A nutritious diet and daily exercise can promote long-term health, but preventative care also plays a key role in keeping adults healthy as they age. Routine health screenings can head off potential problems, preventing illnesses and possibly limiting the duration of sickness.
Women may have longer life expectancies than their male counterparts, but that does not mean they can afford to overlook preventative care. The following are five health screenings women should include as part of their healthy routines.
1. Pap tests and pelvic exams: Beginning at age 21 (or earlier if they are sexually active), every woman should get regular Pap smears and pelvic exams to test for any abnormalities in their reproductive systems. Pap smears may be suggested every two to three years depending on a woman's age. A routine visit with a gynecologist is recommended annually to discuss any changes or worrisome symptoms.
2. Mammograms and breast exams: In addition to conducting self examinations, women should get clinical manual breast exams. Women age 40 and older should get a manual breast exam each year and an annual or bi-annual mammogram.
3. Cholesterol checks: The ideal level of total cholesterol is below 200 mg/DL. Individuals with a higher level of cholesterol may be at a greater risk for heart disease. Cholesterol screenings can alert doctors to potential trouble and help them develop plans for their patients to lower cholesterol levels. Doctors may suggest dietary changes and advise women to adopt more active lifestyles. Some doctors may even prescribe medication if cholesterol levels are especially high.
4. Skin examination and cancer screening: Women should examine their skin every month for new moles or changes in existing spots or moles to detect early signs of skin cancer. Be sure to check all areas of the body, as skin cancer can appear just about everywhere. Some doctors perform skin cancer screenings as part of routine physical exams, or women can visit a dermatologist.
5. Bone density screening: Those with a risk for osteoporosis, such as women with fractured bones or slender frames, should be screened earlier and more regularly than women without such histories or body types. Doctors generally recommend that women receive annual bone density screenings beginning at age 65. Healthy bones will show a T-score, or the measurement to determine bone density, of -1 or higher.
These suggested screenings and tests are based on general medical guidance. Women should work with their doctors to develop wellness schedules that promote their long-term health.