A medical check-up for women

Oil changes, wheel alignments, emissions tests. You get them done regularly to keep your car running, but when was the last time you had a medical tune-up? Unfortunately, a woman’s good health sometimes takes a backseat to family, home and job. Here is a look at what tests can help you steer clear of serious health problems.

When Sue Temple wants to get her car checked, she heads to her mechanic. When she wants to get her body checked, she heads to her doctor. “I want to check myself out once a year and make sure I’m OK and running well,” she says.

Catherine Lynch, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist at the University of South Florida in Tampa, says all women need regular medical check-ups. She offers a basic checklist for most women 40 and older.

First, the Pap test. “You should be getting the Pap smear on a yearly basis,” says Dr. Lynch.

Cervical cancer was once the most common cause of cancer death among American women. By using the Pap smear, that number has dropped by 74 percent over the past 40 years.

You can lower the risk of heart disease by getting your cholesterol checked every five years. Dr. Lynch says, “Without hormone replacement, a woman’s risk of heart disease begins to equal that of a man within two to three years following menopause.”

Regular pressure checks are also important because heart disease kills more than half a million women a year. One in nine women will also develop breast cancer, but early detection can increase your chance of survival. The American Cancer Society recommends annual mammograms beginning at 40.

Despite the dread associated with a colon cancer exam, regular screenings could save your life. “Without it, six percent of Americans will develop colon cancer,” says Dr. Lynch.

Get regular tune-ups like Sue, and you, too, can stay on the road to good health.

Dr. Lynch also recommends having your blood tested for thyroid problems each time you get your cholesterol checked. If you have a history of osteoporosis in your family, ask your doctor for a bone density screening.

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