Preventive Health Care for Women

While there are preventive care measures you can take at home, preventive health care refers to the act of taking certain medical precautions in order to prevent forming a disease or developing a medical condition.

Preventive health care can be very effective, but the name is sometimes misleading. Preventive health care will keep you from getting sick in the first place whenever possible. For those who are already dealing with a long-term physical ailment, physicians can advise on the best possible course of action to treat the condition and make it manageable.

Preventive health care largely relies on annual checkups and screenings. While these may seem like easy events to schedule, many women have a hard time arranging the necessary checkups. It is easy to overlook the importance of proper health care when you are feeling healthy and have a busy schedule. Many patients make the mistake of waiting until they have visible symptoms or feel physically ill before consulting a doctor. With proper preventive health care, it may be possible to avoid developing any symptoms or getting sick in the first place. Listed below are some of the most common preventive health care procedures for women, and how often the procedures should be performed.

General Health Preventive Health Care

For the most part, preventive health care focuses on a specific area. There are a few procedures that are classified as general health since they focus on multiple areas. The first is an annual physical exam. As of writing, under the Affordable Care Act, insurance providers must offer coverage for an annual physical exam. If your plan does not specifically mention it, then check to see if it covers a well-woman visit. Many insurance plans have started to use this specific phrase in place of a physical exam since physical exams vary depending on your gender.

A physical exam covers a variety of issues. From a medical perspective, it allows a physician to screen you for any potential health issues as well as to address the likelihood of developing future medical conditions. A physical examination will also serve as a basic screening for your vision and hearing. Depending on the results of your physical, you may be required to undergo additional screenings to address further issues.

The other purpose of a physical is to discuss lifestyle habits, such as diet and exercises as well as tobacco smoking cessation or avoiding excessive drinking of alcohol. This is another step to preventing certain health issues. You may not currently be at risk, but you may have certain habits that could eventually turn into a more serious issue if left untreated. Discussing lifestyle changes is especially important for younger patients. Finally, a physical exam is an excellent opportunity to stay up to date with all of your necessary vaccinations.

A thyroid test is also classified as a general health screening. Unless otherwise specified, you do not need routine thyroid tests. It is recommended for patients who are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, as well as patients 60 years of age or older. If you are at risk for hypothyroidism, then your doctor will likely want to schedule tests more frequently. An overactive thyroid can cause a number of different symptoms. However, there are numerous treatment options, especially if the condition is identified early through preventive health care.

Breast Health Preventive Care

Breast cancer is a very serious risk for women. Breast cancer can be treated, but it is significantly easier to treat if it is caught as early as possible. Catching it early gives physicians more time to plan a treatment before the cancer worsens. There are two types of screenings for breast cancer. The first is a clinical breast exam, which women should have conducted get when they reach adulthood. You should consider getting a breast exam roughly every three years until you turn 40 years of age. Depending on your medical history and lifestyle choices, your physician may recommend more regular screenings.

After turning 40 years of age, you should schedule a mammogram every one or two years. Again, this may change depending on medical history and lifestyle choices. Even if your screenings consistently come back as negative, it is strongly recommended to continue to schedule an annual mammogram. As you get older, you are more at risk of developing breast cancer, so there is no reason to take any chances with your health. This is true even if you do not have a family history of breast cancer. Learn more tips for healthy aging here.

Heart and Lung Preventive Care

For both men and women, heart and lung preventive care are very important. The first assessment you should annually schedule is a blood pressure screening. Blood pressure can indicate a number of potential health issues, including hypertension. A blood pressure screening is very quick, so there is no reason to skip it. In fact, you can get a blood pressure screening outside of a medical clinic. There are many factors that can change your blood pressure, which is one of the reasons annual screenings are so important. You may have perfect blood pressure during one screening but have completely different results the following year. Your physician may recommend screenings more frequently depending on your medical history.

Starting at 20 years of age, you should schedule a cholesterol screening at least every five years. Abnormalities in cholesterol may be indications of heart disease. Cholesterol levels are impacted by many other health conditions, so it is not uncommon for a physician to recommend more frequent screenings. Cholesterol screenings are one of few preventive health care measures that actually become less common the older you get. Your lipid levels are less likely to change when you are older. However, you should still schedule an occasional screening, just to be safe.

The last type of screening in this category is for lung cancer. The frequency of lung cancer screenings largely has to do with your age and your smoking history. Since there are so many determining factors, you should consult your physician to see how often a screening is recommended.

Pap and HPV Testing

Both a Pap test, informally referred to as a Pap smear, and HPV tests are important for detecting cervical cancer. You should first get a Pap test when you turn 21 years of age, barring any other recommendations from a physician. You should get tested at least every three years. Once you reach 30 years of age, you should get your first HPV test, which you should repeat every five years. When you turn 65 years of age, your doctor may stop scheduling Pap and HPV tests. Depending on the results of your tests as well as family history, your physician may recommend screenings more frequently.

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