Making health a priority: Health checkups for women over 35
Certain health conditions are specific to women and can be cured if diagnosed at the right time, shares Dr Ramananda Srikantiah Nadig, Head, Clinical Advisory Board, healthi
Non-communicable diseases are on the rise today and this makes it important to get a regular health checkup. While we know that prevention is better than cure, many people, especially women do not undertake regular health checkups. Many women who get a health checkup tend to leave it at that. With the report in hand, they may not be sure of what is the course of action ahead.
Certain health conditions are specific to women and can be cured if diagnosed at the right time. Health risks and screening recommendations become more specific with age or special conditions like pregnancy. For instance, while a regular blood sugar test may indicate glucose levels, in a woman with existing Type-2 diabetes, the recommendations and tests may vary. This further underlines the importance of timely medical checkups. A health checkup done at the right time can thus fill the gap between prevention and cure.
Here are some tests that women over the age of 35 must get done to ensure they remain healthy for a long time:
Heart problems have always been thought of as being prevalent majorly in men. However, women are increasingly becoming prone to them. The fact that the symptoms in the latter are markedly different delays diagnosis in women. An electrocardiogram undertaken once every four years over the age of 35 can help in detecting heart diseases. This test also helps ensure that your heart is working fine and pumping blood well to all body parts.
Breast cancer is a highly prevalent disease in women today. It is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality among them as well and can occur in those with no identifiable risk factors. The condition is also common in women who have had their first full-term pregnancy at the age of 30 or above. Although a breast exam or mammogram is advised over the age of 40, getting one done at 35 will help establish a baseline.
A pelvic exam is a must, every two years, over the age of 30 and can help detect any abnormalities or growths. This test is used to check the Vulva (external genital organs), Uterus (the womb), Cervix (opening from the vagina to the uterus), Fallopian tubes (tubes that carry eggs to the womb), Ovaries (organs that produce eggs), Bladder (the sac that holds urine), and Rectum (the chamber that connects the colon to the anus).
This condition is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Indian women with those between the age group of 15 and 44 particularly at risk. Cervical cancer affects the lining of the cervix, or the lower part of the uterus. It develops gradually and becomes full-blown over time. A pap smear helps in the detection of cervical cancer and can help in timely prevention/cure if done once every two years in women over 35.
A rectal exam is done to check for any problems in the reproductive organs, like the uterus and ovaries. It also helps detects symptoms such as pelvic pain or vaginal bleeding. During a rectal exam, the doctor gently puts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum. With the other hand, they press on the lower belly or pelvic area to feel for tenderness or problems, such as enlargement, hardness, or growths.
High blood pressure is a silent killer because it is not present with any apparent symptoms. Over time, it can even prove detrimental to life. Factors such as sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy eating patterns, and increase in weight are making women increasingly prone to hypertension. Women over the age of 35 should thus get their blood pressure checked at regular intervals and take measures to prevent it.
High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart problems in women later in life. Only timely checkups and diagnosis can help in understanding whether the cholesterol levels are high. It is also imperative to modify eating habits accordingly.
Women are as prone to diabetes as men. Pregnant women develop what is called gestational diabetes, which can, over time, lead to Type-2 diabetes, if not managed appropriately. High blood sugar levels can also cause several other complications in them. Regular blood or urine tests should therefore be undertaken after 35 as this can help analyse any hidden complications.
Sexually transmitted diseases
For those in an active sexual relationship, it is a good idea to get tested for sexually transmitted infections once in every five years. If you have multiple sexual partners, this test should be done every six months.
Eye exams on a regular basis are critical for detecting conditions such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy. Getting an eye check up on a regular basis is also recommended given the fact that women, too, spend a lot of time in front of computers and on mobile phones, be it in office or at home.
A good dental checkup and cleaning must be carried out once every six months.
Apart from all the above-mentioned tests, women must also ensure that they lead an active lifestyle and eat healthy. Preventive care is about more than just health checkups. It is a long-term investment which can avert many serious health problems, and help you reach your personal health and wellness goals.