HCA Midwest Health - May 14, 2015
by Amy Mendus, Certified Nurse Midwife, Specialists in Womens Care, Overland Park Regional Medical Center

As women, it’s easy to lose ourselves by focusing on those around us—tending to spouses, children and aging parents. Most days we race against the clock and our to-do list— maintaining a rapid pace of running errands, transporting kids from school to activities, meeting deadlines at the office, keeping a household on schedule.

But as a healthcare provider, I tell my patients the most important schedule to keep is one that will help ensure a happy and healthy life—which includes getting checked early to prevent diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and even osteoporosis. The old adage, “If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else” is so true.

The screening tests you need depend on your age, family history, personal health history, and other risk factors.  Most deadly diseases can be prevented—take action now to care for you.  A one-hour visit to your healthcare provider annually and six easy, simple, and painless tests can lead to a lifetime of good health and happiness. 

This year, give yourself the priceless gift of health and pledge to schedule these tests.

Breast Cancer

Remember: The earlier breast cancer is detected, the better your chance of a cure.

  • If you’re in your 20s or 30s, your healthcare provider will perform a breast exam as part of your regular check-up every one to three years—and teach you how to perform self-exams.
  • Once you hit age 40, have an annual mammogram—a low-dose X-ray that will find a lump before you can feel it.

Cervical Cancer

Remember: With regular Pap smears, cervical cancer is easy to prevent.

  • Pap smears find abnormal cells on the cervix, which can be removed before they ever turn into cancer.

Blood Pressure

Remember: High blood pressure can cause life-threatening heart attack or stroke and as a woman ages—and especially if she is overweight—her risk of high blood pressure increases,

  • Blood pressure readings include two numbers. The first (systolic) is the pressure of your blood when your heart beats. The second (diastolic) is the pressure between beats.
  • Normal adult blood pressure is below 120/80. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is 140/90 or above.

Cholesterol

Remember: Heart attack is the number one killer of women, so early screening of cholesterol and blood pressure is critical.

  • High cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking can cause plaque to clog your arteries.
  • Plaque can build up, silently, for many years without symptoms, eventually causing a heart attack or stroke.
  • Prior to a cholesterol test, fast for 12 hours. Then you’ll take a blood test that measures total cholesterol, LDL "bad" cholesterol, HDL "good" cholesterol, and triglycerides (blood fat).

Diabetes

Remember: One-third of Americans with diabetes don’t know they have the disease that can cause heart or kidney disease and stroke.

  • Diabetes is tested by a simple blood test, and fasting for eight hours is required. A blood sugar level of 100-125 may show pre-diabetes; 126 or higher may mean diabetes.
  • Diabetes—especially when found early—can be controlled with diet, exercise, weight loss, and medication.

Osteoporosis

Remember: Osteoporosis is a state when a person’s bones are weak and fragile.

  • After menopause, women start to lose more bone mass.
  • The first symptom is often a painful break after even a minor fall, blow, or sudden twist.
  • A special type of X-ray called a dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) can measure bone strength and find osteoporosis before breaks happen. It can also help predict the risk of future breaks.