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How Preventive Screenings Help Keep Women Well
Women are often the primary caregivers in their households, but too often they put their own health needs last. Maureen Lewis, a certified registered nurse practitioner with the Troy Laurel Health Center, shares how women can reprioritize their health to improve their everyday well-being and the important role preventive screenings play in keeping women well.
How can women be proactive about their health?
Women are often juggling a lot of work and life responsibilities, especially when they’re caregivers to children, aging parents, or ill friends and family.
The first step to being proactive about your health is to make time for your own health and wellness. It’s not selfish to pay attention to your own health. Being in tune with your body and mind helps you better identify when something feels off so you can quickly address those health needs.
Important steps women can take to improve their health are:
Eat well. Strive for a balanced, colorful plate that’s heavy on fruits and vegetables with lean protein and healthy whole grains.
Make time for movement. Exercise keeps our heart, joints, and mind healthy. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Going for a walk, dancing to your favorite music, playing with your kids or pets, and teaming up with a friend to workout are all great options.
Reduce stress. Long-term, chronic stress can take a serious toll on our body. We can’t always remove the source of stress from our lives, so it’s important to find ways to reduce and manage our stress. Find what works for you. Some ideas to try are reading, meditation, singing, dancing, journaling, exercising, talking with a friend, watching comedies, or a soak in the tub.
Schedule an annual physical and don’t skip your wellness screenings. It’s important to schedule check-ins with your healthcare provider even when you feel well. Well visits set healthy baselines to monitor your health and help you stay on top of preventive screenings.
Which preventive screenings do women need?
Which preventive screenings you need will be based on your age, current health, individual risk factors, and family history. Screenings for breast health, cervical cancer, blood pressure, and osteoporosis are an important part of women’s health and wellness.
When should we start screening?
When to start each preventive screening will depend on your unique health needs. Women should begin breast self-exams in their early 20s, but it’s never too late to start! Breast self-exams help us familiarize ourselves with what’s normal for our breasts to aid in detecting any changes. If you have a menstrual cycle, check your breasts at the same time each cycle, preferably just after your period when your breasts are not as dense. If you don’t have a cycle, choose the same time each month.
Women should begin cervical cancer screenings at age 21 then get screened every 3 years until age 30, at which point those who are not at increased risk and who have a history of normal pap tests may move to screening every 5 years until age 65. Those over 65 should be screened based on their cervical health history and personal risk. Cervical cancer is almost always caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). There are many different strains of HPV, and some are more likely to cause cancer than others. Another important preventive tool against cervical cancer is immunization. The HPV vaccine plays a key role in protecting you from cervical cancer as it is designed to help your body identify and better fight off the most high-risk HPV strains.
Women over 65 should be screened for osteoporosis (bone loss) with a bone density test. Bone density tests help your provider evaluate if you are at high risk for a fracture. Women are at greater risk for developing osteopenia (low bone density) and osteoporosis (bone loss) because our bones are typically smaller and less dense than male bones and because during menopause, our estrogen levels fall which affects bone production.
Most people should receive a blood pressure check at each visit to their doctor’s office. It is recommended everyone over 40 have their blood pressure checked at least once a year (e.g., as part of their yearly wellness physical). If you are at risk for heart disease, have elevated readings, or are on blood pressure medication, your doctor will recommend screenings more often. If you’re under 40 and in good health with stable blood pressure readings in the healthy range, your doctor may check your blood pressure every 2 years.
How can these preventive screenings improve our health?
Age-based wellness screenings help you and your provider monitor your health, identify your personal risks, and catch potential trouble early when it’s easier to treat. Early detection leads to better health outcomes, and some screenings can help you prevent a serious health problem from developing at all. For example, annual blood work can spot a low vitamin D value before it becomes a serious deficiency that affects your health, and cervical cancer screenings are designed to detect anomalies so that pre-cancerous cells can be addressed before they have the chance to develop into cancer.
Preventive screenings empower you and your provider to set wellness goals that improve your well-being to keep you healthy and active as you age, so that you can live your healthiest life.
Need to schedule a preventive screening? Laurel Health has you covered with convenient women’s health and wellness care throughout Tioga and Bradford Counties. To make an appointment, call 1-833-LAURELHC (1-833-528-7354) and select the office of your choice or visit laurelhc.org for a full list of Laurel Health locations.
To make an appointment with Maureen Lewis, CRNP in Troy, call 570-297-3746.
For more information about Laurel Health’s family medicine and specialty services, visit laurelhc.org.
Videography: Andrew Moore
Video Editing: Andrew Moore
Writing: Kristy Warren
Anchor: Sara Vogt
Produced by Vogt Media
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