As I approach my mid-30s – okay I am approaching 32, but I round up – it becomes more clear every day that I am aging. Sure, I still get carded, people ask if I am in my 20’s and I look like a 12-year-old kid without makeup on, but I know the truth. I am getting older.
So, I figured now is as good of time as any to start understanding how I can stay healthy as age slowly creeps up on me. Besides exercising and eating right, with the help of Teresa Malcolm, MD, OB/GYN and Jessica Regnaert, MD, Family Medicine physician, here are the top medical test for women of in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s.
- Get a complete physical. When you are 21 you should get your first complete physical, including blood work that checks your cholesterol, sugar, thyroid function, liver and kidney function, and vitamin B12 and D levels. Get one every 5 years until you reach the age of 40. Getting these tests will ensure that you can detect any issues as early as possible.
- Pap test. A Pap test is the best way to detect the earliest signs of cervical cancer. It’s best to start getting this test at the age of 21, when you have the highest chance of exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV).
- Get tested for STDs. Of all the STDs that are transmitted each year, nearly half affect 18-24 year olds. Some STDs don’t have any symptoms but can lead to complications such as infertility later in life. Be sure to get checked.
- Check your skin. Melanoma is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in women ages 25-29. Be sure to check your skin for new or oddly shaped moles. If you think something isn’t right, don’t hesitate. Tell your physician as soon as possible.
- HPV test. It's important to continue to be tested for HPV because our immune systems become less robust as we age. This can begin at age 30 in patients with a history of normal pap smears and only needs to be repeated every five years if normal. Blood sugar test.
- Go in for your first test at age 30, and get one every year until age 50. As we age, the risk of developing diabetes increases.
- Cholesterol test. You should begin to get physicals, including a cholesterol test, annually in your 40s. If you smoke, have high blood pressure, diabetes, or a family history of heart disease, it is especially important to receive this test.
- Consider a mammogram. The National Cancer Institute recommends getting screened for breast cancer every two years beginning at age 40, especially if you are high risk.
- Mammograms. Depending on your personal risk, getting a mammogram every year or every two years becomes extremely important when you hit age 50.
- Colonoscopy. At age 50 you should have your first colonoscopy. This test should be repeated every ten years thereafter to check for colorectal cancer – the second leading killer of both men and women in the United States. People who are tested every ten years have better outcomes if they are diagnosed with the disease.
- Get a hearing test. Hearing loss affects 1 in 10 Americans. Protect yourself and be sure to get tested.
Dr. Malcolm and Regnaert also wanted to make sure not to forget the following:
- Every year you should receive an annual gynecological exam with a breast and blood pressure check.
- Receive a Pap test every 3-5 years. Consult your physician to determine the right screening interval for you based upon your medical history.
- Get an eye exam every 5 to 10 years.
- Check your skin yearly for any abnormalities.
- Get a yearly physical with cholesterol and blood sugar testing.
- Perform monthly self-breast exams.
Regardless of your age, make sure you complete these simple tests. It’s the best way to ensure the best, healthy you, stays around for a long time!
One last reminder –live life to the fullest, laugh until it hurts, and love with all you have!