Are You a Woman Nearing Age 40? Here is What You Need to do for Your Health
If you are a woman nearing age 40, there are a number of health screenings that you need to make sure that you put on your to-do list. Even if you have traditionally enjoyed good health, you cannot ignore these regular screenings and immunizations. While it may sound cliche, an ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure.
Here are a few of the most common screenings that you need to be aware of as you hit middle age.
Blood Pressure Screening
Most medical providers will recommend that you have your blood pressure checked at least once every two years. You need to increase this screening to once per year if the top systolic number clocks in between 120 to 139 mm Hg or if the bottom diastolic number is between 80 to 89 mm Hg. If the systolic number tops 130, you need to meet with your health care provider to learn what you can do to lower your blood pressure.
Breast Cancer Screening
Depending on your risk factors for developing breast cancer, most women will need to begin regular mammogram screenings at age 40. This exam should be performed once per year. If you have no risk factors or a history of suspicious findings, you may only need to have a mammogram every two years. In addition to this screening, your doctor will perform a clinical breast exam at every annual visit. Performing monthly breast self-exams is also standard protocol.
Colorectal Cancer Screening
The standard of care for colorectal screening is that everyone age 50 and above should receive regular screenings. However, some doctors will recommend that you should be screened earlier than age 50 if you have a family history of colon cancer or polyps. Some physicians will also order screenings at an earlier age if you have risk factors such as inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, or polyps. There are a variety of screenings available to check for signs of this type of cancer, depending on your age and risk factors.
Once you hit age 44, it is a good idea to begin diabetes screening every three years. If you are overweight, you may need to begin the regular screenings prior to age 44. Your doctor may also recommend earlier screenings if you have high blood pressure.
Cervical Cancer Screening
You should have begun regular cervical cancer screenings at age 21. After the first screening, you should be screened every three years at the minimum. Once you hit age 65, you can stop having regular pap smears as long as you have had three normal tests within the past decade. You do not need to have a pap smear if you have undergone a total hysterectomy. This is one of the most confusing screenings to get a handle on because of all of the variable factors, making it important that you stay in touch with your medical care provider about what is the best screening path for you.
Once you hit age 45, you should be diligent about getting regular cholesterol screenings. These levels should be checked every five years if there is nothing worrisome presented in the initial screening. The testing may need to be repeated sooner if you undergo significant weight gain. Other types of health risk factors may necessitate that you check your levels more frequently.
In addition to these regular screenings, it is important that you stay on top of your immunizations. A yearly flu shot should be a part of your regular wellness routine. Depending on your overall health and risk factors, your doctor may also recommend a pneumococcal vaccine. Other boosters that should be on your list include a tetanus-diphtheria booster every 10 years and a shingles immunization after the age of 50.
Keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive medical checklist. The decision about what medical screenings to perform is a personal call between you and your physician that should be based on your family history and other risk factors. However, using this list as a general guideline is a good start as you look ahead to your medical future.
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