Women can't always stay healthy and prevent disease. But by having certain screening tests and practicing healthful behaviors, they are more likely to live long, healthy lives.
Review the following guidelines for women at average risk and discuss them with your health care provider. If you have risk factors for a disease or a diagnosed condition, these recommendations may not apply to you; talk to your provider about when you should have these tests.
Screening tests can detect cancer, heart disease and other diseases early when they're easier to treat. Talk with your health care provider about which of the following tests, recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), are right for you.
Blood pressure. Have your blood pressure checked beginning at age 18.
Colorectal cancer test. If you are at an average risk of colorectal cancer, have a test for colorectal cancer starting at age 50. Your health care provider can help you decide which test for colorectal cancer is right for you. How often you should have the test depends on which test you and your provider select for screening.
Mammogram. Currently, the USPSTF recommends screening every two years for women ages 50 to 74. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends yearly screening for all women ages 40 and older. Talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors before making a decision about when to start getting mammograms or how often to get them.
Clinical breast exam. The ACS recommends clinical breast exams (CBEs) at least every three years for all women in their 20s and 30s and annual CBEs for women ages 40 and older. The USPSTF, however, believes there is not enough evidence to assess the value of CBEs for women ages 40 and older. Women should talk with their doctors about their personal risk factors and make a decision about whether they should have a CBE.
Pap test. You should have a Pap test within three years of your first sexual encounter or age 21, whichever comes first. You should then have a Pap test every year, or every two years if your provider uses a newer liquid-based Pap test, the ACS says. Beginning at age 30, if you have had three normal Pap tests in a row, you may be able to be screened every two to three years. You should have a pelvic exam with each Pap test.
Tests for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Have STD tests if you're sexually active and you and your partner aren't monogamous.
Eye exam. You should have a complete eye exam at least once between the ages of 20 and 29 and at least twice between the ages of 30 and 39, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Have an eye exam at the age of 40, at which time your doctor can recommend how frequently you should follow up; after age 65, have an exam every one to two years.
Skin exam. Each time you have a health checkup, have your provider examine your skin for skin cancer and precancerous conditions. Learn the signs of skin cancer so you can examine your own skin regularly.
Making the following healthful lifestyle choices can have a significant impact on your current and future health.
Don't smoke. If you do, talk with your health care provider about quitting. Make a plan and set a quit date.
Get adequate calcium and vitamin D throughout your lifetime.
Eat a healthful diet. Eat a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean meat, fish, chicken, eggs, beans and whole grains. Limit the amount of saturated fat, salt and sugar you eat.
Be physically active. Start slowly and work up to a total of 30 to 60 minutes or more most days of the week.
Maintain a healthful weight. To do so, balance the number of calories you eat with the number you burn off in daily activities. To lose weight, eat less and exercise more.
Drink alcohol only in moderation. If you drink alcohol, limit your intake to one drink a day. If you're pregnant, avoid alcohol.
Practice safe sex. Have your male sexual partner use a latex condom each time you have sex unless you know he is free of any STDs, is HIV negative, does not use intravenous drugs and both you and he are monogamous.