We all know that annual checkups are important for maintaining good health because they offer an opportunity to catch things early when conditions are most treatable. Getting a testable baseline on your health also allows doctors to track your progress over time. But ladies listen up; there are a handful of screenings that you should consider that may fall outside the lines of your normal physical.
Starting at age 21 you will want to start adding these to your wellness exams. Doctors stress the importance of early adulthood because it’s during this period when many of us drop off the radar in terms of annual doctor visits. Because, after all, we’re past the age when our parents take us to the pediatrician and we feel great, right? But a lot could go wrong and it often starts in your twenties.
Health screenings every woman should consider
Pap & HPV testing. Women should begin having Pap tests at age 21, and the test should be repeated at least every three years. HPV co-testing with Pap should start at age 30 and you should be re-screened at least every five years. Also have your gyno screen for STDs.
Heart Screening. At age 21 women should begin the earliest form of cardiac screening. It should include weight and body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, cholesterol levels, glucose levels and waist circumference, all of which are directly associated with heart health. At some point you will likely need an EKG (electrocardiogram) as well to provide a more in-depth look.
Skin exam. Those years of tanning may catch up to you. At age 18, start checking your skin monthly for suspicious moles or color changes, especially if you’re fair-skinned or exposed to the sun constantly. Report anything suspicious to your doctor. By age 40 if not sooner, visit the dermatologist for an annual skin exam.
Diabetes screening. Start this by age 35, earlier if you have risk factors including obesity.
Colonoscopy. This is one of the most successful screeners ever. The colonoscopy looks for polyps which could turn into colon cancer and removes them in the same procedure. Essentially eliminating the possibility of getting colorectal cancer. Screening should begin at age 45, sooner if you have a family history.
Cholesterol test. Cholesterol screening should begin at age 45 for women with no risk factors and at 20 for those with risk factors.
Lung cancer screening. At age 50 if you currently smoke or have a history of smoking, get this screening.
Bone density test. Surprisingly, bone health is a big deal in terms of good health in old age. Our bone density peaks somewhere between 25 and 30. As we age, brittle bones become a big problem. Women, especially, may be more likely to fall and break a bone in old age. To get a read on your risk you can get a baseline at age 50. Otherwise, the general guideline is to start by age 65.
Many doctors will refer to these as “well women” visits. If you follow these general health screenings guidelines, it should serve you well in your later years — helping you stay stronger, longer.