Be Your Own Health Champion

By Stephanie Scott

he leading cause of death for women is heart disease – and the increasing numbers are alarming to experts, with more than 300,000 deaths annually in the United States. The best way to be heart healthy for life? Prevention and screenings.

The Women’s Heart Alliance promotes getting a “heart check” with your healthcare provider, in which you discuss family health history and current health habits, and assess your heart disease risk. Request blood pressure screenings and labs, including blood work to measure your cholesterol, triglycerides, and sugar levels. Your doctor can discuss lifestyle-based risk factors, like obesity and nicotine use and their effects on your heart health.


Once you know your heart health status, work with your trusted healthcare professionals to develop a diet and exercise plan that will help keep your heart healthy for life. Your regular screenings and appointments matter – and an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure. In addition to heart health screenings, every woman should keep up with these check-ups as well:


Pap smear and HPV test. Begin having regular appointments with a gynecologist by age 21 to look for pre- or early cervical cancer and test for the human papilloma virus (HPV).


Mammogram. The current guidelines are to get your first mammogram starting at age 40 and annually after that.


Skin check. Beginning at age 18, self-check your skin monthly for suspicious moles or color changes. Full body annual skin exams with a dermatologist should begin at age 40.


Colonoscopy. This test can find and remove symptom-less polyps that can develop into colon cancer. Experts recommend screening between ages 45 to 50.


Bone density test. The denser your bones, the less likely they are to break or weaken. If you have a thin build or family risk factors, start testing at age 50. Otherwise, begin by age 65.


Hearing test. Impaired hearing can come on slowly and affect quality of life.  Get your hearing evaluated every 10 years until age 50, then annually after age 60.


Eye exam. If you do not have vision problems, it’s still a good idea to check your eyes starting at 18 and get an exam every two years until age 60. After 61, go yearly. 


By taking the time to understand the status of your health, and then working to effectively manage sources of stress and discomfort, women can become their own health superhero.