Even if you feel like the picture of health, it is still important that you visit your doctor on a regular basis for routine screenings. There may be things happening inside of your body that you aren’t aware of. Detecting some of these changes early can literally be the difference between life and death. As a woman, there are five preventative screenings that should never be overlooked:
Blood Pressure Screening
High blood pressure can be indicative of heart disease, high cholesterol and other maladies. Have your blood pressure checked when you turn 18 and every year or two thereafter. An ideal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg; anything higher could mean that you are suffering from some type of illness. A blood pressure screening is a very simple test where your doctor will wrap a cuff around your arm and inflate it, using a stethoscope and numbered dial to determine your blood pressure.
You should have your cholesterol checked starting at age 20. A screening every five years is typical for most women, though your doctor may put you on a different schedule if she feels that it is necessary. Your cholesterol levels are measured with a simple blood taken at your doctor’s office or a lab. Your total cholesterol level should be below 200 mg/dL, or milligrams per deciliter. If your cholesterol is above normal levels, your doctor may advise you to make lifestyle changes or put your on prescription medication for a specific period of time.
Women should receive their first pelvic exam when they become sexually active or when they turn 21, whichever comes first. Once you have three normal tests in a row, your doctor may recommend a pelvic exam once every three years instead of annually. During a pelvic exam, your gynecologist will remove cells from the cervix in order to check these cells for abnormalities that may indicate cervical cancer. Your doctor may screen for STDs during your exam depending on your sexual history.
Your gynecologist will perform a manual breast exam during the same appointment in which you receive your pelvic exam. Your doctor will use her fingers to manipulate and press your breasts, feeling for any abnormalities or lumps. Your doctor can show you how to perform the same type of exam on your own at home. Once you turn age 40, your doctor will schedule you for a mammogram. These diagnostic tests are conducted every two years for the rest of your life.
Beginning at age 18, women should examine their own skin once a month. At age 20, women should schedule an appointment with a dermatologist for a skin examination. Because melanoma is the deadliest form of cancer, early detection is absolutely imperative. When examining your own skin, be alert to any changes to moles that you already have and make note of new moles that have appeared. If any of your moles have changed in shape, size or texture, make an appointment with your dermatologist immediately.
Because some abnormalities can develop into illness, and because some illness can ultimately prove to be fatal, it’s important that you receive regular preventative screenings. Most diseases can be treated successfully if they are caught in their earliest stages. Even if you feel healthy, don’t neglect to visit your doctor for preventative screenings; you might save your own life.
Tess Law writes for health and nutrition blogs and journals in Baltimore, MD. She writes for www.healthtestingcenters.com where you can find more tips on staying healthy and fit.