The Top Eight Health Screenings For Women
Regular health screenings for women are essential for maintaining overall health. For some conditions, symptoms are not always apparent right away. Early detection can be the key to preventing or being able to better manage a disease.
Every woman has her own unique health needs, depending on family history, age, lifestyle, and other risk factors. Your health care provider can help you decide when you should have these eight health screenings for women.
Checking Your Cholesterol Levels
Many women minimize their risk for heart disease, but it affects as many women as it does men. High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease, so it’s essential that women know and monitor their levels.
According to the CDC, healthy cholesterol levels are:
- Total, less than 200
- LDL, less than 100
- HDL, 60 or greater
LDL is sometimes referred to as “bad” cholesterol, while HDL is referred to as “good.” Cholesterol levels can be checked with a simple blood test.
Breast cancer is easier to treat when detected early. Some women develop breast cancer without having any of these known risk factors:
- Family history
- Being 50 years of age or older
- Previous radiation therapy
Most health insurance plans are required to cover mammograms starting at age 40, with no out-of-pocket costs to you. How often you should get a mammogram will depend on many factors. You and your health care provider can discuss a schedule that is right for you.
High Blood Pressure
Many women with high blood pressure aren’t even aware of it. There are 103 million adults in the U.S. with high blood pressure, but many haven’t been diagnosed or aren’t experiencing any symptoms. High blood pressure puts you at risk for a stroke or heart attack. It can also affect your vision and your kidneys.
According to the American Heart Association, blood pressure ranges are:
- Normal: systolic less than 120 and diastolic less than 80
- Elevated: systolic 120-129 and diastolic less than 80
- Hypertensive: Systolic 130 or greater and diastolic 80 or greater are considered hypertensive
Blood Glucose Levels
Even if you don’t have a family history of diabetes, it’s important to get your blood glucose levels checked. There are several tests available, and your doctor will choose the best one for you. Early detection is important because some people with pre-diabetes are able to return their blood glucose levels within the normal range.
Healthy blood glucose levels will depend on which test you have done: A1C, fasting glucose, or oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). The American Diabetes Association has the following guidelines:
- A1C: less than 5.7
- Fasting glucose: less than 100
- OGTT: less than 140
Between the ages of 21 and 65, most women should have regular pap smears. A pap smear checks for cancer and precancerous cells. Pap smears can also screen for HPV.
How often you should have a pap smear depends on many factors. Your health care provider will take into account your family history of cervical cancer and sexual activity.
Even if you don’t currently wear glasses or contacts, eye exams are still important. Regular eye exams catch conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration. Also, many people don’t realize that their vision has deteriorated until they wear glasses or contacts for the first time.
The CDC recommends eye exams:
- Yearly for women with diabetes
- Typically every two years for most adults
- Anytime you experience visual disturbances such as double vision or floaters
A bone density test can diagnose osteoporosis before you break any bones. Besides family history, osteoporosis risk factors include:
- Being over the age of 50
- Broken bones
- Small frame
- Height loss
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends bone density tests for:
- Women age 65 and older
- Post-menopausal under age 65 who have risk factors
There are several bone density tests available. All testing methods are painless and non-invasive. The most common test is dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, commonly called “DXA.”
A hemoglobin test detects anemia, which is a condition caused by your body not having enough red blood cells. Anemia symptoms include fatigue, cold hands and feet, and an irregular heartbeat. Anemia risk factors include:
- Being of menstruation age
Hemoglobin can be tested with a blood test.