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Top 10 must-do health checks for women

All women over 40 need a yearly checkup. For those who are overweight or those with a strong history of heart disease, diabetes or early deaths, you need to see a doctor even if you’re younger than 40. Here are the top 10 things to watch out for:

1. Check your breasts. The American Cancer Society recommends that all women over 20 years old should check their breasts monthly. If you are unsure, consult a surgeon or ob-gynecologist to check your breasts. Breast cancer is the number one cancer killer among women. Look in the mirror and check your breasts for dimpling, nodes, and other irregularities. For most women, you need a mammogram and ultrasound of the breasts, starting at age 40. Those with higher risk may start screening at age 30.

2. Get a cancer checkup. Next to breast cancer, ladies should be on guard for cancers of the cervix, uterus, and ovaries. You need a regular Pap’s smear test and a pelvic examination with your ob-gyne. If everything is normal, the tests are done every three years. You should particularly be careful if you have multiple partners, or if your spouse fools around. Examine your thyroid, lymph nodes (check for nodules), oral region, skin (for black marks) for any suspicious masses.

3. Stop smoking. Twenty percent of Filipino women smoke and the number is rising. This translates to many deaths due to lung cancer. Smoking kills. So I advise you to quit now. If you’re pregnant, smoking is twice as dangerous for you and your baby.

4. Take care of your heart. Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Remember the mnemonic “sex-hdl”? This stands for: S — quit smoking, E — stop overeating, X — exercise regularly, H — treat hypertension, D — treat diabetes, and L — control your lipids (cholesterol).

5. Check your weight. Studies show that Filipino women are more overweight than Filipino men. Two out of five women are overweight, especially middle-aged women. So ladies, control your weight if you want to avoid arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease.

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6. Know your BP. Checking your blood pressure is a simple way to care for yourself. If your BP is greater than or equal to 140 over 90 mmHg, then you have high blood pressure and need a checkup. For those with BP below 140/90 but higher than 120/80, you should be careful and monitor your BP. Maintain a healthy lifestyle to avoid developing high blood pressure.

7. Limit work stress. It’s been proven that chronic stress kills. It elevates the blood pressure and makes the blood thicker. Although we don’t want to endorse a lazy lifestyle, too much stress can cause heart attacks and ulcers.

8. Take a calcium tablet. After menopause, women need to take a calcium supplement to protect their bones. A good option is calcium lactate with vitamin D. Drinking skim milk is also fine.

9. Avoid urinary tract infection and pelvic infections. Because of the unique anatomy of the female organ, women are more prone to urinary tract infection than men. This is because the urethra in females is shorter than that of the males. Thus, infections and bacteria can easily penetrate the bladder. So, make sure you wash thoroughly after urination. After defecation, wipe with tissue paper backwards and not forward where some dirt can enter the vaginal area.

10. Get the basic laboratory exams. Here are the basic lab tests for women:

• Blood exams: Complete blood count, creatinine (check the kidneys), uric acid (check for gout), cholesterol (high-fat diet), fasting blood sugar (check for diabetes), and SGPT (check the liver).

Urinalysis: Check for urinary infections and kidney problems.

Electrocardiogram: Check for heart problems.

Chest x-ray: Check for lung and heart problems, especially for smokers who are at risk for cancer.

It’s time to get a checkup. Your doctors are there to help you and answer your questions, too. Good luck!

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