From Rosie the Riveter to celebrated TV moms like Carol Brady and June
Cleaver to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, women certainly have a lot on their
plates, and unfortunately their health often takes a back seat to their
families and careers.
"The irony is that most women take better care of their cars than their
body, and that is in large part because an annual inspection is required to
continue driving your car," says Donnica Moore, MD, a women's health expert
based in Far Hills, N.J.
From its first year of publication, GH has urged readers to live healthfully
— to take "a walk before breakfast" (1885), "eat more fish" (1932), and get "at
least eight hours of sleep" (1933). The tips here, whether from our early days
or fresh from the latest journals, have one thing in common: They are based on
the best expertise of their time.
"Just like we have stickers on our cars to get your inspection renewed,
use this week or your birthday (as I do), to get your checkups," Moore
says. There is no reason not to. "We know that the earlier we identify any
potential health problems, the better our outcome will be," she says. And
"if you are totally well, it gives you great reassurance about a whole list
of things you don't need to worry about."
To make the task even easier, WebMD compiled a list of the top five
lifesaving medical tests every woman needs and why.
No. 1 Heart Smarts
disease is the leading cause of death for American women, and heart disease
claims about 250,000 women's lives a year. That's nearly six times greater than
the number of women that die from breast cancer, according to the American
Heart Association. But it doesn't have to be this way, says Marianne J. Legato,
MD, a professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University College of
Physicians and Surgeons in New York City and the founder of the Foundation for
Gender Specific Medicine. "Without a doubt, 80% of coronary disease can be
prevented with proper lifestyle modifications including healthy diet and
increased physical activity," says Legato, author of several books
including Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget.
The best way to know where you stand is to get a blood test for total
cholesterol levels, HDL "good" cholesterol, LDL "bad"
cholesterol, and blood fats known as triglycerides.
"If there is any question of extra heartbeats, chest pain, or shortness
of breath, women should have a stress echocardiogram," she recommends. A
stress echocardiogram is usually done to determine whether you have a
significantly reduced flow of blood to your heart.
Also, your doctor should test your blood pressure, as high
blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, she says.
is another risk factor for heart disease. If you have a family history of
diabetes or are overweight, you are at particularly high risk of developing
diabetes and you should talk to your doctor about a blood sugar test.
No. 2 The Power of the Pap Test
Starting three years after becoming sexually active or by age 21, whichever
comes first, women need an annual Pap test to detect any abnormal cell changes
that could lead to cervical
cancer. During a Pap test, a small sample of cells from the surface of the
cervix is taken and examined for abnormalities that may indicate cancer or
changes that could lead to cancer.