National Women's Health Week

National Women's Health Week

The Importance of Well Check Ups

Annual well physicals and well-woman check-ups play vital roles in maintaining your health.  These visits are important as they monitor your overall health plus help to pinpoint the onset of many potential health issues before they become serious.

However, women are especially negligent of maintaining consistent preventive care through well check-ups because many put their own needs aside due to their many obligations and responsibilities, including their roles as caregivers and providers for their families.

May 10 through May 16 is designated National Women’s Health Week and National Women’s Check-Up Day is designated on May 11 to raise awareness of these important tools within your personal health plan. Your local Capital Women’s Care team offers you a comprehensive list of important health wellness check-ups you need within your personal healthcare plan during the many stages of your life, from young adult through all phases of pregnancy, peri- and menopausal years and into advanced age to monitor and optimize your health so you can enjoy a fulfilling, healthy and long life.

Why Schedule Well Exams?

It’s just as important to prioritize scheduling well check-ups as those appointments when you’re feeling sick for several reasons, as well check-ups provide:

  • preventative care and disease screening. Seeing your physician regularly alerts them to any subtle changes within your health which may indicate a serious health issue if not addressed. For example, blood pressure checks, bloodwork or mammograms can identify health problems in the early stages, offering greater chances of positive prognosis and outcome.
  • reproduction planning. Well-woman exams provide you opportunity to discuss family and pregnancy planning, including birth control options.
  • medical history. Your doctor will update your file with any changes within your medical and family health histories. These updates provide your practitioner important information on how to help you manage your personal healthcare plan, especially for those diseases having genetic or hereditary predispositions.
  • counseling. Not only will your practitioner check with you about your total physical health, but also ask after your mental and emotional health and lifestyle changes, giving you opportunity to relay personal concerns or questions.

The benefits of regular check-ups are plentiful, as they can:

  • reduce illness risk.
  • detect potentially life-threatening health conditions or diseases early.
  • increase chance for treatment and cure.
  • limit risk of complications by closely monitoring existing conditions.
  • increase lifespan and improve health.
  • reduce healthcare costs over time by avoiding costly medical services.
  • form a good partnership with your doctor.
  • and help you gain valuable insight on new medical information or technologies.

A yearly physical exam with your primary care physician helps maintain your health. Physical exams include checking:

  • blood pressure at least every year.
  • cholesterol every 5 years if you have coronary heart disease risk factors.
  • your height, weight, and body mass index (BMI) should be checked at each exam.

During your exam, your provider may ask you about:

  • depression
  • diet and exercise
  • alcohol and tobacco use
  • and safety issues, such as using seat belts and smoke detectors.

Checklist: Guidelines for Women Age 18 through 39 Years

During your yearly well physical exam, your primary care physician will check the following:

Blood Pressure Screening

  • Have your blood pressure checked at least once every 2 years. If the top number (systolic number) is from 120 to 139, or the bottom number (diastolic number) is from 80 to 89 mm Hg, you should have it checked every year.
  • If the top number is 130 or greater or the bottom number is 80 or greater, schedule an appointment with your provider to learn how you can reduce your blood pressure.
  • If you have diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, or certain other conditions, you may need to have your blood pressure checked more often, but still at least once a year.

Cholesterol Screening

  • Recommended starting ages for cholesterol screening are age 20 for women with known risk factors for coronary heart disease.
  • Repeat testing sooner than needed if changes occur in lifestyle (including weight gain and changes in diet).
  • If you have diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, or certain other conditions, you may need to be monitored more closely.

Diabetes Screening

  • If your blood pressure is 130/80 mm Hg or above, your provider may test your blood sugar level for diabetes.
  • If you have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 25 and have other risk factors for diabetes, you should be screened. Having a BMI over 25 signifies obesity. Asian Americans should be screened if their BMI is greater than 23.
  • If you have other risk factors for diabetes, such as a first degree relative with diabetes or history of heart disease, your provider will likely screen you for diabetes.
  • If you are overweight and have other risk factors such as high blood pressure and are planning to become pregnant, screening is recommended.

