Midlife is a time of transition for women who are moving from their reproductive years toward menopause. The most obvious change is in the reproductive cycle. But that is not the only significant change that may be going on in your body.
Tracking your overall health before anything goes wrong can help your doctor diagnose and provide quick and accurate treatment if your health changes as you get older.
1) Gynecological checkup
This is typically the first exam women think of to safeguard their health. The test typically includes a pelvic exam and Pap smear to check for abnormal growths or unusual characteristics in your reproductive system.
Get this test done every year unless your doctor recommends a different schedule.
Many doctors also add an HPV test to check for the most common types of human papillomavirus that may indicate increased risk for cervical cancer.
A breast exam will check for lumps and other physical changes in your breasts that could indicate breast cancer. Recently there has been division on recommendations for women to have manual breast exams, so talk to your provider about what they think is best for you.
You doctor will also order a mammogram for your breasts every one to two years depending on your results.
2) Heart checkup
This exam typically includes checking your blood pressure and doing blood work to evaulate your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. These tests are important to ensure that your heart is not working too hard and that your blood vessels are healthy and open, so blood can flow easily throughout your body.
If your blood pressure is normal, get it checked again in two years. You should have your cholesterol checked at least every five years.
3) Skin check
Many people have moles on their skin. But what looks like a typical mole could actually be the start of melanoma — the deadliest type of skin cancer. Your dermatologist is trained to recognizes changes in the color, shape and consistency of marks on your skin that could be the start of skin cancer.
In addition, your dermatologist has clear access to parts of your skin that you cannot see easily, such as the middle of your back and your scalp. Get your skin checked every year.
4) Eye checkup
Even if your vision seems perfect, an eye exam every one to two years can check for the start of significant health changes such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Catching these conditions early can help protect your vision later in life.
5) Diabetes checkup
This test checks the level of sugar in your blood. Sugar is necessary to fuel your cells. But too much sugar in your blood can damage blood vessels and increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, blindness and kidney disease.
If your blood sugar is slightly elevated your doctor may want to retest you every year or more often. If your levels are normal, you may be tested every three years.
6) Bone density checkup –
As we age, our bones do not regenerate as quickly as they did when we were young. A bone density test can assess your risk for developing osteoporosis or brittle bones.
If you have early signs of osteoporosis, your doctor can recommend diet changes, exercises and medications to strengthen your bones to help prevent breakage. A baseline bone density test is often done in your fifties.
7) Vitamin D checkup
Your body uses vitamin D to build strong bones. Low vitamin D levels can also contribute to weak bones. Vitamin D may also help reduce your risks of diabetes and heart disease and may help your body fight infection.
Talk to your doctor about how often to have your levels checked.
8) Colon checkup
Researchers recommend that women start having colonoscopies every five years, beginning at age 50 as part of their standard health screenings. This test allows the doctor to look at the inside walls of your colon and intestine to check for abnormal growths or other visible signs that you may develop colon cancer.
Depending on the type of procedure you have done, it is repeated every five to 10 years.
9) BMI checkup
The body mass index is a calculation that uses both your height and weight to determine whether you are at risk for obesity. Being significantly overweight can increase your risk of serious health issues including diabetes and heart disease.
10) Dental checkup
In addition to checking your teeth for cavities, your dentist will exam your mouth and throat for early signs of oral cancer or other issues. Adult women need twice-yearly dental check-ups and cleanings.
The best way to safeguard your health as you get older is to catch any undesirable changes as early as you can. These basic health tests are tools to help you protect your health as you move into midlife and beyond.
If you have questions about your health or wonder which tests are right for you, talk to your health care provider.
Reviewed September 21, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
Have. Health.com. Rachel Grumann. Web. Retrieved September 20, 2016.
10 Health Screenings All Women Should Have. Everyday Health. Diana Rodriguez. Web. Retrieved September 20, 2016.
Exams and Tests for Women Over Forty. Women in Balance. Web. Retrieved September 20, 2016.