Getting regular health screenings is essential for a healthy lifestyle. Aside from a balanced diet, regular exercise, and mental health management, routine health screenings can help prevent certain diseases—or, if they cannot be avoided, help you start proper treatment early on.
Regular health screening can lead to early detection and, consequently, effective prevention and/or management. In some cases, it can even save your life. That said, here are some of the essential health screenings that every woman should have:
Blood pressure screening
Although men are more likely to have high blood pressure (47%), 43% of women have it, which is not a big difference.
The risk of high blood pressure increases as you age. High blood pressure is also more common in non-Black Hispanic adults and African Americans. But even if you don’t belong to these groups and are relatively young, it is important to check your blood pressure at least once a year to ensure that you are within the normal range (120/80 mm Hg), especially if you have a family history of high blood pressure, are overweight or obese, and have a diet high in fat and sodium.
Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) is a method to measure bone mineral density. A DEXA scan procedure can detect if you are at a higher risk of bone disorders, such as osteoporosis, which is a bone condition that is more common in women.
It is highly advisable to get a DEXA scan if you are menopausal, have a family history of osteoporosis, have had an early hysterectomy, have a low body mass index, have rheumatoid arthritis, or other conditions that make you more prone to osteoporosis and other bone conditions.
Women should start getting pap smears at 21 years old until 65, at least once every three years. Pap smears are screening tests for cervical cancer, which is the fourth most common cancer in women.
In a pap smear procedure, the doctor takes cells from the cervix with a small brush and examines them for changes that may lead to cervical cancer. If you are 30 years old or older, you can opt to undergo the test once every five years if you also screen for HPV, a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer.
A mammogram is a test that screens for breast cancer, which is the most common cancer in American women. The procedure involves compressing the breast between two plates to capture X-ray images, which will then be analyzed to detect signs of breast cancer.
The American Cancer Society says that women should start getting annual mammograms at age 45. The USPSTF, on the other hand, recommends women start mammograms at 50. If you have a family history of breast cancer or other medical concerns, talk to your doctor about when you should start screening.
Blood glucose tests
Get a blood glucose test every three years to check for diabetes or prediabetes, especially if you have a family history of the diagnosis, are obese, or belong to a race or ethnic group that has a predisposition to the disease.
The range for blood glucose tests can vary, but according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a fasting plasma glucose result of 100 mg/dl or higher means that you may be prediabetic. A reading higher than 126 mg/dl, on the other hand, indicates diabetes.
If you have certain risk factors that may make you more prone to the disease, you may want to get blood glucose tests more often. Talk to your doctor about your concerns to determine how often you should get the test.
Both men and women should get regular dental check-ups at least once every six months. These check-ups should also include cleaning to remove plaque buildup and reduce the risk of cavities and other dental conditions. Even if you take good care of your teeth all year round, a professional should still check them out biannually to look for any signs of decay and other problems.
Body mass index (BMI)
BMI is a fast screening test for obesity. While it does not always provide an accurate picture of your health (since it is a measure of height and weight), it can help you determine if you need to change your lifestyle to maintain a normal weight.
These are just some of the most important health screenings that all adult women should have, but they are often the most important. Most of these are preventative, which means that they can help you avoid certain diseases before they develop.