A woman has multiple roles to fit in; she is a hardcore multitasker! However, amid prioritizing family, career, and home responsibilities, she often forgets to prioritize her health. Staying healthy for a woman should be one of her crucial goals in life which require regular exercise, stress management, and eating right. Besides these, scheduling routine health screening is of utmost importance in order to identify early warning signs and diagnose potential problems at the correct time.
Health tests for women
Screening test becomes more critical in women because the anatomical setup of their bodies makes them more susceptible to certain health conditions. In addition, hormonal and sociological elements vary according to their age, which in turn, can increase the risk of the development of numerous diseases.
Here is the list of important health check-ups that women must get done on a routine basis.
1. Screening for breast cancer
- Screening of breast cancer consists of clinical exams and screening mammograms
- If you are age is between 18 to 39 years, your doctor may do a clinical breast examination.
- As per the American Cancer Society, women age 40-44 can choose to start screening every year (discuss the risk with your doctor), women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year. Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years.
- At all ages, a self-breast examination is a must for all women.
- The screening is more important if you have a family history of breast cancer. Your healthcare provider will screen you to check if you are at risk for more dangerous types of breast cancer associated with certain genes such as BRCA1 or BRCA 2.
- If you are at high risk, your doctor may advise genetic counseling or BRCA testing.
2. Screening for cervical cancer
- Screening for cervical cancer includes Pap smear and human papillomavirus (HPV) testing.
- A doctor can take a Pap smear to examine the cells of your cervix to understand the risk of cervical cancer, which when detected early is highly treatable
- It is suggested that Pap smears along with routine pelvic exams should be done at least once every three years for all women above 21 years of age
- A pelvic examination also aids in checking the health of your reproductive organs, including vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vulva, and cervix
- However, if you are experiencing symptoms such as vaginal bleeding, cysts, or have suffered from a sexually transmitted disease, or have a family history of cancer, your doctor will ask you to get these tests done more frequently.
3. Thyroid function tests
- The thyroid gland produces two main hormones known as thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), both of which helps in regulating metabolism
- A normal total T4 level in adults ranges from 5.0 to 12.0 μg/dL and a normal total T3 level in adults ranges from 80-220 ng/dL
- Moreover, it has been observed that women are more likely to be affected by thyroid disorders than men
- Low levels of thyroid hormones or hypothyroidism slow your metabolism and can cause symptoms like fatigue, dry skin, weight gain, and irregularity in menstrual cycles whereas high levels of thyroid or hyperthyroidism can cause increased heartbeat, anxiety, weight loss, difficulty sleeping, etc.
- Your doctor will get you tested for a thyroid function test if you are experiencing these above-mentioned symptoms and can prescribe a simple schedule of medicines to control the thyroid levels for normalcy.
4. Tests for Vitamin deficiency
- Several reports suggest that Indian women are more commonly deficient in Vitamin D and B12
- Thus, the levels of vitamins are of utmost importance for your optimal health status
- Evidence has revealed that a deficiency of Vitamin B12 for women who are planning for a pregnancy or are pregnant can cause serious consequences
- Besides, levels of vitamin D are critical to bone health and calcium absorption. It has been observed that bone disorders are more common in older women, who are more likely to have vitamin D deficiency. Therefore, your doctor can advise you to get your vitamin levels checked in order to prevent its consequences.
5. Blood pressure screening
- Several hormonal and lifestyle factors in women such as menopause, complications with pregnancy, and stress, can cause variations in blood pressure and in turn, increase the risk of heart diseases.
- A bi-annual checkup is recommended for individuals with normal blood pressure, starting at the age of 20
- If your systolic blood pressure is from 120 to 139, or the diastolic blood pressure is from 80 to 89 mm Hg, you should have it checked every year
- However, if your blood pressure reading is too high or too low, your doctor can recommend frequent monitoring
- You may also need further testing if you suffer from diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, etc.
6. Screening for Diabetes
- Doctors usually advise that women should get a blood glucose test every three years to check for diabetes or pre-diabetes starting around age 45 or if their blood pressure is above 135/80 or they have high cholesterol levels
- Other risk factors include family history, physical inactivity, body mass index (BMI) greater than 25
- A diabetes check is more significant if you are planning to get pregnant and have other risk factors such as obesity and high blood pressure
- The range for normal tests can vary, but in general, a fasting plasma glucose test reading of 100 mg/dl or higher, is indicative of prediabetic, while levels greater than 126 mg/dl are suggestive of diabetes. Your doctor might want to look at the post-meal blood sugar readings and HbA1c value as well to derive a final diagnosis.
7. Lipid panel test
- A lipid panel is vital as it helps to check your cholesterol and triglyceride levels and acts as a tool to determine the risk of heart diseases or stroke
- These tests get more important in view that high cholesterol levels do not display any significant symptom
- The recommendations suggest that starting from 20 years of age; you should check your cholesterol at least once in five years
- However, individuals with a family history of heart disease or having other risk factors including obesity or diabetes may need to get this test done more frequently; confirm your doctor for its frequency
- Repeat testing becomes essential if changes occur in your lifestyle such as weight gain and diet.
Besides these above-mentioned tests, watch out for any new symptoms or changes in your skin, such as new warts or moles. Post-menopausal women may also be at increased risk of fragile bones or osteoporosis. Elderly women might not be as active as the young ones, but the need for health screening remains the same as advancing age predisposes to multiple health concerns.
The key to maintaining optimum health is to keep in touch with your doctor as you age and discuss your issues and related screening tests. Few tests are done routinely while some tests are necessary based on your risk factors. Proper screening does not always prevent a disease, but it can often detect disease early enough to provide you an opportunity of overcoming it.
You can take better care of your loved ones only when you yourself are healthy. On this note, we wish you a very happy women’s day!