One of the best ways to stay on top of your health is through preventive care and screenings recommended by your doctor. These screenings can help your health care provider find medical problems early before they become hard to treat.
Here is a guide to some of the top preventive screenings for women older than age 50, recommended by the US Preventive Task Force. Remember to talk to your doctor about the ones that are most appropriate for you!
Cholesterol screening: A cholesterol screening helps monitor your risk of heart disease, stroke, and poor circulation. Cholesterol is measured through a blood test. It is sometimes included in an annual physical screening. You should have your cholesterol checked regularly as recommended by your doctor.
Blood pressure: A blood pressure screening is recommended at least every two years. This test can help your doctor determine your risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney problems, and heart failure. If you have high blood pressure, it’s important to regularly monitor your condition and take all medications as prescribed. Have a conversation with your doctor about home monitors also.
Diabetes screening: Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney disease, and even amputation of limbs. The best way to know if you are at risk is to talk to your doctor about getting screened and how often you should be screened.
Body composition screening: One of the best ways to reduce your risk of disease is to maintain a healthy body weight. Your doctor can evaluate your risk level for overweight and obesity by measuring your body mass index (BMI) each year. Your BMI is calculated using your weight and your height. Your doctor can talk to you more about your risk level based on your results.
Cervical cancer screening: Get a Pap smear every three years or a combination of Pap smear and human papilloma virus (HPV) test every five years until age 65. HPV can lead to cervical cancer. It’s important to talk to your doctor about whether you need to be screened more often or do not need to be screened at all. This test is critical because when caught early, cervical cancer is treatable.
Breast cancer screening: Talk with your doctor about having regular breast cancer screenings, such as a mammogram. Mammography is one of the most effective breast cancer screening tools used today. Also talk to your doctor about your family history to see if you are at a higher risk. Another thing to discuss with your doctor is breast self-examination. Get familiar with the way your breasts normally look and feel. Knowing what is normal for you may help you see or feel changes in your breasts that should be checked by a doctor.
Vision and hearing: It’s important to talk to your doctor about changes in your vision or hearing as you age. If you have a prescription for lenses, it’s essential to keep up your annual or biannual exams to check your vision. Talk to your doctor about how often to have your hearing evaluated.
Lung cancer screening: This screening can detect abnormal cells in the lungs that may be cancerous. Talk to your doctor about getting this test if you are between 55 and 80 years old, have a history of smoking, and have quit smoking within the past 15 years.
Colon cancer screening: This is a test that screens for colorectal cancer. This can be completed in a few different ways, such as a colonoscopy or a stool test. It’s important to talk to your doctor about which option is right for you.
Depression screening: Physical and emotional health are equally important. As with physical health, there are ways to measure emotional health. Tell your doctor if you have felt sad, hopeless, or down, have little interest in doing things you once loved, or have suicidal thoughts. In those cases, you may need to be treated for depression. A screening can help determine what may be necessary.
Immunizations: It’s important to stay up to date with recommended immunizations. As you age, there may be a need for additional immunizations to keep you healthy. Talk to your doctor about your annual flu shot, shingles vaccine, and pneumonia vaccine if you are over 65 or have other risks.
Unsure if you need some of these screenings? Start with a conversation with your doctor or primary care provider. Your doctor can help you determine which ones are needed and how often. This is one way to take more control of your health.