If you’re a woman, visits to the physician for your annual exam requires going beyond checking of weight and cholesterol screening as you age. The longer you live, the more susceptible you become to conditions and diseases that might have been prevented—or perhaps treated to improve the quality of life—if only common health screenings had been done.

So, which tests do you need, and when?

Let’s take a look at the top 10 must-have health tests for women.

These are some good guidelines to follow….

Thyroid Function Test

It is important to  momitor thyroid hormone levels in order to detect thyroid disorders. Women should normally have a thyroid function test starting at age 35 and then every 5 years thereafter. More frequent testing may be needed depending on symptoms or risk factors. (2)

Eye Exams

Regular eye exams help to detect vision problems and eye diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration before they become a bigger health problem. Women should have a comprehensive eye exam every 1-2 years. More frequent exams may be needed based on age, risk factors, and vision changes. (3,4)


Blood sugar test. Pre-diabetes and type-2 diabetes have arrived at near-epidemic levels in America, and people with high insulin levels could be more likely to develop pancreatic, urinary tract and skin cancer, even if diabetes doesn’t exist. Starting at age 45 and every 3 years thereafter , you should get tested.  This test screens for diabetes by measuring blood sugar levels. Women with risk factors such as obesity or a family history of unhealthy glucose levels may need more frequent testing. (5,6)

Colonoscopy. Almost 150,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colon cancer this year. The American Cancer Society 2018 guideline for colorectal cancer screening recommends that adults aged 45 years or older should do regular screening with either a high-sensitivity stool-based test or a structural (visual) exam or a colonoscopy, a technique in which a long, lit tube is inserted into the colon which helps your physician find abnormal clusters of cells before they have a chance to turn cancerous.  On a positive note, when the colon cancer is caught in the early stages, the chance of survival is very high. Current guidelines require colonoscopies be done every ten years beginning at age 45. If you have risk factors—a history of colon cancer in your family, for example—your doctor may want to start testing you sooner….and possibly more often. (7,8)

Full-body skin exam. If you don’t already see a dermatologist, add one to your list of specialists and schedule regular yearly exams. He or she should examine your entire body for any visible signs of skin cancer. Women should perform monthly self-exams as well. Simply  stand undressed in a well-lit room in front of a mirror and check yourself every month.More frequent exams may be needed based on skin type, history of sun exposure, and family history. (9,10)

Mammograms. It is recommended by the American Cancer Society that women have yearly mammograms starting at the age of 40, to detect the possibility of breast cancer. Earlier exams may be worthwhile if you have a family history of breast or other types of cancer. (11) Here is how often you should get tested according to your age:

Women between 40 and 44 – Start screening every year.

Women 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.

Women 55 and older test every other year, and continue for as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live another 10 years or more (11)

According to the American Cancer Society, “Breast cancers found during screening exams are more likely to be smaller and less likely to have spread outside the breast. The size of a breast cancer and how far it has spread are some of the most important factors in predicting the prognosis (outlook) of a woman with this disease.” (11)

Pap smears and HPV tests. It is recommended that women get a Pap smear at their gynecologist’s office yearly before the age of thirty to detect cervical cancer. From that time forward, if three normal tests are given in a row, the Pap smear should then be done every two to three years. (1)

Bone Density Test (DEXA Scan)

Test checks for women experiencing or having a family history of osteoporosis are important so you can monitor bone density. Women aged 65 and older should have a bone density test. Younger women with risk factors for osteoporosis should also be tested. (12,13)

Cholesterol Test

Cholesterol is a fatty substance present in all body cells . It travels as particles in your blood called lipoproteins. The three most common lipoproteins are low-density lipoproteins (LDL), high-density lipoproteins (HDL), and very low density lipoproteins (VLDL).

Medical studies show that elevated levels of LDL cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of  blockages in  coronary arteries. HDL cholesterol helps to reduce that risk. On the other hand, LDL is known as the  “bad cholesterol” and needs to be monitored

Cholesterol tests help assess heart disease risk. Women should start testing at age 20 and repeat every 4-6 years. More frequent testing may be needed based on risk factors. (15)

Pelvic exam. Your ob-gyn should be doing a pelvic exam at your annual or biannual visit but you should make an appointment to have one right away if you’re experiencing any pelvic pain, extreme bloating, vaginal spotting or bleeding, or an uncontrollable and frequent need to urinate for more than a couple of weeks.

Don’t delay! By getting the appropriate tests and exams, you may possibly prevent a deadly condition down the road.

In our opinion, the Mediterranean diet is consistently  one of the healthiest diets to maintain long-term health. There is an emphasis on  fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats ( like olive oil and cocunut oil). It also includes regular servings of  amounts of fish ( especially wild salmon and fresh river caught trout). It is important to limit red meat and dairy.

Benefits:

  • Rich in antioxidants- fights inflammation.
  • Promotes heart health- helps lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol.
  • helps reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

References:

(1)https://www.thyroid.org/thyroid-function-tests/

(2)https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/eye-exams-101

(3)https://www.mayoclinic.org/departments-centers/ophthalmology/sections/tests-procedures/orc-20518571

(4)https://diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/newly-diagnosed/health-checks-people-with-diabetes

(5)https://www.cancer.org/health-care-professionals/american-cancer-society-prevention-early-detection-guidelines/colorectal-cancer-screening-guidelines.html

(6)https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/colonoscopy/about/pac-20393569

(7)https://www.aad.org/member/career/volunteer/spot

(8)https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/skin-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20377605

(9)https://www.cancer.org/cancer/types/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/american-cancer-society-recommendations-for-the-early-detection-of-breast-cancer.html

(10)https://www.bonehealthandosteoporosis.org/patients/diagnosis-information/bone-density-examtesting/

(11)https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/bone-density-test/about/pac-20385273

(12)https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/01.cir.0000141564.89465.4e#:

(13)https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/01.cir.0000141564.89465.4e#:

Diet Review: Mediterranean Diet

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