If you’re like most women, you’re so busy taking care of the people around you — children, parents, your spouse — that you often neglect your own health. That’s a big problem, because the research shows that when women concentrate on their own well-being, it can make themselves and everyone around them happier and healthier.
To help women take steps to be healthy, a number of organizations across the nation have designated May 10-16 as National Women’s Health Week. The week is a great time for you to evaluate your health, schedule appointments and screenings, and start developing healthy habits.
To help you get on the path to a healthier lifestyle, Women’s Health Week features a National Women’s Checkup Day. Scheduled for Monday, May 11, the day has a simple mission: to encourage women to visit their doctors to receive or schedule a checkup. It’s no secret that regular checkups are essential for early detection of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, mental health illnesses, sexually transmitted infections and other conditions. It’s also no secret that if you don’t go to the doctor, you’ll never know what’s wrong with you, and you’ll never be able to get whatever help you may need.
Here are some important facts about checkups:
• Screenings, such as mammograms and Pap tests, help doctors find diseases in their early stages. The earlier a disease is detected, the easier it is to treat.
• It’s important to get in the habit of going for screenings and checkups. Just like taking your car into the shop for a tune-up, regular health screenings can help you prevent problems before they occur. Screenings can also lower your risks of certain conditions, such as heart disease.
What kinds of tests should I get?
All women are different, and all women need different tests at different times. However, there are some general screenings and immunizations for all women. Here are some tips from the organizers of National Women’s Health Week:
• General health: Women of all ages should regularly schedule full checkups, including measurements for height and weight.
• Heart health: Blood pressure tests and cholesterol tests should always be a part of a regular checkup.
• Bone health: As women get older, bone health becomes more and more important. Starting around age 40, women should discuss bone density tests with their doctors and nurses.
• Diabetes: Like bone health, diabetes is a more serious concern as women get older. Starting around age 45, women should get a blood glucose test every three years. Women with diabetes in their family should start earlier.
• Breast health: Starting in their 20s, women should schedule regular clinical breast exams. Starting in their 40s, women should make plans for regular mammograms.
• Reproductive health: Women should schedule Pap tests every one to three years if they are sexually active or older than 21. Pelvic exams should take place every year. Women should also consider chlamydia tests and tests for sexually transmitted diseases depending on their personal situations.
• Colorectal health: Beginning around age 50, women should receive regular colorectal screenings.
• Eye and ear health: Women of all ages should have regular eye and ear exams.
• Skin health: Women should conduct self-exams for moles and make skin exams part of regular doctor’s visits.
• Immunizations: Talk to your doctor about getting shots for influenza, tetanus-diphtheria and other conditions.
• Mental health: Women should discuss any mental health issues with their doctors to determine appropriate treatment.
• Oral health: Go to the dentist. Routine dental checkups and procedures can have a tremendous impact on your overall health.
These are just some general tips on screenings and checkups. Work with your doctor to find out what you need, when you need it and how often.
How to get involved
To take part in National Women’s Checkup Day, get in touch with your current doctor or nurse and make an appointment. If you don’t have a doctor, take steps to get one. Contact your health insurance company, the human resources or benefits department where you work, or stop by your local health clinic or community center for advice.
Once you’ve scheduled a checkup, make a plan. Write down some questions and bring them along. Be sure to include questions about screenings and tests you might need, and talk to your doctor about which tests are right for you, when you should have them and how often. Also, be sure to tell the doctor about any health problems you’ve had in the past, your current symptoms (if you have any) and your family’s medical history. Above all, be prepared, ask questions, and be honest. It’s your health, and you need to take charge.
If you need help preparing for a checkup, there are lots of resources that can help you. Go online and visit http://www.womenshealth.gov. Click on the link for National Women’s Health Week. There you’ll find “A Checklist for Your Next Checkup,” a screening chart and immunization tool, and much more.