9 Routine Health Screenings for Women
Can you remember the last time you had a cholesterol test or got your blood pressure taken?
Have you ever had a mammogram?
These are just a few vital health screenings that women should routinely have. We want you to live a long and healthy life. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of essential health checks for women. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Pap smear
Look after your cervix. From the age of 21 if sexually active until you turn 65, it’s a good idea to have a Pap smear, at least every three years. While it is an invasive procedure, Pap smears can pick up changes in your cervix which can lead to cancer.
Early detection is vital to your continued good health, so book that gynae appointment. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns. We’re here to give you the best advice and medical care.
Let’s talk about breast health. With breast cancer occurring in more and more women, doing what you can to aid in early detection is essential. Apart from performing a routine breast self-exam every month, you may want to arrange a mammogram if you are over 40 or have a family history of breast cancer. Here’s how it works:
A nursing sister positions your breast carefully between two plates. These plates compress down on your breast, and an X-Ray is captured. A specialist will thoroughly review these images and may send you for a breast ultrasound if necessary. While it can be uncomfortable, a mammogram takes less than ten minutes.
Once you turn 40, it’s advised that you perform a monthly breast examination at home and arrange a yearly mammogram. If you have a history of breast cancer in your family, your doctor may recommend having a mammogram at 35. To learn more about breast cancer, click here.
3. Body Mass Index (BMI) check
Obesity is a killer. A healthy weight is essential to being more active, having more energy, and living well into your old age. That’s why we recommend you know your BMI. The Body Mass Index check looks at your height and weight and calculates the amount of fat in your body.
For women, these are the numbers you need to know.
- Underweight: Below 18.5
- Healthy weight: 18.5 – 24.9
- Overweight: 25 – 29.9
- Obese: Above 30
The internet also makes it easy for you to measure your BMI. With tools like this available, all you need to do is input your height and weight, and soon you’ll know if it’s time to book an appointment with a nutritionist and personal trainer.
4. Cholesterol test
Love your heart? Cholesterol can be sneaky. You have good and bad cholesterol. Unfortunately, you could have high cholesterol and not know because it usually doesn’t have symptoms. That’s why it’s so important to you check your cholesterol levels.
Your doctor will advise routine cholesterol screenings from 45, but you should get your cholesterol tested every five years from 20. A nursing sister will take a blood sample from your finger, it really doesn’t hurt.
Ideally, your total cholesterol will be less than 200 mg/dl. A high cholesterol reading is between 200 and 239 mg/dl. If your family has a history of heart disease, strokes or high cholesterol, speak to your doctor about booking a cholesterol test.
5. Blood glucose test
Watch your sugar intake. Do you have a sweet tooth? Cakes, chocolates, and cookies might be a staple in your house, but these delicious treats can be dangerous. Here’s why:
Glucose is a simple sugar. It’s your body’s main source of energy. Any carbohydrates you eat during the day are converted into glucose. Insulin controls the blood glucose levels in your body. But if you’re diabetic or pre-diabetic, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin, or it’s ineffective, causing glucose to build up and you become diabetic.
If you have a history of diabetes in your family, you’re a high-risk candidate, and it’s crucial that you visit your doctor yearly for prediabetic screenings such as checking your insulin and glucose tolerance. For everyone else, test your blood glucose levels every three or so years. These are the numbers you need to keep an eye on.
- A normal level is 125 mg/dL and under.
- You may have prediabetes if you have a blood glucose level of 140-199 mg/dL.
- If your blood glucose level is 200 mg/dL, and above, you likely have diabetes.
6. Blood pressure test
Give your heart a break. Hypertension or high blood pressure is another sneaky medical condition that has no warning signs. Luckily, it takes a long time to develop, so you can catch it early, and it’s something your local doctor can quickly check. Here are the numbers you need to know.
- A normal blood pressure reading would be 120/less than 80.
- An elevated blood pressure reading is between 120-129/less than 80.
- A high blood pressure reading is above 140/90.
- And a severe blood pressure reading is above 160/110. (Please note that this level is dangerously high, and you must seek medical attention immediately.)
We recommend that from 40 years onwards, you go for a yearly blood pressure screening.
7. Skin examination
Look after your skin. Despite lathering your body in factor 50 sunscreen, the African sun is powerful. If you spend most of your day outdoors, you need to reapply sunscreen at least every four to six hours (depending on your skin type), and you must book to see a dermatologist yearly.
An itchy, irregular-shaped, and discoloured mole can be an early sign of Melanoma. It needs to come out. Left too long, and this little nuisance can become deadly. We recommend you routinely examine your skin at home. Take note of any changes to your moles or discolouration of the skin.
If your family has a history of skin cancer, it’s vital you visit a dermatologist for mole mapping. This is a process whereby your doctor takes high-resolution images of every mole on your body. Get it done.
8. Dental check-up
Take care of your smile. From the arrival of your first baby tooth to the appearance of your wisdom teeth, it’s important you look after each pearly white. Although brushing and flossing is good, dental hygiene, if you want to have strong, cavity-free teeth until you’re old and grey, you need to visit a dentist regularly.
Ideally, you should arrange a dental check-up once a year. Most Medical Schemes cover a visit to the dentist in your day-to-day benefits, so stop putting it off.
9. HIV test
Know your status! Once you become sexually active, for your health and the health of your partner, it’s recommended that you routinely get tested for HIV. A quick and painless test just a prick of your finger, and you can know your status in a matter of minutes. Early detection is crucial. Some people have lived long and healthy lives despite being HIV positive.
To recap, we recommend you get tested for HIV from 18 onwards or if you’ve:
- Had multiple sexual partners
- Had unprotected sex with someone who is HIV positive
- Injected yourself with a used needle
- Been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease such as chlamydia, herpes, syphilis, or gonorrhoea.
Prevention is always better than cure, so take care of your body. It works hard to fuel you throughout the day so if you want to keep it in tip-top shape, make sure you schedule routine health checks each year.
If you have questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to our team of doctors. You can book an appointment with one of our General Practitioners or contact one of the Specialist Gynaecologists for more info regarding a Mammogram or Pap smear.
- Header Image by nakaridore via freepik.com