Article contributed by: Nichole DeLaPlante, DO Family Medicine Physician at Lone Peak Primary Care
As a practicing family medicine physician I give a lot of advice on a daily basis. I know that keeping up with current health recommendations can be overwhelming so I would like to point out a few things that every woman should know to help protect and maintain her health!
Get an annual physical, regular pap smears and routine mammograms
Routine physicals are a great way to keep you and your physician informed and up to date with your changing health. Routine exams also help to establish a schedule for your preventive screenings for several major health concerns such as cholesterol, osteoporosis, pap smears for cervical cancer, mammograms and colonoscopy.
Pap smears specifically, have proven highly effective in identifying cervical cancers. It is probably the most effective cancer screening tool in medicine for women! Pap smears are designed to detect abnormal cells caused by a virus called HPV or Human Papilloma Virus.
When should I get a Pap?
Pap screening should begin at age 21. After, it is recommended that routine screenings occur every two years for women between ages 21 and 29. For healthy women 30 years and older who’ve had three consecutive normal screenings and negative HPV tests, pap smears may be done every three to five years based on new USPSTF recommendations. For further details, please discuss with your primary care provider.
Have a routine mammogram
Unfortunately, breast cancer can occur at any age. It is important to start with annual breast exams while you’re in your 20’s and continue till age 39. Then, based on family history and risk assessment most women will start their mammogram screening at age 40 till about age 75. After age 75, it is recommended that a woman consult with their physician regarding frequency of breast cancer screening. This is a treatable disease if caught early- so early detection is paramount.
Heart disease is the number one killer of women
That’s correct! Many women tend to think cancer is the number one threat however, just like men , women are at very high risk for heart disease! The difference here is that women present with heart attacks much differently than men. Women will sometimes have chest pain but often present with more atypical signs of heart attack such as nausea, chest pressure, back, neck or jaw pain, indigestion and shortness of breath. The key here is to “know your numbers.” Identifying the problem early is the key to prevention!
Establish a healthy body image
I think with the continuous assault on women in the media to be “model-picture perfect” many of us tend to lose sight of what is realistic and healthy in terms of goals for our weight and appearance. I see this struggle in my young adolescent patients as well as my adult patients.
It is important to recognize how much of what we see in magazine or on tv is altered or airbrushed. Give yourself the love and credit you deserve! Start focusing on the things that you love and appreciate about yourself.
As adult women, we need to set healthy and realistic expectations for ourselves and the young girls who’s lives we impact. Self-criticism can create depression and unhealthy demands of ourselves and it affects those around us. I ask that we stand up to the media’s portrayal of beauty and perfection and try to focus on the reality of what is gorgeous and admirable about us as individuals. And trust me, we all have something!
Find ways to reduce stress
While there are a lot of things that women need to be aware of, I see more and more need to emphasize that we must start implementing ways to reduce the stress in our lives. I see women daily who have medical complications that are worsened due to stress. It is paramount that we take a little time each day to do something that will help reduce our stress, and I do not mean watching TV! Give yourself some personal time to do what you love! This happiness and self-solace will reflect positively on all those around you and will lead to a better, healthier you!