(Dr Kaushiki Dwivedee, MD, MRCOG (London), Lead Consultant, Department of Gynaecology, Max Hospital, Gurgaon)
See your doctor for regular medical check-ups to help you stay healthy and to pick up early warning signs of disease or illness once you have crossed the age of 35 years. Women should have a general check-up every year. Part of the check-up will involve talking to your doctor about your medical history, your family’s history of disease and your lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise habits and whether or not you smoke or drink alcohol. Many diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers can be picked up in their early stages, when treatment is often more effective. If you are at high risk of a particular disease, it is recommended that you get tested regularly, regardless of your age.
Self-checks for women
Make self-checks part of your regular routine. This will help you stay healthy and pick up potential problems early. Things you can check at home include: Skin checks – You should check your skin every three months for unusual moles or freckles. See your doctor if you notice anything unusual. Women at high risk need regular examination by their doctor or dermatologist
Dental care – You can reduce your risk of tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss if you clean your teeth regularly, eat a low-sugar diet and visit the dentist at least once a year
Diet – you can improve your general health with a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, adequate iron and calcium. Have at least two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables each day
Weight – maintaining a healthy weight range( BMI between 19 to29) prevents longer-term diseases such as diabetes and arthritis
Alcohol – women who have at least two alcohol-free days per week and keep to safe drinking levels – no more than two standard drinks per drinking day – have better health outcomes
Smoking – smoking increases your risk of many diseases including heart disease, stroke, lung disease and brittle bones
Exercise – regular exercise can prevent diseases developing as well as being good for your mental health, heart and bones. It is recommended you have at least 2.5 hours of exercise per week.
Pap tests, STI screening and Breast Cancer checks for women
Health checks from your doctor can include: Pap Smear – you should have a pap smear every one to three years depending upon whether you are following American protocol or British Protocol. This screening test is an important test to pick up signs of irregularities that could lead to cervical cancer if not treated. The first pap test should be within two years of the first time you have sex or 24 years which ever is early and you should continue to have them every two years until you are 64 years. Even if you have been vaccinated, you should continue to have regular pap tests. If you have an increased risk of cervical cancer, you may need more regular testing. Your doctor will advise you if needed.
STI screening – if you are sexually active and had more than one sexual partners, you should get tested for chlamydia every year . Chlamydia is very common and does not always show symptoms. The test is a simple urine test. If you are at risk of other sexually transmissible infections, ask your doctor about further testing
Breast Cancer – Women of any age should visit the doctor immediately if they notice any breast changes. Women aged between 40 to 70 years who have no personal or family history of breast cancer should have a screening mammogram (breast x-ray) every two years. If you have a personal or family history of breast cancer, your doctor can help you to decide how often you need to be screened, but generally speaking, annual check-ups may be advised.
Heart health checks for women
Health checks for heart disease may include: Blood pressure – have your blood pressure checked every two years if your blood pressure is normal and there is no family history of high blood pressure. If your blood pressure is on the high side, or you have a personal or family history of high blood pressure, stroke or heart attack, it’s best to have it checked more frequently. Follow your doctor’s advice .
Blood tests – it is a good idea to check your cholesterol levels and blood triglycerides from time to time. High levels may indicate an increased risk of various health problems including heart disease. If you’re over 45, you should have these blood tests once every two years and more frequently as you get older. If you’re at high risk of Heart disease, you should be tested every year.
Obesity tests – being overweight is a significant risk factor for many health conditions, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Ask your doctor to check your body mass index (BMI) and waist measurement every two years.
Diabetes health checks for women
Tests for diabetes include the fasting blood sugar level test. This involves measuring the amount of glucose in the blood after you haven’t eaten for a while. Depending on your risk level, you will need to be tested every year or once every three years. Being Indian puts you at increased risk of Diabetes.
You are at higher risk of type 2 diabetes if you: Are over 35 years old and obese (BMI over 30)
- Had gestational diabetes in a pregnancy
- Have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Have a family history of diabetes
- an aged over 35 years
Eye health checks for women
Eyesight tends to deteriorate with age. It is recommended that: Every woman over 40 should have regular eye examinations. An optometrist can test for glaucoma, a serious eye condition characterised by high fluid pressure within the eyeball. Women at increased risk will need to be tested for glaucoma at an earlier age. Risk factors include family history, diabetes, prior eye injury, high blood pressure or use of steroids.
- Women aged between 50 and 65 should have a general eye examination every two years.
- Women aged over 65 should have an eye examination once a year.
- You may need other regular tests not listed here, depending on your personal or family medical history.
Ask your doctor for further information.
Things to remember
- See your doctor for regular medical check-ups.
- Screening tests help doctors to detect many diseases such as cardiovascular (heart) disease, diabetes and some cancers in their early stages.