To take care of their families, women need to care for themselves too

Published 7:35 pm Saturday, October 17, 2015

Women have many roles in the family, from chauffeur to chef to accountant. Many women also serve as their family’s Chief Medical Officer, the person who makes sure vaccines are received and blood pressure is checked. Women can lead their families to better health, but only if they take time to care for themselves, too.

Many women ignore their own health in order to take care of the needs of their families. Though you may take your child to the pediatrician frequently, you may not have seen your own doctor in years.

“Yearly check-ups provide valuable information to your healthcare provider through exams and screenings,” says Kiniya Church, DNP, FNP-C with Bon Secours Suffolk Primary Care. “Studies have repeatedly shown that recommended screenings can identify conditions and risk factors early so that you can receive faster, less expensive and less intensive treatment.”

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Though each woman is different and may have different screening schedules, in general you should receive these screenings according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force:

  • Blood pressure checks at least every two years from age 18 and up
  • Pap smear every three years from age 21 and up
  • Cholesterol test regularly after age 18 if you are at risk for heart disease
  • Diabetes screening regularly if you have blood pressure greater than 135/80
  • Colonoscopy at age 50, then as recommended by your physician
  • Mammogram every two years starting at age 50
  • Osteoporosis screening at age 65

Depending on factors such as your race and family history, you may need to have some of these screenings earlier. For instance, women with a strong family history of breast cancer may need to start receiving mammograms at age 40 or younger.

By seeing a healthcare provider yearly, you can stay on top of these screenings as well as any vaccine boosters you may need, such as for whooping cough. Your provider can help you decide when these screenings are necessary and help you find ways to improve your health.

These screenings may take only two to three hours out of the entire year to complete. However, if conditions are not caught early, it may result in days in the hospital or hours of treatment. Though blood pressure pills may cost $4 per month, heart surgery can cost thousands of dollars.

As Chief Medical Officer for your family, the best decision you can make is to invest time and money in maintaining everyone’s health, including your own. Though provider visits are important, your day-to-day activities play a larger role in your health. By eating healthy food, exercising and avoiding bad habits like smoking or consuming too much alcohol, you can greatly reduce your risk of many conditions and ensure that you receive a clean bill of health.