Putting Off Your Annual Exam? Here’s Why You Need A Doctor’s Visit
Many women tend to put off going to the doctor. But an annual check-up is a crucial time to evaluate ongoing health and take preventive steps to avoid disease. Consider these 4 health screenings every woman should have before the age of 40.
1. Pap smear
Starting at age 21, every woman should have a Pap smear every 3 years. Pap tests are crucial screenings that look for signs of abnormal cells or other changes associated with cervical cancer. If a woman has a negative test for human papillomavirus (HPV) or has 3 consecutive screenings that come back normal, a physician may recommend getting Pap smears less frequently. Regardless, by the age of 40, a woman should have had at least 3 screenings.
2. Breast cancer screening
Most women only think of mammograms when considering breast cancer screening. But women should have a breast exam at every annual check-up, as well as complete monthly self-exams between appointments. If a woman has a family history of breast cancer, a healthcare provider may also recommend genetic screening, such as checking for the BRCA gene mutation. Based on the findings of genetic testing, a physician may recommend screening mammograms before the age of 40.
3. Cholesterol test
A fasting lipoprotein profile is a blood test to evaluate a woman’s total cholesterol, LDL, and HDL cholesterol levels. Experts recommend that women begin having these tests at age 20 with follow-up tests every 4-6 years. If a woman has a higher risk of heart disease or stroke, a physician may recommend checking cholesterol more frequently.
4. Blood pressure check
Regular blood pressure checks are essential because high blood pressure is a serious condition that often shows no symptoms. In general, high blood pressure increases a woman’s risk of heart disease and stroke. Starting at age 20, women should have blood pressure checked at least once every 2 years. If a woman has a blood pressure of higher than 120/80mmHg, a doctor may recommend checking more often.
What else can I do?
Regular screenings are a crucial part of optimal health. There are some additional steps women can take to improve health, both before and after the age of 40. Exercise regularly, choose a diet full of fruits and vegetables and limit alcohol consumption. For more information about improving health, speak with a healthcare provider.