Immunizations

  • You should get a flu shot every year.
  • At or after age 19, you should have 1 tetanus-diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine as 1 of your tetanus-diphtheria vaccines if you did not receive it as an adolescent. You should have a tetanus-diphtheria booster every 10 years.
  • You should receive 2 doses of varicella vaccine if you never had chickenpox or the varicella vaccine.
  • You should receive 1 to 2 doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine if you are not already immune to MMR.
  • Your provider may recommend other immunizations if you are at high risk for certain conditions, such as pneumonia.
  • Ask your provider about the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine if you are ages 19 to 26 and you have:
    • not received the HPV vaccine in the past
    • not completed the full vaccine series (you should catch up on this shot)

Skin Exam

  • Your provider may check your skin for signs of skin cancer, especially if you're at high risk.
  • People at high risk include those who have had skin cancer before, have close relatives with skin cancer, or have a weakened immune system. Your primary care physician may perform routine skin exams and recommend a dermatologist if necessary.

Annual well-woman visits should begin once you become sexually active. Plan your first OB/GYN well visit to discuss reproductive planning, sexual health, and availability of birth control options before becoming sexually active.

Breast Cancer Screening

  • Women may do a monthly breast self-exam.
  • Screening mammogram is not recommended for most women under age 40.
  • If you have a mother or sister who had breast cancer at a young age, consider yearly mammograms. They should begin earlier than the age at which the youngest family member was diagnosed.
  • If you have other risk factors for breast cancer, your provider may recommend a mammogram, breast ultrasound, or MRI scan.
  • Contact your provider immediately if you notice a change in your breasts.
  • If you are age 18 to 39, your provider may do a clinical breast exam.

Cervical Cancer Screening

Cervical cancer screening should start at age 21. After the first test:

  • Women ages 21 through 29 should have a Pap test every 3 years. HPV testing is not recommended for this age group.
  • Women ages 30 through 65 should be screened with either Pap test once every 3 years or the HPV test every 5 years.
  • If you or your sexual partner has other new partners, you should have a Pap test every 3 years.
  • Women who have been treated for precancer (cervical dysplasia) should continue to have Pap tests for 20 years after treatment or until age 65, whichever is longer.
  • If you have had your uterus and cervix removed (total hysterectomy) and you have not been diagnosed with cervical cancer you may not need to have Pap smears. Consult your OB/GYN practitioner for recommendation based on your personal health.

Eye Exam

  • Have an eye exam every 1 to 2 years.
  • Have an eye exam at least every year if you have diabetes.

Dental Exam

  • Go to the dentist once or twice every year for an exam and cleaning. Your dentist will evaluate if you need more frequent visits.

Other Recommended Screening

Talk with your provider about colon cancer screening if you have a strong family history of colon cancer or polyps, or if you have experienced inflammatory bowel disease or polyps.

Checklist: Guidelines for Women Age 40 through 64 Years

During your yearly well physical exam, your primary care physician will check the following:

Blood Pressure Screening

  • Have blood pressure checked at least once every 2 years. If the top number (systolic number) is from 120 to 139 mm Hg, or the bottom number (diastolic number) is from 80 to 89 mm Hg, you should have it checked every year.
  • If the top number is 130 or greater or the bottom number is 80 or greater, schedule an appointment with your provider to learn how you can reduce your blood pressure.
  • If you have diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, or certain other conditions, you may need to have your blood pressure checked more often, but still at least once a year.

Cholesterol Screening

  • Recommended starting age for cholesterol screening is age 45 for women with no known coronary heart disease risk factors.
  • Once you begin cholesterol screening, it should be checked every 5 years.
  • Repeat testing sooner than needed if changes occur in lifestyle, including weight gain and diet changes.
  • If you have high cholesterol levels, diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, or certain other conditions, you may need to be checked more often.

Diabetes Screening

  • If you are over age 44, you should be screened every 3 years.
  • Having a BMI of 25 or more signifies obesity. If you are overweight, ask your provider if you should be screened at a younger age. Asian Americans should be screened if their BMI is greater than 23.
  • If your blood pressure is above 130/80 mm Hg, or you have other risk factors for diabetes, your provider may test your blood sugar level for diabetes.

Immunizations

  • You should get a flu shot every year.
  • Ask your provider if you should get a vaccine to reduce pneumococcal infection risk.
  • You should have a tetanus-diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine once as part of your tetanus-diphtheria vaccines if you didn’t receive it previously as an adolescent. You should have a tetanus-diphtheria booster every 10 years.
  • You may get a shingles or herpes zoster vaccine at or after age 50.
  • Your provider may recommend other immunizations if you are at high risk for certain conditions.

