For Women’s Health Week, make sure you talk to your doctor about these important preventive health topics.
Well-woman exams allow your doctor to assess the health of your reproductive organs. During these exams, your physician will ask you questions about your menstrual cycles, contraception methods and other topics specific to the female body. Well-woman exams also include a cervical cancer screening, or pap smear. Generally, this test is recommended for women every three years. “During a well-woman exam, share any health concerns you have with your physician so they can guide you through the best course of action,” says Mudita Malhotra, MD, a primary care physician with Adventist Medical Group.
Ask about STD Tests
Depending on your history, your doctor may recommend an STD test. This could be a urine sample, blood test or other test to determine whether you have a sexually transmitted disease or infection such as, chlamydia, HIV or other condition. “Having an open and honest conversation with your doctor can help us determine your risk for STDs and administer the appropriate tests and treatment to prevent any future health conditions,” says Dr. Malhotra.
Know Your Heart Health Numbers
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in women. The first step toward understanding your risk for heart disease is knowing your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and body mass index numbers. “These numbers not only measure your risk for heart disease and future heart conditions, but also diabetes, obesity, kidney health and your overall health status,” says Dr. Malhotra. “I recommend every woman to have their numbers checked at least every year, starting at age 40.”
Mammograms are the most effective screening tool for detecting breast cancer early. A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray of the breast showing any changes that cannot be detected during a simple breast exam. Most guidelines recommend women should begin getting mammograms at age 40 and screenings should continue yearly for women at average risk. Your physician may recommend earlier or additional screenings if you are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Osteoporosis, or low bone density, affects one in four women who are 65 years of age or older. Low bone density can increase your likelihood of breaking a bone. Dr. Malhotra recommends all women starting at age 65 receive a bone density test before a fall or accident occurs. “Bone density tests use low-level x-rays to determine if your bones are weaker than normal,” says Dr. Malhotra. “If doctors detect osteoporosis, they can take preventive steps to decrease your risk for a broken bone.”
Another important part of women’s health is mental health. Your mental health is as important as your physical health and it should be part of your conversations with your doctor. “Make sure you take time to care for yourself, watch your stress level and always talk with your doctor about any changes in your mood”, says Dr. Malhotra.
Dr. Malhotra recommends that every woman talk to their doctor every year about preventive screenings. “Talk with your physician about your family history, your health numbers, preventive screenings and any new health concerns,” she says. “You and your doctor can work together to develop a plan that will keep you healthy throughout your lifetime.”