Every woman should develop healthy habits, including a balanced diet and regular exercise, stress management and routine health screening to detect potential health problems early.
On March 8, we observed International Women’s Day under the theme ‘Be Bold for Change.’ I would like to encourage all women to take that bold step in taking better care of ‘You.’
Women often neglect themselves to care for family, friends and coworkers, among others. You may have adopted healthy practices but when last have you had a physical examination and the necessary tests to ensure you’re on the right track? Sometimes we adopt the notion that if it’s not broken don’t fix it, or I feel well so why go to the doctor. As you transition from one decade to another, many changes occur in your body. These changes could be so subtle you may not realise them until something goes wrong. Make it a habit of visiting your doctor annually.
What checks are your doctor likely to recommend?
Pap smear: Usually done between the ages of 21 and 65, however, it may be recommended earlier if you’re sexually active. The test can detect changes on the cervix that could indicate a need for further testing. If it’s cervical cancer, you want to detect it early.
Colonoscopy: Done between the ages of 50 and 75, it’s the best tool for detecting colon cancer, precancerous lesions and polyps. Colorectal cancer is the third most common and deadly cancer for females after breast and lung cancer. Someone with a family history of colorectal cancer may require earlier screening.
Mammogram: Recommended every two years between the ages of 50 and 74. If you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer this would necessary more frequent screening. For women aged 40 – 49 and those above 75, they can decide together with their doctor when to start and stop screening. Women aged 20 should have a clinical breast exam at least every three years until age 40, then annually thereafter.
High blood pressure, diabetes and elevated cholesterol are all major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. These should be evaluated annually. Knowing your status could help you and your doctor make heart- smart decisions and possibly delay the progression of diabetes. Women approaching menopause should be aware that estrogen is thought to raise the levels of good cholesterol, so its natural decline during menopause may increase your risk for heart disease.
Other checks should include dental, vision and skin care. A bone density scan may be recommended from age 65 to screen for osteoporosis.
Once again, I encourage all women to take the bold step towards becoming a healthier you. I also implore you to encourage your spouse or significant other to have their annual health checks. Far too often we see women trying to stay healthy while their partners lag behind.