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A Decade-By-Decade Guide to Women’s Health

Aug 23, 2018 12:00AM

You may think it’s hard to keep up with the trendy lingo your kids are using, but keeping up with your health year-after-year can feel just as overwhelming. For example, what you once knew as an “annual physical” has evolved into a “routine wellness exam.” So, what should you be asking your provider about? And what screenings do you need each year? 

In the age of patient-centered care, physicians are now addressing health maintenance at each encounter regardless of the reason for your visit. Your provider’s recommendations should focus on disease prevention and be tailored to your age and lifestyle. Tammy Jones, MD, primary care physician with AAMG Chesapeake Family Medicine, gives this decade-by-decade cheat sheet of things you should be thinking about for your best health. 

In Your 20s

Now that you’re on your own health care plan, you may be wondering how often you should be getting a check-up, which types of screenings you need and what health challenges are most common for your age group. Consider these steps toward a healthier lifestyle in your 20s:

Well-woman visit. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most women have full coverage for well-woman visits without costs like co-pays and deductibles. During this yearly visit, your physician may complete a breast exam, pelvic exam, and pap smear. 

Blood pressure screening. Did you know that the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association recently came out with new blood pressure guidelines? High blood pressure can be treated earlier with simple lifestyle changes, such as exercising more and maintaining a well-balanced diet. Be sure to check in with your physician on the prevention and treatment plan that is best for you.

Lipid panel (cholesterol profile) testing. Having your cholesterol checked annually is an important part of preventive health care, especially if you have a personal history of coronary artery disease, tobacco use, high blood pressure or obesity.

Tdap vaccine. A Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) is recommended once every 10 years and once with each pregnancy.

In Your 30s

Maybe you don’t feel much different than you did in your 20s, but your body is changing day by day. Now is the time to continue building a foundation for good health and address your health concerns. As you maintain the regular screenings and tests you had in your 20s, consider these
next steps in your 30s:

Well-woman visit. Regular screenings, like a pap smear with HPV testing, may be recommended
by your physician in this phase of life. Now may also be the time to have an open conversation about reproductive issues, from trying to get pregnant to finding a birth control method that is right for you.

Calcium-rich diet. Bone loss can begin as early as your 30s, leading to osteoporosis later in
life. However, it’s easily preventable. Talk to your physician about keeping your bones strong and healthy with a diet that is rich in calcium.

Skincare. You may start to notice fine lines appearing on your skin, but it is a normal part of aging. Managing sun exposure and using sunscreen will help your skin look its best.

In Your 40s

As you continue to juggle work and family life, your health may take the backseat to the needs of others. Maintain your healthy habits and consider these steps in your 40s:

Well-woman visit. Pap smear testing and HPV testing may change in frequency based on past test results, but it is important to continue your annual well-woman visits.

Mammogram. You should consider a mammogram at this age based on individual risk factors and family history. Talk to your provider to see if the time is right for you.



 In Your 50s

Now you will begin to see all of the preventive health care steps you made earlier in life pay off. Keep in mind that family medical history plays a more important role in your health and consider these steps in your 50s: 

Mammogram. A mammogram is recommended every two years beginning at the age of 50 to help in early detection of breast cancer. 

Colorectal Screening. A colonoscopy is the most effective screening tool, but your physician will help decide which screening method is best for you.

Shingles vaccine. Your physician may recommend the vaccine called “Shingrix,” which is given in two doses, six months apart.

As you take the journey to living your healthiest life, it’s important you find a health care provider you can trust and speak to openly. You should feel empowered to be an active participant in your healthcare. 

“A decade-by-decade guide to women’s heath” is provided by Anne Arundel Medical Center.