By Nomali Cele
With the passage of time, comes the need to be extra careful with our bodies and when it comes to our health. In 2013, the actress and director, Angelina Jolie, underwent a very public double mastectomy – public in that she decided to share her journey in the hopes that it would empower other women who might need to make the same decision for their health. Jolie had discovered that she shared a genetic trait that causes cancer that her mother had; the very same cancer that killed her mother. Two years later, Jolie would have another preventative surgery.
When it comes to your health, knowledge is power and it could be the difference between life and death. But where do you start? There are different medical exams that become crucial at different stages of women’s lives, with your family medical history in mind, these are some of the essential health exams for women.
Breast self-exam and Mammogram
Regular breast self-exams are recommended for women of all ages, starting in your early twenties. This is in line with the drive for early breast cancer detection. Breast self-exams are recommended as young as 18 because, for too long, breast cancer has been treated as something that affects women of a certain age but that’s not true.
Mammograms are recommended for older women as risk increases with age. You should also have a mamogram earlier, in your late thirties, if you have a family history of breast cancer.
Pelvic exam and pap smear
Staying on cancer…the pap smear and pelvic exam is a process during which cells from the uterus are tested for abnormalities and signs of cancer. Pap smears are also important for your sexual health as they are able to detect STDs such as HPV. A Pap smear is recommended every three to five years for women between the ages of 21 and 65. But your doctor is best placed to make the final recommendation on frequency as this will also factor in your genetic risk for cervical cancer.
Blood glucose tests
The older you get, the more your body changes. You can make all the best lifestyle choices (lead an active life, eat food that is considered healthy and ration your alcohol intake) but still find yourself blindsided by health issues. Blood glucose testing checks the amount of glucose in your blood and is a great helth exam to do regularly. Too much glucose is a not a good sign. Starting in your late 40s, you should get a blood glucose test every three years to check for diabetes or pre-diabetes.
If you have issues with your eyesight and wear glasses or contact lenses, regular visits to the optometrist and eye tests are important health exams for you. Have your vision checked every 24 months or so.
Bone density exam
Bone density tests are health exams for older women, your early fifties is the age it’s recommended. The bone density exam checks whether your bones are brittle and how susceptible you are to bone fractures. Getting a bone density exam is also checking for your risk of osteoporosis, which is the condition that leads to a higher risk of bone fractures.
Bone density exams are recommended for women in their early sixties but “prevention” such as taking your calcium and bone-strengthening supplements should happen much earlier in life. Consult your doctor.
Have you done any of the essential health exams that are recommended for women? Tweet us your experience using @KayaFM95dot9 and the hashtag #KayaOnline