As women age, we face a unique set of health challenges. In order to maintain long-term health, prevention and early detection of medical conditions and diseases is incredibly important. Recently, Dr. Scott Dinesen of Dinesen & Associates OBGYN & Infertility shared with us the four exams that are essential for promoting life-long health in women. While you should always consult your doctor and follow prescribed testing and approaches to address your specific health conditions, depending on your stage of life, the following exams are highly recommended to provide you and your doctor the basic measures of your health:
1. Pap Smear
A Pap Smear, or Pap Test, is an exam that helps detect cervical cancer in women. Often caused by HPV, it is estimated that this disease is responsible for nearly 4,300 deaths a year.
When should I get a Pap Smear?
- Ages 21-29. Women of this age should receive a Pap Smear every three years
- Ages 30 – 64. It is recommended that an HPV test and a Pap Smear are performed together every 5 years.
- Ages 60+. The age at which most women may not need this exam. Some women may require more frequent Pap Smear tests if they have a history of a weakened immune system, past abnormal Pap Smear results, or have tested positive for HIV.
2. Blood Pressure Test
Some can overlook the value of such a simple and accessible test, but a blood pressure test can help detect early signs of diabetes or other cardiac abnormalities. Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. In fact, one in every four deaths in women is attributed to heart disease.
Who Should I Get A Blood Pressure Test?
Women of All Ages. Get tested at least every two years if your blood pressure is normal (120/80 or lower). Get tested once a year if your blood pressure is between 120/80 and 139/89. If your blood pressure is higher than the outlined ranges, discuss treatment options with your doctor.
A mammogram is an x-ray image of the breast that is used to detect early signs of breast cancer. Approximately one out of every eight women will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime.
When do I need a mammogram?
- Ages 1 – 39. Most women do not need to have a mammogram performed at this age unless recommended by your physician or if you have a significant family history of breast cancer.
- Ages 40+. Once you reach the age of 40, screening is recommended every year. Women who are at high-risk for breast cancer may want to consider receiving a mammogram earlier. Common risk-factors include women with a family history of breast cancer, those who’ve received radiation treatment near face or chest before the age of 30, or women who’ve undergone hormone replacement therapy
4. Bone Density Test
Women are more susceptible to bone density loss, especially after menopause. Osteoporosis can be treated, but it is important to catch the problem early in order to prevent further bone loss and provide the most effective treatment. Typically, bone density tests are done using a DEXA Scan. This procedure measures the density of bones in areas of the body that are prone to breaks and fractures, such as the spine, hips and forearms.
When should I get a bone density test?
- Ages 18 – 64. Most women in this age range do not need to get bone density tests, but your doctor may choose to perform one if you meet certain high-risk criteria.
- Ages 65+. Bones naturally become thinner as you age, so most cases of osteoporosis are seen at this stage of life.
5. Annual GYN Exam
It cannot be stressed enough that your annual GYN exam is critical to your life-long health. This exam offers invaluable insight into a number of areas critical to your overall wellness. More than just your Pap, your doctor will screen for a range of possible threats to your overall wellness.
Author: Scott Dinesen, DO, FACOG with Dinesen & Associates OBGYN & Infertility.
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