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Checkup Checklist

Miriam Bloch

How can you navigate the plethora of health measures today’s medical world offers? Here are some common and important preventive measures experts recommend for every woman

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

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Like healthy eating and exercise, screening should be viewed as another routine way to manage your health

“I feel perfectly fine — why should I get poked and prodded and waste my time at the doctor’s office for some testing?”

That’s how many women feel about health screenings — sometimes even when symptoms are already apparent. “Pushing things off when it comes to health care is almost inevitable for many women, given the responsibilities many of them face,” says Dr. Melinda S. Mann, who sees women daily in her capacity as obstetrician-gynecologist at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Dr. Mann has observed what she calls “the toothache phenomenon” — rather than go for a checkup when symptoms are mild or at the first occurrence of pain, many wait until their symptoms are so severe that care becomes urgent.

“Please don’t wait until you hear about your friend’s serious diagnosis to go to your doctor,” Dr. Mann says. “A small problem needs a small solution and a big one needs a big solution, so why wait until you need the big solution? Care could become more complicated when health issues are not taken care of straight away. Infections grow. Issues develop. Take your early symptoms to your doctor and get yourself checked.”

Like healthy eating and exercise, screening should be viewed as another routine way to manage your health. How do you know which screenings are right for you? Check out this list of recommended health screening tests for women by age.

Age 20–40

Blood Pressure Screening

Why it’s important: “Hypertension — also known as high blood pressure — is a risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, chronic kidney disease, and peripheral vascular disease,” says Dr. Tzipora Wolff of Bishvilaych, a women’s health clinic in Jerusalem. “It’s often called ‘the silent killer,’ as it usually causes no symptoms at all.”

Over time, elevated blood pressure damages blood vessels and can lead to serious disease and disability. Screening for hypertension, says Dr. Wolff, is a way to detect and treat this disorder before it causes damage. Hypertension is treated with lifestyle modification — a low-salt diet, exercise, stress management, and adequate sleep — and if necessary, medication (if blood pressure remains elevated despite intervention).

“A small problem needs a small solution and a big one needs a big solution, so why wait until you need the big solution?”

When and how often: According to Healthline, a digital health information provider, blood pressure should be checked every two years if it’s 120/80 or under. Dr. Wolff, however, advises yearly blood pressure screening in all adults over age 18. If you’re diagnosed with high blood pressure, you should also be screened for diabetes (see sidebar). Additionally, says Dr. Wolff, you’ll need to be counseled to reduce cardiovascular risk factors such as hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, inadequate sleep, and smoking habits.

Note: Hypertension is defined in two stages: Stage one refers to blood pressure readings in the range of 130 to 139 over 80 to 89. This indicates blood pressure that is elevated but may resolve with lifestyle intervention, and requires close monitoring. Stage two refers to blood pressure readings higher than 140/90. Patients with stage two hypertension often require pharmacological treatment to control their blood pressure.

Dental Screening

Why it’s important: To rule out oral cancer (often associated with smoking and drinking, and therefore not so common among the frum female community), but also to combat gum disease and treat tooth decay.

When and how often: All adults are advised to have twice-yearly dental checkups and cleanings. If you are pregnant or taking hormone medications, you may be more likely to suffer gum inflammation and may need to be checked more frequently. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 587)

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