HealthSmart

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Mon, May 2, 2016 at 12:00 AM

Women's health: What you need to know to take care of you

Mother’s Day kicks off National Women’s Health Week and National Women’s Screening Day, reminding women that their health is important.

National Women’s Health Week is a reminder to women to make their health a priority. We've outlined some simple steps to taking care of your health, what to ensure your doctor covers in your annual checkup and what screenings you should make sure you get.


Where to start

• Visit a doctor or nurse to receive regular checkups and preventive screenings.

• Get active.

• Eat healthy.

• Pay attention to mental health, including getting enough sleep and managing stress.

• Avoid unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, texting while driving and not wearing a seatbelt or bicycle helmet.


What to do at your annual check-up

Women's annual check-ups are now considered a preventive service and must be covered by most health plans at no cost to you. If your doctor or nurse says you need more than one check-up in a year, the additional visits are also covered. During your check-up, go over these things with your doctor to maintain optimal health:

• Discuss your family history, family planning, and personal habits, such as alcohol and tobacco use.

• Get or schedule necessary tests, such as screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, and colorectal cancer.

• Set health goals, such as being active and maintaining a healthy weight.


What screenings you need

Annual check-ups should include the necessary screenings, based on your age. Screenings are extremely important because they can find diseases early when they are easier to treat. Screenings can also identify other problems and help lower your risk for many conditions, such as heart disease. During your annual check-up, you can receive or schedule many screenings free of charge.

Here is a handy checklist of the annual health screenings you should be getting and when you should get them. Bookmark this page to keep it readily available, or create a spreadsheet to keep a health record.

Blood Pressure Screening

Why: If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease and stroke.

When: Beginning at age 18, annually; more often, if high; every two years, if normal.

Breast Self-Exam

Why: It’s important to check for abnormalities in your breasts and report them to your doctor.

When: Beginning at age 20, monthly.

Cholesterol Screening

Why: Abnormal cholesterol levels such as high LDL (bad) or low HDL (good) are a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

When: Beginning at age 20; at least every five years, if normal.

Clinical Breast Exam

Why: Clinical Breast Exams are conducted by a medical professional in addition to mammograms to check women for any signs of breast cancer.

When: Beginning at age 20, every three years; annually after age 40.

Fasting Blood Glucose Test

Why: If left untreated, high blood glucose or “blood sugar” can increase the risk for heart disease and stroke.

When: Annually

Mammogram

Why: Mammograms are performed to screen healthy women for signs of breast cancer.

When: Baseline mammogram between ages 35-40; annually after that.

Pap Smear

Why: Pap smear is one of the best tools to detect cervical cancer at its earliest stages.

When: Annually beginning at age 18 or as soon as sexually active.

Bone Density Test

Why: A bone density test is one of the most accurate ways to assess your bone health and can help confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis.

When: Recommended for postmenopausal women under age 65; all women after age 65; sooner if at increased risk.

Skin Cancer Screening

Why: Skin cancer usually starts out as a precancerous lesion—changesin the skin that are not cancer, but could become cancer over time.

When: Perform a self-exam on a monthly basis; clinical screening every three years (adults age 20-39); annually after age 40.

Thyroid Stimulating Hormone

Why: Levels outside of the normal range can indicate a problem with the thyroid gland that needs further testing.

When: Beginning at age 35; every few years after that based on your doctor’s discretion.

Colorectal Cancer Screening

Why: By undergoing a routine colonoscopy, benign growths in the colon known as polyps can be easily removed. If left inside the colon, these polyps have the potential to develop into cancer.

When: Colonoscopy—Beginning at age 50, every 10 years; more frequently if you have a family history.


Tips for finding the right physician

Sometimes the hardest part of finding the right doctor is knowing where to start.

• Find Dr. Right. Choose a primary care physician you’re comfortable with and have confidence in. Ask about the office hours, the doctor’s treatment philosophy and who will care for you when your doctor is unavailable.

• Be prepared. Even the best doctors are not mind readers so tell them everything about your health. Be honest about your personal and family medical history. If you are experiencing symptoms, tell your doctor everything about them.

• Ask questions. Write down your questions beforehand. When your doctor tells you something you don’t understand, ask questions. Start by repeating back in your own words what your doctor tells you.

• Seek a second opinion. If you are uncomfortable with a diagnosis or treatment plan, get a second opinion. And don’t worry about offending your doctor. A good physician will want you to be comfortable with your diagnosis.

Our Find A Physician feature makes it easy to find the right doctor for you. Search by specialty here.

Our Vision: To provide world-class healthcare with a personal touch.