Skin Exam

Your provider may check your skin for signs of skin cancer, especially if you're at high risk. People at high risk include those who have had skin cancer before, have close relatives with skin cancer, or have a weakened immune system. Your primary care physician may perform routine skin exams and recommend a dermatologist if necessary.

Discuss any concerns or questions you may have relating to perimenopause or menopause. Perimenopause may onset 8 to 10 years before actual menopause commences. Talk with your OB/GYN about what symptoms you may expect during perimenopause and menopause. They may counsel you on strategies you can implement.

Breast Cancer Screening

  • Women may do a monthly breast self-exam.
  • Your provider may do a clinical breast exam as part of your preventive well-woman exam.
  • Women ages 40 to 49 may have a mammogram every 1 to 2 years. Talk to your provider about what is best for you.
  • Women ages 50 to 75 should have a mammogram every 1 to 2 years, depending on their risk factors, to check for breast cancer.
  • Women with a mother or sister who had breast cancer at a younger age should consider yearly mammograms. They should begin earlier than the age at which the youngest family member was diagnosed.
  • If you have other breast cancer risk factors, your provider may recommend a mammogram, breast ultrasound or MRI scan.

Cervical Cancer Screening

  • Women ages 30 through 65 should be screened with either a Pap test every 3 years or the HPV test every 5 years.
  • If you or your sexual partner has other new partners, you should have a Pap test every 3 years.
  • Women who have been treated for precancer (cervical dysplasia) should continue to have Pap tests for 20 years after treatment or until age 65, whichever is longer.
  • If you have had your uterus and cervix removed (total hysterectomy), and you have not been diagnosed with cervical cancer, you do not need to have Pap smears.

Osteoporosis Screening

All women over age 50 with fractures should have a bone density test (DEXA scan).

If you are under age 65 and have risk factors for osteoporosis, you should be screened.

Colorectal Cancer Screening

If you are under age 50, talk to your provider about getting screened. The American Cancer Society recommends colorectal screening begin at age 45 years for both men and women. You should be screened if you have a strong family history of colon cancer or polyps. Screening may also be considered if you have risk factors such as a history of inflammatory bowel disease or polyps.

If you are age 50 to 75, you should be screened for colorectal cancer. There are several screening tests available:

You may need a colonoscopy more often if you have risk factors for colorectal cancer:

Lung Cancer Screening

You should have an annual screening for lung cancer with low dose computed tomography (LDCT) if:

  • you are over age 55 and
  • you have a 30 pack-year smoking history and
  • you currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.

Eye Exam

  • Have an eye exam every 2 to 4 years for women ages 40 to 54 and every 1 to 3 years for women ages 55 to 64. Your provider may recommend more frequent eye exams if you have vision problems or glaucoma risk.
  • Have an eye exam at least every year if you have diabetes.

Dental Exam

Go to the dentist twice every year for an exam and cleaning. Your dentist will evaluate if you require more frequent visits.

Checklist: Guidelines for Women Age 65+ Years

During your yearly well physical exam, your primary care physician will check the following:

Blood Pressure Screening

  • Have your blood pressure checked at least once every year. If the top number (systolic number) is between 120 and 139 or the bottom number (diastolic number) is between 80 - 89 mm Hg or higher, have it checked every year.
  • If the top number is 130 or greater or the bottom number is 80 or greater, schedule an appointment with your provider to learn how you can reduce your blood pressure.
  • If you have diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, or certain other conditions, you may need to have your blood pressure checked more often, but still at least once a year.

Cholesterol Screening & Heart Disease Prevention

  • If your cholesterol level is normal, have it rechecked at least every 5 years.
  • If you have high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, or certain other conditions, you may need to be checked more often.

Diabetes Screening

  • If you are age 65 or older and in good health, you should be screened for diabetes every 3 years.
  • If you are overweight and have other risk factors for diabetes, ask your provider if you should be screened more often.

Immunizations

  • If you are over age 65, get pneumococcal vaccines.
  • Get a flu shot every year.
  • Get a tetanus-diphtheria booster every 10 years.
  • You may get a shingles or herpes zoster vaccination at age 50 or older.

