HCA Midwest Health - December 11, 2017
by Diane Utz- Certified Nurse Midwife, Research Medical Center

As women, we often focus on the well-being of others before we tend to ourselves. But racing against the clock every day, it’s important to remember who should be at the top of your never-ending to-do list: you.

Kick off 2018 with healthy habits—incorporate regular exercise, stress management, wise food choices and schedule routine health screenings into your New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps you’ve had a friend whose breast cancer was caught in its early stages or one who was discovered to be pre-diabetic because of a screening. As a healthcare provider, I advise patients that regular tests can help with early detection of cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and more, preventing potential complications and improving overall quality of life—something that’s easily within your reach. 

The screening tests you need depend on age, family history, personal health history and other risk factors. A one-hour visit to your healthcare provider annually for a well-woman exam and these nine screening tests could change the course of your life.

And do me a favor—share with a friend. After all, we’re in this pursuit of health and happiness together.

Mammograms

The low-dose X-ray can often find a lump before you feel it; the earlier breast cancer is detected, the better your chance of a cure.

  • In your 20s and 30s your healthcare provider may perform a breast exam every one to three years—as part of your regular check-up—and teach you how to perform self-exams.
  • The American Cancer Society recommends that women should have annual screenings beginning at age 45 and switch to a biannual mammogram at age 55.
  • If you’re at high risk for breast cancer because of family history or other factors, consult with your healthcare provider about annual screenings. 

Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can cause life-threatening heart attack or stroke and as a woman ages—and especially if she is overweight—there’s an increased risk of high blood pressure.

  • Blood pressure readings include two numbers: Systolic is the pressure of your blood when your heart beats and 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.
  • During your 20s, have blood pressure checked at least once every two years; 40 years or older—or if you’re an African-American woman or have conditions like obesity that put you at a higher risk for hypertension—the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends annual screening.

Cholesterol

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. This build-up happens silently, for many years without symptoms, eventually causing a heart attack or stroke.
  • If you’re age 20 or older, have your cholesterol measured at least once every five years.
  • If you’re at risk for heart attack or stroke, consult with your healthcare provider about frequency of testing. 

Pap Smears

This test finds abnormal cells on the cervix, which can be removed before ever turning into cancer.

  • Beginning at age 21 and until age 65, have a Pap smear every three years.
  • If you’re 30 or older, you can have the test every five years if combined with a screen for HPV, an STD that can lead to cervical cancer.

Diabetes

It’s shocking, but 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.
  • Beginning at age 45, get a blood glucose test every three years unless you’re at high risk.

Bone Density

Low-dose X-ray captures images of your bones, testing bone strength and density for early detection of osteoporosis.   

  • Fact: After menopause, women start to lose more bone mass. The first symptom can be a painful break after even a minor fall, blow, or sudden twist.
  • Schedule a screening at age 65 or, if you have risk factors like low body weight or fractures, make an appointment.
  • Frequency of screening will be determined by bone density and other factors.

Colon Cancer

Like breast cancer, this is another disease where early detection is important.

  • Have your colon cancer screening at age 50—either a sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy.
  • Unless a problem is found or you have a family history of the disease or other risk factors, a sigmoidoscopy is repeated every five years and a colonoscopy every 10 years.

Skin Examination

New moles or changes to existing moles can be early signs of skin cancer.

  • The American Cancer Society recommends women examine their skin every month at home.
  • If you’re at increased risk for skin cancer or have a family history of the disease, talk to your healthcare provider or dermatologist about a strategy for regular skin checks.

Body Mass Index

Your BMI indicates whether or not you’re obese—a condition that increases risk of serious health issues like heart disease and diabetes.

  • Get screened for obesity beginning at age 18—and discuss with your healthcare provider the frequency of future BMI calculations.

tags: midwifery , t4b