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Clear the Way to Better Health: Your Medical Test Guide

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Our ultimate guide to the medical tests every smart, healthy woman needs to stay that way.

8 Medical Tests Every Woman Needs

Make a mental checklist of all the things you do to keep yourself healthy. It's a good bet you thought of your workouts, your good-for-you diet and maybe even a daily vitamin. Great! But if keeping up with medical tests isn't on your list of healthy behaviors, you're falling into the mistake that many fit women make: thinking regular exercise plus smart nutrition exempts you from getting routine exams. To truly keep your body healthy, here's what you need to know.

TEST: Pap Smear

WHO TO SEE: Gynecologist
WHY: Collecting cells from the cervix during a pelvic exam is the best way to tell if your cervix is healthy -- cell changes can lead to cervical cancer.
HOW OFTEN: Starting at age 21, most women need to be screened every other year or less, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Once you turn 30 -- and you've had three consecutive negative tests and no abnormal history -- you can get it done once every three years.

TEST: Clinical Breast Exam

WHO TO SEE: Gyno or general practitioner (GP)
WHY: She can feel or see abnormalities in breast tissue, skin and nipples that can indicate cancer.
HOW OFTEN: At least once every three years in your twenties and thirties. But if you want to be checked more frequently, simply ask. After age 40, go yearly.

TEST: Skin Cancer Screening

WHO TO SEE: Dermatologist
WHY: She can ID weirdly shaped moles or other growths that might be cancerous or precancerous.
HOW OFTEN: Get new or changed growths assessed ASAP. If you're a current or recovering tanning-bed or sun lover, are fair or dotted with moles or freckles or have a family history of skin cancer, see the derm twice a year. If not, go annually.
FAST FACT: Derms are better at diagnosing melanomas than primary-care docs, finds a recent study. The result of better screening? Higher survival rates.

TEST: Hearing Test

WHO TO SEE: Audiologist or certified speech-language pathologist
WHY: Peppering conversations with "Say that again?" is a real problem for the more than 12 percent of people in their twenties and thirties who already have some form of hearing loss, according to a recent study.
HOW OFTEN: Once every 10 years until age 50, then every three years.

TEST: Immunization Check

WHY: Up-to-date vaccinations protect you from all sorts of diseases, including some you thought went the way of the dinosaur, such as whooping cough.
HOW OFTEN: At your next physical, have your M.D. review your vaccination history. Some inoculations become less effective over time, so you may need a booster. For example, tetanus shots are vital every 10 years, no rusty nails required.
FAST FACT: One in eight U.S. adults surveyed say they are too busy to get a vaccination, reports the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

TEST: Blood Pressure

WHY: The higher it is, the greater your chance of having heart disease, a stroke or kidney damage.
HOW OFTEN: Once every two years if it's 120/80 or below. If you've already been diagnosed with hypertension -- or your doc says you're at risk -- measure your BP at home regularly, too. (We like digital cuffs that do all the work for you, like those from
FAST FACT: In the U.S., about one in eight women ages 20 to 44 has high blood pressure. Taking the Pill, pregnancy and being overweight can up your risk.

TEST: Cholesterol Panel

WHY: High cholesterol means higher risk for heart disease. You want total cholesterol under 200 mg/dL; LDL (bad cholesterol) under 100 mg/dL; HDL (good stuff) 60 mg/dL or more; and triglycerides under 150 mg/dL.
HOW OFTEN: At least once every five years, starting at age 20.

TEST: BMI / Weight

WHY: Pick a disease, any disease: Chances are, being overweight puts you at an elevated risk. Your M.D. should weigh you and calculate your body-mass index, the measurement of your weight relative to your height.
HOW OFTEN: Yearly. And if you're looking to shed pounds, weigh yourself once a week at home and visit your physician monthly to help track your progress.

Next:  Age-Specific Tests


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6/18/2012 03:28:14 AM Report Abuse
anonymous wrote:

A PAP smear does not reveal endometrial cancer!!!

2/27/2012 09:41:35 AM Report Abuse
anonymous wrote:

it would be helpful to see other views on how often 65 year olds need an eye exam if their are no obvious signs of trouble ... also heard the shingles vaccine is important for any older person?

10/6/2011 04:09:48 PM Report Abuse
limam11 wrote:

Wow! Seems like some people NEED TO LEARN HOW TO READ! These are not tests for those UNDER a certain age and there is NO cut-off point on ANY of the tests mentioned ... it is reminding YOUNGER women that they need to pay attention to their health!!! OMG!

9/12/2011 10:25:57 AM Report Abuse
amy2944 wrote:

This post was incredibly informative! I was curious to see that HIV testing did not make the cut. -Amy, Fuse Pilates

8/9/2011 09:52:29 AM Report Abuse

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