Statistics show that women are quite conscientious about health and make many of the healthcare decisions in their families. Yet, while women are said to be less neglectful of their health than men, there are also many women out there who have let years pass since their last medical check-up.
This could be the result of juggling a busy career with family responsibilities, or just because of a lack of concern for one’s health. Whatever the reason, if you’re one of those women who hasn’t seen a doctor for years, it’s time to change that. For starters, here are three important health checks that you shouldn’t neglect.
As a starting point, it is recommended that you check your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and get a full blood test. Your blood pressure can show your risk for serious conditions like stroke and heart disease, and prompt you to make life-saving changes, if necessary. What’s more, it’s a painless test and only takes seconds.
The other three blood tests do involve a needle prick or two, but they are just as crucial. High blood sugar can indicate diabetes risk, while high cholesterol means a higher chance of developing heart disease or stroke. Finally, a complete round of blood tests including liver function test (LFT) and renal function test (RFT) can let the doctor know your overall state of health such as whether your liver and kidneys are working well.
Even if you are in your 20s or early 30s, it’s important to know these health indicators not only to identify or prevent health problems, but also to establish your baseline figures to compare with as you age. In your mid-30s and onwards, as risk of disease increases, keeping tab of these numbers becomes more important.
Breast Examination/Ultrasound or Mammogram
While you may be doing breast self-examinations at home, it’s still necessary to have your breasts examined by a doctor regularly. Sometimes, breast lumps can be hard to detect for an untrained person, so seeing your doctor can ensure that any abnormalities are not missed.
Depending on your age, your doctor will recommend either an ultrasound or a mammogram for a better look at your breast tissue. In general, breast examinations or ultrasounds are recommended every three years for women in their 20s and 30s, annually for women aged 40 and up. Mammograms are generally used for women over 40, but the frequency would depend on your age and other factors such as a family history of breast cancer.
With the incidences of breast cancer increasing all over the world, this is one check-up that you really can’t afford to ignore.
Pelvic Examination & Pap Smear
In the past, Pap smears were recommended yearly for sexually active women, but these days all women are advised to undergo annual pelvic examinations and Pap smears. The doctor will perform a pelvic examination, either physically or with additional use of an ultrasound to check your reproductive organs. Next, a small scraping of cells will be taken from the opening of your cervix, to check for any pre-cancerous or cancerous cells.
If you’ve been putting off having your Pap smear done because of the process, do remind yourself that it lasts only a few seconds, and it is uncomfortable rather than painful. However, the results of a Pap smear could save your life as early detection significantly increases the chance of surviving cervical cancer. So it’s time to put your big girl panties on, or rather, pull them down, and get this done!
Of course, these aren’t the only three healthcare investigations that you’ll ever need. There are many other important tests, such as updating your vaccinations, keeping track of your weight and BMI, examining your skin for abnormalities, checking your eyesight, and undergoing mental health assessments for depression or stress. Yet if you find the idea of a comprehensive screening too daunting, just start getting back on track with the three important checks: blood pressure and blood screening, breast examinations and pelvic examination/Pap smear.
If you’ve been neglecting your health for a while, don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re not alone. A 2015 UK study by NEOM Organics found that 90% of the women surveyed were stressed, and half of them neglected their health because of this. Now, this was a small study involving fewer than 2,000 women, but with modern life getting more and more demanding, you might find that it rings true for you. Stress is also linked to serious health issues, which in turn cause more stress. One way you can end this vicious cycle is to make your health a priority. Pick up the phone, and make an appointment to get these three health checks done. You’ll be glad you did.