Benjamin Franklin has rightly said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Getting checked early can help you stop diseases like cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis in the very beginning, when they’re easier to treat. In fact, health screenings can make keeping tabs on your health simple.
As you get older, your health needs change. Are you and your doctor keeping up? From STD tests to colonoscopies, here are the most important health tests for women.
In your 20s
Get your first at age 21, then once every five years until age 40, when you should start getting a yearly physical exam. Make sure to get checks on your blood sugar, cholesterol, thyroid function, liver/kidney function, vitamin D and B12.
Blood pressure screening
Starting at age 20, every woman needs to have her blood pressure checked at least every two years. Ideal blood pressure for women is less than 120/80 mmHg (millimetres of mercury).
This test can spot the earliest signs of cervical cancer, when the chance of curing it is very high. Get the Pap test at your yearly gynaecological exam, starting at age 21. At age 30, if you've had three consecutive normal results, you may only need a Pap every three years until age 65.
Of the 19 million new STD infections each year, almost half of them are among 15-24 year-olds. If left untreated, some of these can lead to infertility down the road. Get tested annually for HIV, Chlamydia, and Gonorrhoea when you become sexually active (or when you're starting a new relationship).
Melanoma is the leading cause of cancer death for women ageing 25-29. The incidences among young women have increased by 50 percent over the last 30 years (largely due to the use of tanning beds). See a dermatologist annually if you have a family history of skin cancer, or semi-annually if you have actually had the disease.
In your 30s
HPV (Human papillomavirus) is the leading cause of cervical cancer and most sexually active women get the infection at some point. Beginning at around the age of 30, women become more prone to this infection because their immune systems are less robust. Get the test at age 30 and then with your Pap every three years if results are normal.
Blood Sugar Test
Anything above normal should be checked out, so the doctor can intervene before it becomes full-blown diabetes. Get tested every three years until you turn 50, when you should be tested annually (the risk of diabetes increases significantly with age).
In your 40s
Start getting physicals annually at 40, and include this test particularly if you smoke or have high blood pressure, diabetes or family history of heart disease.
In your 50s
The overall risk of getting breast cancer increases with age — between ages 50 and 59, 1 in 42 women are likely to develop it. This number climbs to 1 in every 29 for women aged 60 to 69. Early detection and treatment help prevent the spread of the disease and boost your odds of recovery. Get one done every two years.
Go in for the procedure at age 50, then every 10 years to screen for colorectal cancer, the second leading killer in the U.S. among all cancers. Adults ageing 50 and over run the highest risk of developing the disease, but studies show that people who get a colonoscopy every 10 years have better outcomes if they do develop the cancer.
Because these tests are considered preventive, many insurance plans cover them. While vital for your continued good health, some of these tests can be expensive — so call your insurance company or check your plan’s certificate to determine coverage before making needed appointments.
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