It’s National Women’s Health Week!

This week is National Women’s Health Week, a week long health observance coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health (OWH).  It’s aim is to empower women to make their health a top priority. With the theme “It’s Your Time,” the nationwide initiative encourages women to take simple steps for a longer, healthier, and happier life. Important steps include:

  • Getting at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity, or a combination of both each week
  • Eating a nutritious diet
  • Visiting a health care professional to receive regular checkups and preventive screenings
  • Avoiding risky behaviors, such as smoking and not wearing a seat-belt
  • Paying attention to mental health, including getting enough sleep and managing stress

An essential component in health care empowerment is education.  Teaching women about the best ways to protect their health is vitally important. Recommendations for various screening tests and immunizations for women have been set as guidelines by womenshealth.gov, and are reproduced below. These charts are guidelines only. Your doctor or nurse will personalize the timing of each test and immunization to meet your health care needs.

Screening tests Ages 18–39 Ages 40–49 Ages 50–64 Ages 65 and older
General health:
Full checkup, including weight and height
Discuss with your doctor or nurse. Discuss with your doctor or nurse. Discuss with your doctor or nurse. Discuss with your doctor or nurse.
Thyroid (TSH) test Discuss with your doctor or nurse. Discuss with your doctor or nurse. Discuss with your doctor or nurse. Discuss with your doctor or nurse.
HIV test Get this test at least once to find out your HIV status. Ask your doctor or nurse if and when you need the test again. Get this test at least once to find out your HIV status. Ask your doctor or nurse if and when you need the test again. Get this test at least once to find out your HIV status. Ask your doctor or nurse if and when you need the test again. Discuss with your doctor or nurse.
Heart health:
Blood pressure test
At least every 2 years At least every 2 years At least every 2 years At least every 2 years
Cholesterol test Start at age 20, discuss with your doctor or nurse. Discuss with your doctor or nurse. Discuss with your doctor or nurse. Discuss with your doctor or nurse.
Bone health:
Bone density screen
Discuss with your doctor or nurse. Discuss with your doctor or nurse. Get a bone mineral density test at least once. Talk to your doctor or nurse about repeat testing.
Diabetes:
Blood glucose or A1c test
Discuss with your doctor or nurse. Start at age 45, then every 3 years. Every 3 years Every 3 years
Breast health:
Mammogram (x-ray of breasts)
Every 1-2 years. Discuss with your doctor or nurse. Every 1-2 years. Discuss with your doctor or nurse. Every 1-2 years. Discuss with your doctor or nurse.
Clinical breast exam At least every 3 years starting in your 20s Yearly Yearly Yearly
Screening tests Ages 18–39 Ages 40–49 Ages 50–64 Ages 65 and older
Reproductive health:
Pap test
Every 2 years starting at age 21. Women 30 and older, every 3 years. Every 3 years Every 3 years Discuss with your doctor or nurse.
Pelvic exam Yearly beginning at age 21. Younger than 21 and sexually active, discuss with your doctor or nurse. Yearly Yearly Yearly
Chlamydia test Yearly until age 25 if sexually active. Age 26 and older, get this test if you have new or multiple partners. Get this test if you have new or multiple partners. Get this test if you have new or multiple partners. Get this test if you have new or multiple partners.
Sexually transmitted infection (STI) tests Both partners should get tested for STIs, including HIV, before initiating sexual intercourse. Both partners should get tested for STIs, including HIV, before initiating sexual intercourse. Both partners should get tested for STIs, including HIV, before initiating sexual intercourse. Both partners should get tested for STIs, including HIV, before initiating sexual intercourse.
Mental health screening Discuss with your doctor or nurse. Discuss with your doctor or nurse. Discuss with your doctor or nurse. Discuss with your doctor or nurse.
Screening tests Ages 18–39 Ages 40–49 Ages 50–64 Ages 65 and older
Colorectal health (use 1 of these 3 methods):
Fecal occult blood test
Yearly Yearly. Older than age 75, discuss with your doctor or nurse.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy (with fecal occult blood test) Every 5 years Every 5 years. Older than 75, discuss with your doctor or nurse.
Colonoscopy Every 10 years Every 10 years, Older than 75, discuss with your doctor or nurse.
Eye and ear health:
Comprehensive eye exam
Discuss with your doctor. Get a baseline exam at age 40, then every 2–4 years or as your doctor advises. Every 2–4 years until age 55, then every 1-3 years until age 65, or as your doctor advises Every 1–2 years
Hearing test Starting at age 18, then every 10 years Every 10 years Every 3 years Every 3 years
Screening tests Ages 18–39 Ages 40–49 Ages 50–64 Ages 65 and older
Skin health:
Mole exam
Monthly mole self-
exam; by a doctor or nurse as part of a routine full checkup starting at age 20.
Monthly mole self-exam; by a doctor or nurse as part of a routine full checkup. Monthly mole self-exam; by a doctor or nurse as part of a routine full checkup. Monthly mole self-exam; by a doctor or nurse as part of a routine full checkup.
Oral health:
Dental exam
Routinely; discuss with your dentist. Routinely; discuss with your dentist. Routinely; discuss with your dentist. Routinely; discuss with your dentist.
Immunizations:
Influenza vaccine
Discuss with your doctor or nurse. Discuss with your doctor or nurse. Yearly Yearly
Pneumococcal vaccine One time only
Tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis booster vaccine Every 10 years Every 10 years Every 10 years Every 10 years
Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Up to age 26, if not already completed
vaccine series; discuss with your doctor or nurse.
Meningococcal vaccine Discuss with your doctor or nurse if you are a college student or military recruit.
Herpes zoster vaccine (to prevent shingles) Starting at age 60, one time only. Ask your doctor or nurse if it is okay for you to get it. Starting at age 60, one time only. Ask your doctor or nurse if it is okay for you to get it.
Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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