Must-Have Tests For Women

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    BMI/Weight

    Who to see: Your GP

    Why: African-American women have the highest rates of being either overweight or obese, compared to other groups in the United States. About 4 in 5 African-American women are overweight or obese. The problem? Pick a disease, any disease: chances are, being overweight puts you at an elevated risk. Your doctor 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.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Age-Specific Tests That Women Need

    In Your 20’s…

    Eye Exam

    Who to see: Ophthalmologist

    Why: Studies have show that Black women’s vision tends to be more at risk than that of Black men or other groups. Also, two thirds of blindness and visual impairment cases occur in women. Many eye problems, such as glaucoma and retinopathy, are detected only via exam. Plus, checkups can help pinpoint related health concerns, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

    How often: At least once between the ages of 20 and 29 and twice between ages 30 and 39. Wear glasses or contacts? Take meds that affect your vision? Got diabetes? Go annually.

    STD Screening

    Who to see: Your gynecologist or GP

    Why: Some of the highest rates of STD contraction occur in Black women, including for HIV. More bad news: chlamydia and gonorrhea, which can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, are on the rise, as is syphilis.

    How often: Annually if you’re 24 or younger, or if you’ve had sex with multiple or new partners in the past year, regardless of age. Pregnant? Get screened ASAP.

     

    Age-Specific Tests That Women Need

    In Your 30’s…

    Thyroid Check

    Who to see: Your GP

    Why: Hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid, affects women as much as seven times more than men. Undetected, it can lead to weight gain, joint pain, infertility and even heart disease.

    How often: Once every five years starting at age 35.

    HPV Test

    Who to see: Gynecologist

    Why: Two types of HPV cause about 70 percent of all cervical cancers. After age 30, women are less likely to clear the cancer-causing infections.

    How often: Request an HPV test with your Pap. If both results are normal, you may not need to be screened for another three years. But no matter how old you are, if your Pap comes back abnormal, ask your doc about getting tested.

    Mammogram

    Who to see: Radiologist

    Why: Black women have higher death rates from breast cancer. This X-ray helps detect changes in breast tissue that can signal breast cancer.

    How often: Annually. While a government task force recently changed their recommendation to yearly screenings starting at age 50, the American Cancer Society still urges Black women to start their screenings earlier, and to get a baseline mammogram around 35 (earlier if there is a family history of breast cancer). If may help to get a mammogram when your breasts are less tender, usually during the week right after your period.

    Age-Specific Tests That Women Need

    In Your 40’s…

    Test: Blood Sugar Check

    Who to see: Your GP

    Why: It’s no surprise that Type 2 diabetes — the most common type of diabetes — is one of the biggest health challenges facing African Americans, and especially African-American women. African Americans also have high rates of at least two of diabetes’ most serious complications: amputation and kidney failure. Fasting glucose levels shouldn’t exceed 100 to 125 mg/dL. Higher? Could be diabetes.

    How often: Once every three years starting at age 45.

     

     

     

     

     

    Do I Need To Get Tested More Often?

    For different reasons, certain women should be tested for particular illnesses and conditions more often, or earlier, than what is routinely recommended for the general public.

    Here are some of the health exceptions that you should be aware of:

    If you have a family history of heart disease…

    Go for regular cholesterol checks. (Your doctor will determine the best schedule). Also, if you’re experiencing symptoms, ask if certain screening methods, such as an electrocardiogram or an exercise treadmill test, are right for you.

    If you have a family history of breast, ovarian or colorectal cancer…

    Find out how old each first-degree relative was when diagnosed. Some docs recommend beginning screening 10 years earlier than the age of the diagnosis of the youngest affected relative. Have multiple first-degree relatives who’ve had ovarian or breast cancer? Perhaps talk to a genetic counselor to assess your risk.

    If you are overweight or obese…

    In addition to regular blood-pressure checks, keep close tabs on your glucose levels. Also, it’s important to note that shedding just 5 to 10 percent of your weight can neutralize your diabetes risk. Thyroid problems can also cause weight gain, so ask your doctor for a test.

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