By Dr. Jill Weber

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Women and health care providers across the U.S. are focusing on the power of prevention. They’re becoming more mindful of tests every woman should have on a regular basis to promote their best health. In this second part of a two-part series (read the first here), we hope to provide helpful information to support women who are interested in healthy living.

Dr. Jill Weber

Dr. Jill Weber

Earlier, we shared several tests every woman should have for good, preventive care, beginning with those screenings that enter the healthcare picture early in a woman’s life. By mid-life those tests become even more important, and other screenings join the mix.

Hypertension

Why: A blood pressure reading is a part of every doctor’s visit, beginning in childhood. However, it is monitored more closely as we age. High blood pressure (HBP) can occur at any point in life, but most often over age 35.

According to the American Heart Association, about 73 million adults have HBP, and nearly half are women. HBP has no symptoms: the only way to detect it is to check it. As a woman ages, her chance of having HBP – particularly after menopause – is greater, even with a lifetime history of normal blood pressure. HBP can lead to heart attack, stroke, heart failure and kidney damage.

A reading under 120/80 mm Hg is considered ideal, and between 120/80 and 139/89 mm Hg is now considered to be “prehypertension,” a condition that can be just as serious as hypertension. Hypertension is blood pressure of 140/90 mm Hg and above.

When: At least every two years, and more often if you have prehypertension, a family history or other risk factors.

Diabetes

Why: Diabetes is a condition in which the body doesn’t make enough insulin or has a reduced response to insulin, causing your blood sugar to be too high. Nearly 21 million individuals in the U.S. have diabetes – including 9.7 million women – and almost one third do not know it, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Some people with diabetes experience symptoms, others may go for up to 10 years without clear symptoms.  Diabetes puts you at increased risk for other serious health threats, such as heart disease or stroke. Women in particular suffer severe consequences from diabetes, ranging from birth defects during pregnancy, to heart attack and stroke, to premature menopause.

When: A screening blood sugar test – known as a fasting plasma glucose test – is recommended at least once by age 45, or sooner if risk factors are present (high blood pressure or cholesterol, obesity, or high blood sugar).

Colonoscopy

Why: A colonoscopy examines the large intestine to screen for colon cancer, which is 90 percent curable if found early. The test is performed under sedation, using a long, thin, flexible tube. Any growths or polyps can be removed during the course of the test and biopsied.

When: At age 50, then once every 10 years, if no polyps are found or risk factors exist. Patients with higher risk (parent diagnosed before age 50, or a condition like inflammatory bowel disease) should get their first test 10 years before the family member was first diagnosed, with repeat testing at least every five years.

Bone Density Scan

Why: A bone density scan measures the mass of your bones and assesses your risk of developing osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease that affects nearly 8 million women in the U.S. Women can lose up to 20 percent of their bone density in the five to seven years after menopause, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. This increases the risk for falls and broken bones, which lead to decreased mobility, potential disability and reduced quality of life.

When: Schedule your first test by age 65 and repeat every five years. Your doctor may recommend earlier or more frequent testing if you are underweight, have ever smoked, or have a recent history of broken bones or a family member with osteoporosis.

How does your health care plan compare? Hopefully some, if not all, of these tests are part of your routine. By taking time to keep tabs on your health and the screenings needed at various ages, you will gain valuable information that will help you to be your best for yourself and your loved ones.

Editor’s Note: This article was written by Dr. Jill Weber, who is in practice with Limerick Family Care, 296 West Ridge Pike, Limerick PA, on behalf of the Healthy Woman program at Pottstown Memorial Medical Center (PMMC) . It is the second installment in a two-part series (read the first here) exploring health tests that are important for women at various stages of life. PMMC supplied this article and is responsible for its content. Its publication is part of The Post’s Sunday Contributor series, for which guest authors are invited to offer submissions.

If you’d like to become a Sunday Contributor, please e-mail The Post.

Dr. Weber’s photo supplied by PMMC

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