Going Beyond the Annual Physical for Women

Going Beyond the Annual Physical for Women

Ah yes.  We often think back to our grandparents’ days, sigh, and wonder why life today can”t be simpler, like it was back then?   This is a rather strange question when you look at it; because advances in medical science in the last 50 years have, arguably, been more profound than the last 500 years put together.  So why are so many of us wishing to take a time trip to the past? In a word: stress!

Unlike a slower, simpler lifestyle a generation or two ago, staying healthy these days is a full time job, requiring a set of behavioral patterns tempered by military-type discipline.  It isn”t enough to be fit or healthy anymore: you have to be both!  It isn”t enough that you can run 3 miles without taxing your heart, but you also have to make sure that your organs – kidneys, liver, lungs — run like clockwork.  And as you know, it isn”t enough that you get your daily quota of fresh air and nutritious foods, but you also have to make sure that there are no tumors or lesions lurking in your insides that someday will turn into malignant masses that have to be dealt with in a hurry.

So to all of the stressed-out women in the audience today: sorry.  Swimming three times a week, eating meals packed with nutrients, and downing those vitamins won”t suffice.  Not anymore.  Healthcare specialists are universally agreeing that women need to take a gender-specific route to optimal health.

Standard Tests
As the Mayo Clinic directs, your annual physical must include dental check-ups and eye exams (to detect problems like glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts).  The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends an eye exam once a year between the ages of 20 and 39, every two to four years between age 40 and 64, and every one to two years beginning age 65.
The annual physical must also include a fasting blood sugar test (as high glucose could trigger the onset of diabetes), and skin exams; the American Cancer Society”s opinion is that beginning at age 20, a skin exam should be part of a cancer-related check-up.

Special Tests for Women
The Mayo Clinic recommends specific tests for women, depending on their age and risk factors.
·        Blood pressure test:  this should be done at age 18 and then every two years.  It”s a myth that heart disease strikes more men than women.  On the contrary, more women suffer from heart disease — but only 13% of American women know they have the disease!

·        Cholesterol test:  this should be done at age 45, but if you”re at risk of coronary heart disease, your doctor may recommend screening at an earlier age.

·        Clinical breast exam/mammography:  this should be done at age 40, and then once every two years.  Note that a clinical breast exam is not the same as a mammography, which should be done at age 50 and then depending on your risk factors, once every year or two years.  A mammography involves your breasts being squeezed between two plates, with an X-ray of your breast tissue.

·        Pap test:  You should have a pap test within three years of your first sexual relationship, or at age 2