintaining a woman’s health.
Some factors that can impact health, such as age, gender and family history cannot be changed.
However, healthy living can improve a woman’s overall well-being.
Combining regular exercise with a healthy vitamin-enriched diet, and avoiding alcohol and cigarettes can help prevent many serious ailments including heart disease, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases.
Aside from living a healthy lifestyle, it is important for women to partner with their physicians to maintain regular health screenings to detect the early onset of disease. Many serious conditions, including high cholesterol and some cancers, can progress without symptoms, which makes early detection extremely important. The following is a list of important medical tests that every woman (depending on her age and medical and family history) should have in order to maintain her health.
- Breast Examination and Mammogram – Early detection is a vital tool in treating breast cancer. Women who perform monthly self-examinations and get regular mammograms every one-to-two years have a better chance of finding a breast abnormality in its early stages. Each woman’s risk of breast cancer varies; therefore, it is important to consult with your physician to determine the best mammogram schedule for you.
- Cholesterol Screening – A cholesterol screening measures the amount of fat in the blood. High cholesterol can lead to heart disease or stroke. Fortunately, if detected, high cholesterol can be controlled with lifestyle changes and medication. It is recommended that women, 20 and older, have their cholesterol screened every five years.
- Blood Glucose Test – A blood glucose screening can detect type 2 diabetes, a disease that inflicts millions of Americans, and is a leading cause of kidney failure and heart disease in the United States. Women should have a glucose screening every three years, starting at age 45. However, women with elevated risk factors for diabetes, including obesity or sedentary lifestyle, should speak with their physicians about being tested earlier and more regularly.
- Bone Density Test – Osteoporosis is a serious concern for millions of American women. This degenerative disease causes women’s bones to thin, which can lead to serious, disabling fractures. Caucasian and Asian women going through menopause, women with small frames, and women with a family history of the disease are at greatest risk. It is recommended that women have a bone-density test at age 50. Women should talk to their physicians to set up a regular screening schedule.
- The Pap Test – Pap screenings can detect cervical cancer in its earliest stages, which is when the disease is most treatable. Women over the age of 30, who have had three normal Pap screenings in a row, should continue to get screened every two-to-three years. If a woman has had an abnormal pap test, she should consult with her physician to create a screening schedule that meets her health needs.
- Colorectal Cancer Screening – Beginning at age 50 and continuing every 10 years thereafter, women should have regular colonoscopy screenings for colorectal cancer. The colonoscopy examines the colon for polyps, which can be precursors to cancer. Women with a family history of colorectal cancer or other risk factors should discuss early screening with their physicians.
- Heart Risk Assessment – Heart disease is a very serious concern for women, especially after menopause. A heart risk assessment (HRA) is a series of tests that determines a woman’s risk for heart disease. An HRA includes blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose and triglyceride screenings, body fat composition analysis, a complete health history, an echocardiogram, a heart risk profile and an exercise stress test. It is important for women to schedule an HRA at the onset of menopause, when the risk of heart disease increases.
Combining these screenings with an overall healthy lifestyle can help women combat serious illness in its earliest stages. It is important to remember that these are basic guidelines and each woman is different. Women should consult with their physicians to determine the tests that are necessary for their personal well-being.
About the Author
Sheldon Levine, D.O., is a board-certified family practitioner at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest. Dr. Levine attended medical school at the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine in Chicago, Ill. He completed an internship at Chicago Osteopathic Hospital Dr. Levine currently practices in Tinley Park, IL.
To make an appointment with Dr. Levine or another Advocate South Suburban Hospital physician, call (800) 3-ADVOCATE (800)- 323-8622.
Advocate South Suburban Hospital is a 289-bed, acute care facility that serves Chicago’s south suburbs.
The not-for-profit facility is part of Advocate Health Care, one of the leading, integrated healthcare systems in the nation.