Hearing Test

Skin Exam

  • Your provider may check your skin for signs of skin cancer, especially if you're at high risk.
  • People at high risk include those who have had skin cancer before, have close relatives with skin cancer, or have a weakened immune system. Your primary care physician may perform routine skin exams and recommend a dermatologist if necessary.

Breast Cancer Screening

  • Women may do a monthly breast self-exam.
  • Your provider may do a clinical breast exam during your preventive exam.
  • Women up to age 75 should have a mammogram every 1 to 2 years, depending on their risk factors, to check for breast cancer.
  • Experts do not agree on the benefits of having a mammogram for women age 75 and older. Some do not recommend having mammograms after this age. Others recommend mammography for women in good health. Talk to your provider about what is best for you.

Cervical Cancer Screening

  • After age 65, most women who have not been diagnosed with cervical cancer or precancer can stop having Pap smears under condition they have had 3 negative tests within the past 10 years.

Osteoporosis Screening

Colorectal Cancer Screening

Until age 75, you should have regular screening for colorectal cancer. If you are age 76 or older, you should ask your doctor if you should receive screening.

Several tests are available for colorectal cancer screening, including:

You may need a colonoscopy more often if you have risk factors for colon cancer, including:

Lung Cancer Screening

You should have an annual screening for lung cancer with low dose computed tomography (LDCT) if:

  • you are over age 55 and
  • you have a 30 pack-year smoking history and
  • you currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.

Eye Exam

  • Have an eye exam every 1 to 2 years.
  • Have an eye exam at least every year if you have diabetes.

Dental Exam

  • Go to the dentist once or twice every year for an exam and cleaning. Your dentist will evaluate if you need more frequent visits.

Other Steps to Optimize Your Health at Any Age

Instituting yearly wellness exams and well-woman check-ups are important health habits for all women of any age. Additional practices to maximize your health and well-being include:

Enlist a healthy diet and lifestyle – cut out smoking, limit drinking of alcohol and eat plenty of whole foods including fruits, veggies, grains and lean proteins like fish and chicken. Minimize processed, fatty, and sugary foods which can trigger depression; limit red meat and sodium intake; and avoid calorie-laden, high-fat fast food when dining out.

Prioritize daily self-care – Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep nightly. Pursue hobbies or interests you enjoy amidst the ups and downs of daily life.

Get plenty of exercise – Engage in exercise to maintain a healthy weight to help reduce risk of high blood pressure and cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes. Exercise is also key to remaining active and independent as we age as well as helps us recover more quickly from injuries, surgeries, or even pregnancy.

Enjoy both cardio and strength exercises as well as those which focus on maintaining balance. Take the kids (or grandkids) to the playground and join in the fun. Take brisk walks around the neighborhood and challenge yourself with upward hills and greater distances as you progress. Rediscover a sport you previously enjoyed but didn’t have the time to do.

Monitor your mental health and well-being – It’s important for our bodies to be healthy in addition to having a healthy mind and feelings of well-being. Focus on meaningful relationships with friends, significant other and family. Selectively volunteer within your community for causes you’re passionate about. Those women who stay engaged and participate in their community stave off loneliness, depression and build up their brain health which can in turn ward off dementia.

Good health is the foundation to a long, healthy, and fulfilling life. Your local Capital Women’s Care team is here should you have any questions or concerns about monitoring your health. Our family of healthcare professionals offer you comprehensive, trusted expertise and focused, personal guidance to help you determine the best individual healthcare plan for you so you can enjoy optimal health and long life.

Sources:

https://www.arcare.net/5-reasons-why-annual-well-woman-exams-are-important/
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/why-you-need-an-annual-we...
https://mypvhc.com/importance-regular-check-ups/
https://samrodgers.org/the-importance-of-regular-checkups/
https://www.healthline.com/health/how-often-should-you-get-routine-check...
https://www.gethealthystayhealthy.com/tools/womens-health-checklist
https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007467.htm
https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007462.htm
https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007463.htm
https://www.cdc.gov/women/nwhw/index.htm
https://www.womenshealth.gov/nwhw/find-your-health
https://www.womenshealth.gov/files/nwhw-2020_fact-sheet.pdf
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/womens-health.htm
https://www.cdc.gov/women/caregivers-covid-19/index.html

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The providers of Capital Women's Care seek the highest quality medical and ethical standard in an environment that nurtures the spirit of caring for every woman.

 

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