Here’s a quick rundown of the screening tests for women as recommended by womenshealth.gov:
1. Blood pressure test: Get tested at least every 2 years if you have normal blood pressure (lower than 120/180) and once a year if it’s between 120/80 and 139/89. Talk to your doctor if your bp is 140/90 or higher. “I don’t have a blood pressure monitor” is not an excuse. I’m pretty sure your neighborhood CVS or Walgreens has one so take advantage of it because it’s free!
2. Bone mineral density test (osteoporosis screening): Women ages 50 and above should talk to their doctors to see if they’re at risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle. Your bones are constantly changing; old bones are broken down and new bones are made. “When you’re young, your body makes new bones faster than it breaks down old bones and your bone mass increases. Most people reach their peak bone mass by their early 20s. As people age, bone mass is lost faster than it’s created” (Mayo Clinic). The likeliness of developing osteoporosis depends on how much bone mass you attain while you’re young. Make sure you get enough Calcium (1,000 mg/day) and Vitamin D (600-800 IU/day) and exercise regularly (Mayo Clinic). This well help keep your bones healthy.
3. Breast cancer screening (mammogram): Women should start getting screened at age 50 every 2 years. Breast self-exams are also important. According to WebMD, “many breast problems are first discovered by women themselves.” The best time for a breast self-exam is one week after your period starts, since your breast tissue is least likely to be swollen or tender. The P Tracker app is a helpful tool to keep track of your cycle.
4. Cervical cancer screening (Pap test): If you’re 21 or older and have had vaginal sex, then it’s recommended you get a Pap test every 3 years.
5. STD tests (Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis): If you’re sexually active, please get tested.
6. Cholesterol: Starting at age 20, have your cholesterol checked regularly if you use tobacco, are obese, have diabetes or high blood pressure, have a personal history of heart disease or blocked arteries, or a man in your family had a heart attack before age 50 or a woman, before age 60.
8. Diabetes screening: If you’re 18-39 years old and your blood pressure is higher than 135/90 or if you take medicine for high blood pressure, then you should get screened for diabetes.
9. HIV test: Get tested if you’re at an increased risk (have unprotected sex, have multiple sex partners, have an STD, or share needles).
This year’s theme for National Women’s Health Week is “It’s Your Time.” And you know what? It is your time! Take control of your health by taking steps towards a healthy and safe life.
By ALYSSA LLAMAS