Feeling and looking good is important for women of all ages. Starting in our late teens and as we age, there is a recommended regimen that heightens awareness of our health and well being. Different health screenings and immunizations are outlined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as guidelines for health care particular to women.
These government guidelines may vary with each woman and her doctor’s recommendation for screening and any necessary treatment. For example, an annual physical exam including height and weight monitoring is not a guideline but it is common practice among women and their healthcare provider.
Reproductive health is of particular importance to this age group (18 to 39). Starting at age 21 it is recommended that a woman have a pelvic exam. This exam should include a pap test and other tests for chlamydia or other sexually transmitted infections. The chlamydia test is recommended until age 25 if sexually active and if there are multiple partners, age 26 and older. Along with a discussion with the physician, women younger than 21 who are sexually active should also get exams and testing.
For women over 30, it is recommended that there be a pap test every 3 years although many physicians will recommend this as a part of the annual exam. An HIV test should be done at least once to find out HIV status followed by a discussion with the healthcare provider to determine the need for follow up or periodic testing.
Vaccinations are routine for women up to this point, as they received inoculations in their pediatric regimen. HPV (human papillomavirus vaccine) should be continued up to age 26 if the complete vaccine series has not already been administered. Other vaccines like meningococcal vaccine, herpes zoster vaccine (to prevent shingles) and influenza vaccine are not within the routine guidelines for women aged 18 to 39 but may be administered depending upon lifestyle and risk of exposure. Everyone should be current with tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis booster vaccine which is every 10 years.
Routine dental hygiene including cleaning is recommended for all age groups. Frequency of cleanings is not a guideline but generally an exam and cleaning every 6 months is advised. Likewise, eye and ear health should be maintained at regular intervals dependent upon need. Contact and eye glass wearers will visit the eye doctor at least once a year to undergo an exam to maintain proper eye health and to obtain an updated prescription if necessary. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that a hearing test be given at age 18 and repeated every 10 years.
More and more we have become conscious of the health of our skin. Monthly mole self-examination is recommended by these guidelines. Further, by age 20, the physician should be including this check as part of the routine physical exam. Of course, more frequent exams may be advised by a specialist if there is anything unusual in the routine examination.
Heart, bone and colorectal health are not covered by the guidelines for this age group but may be of particular concern for the woman based on personal need or family history.
Stay educated about your body so you can be healthy and feel good!