The following is part five of a five-part excerpt of the new book, Women’s Health for Life (DK 2009). Women’s Health for Life is a unique compilation of women’s health information, designed to help women optimize their health, well-being, and quality of life. Edited by women’s health expert and advocate, Dr. Donnica Moore, this book is team written by women physicians for women readers. It discusses topics from contraception to infertility; migraines to menopause; cervical cancer to colon cancer; and heartburn to heart disease. While many readers will want to read this book from start to finish, it provides easy access to specific information when it’s needed. Uniquely, this book provides clear illustrations, graphs, and charts making it as easily understood as a cookbook. While, there is no single “recipe” for good health, the many ingredients are discussed in this book’s 16 chapters. Organized by bodily system, each chapter starts out with an explanation of how that system works and ways to maintain healthy function through diet, exercise, and other self-help measures. This is followed by an explanation of some of the medical conditions affecting that particular system and how they should be treated, focusing specifically on recommendations for women. To order Women’s Health for Life from amazon.com, click here:
The following segment is taken from Chapter 2, “Understanding the Changes” which gives a decade-by-decade overview of the physiologic and psychologic changes women experience as we age. It also serves to remind us of the common sense rules of health that many of us are liable to forget. Much of that information is given in the section focusing on the 20’s, so don’t skip over this, even if you’re older!
Routine screening tests recommended in your 30s:
Compared to your 20s, the number of routine checkups and screening tests that are recommended during your 30s has increased significantly. Many are precautionary while others, such as the weight/height checks and the mammogram screening, provide baseline recordings that will prove useful later on. Ask your doctor for advice about the best way to coordinate all these tests.
✔ Do a monthly breast self-examination
✔ Have a complete physical examination every year
✔ Have a complete gynecological examination every year
✔ Have a Pap smear according to your doctor’s recommendations: for most women, this will be every year
✔ Have your eyes tested every five years
✔ Go for a twice-yearly dental checkup and cleaning
✔ Have your weight and height measured every year: this will help measure any bone loss later on
✔ Have your blood pressure measured every year
✔ Have your cholesterol and triglyceride levels checked every five years
✔ Have a complete skin check for moles or suspicious abnormalities every one to two years
✔ Have an annual digital rectal exam, with fecal occult blood testing to check for colorectal cancer
✔ Have an annual clinical breast exam
✔ Have an HPV test for cervical cancer: if this is normal and you are in the same mutually monogamous relationship, this should be repeated every three years
✔ If you are thinking of getting pregnant, see your doctor for preconception advice. You may also need screening tests and a Pap smear before you conceive ✔ Have a mammogram: 35 is the age at which many doctors recommend a baseline mammogram (especially in women with a family history of early breast cancer), although the American Cancer Society recommends beginning routine mammogram screening at age 40
✔ Have urinalysis as recommended by your doctor
✔ Have your hemoglobin and hematocrit checked as recommended by your doctor
✔ If you are not in a mutually monogamous relationship, your doctor may recommend STD screening
Questions to Ask Your Doctor in Your 30’s: The following are just some of the questions you can ask your doctor about at the start of your 30s:
- Should I be taking any vitamins or supplements?
- Are there additional screening or diagnostic tests that I need?
- When should I have my first/next mammogram?
- Are there any behavioral or lifestyle changes I should make for optimal health?
Vitamin and mineral supplements for women in your 30s
The following vitamin and mineral supplements can help you get the most out of life. However, you should note that some single-dose vitamin supplements can interact harmfully with some medications or with the absorption of other nutrients, so you should always check with your doctor before you begin to take them.
Multivitamins: Most women who are menstruating will benefit from a daily multivitamin supplement with iron; multivitamins have also been shown to reduce your risk of colds and flu.
Folic acid/omega-3 fatty acids: If you are breast-feeding, pregnant, or thinking of starting a family, take a folic acid supplement (400 micrograms/day) and an omega-3 fatty acid supplement (200 mg/ day). While many prenatal vitamins contain these ingredients, not all of them do-so make sure that you check the label.
Calcium: If your diet is not giving you enough calcium (1,200 mg/day or the equivalent of four glasses of skim milk), you may want to take a daily calcium supplement to make up the difference. However, speak to your doctor before you do and see later chapter to read more about a healthy diet.
Vitamin D: This essential vitamin aids calcium absorption and bone health. Most multivitamins contain vitamin D, but always check the dosage. Most women need between 1,000 and 1,500 IU of vitamin D each day. While it is in many foods, vitamin D is also made in the skin in response to exposure to sunlight (even if it’s not a sunny day). If you don’t receive 20 minutes of daily sunlight exposure, or are diligent about using total sunscreen, you may need to consider supplements.
Vaccines for your 30s You may think you don’t need any more vaccines, unless you’re going to an exotic destination. However, you may want to consider having the following during your 30s.
Flu: You may be in a high-risk group for needing a flu shot annually, but even if you aren’t, you should get the flu shot if you don’t want this illness.
Rubella (German measles): If there’s a chance that you may become pregnant, make sure you are immune to rubella. A rubella infection during the first trimester of pregnancy can cause major fetal abnormalities.
Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (TDP/tDap): Ask your doctor when you had your last TDP shot. You will need a tetanus booster every 10 years.