Preventive care is important because it helps you and your healthcare provider detect and prevent serious health problems. For example, according to the World Health Organization, breast cancer is fatal for women aged between 20-59. However, most of these deaths are preventable by using precautionary techniques like regular mammograms and breast exams. Once detected early, most breast cancers are manageable and treatable before they progress to a fatal stage.
Unfortunately, most women are not aware of the preventive healthcare services available to them or do not realize the significance of these services. But illnesses can occur when you least expect them to.
Preventive healthcare for women is an essential branch of living a healthy life; it puts you in charge of your life and health. Generally, preventive care for women includes:
Maintaining a healthy routine
This includes having the right amount of sleep, a good balance of nutrition, and regularly exercising. You would be surprised at the number of diseases that can be kept at bay with just three simple habits!
Knowing your genetics
Being aware of all the diseases that are running in your family, especially among the female family members, helps manage your health better. Your genetic predisposition towards certain diseases puts you at a higher risk. Make sure you steer clear of any habits that may further increase your risk for such diseases.
Knowing your body
Practice regular self-exams to know precisely when something feels wrong with your body and report it to your physician. Take account of both signs and symptoms: external and internal representations of disorders.
Immunization is the first step to preventing viral diseases. Alongside the regular vaccines you receive in childhood, some are administered later. A notable example is the HPV vaccine, which women are recommended to take before being exposed to sexual activity to prevent cervical cancer.
Benefits of preventive care
We all want to reap the benefits of living a healthy life. Preventive care can be a tough sell for women who have a healthy lifestyle. However, it offers integral benefits to a healthy living philosophy that relies heavily on “prevention is better than cure.”
Practicing care will prevent disease and detect diseases early on and save you a lot of stress in the long run. This also entails possibly increasing your life span and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. For example, if you get regular check-ups, you’ll know when you’re in your pre-diabetic phase and can take specific steps to prevent diabetes development.
Preventive care is also cost-effective. Medical bills can be extensive and complicated once a disease has progressed, you require treatment, or your treatment is underway.
Here are some of the essential services you should be availing of to preserve your health:
Women have different health needs than men, and these needs vastly change as a woman ages. Of course, puberty, child-bearing age, and menopause all come with hormonal changes. Consequently, a fair share of reproductive problems may arise.
A well-woman visit is an annual medical appointment with your doctor. The purpose of the visit is to assess your medical history, any new health problems or medical developments, and your risk factors for any disease. Your doctor may also perform a physical exam or carry out tests if need be.
Well-woman visits are specifically designed for women, and therefore, a ‘regular’ exam with a family physician is not nearly enough. Although well-woman visits have characteristics similar to a ‘regular’ health exam, these visits also include counseling on birth control, STD testing, clinical breast, and pelvic exams, and HPV tests. Gynecologists are equipped to perform these jobs and offer counsel; since they are well-versed in the female health domain.
Gestational diabetes screening
Sometimes, gestating women develop diabetes. It affects about 10% of pregnant women in the U.S. who’ve never been diagnosed with diabetes before. Although the condition reverses post-pregnancy, it can increase the risk of complications in childbirth and the baby’s size at birth.
Gestational diabetes can develop in the latter half of pregnancy, so having regular screenings will help detect any signs before the disorder progresses. An oral glucose tolerance test is performed and is recommended between 24 and 28 weeks. If, for any reason, you think that you are at high risk of diabetes, it may also be performed earlier during the gestation period.
Hypertension is the most common modifiable factor causing heart disease. Regardless of genetic disposition, the development of heart diseases also relies heavily on your lifestyle choices.
Health professionals recommend getting your blood pressure, and cholesterol checked every year. This measures how much strain is caused to your heart progressively. If you maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly, these tests should come out normal. However, if unsafe or abnormal blood pressures are recorded, your doctor will advise medication and lifestyle changes before the problem leads to severe heart diseases.
Along with blood pressure, you should get screened for blood lipid levels, as cholesterol can also cause hypertension and heart disease.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women, and increasing age is a risk factor. However, routine mammograms can easily detect it in the early stages.
A mammogram is an X-ray picture of breast tissue. It can depict abnormal growth or change in the breast tissue, which is not visible to the naked eye. The doctor can then determine whether the change is due to benign breast disease or cancer.
Early detection is a critical factor for a successful recovery in treating cancers. So, regular mammography every other year will help easily detect and prevent complications.
You can also perform a physical breast self-exam regularly.
Cervical cancer and HPV screening
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women, with the human papillomavirus being the leading cause.
The human papillomavirus can infect the inner lining of the reproductive canal or its associated glands, causing carcinomas or adenocarcinomas. Since HPV is a sexually transmitted virus, it is best to get an HPV shot before you have sex for the first time. However, if you are already sexually active, it’s never too late to protect yourself from infection.
Women should start getting cervical cancer screenings and pelvic exams by 21. A pap smear is a medical test performed during the pelvic exam. Cells are collected from your cervix (the bottom of your uterus) and tested for anything unusual, like precancerous or cancerous cells.
During the same visit, you may also be tested for STIs. If a woman is sexually active or has multiple sexual partners, STD and STI testing should be part of her routine. This will help detect diseases like chlamydia-gonorrhea early on and start treatment before complications arise.
The bottom line
Women need to take care of their health issues before they spiral out of hand. The aim is not only to increase your lifespan but also to maintain a good quality of life.
Whether you are going through puberty, are in your middle-age, or going through menopause, your physical and mental health must take the forefront in your list of priorities. Follow the recommendations above, and you will be able to screen out and avoid most of the health ailments affecting women of all ages today!