Even if you don’t feel sick, getting checked out regularly can help you stay healthy and find health problems early.
As you get older, your health screening needs will change, but women ages 18 to 39 should be checked for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cervical cancer, breast cancer, and other diseases.
You should also speak up for your own health. You know your body better than anyone else, so if something doesn’t feel right, keep asking questions until you get answers.
Seeing your doctor for regular checkups is important if you want to stay healthy. Even if you don’t feel sick, getting regular health checks can help find health problems early. Early diagnosis can also help things go better.
The health checks you need depend on how old you are, and they change as you get older. Today, we’ll talk about health checks for women between the ages of 18 and 39. Check out our list and make an appointment with your doctor if you need a checkup.
It’s important to see your family doctor for regular checkups for the rest of your life. During a physical exam, you are usually checked from head to toe to make sure you are healthy. Healthline says that your doctor may check your height, weight, and body mass index (BMI).
It’s also common for your doctor to ask about things like your diet, how often you work out, and whether or not you drink alcohol or smoke. They might also ask about your mental health to see if you are depressed. During your visit, your doctor may suggest that you get checked for cholesterol, blood pressure, or cervical cancer, among other things. Let’s look at what’s going to happen next.
If you are at risk for coronary heart disease, your cholesterol levels should be checked. At age 20, a first screening should be done. The American Heart Association says that people with a low risk should be checked every 4 to 6 years after that.
But if you are more likely to get heart disease or a stroke, your doctor may want to check you more often.
Cholesterol is checked with a blood test. This is usually a fasted blood test, which means you can’t eat or drink anything but water for a certain amount of time before your appointment.
This blood test will measure your total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol), and HDL (good cholesterol). If you have high cholesterol, your doctor will tell you what changes you can make to your life to help lower it. In some cases, you may need to take medicine.
Blood Pressure Screening
When you are a young adult, it is important to start checking your blood pressure. If you find out you have high blood pressure (hypertension) early, you can make the changes to your life that will help you get it under control.
The Mayo Clinic says that if you don’t take care of your high blood pressure, it could lead to serious problems like a heart attack or stroke.
Healthline says that you have hypertension if your blood pressure is over 140/90. If your blood pressure is 120/80, the source says you should have it checked every two years. If it’s high, your doctor might want to check it more often and look for other health problems like diabetes.
If your blood pressure is 130/80 mm Hg or higher, your doctor may want to check your blood sugar to see if you have diabetes. Your weight may also be a reason to check for diabetes.
MedlinePlus says that if you are overweight, you should start getting checked for diabetes around the age of 35. You may also need to be tested if your family has a history of diabetes or heart disease or if you have other risk factors.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that a screening involves drinking a liquid with glucose in it, and then having your blood drawn an hour later to check your blood sugar levels.
The source says you’ll need to take a glucose tolerance test if your levels are higher than 140 mg/dL. This test checks your fasting blood sugar level and helps find out if you are at risk for developing diabetes.
Cervical Cancer Screening
At age 21, women should start getting checked for cervical cancer. A Pap smear is used to do this. MedlinePlus says that between the ages of 21 and 29, a Pap test should be done every three years. Between the ages of 30 and 65, women should keep getting Pap tests every 3 years or HPV tests every 5 years.
The source also says, “Women who have been treated for precancer (cervical dysplasia) should continue to get Pap tests for 20 years after treatment or until age 65, whichever is longer.”
Lastly, women who have had a total hysterectomy and haven’t been diagnosed with cervical cancer may not need Pap smears.
Breast Cancer Screening
The most common way to check for breast cancer is with a mammogram. Most women shouldn’t get a mammogram until they are 40, but some may need to be screened earlier. This is especially true if your mother or sister was diagnosed with breast cancer when they were young.
MedlinePlus says that if your family has a history of breast cancer, you should start screening “earlier than when their youngest family member was diagnosed.”
If you have other things that make you more likely to get breast cancer, you may also need to get screened earlier. Screenings can also be done with an MRI scan or an ultrasound of the breast.
Women can also do monthly self-exams of their breasts, which are best done after their period, to check for lumps, changes in the skin, discharge, and other changes.
Getting your vaccinations on time is important for your health. Some vaccines you got as a child will need to be given again when you’re a young adult. Talk to your doctor to find out what vaccines you need.
MedlinePlus says that every year, women should get a flu shot. Most people need a tetanus-diphtheria booster shot at age 19 or later, and every 10 years after that.
If you’ve never had chickenpox, you might need the varicella vaccine. If you’ve never had measles, mumps, or rubella, you might need the MMR vaccine. The source also says that women between the ages of 19 and 26 should talk to their doctor about the HPV vaccine.
Self Exam: Skin
How much time do you spend in the sun? A tanning bed might give you a glow. No matter what, it’s important for everyone, men and women alike, to get checked for skin cancer.
The American Cancer Society says, “Regular self-exams of the skin are especially important for people who are more likely to get skin cancer, such as those who have a weak immune system, have had skin cancer before, or come from a family with a lot of skin cancer cases.” Your doctor will find out how often you should check your skin.
Use a mirror in a well-lit room to check your skin. You can look at hard-to-see places with a hand-held mirror. The source says that not all skin cancers look the same.
So, in general, you should look for skin growths and spots that get bigger or change, as well as rough, scaly patches, growths that look like warts, moles that get bigger or smaller, and moles with strange shapes, uneven edges, or different-colored parts.
Ask Your Doctor About Other Screenings
It is important to talk to your doctor about what other health checks you should get. For example, women usually don’t start screening for colon cancer until age 45.
But if you have a strong family history of inflammatory bowel disease or polyps, your doctor may suggest that you start getting regular tests at a younger age.
Talk to your doctor about the illnesses and health problems you might get. From there, they can help you figure out how and when to start screening.
The office of your family doctor isn’t the only place you should go regularly. It’s also important to go to the dentist regularly. Plus, your oral health has a lot more to do with your overall health than you might think.
Gum disease, for example, has been linked to heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoporosis.
As a general rule, women of all ages should go to the dentist at least once a year, and preferably every six months. During your checkup, your dentist can evaluate if you need more frequent visits, explains MedlinePlus.
Also, it’s important to get regular eye exams. Getting your eyes checked on a regular basis can help you see as well as possible and tell you if you need glasses.
Regular eye health exams will also look for signs of eye diseases or conditions that can affect not only your vision but also your overall health, says Pacific Eye Doctors.
MedlinePlus says that if you have vision problems, you should get an eye exam at least once every two years. Your eye doctor will be able to tell if your vision has stayed the same or if it’s getting worse, in which case you may need a new prescription. The source also says that diabetic women should get their eyes checked at least once a year.
Make a Case for Your Own Health
This list of health checks is a good place to start, but you need to be an advocate for your own health. You know your body better than anyone else, so if something doesn’t feel right, keep asking questions until you get answers.
Don’t be afraid to look for different doctors. You should have a good doctor who listens to and cares about your worries. If your doctor doesn’t take your health concerns seriously, this could be a sign that you need to find a new doctor. Or at least ask someone else what they think.
When you’re looking out for your own health, come to your appointments with a list of things you want to talk about, and don’t be afraid to take notes.