Women take care of many people during their lifetimes: parents, spouses, sons, daughters, grandchildren and others. But all too often, because women are so busy caring for others, they often neglect to take care of themselves. At Pleasant Valley Hospital, we encourage every woman to take advantage of the comprehensive range of medical services we provide for every season of a woman’s life.
ADOLESCENCE IS A TIME of great transformation for a young woman, both physically and emotionally. Because of these changes, it is recommended that teenage girls make their first visit to Kylie Scott, WHNP-BC at PVH Women’s Services between the ages of 14 and 16. During this first visit, our healthcare team will take your medical history, check on your immunizations and vaccinations, and talk to you about what to expect during future visits. A pelvic exam is usually not performed during the first visit unless you are experiencing pain or abnormal bleeding. A general physical exam and external genital exam may be performed in certain cases.
Adolescence is also the right time to develop healthy habits that can last a lifetime. Getting plenty of calcium (at least 1,300 milligrams a day) and Vitamin D will help build stronger bones and prevent osteoporosis in later years. Using sunscreen can help prevent the risk of skin cancer, which increases significantly with just one sunburn.
Young Women (20s and 30s)
BECAUSE MANY WOMEN in their 20s and 30s experience few medical problems, they often neglect regular visits to their provider. That’s a mistake. Now is the time to form a relationship with a primary care provider that you feel comfortable with. Starting at age 21, you should have a Pap test yearly. A pap test should be collected every 1 to 3 years to check for abnormal changes that could lead to cervical cancer. When you turn 30, it is recommended that you get a Pap test every three years or a Pap and HPV test (co-testing) every five years. That test is useful because most cervical cancers are caused by an infection with HPV (human papillomavirus).
If you’re ready to start a family, you should schedule a preconception visit with your women’s health provider. If you’re not ready for children,
Kylie Scott, WHNP-BC can help you determine your best birth control options. Breast self-exams should start now, with a clinical breast exam at least every three years. Bone loss can begin in your 30s, so continue getting plenty of calcium and Vitamin D. At age 35, you should also have your thyroid checked.
Midlife Women (40s and 50s)
NEW HEALTH ISSUES begin to arise for women during this time of life. For some women, the transition to menopause, known as perimenopause, can begin during their early 40s. Most women go through menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, with the average age being 51. Menopause is a normal and natural change that marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles. During menopause, the body produces smaller amounts of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Symptoms include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, lack of energy, insomnia, mood changes, even depression.
Decreasing levels of estrogen can also lead to long-term health problems such as osteoporosis. Talk to your provider about improving the strength of your bones and whether you need a bone density exam.
Breast cancer is now more of a concern. Women should begin having mammogram screenings starting at the age of 40 or at age 35 if they have a family history or are high-risk. Be sure to schedule an annual mammogram and have your provider perform a clinical breast exam each year. Thyroid disease becomes more common for women at this age, so ask your provider whether you should consider a screening test.
Make sure you get a flu vaccine every year. If you smoke, have diabetes or have long-term heart, lung or liver disease, it’s recommended that you also get a pneumonia vaccine. Age 50 is also the time to ask about receiving a vaccine to prevent shingles.
At age 45, you should ask your provider about scheduling a colonoscopy with Ronn Grandia, MD, FACS or Jonathan Sedeyn, DO, PhD. A screening colonoscopy is a procedure that can find small growths called polyps that can turn into colon cancer.
The Mature Years (Over 60)
DURING THESE YEARS, there’s a new focus on heart health. Heart disease kills more women than all types of cancer combined. To stay heart healthy, you need to know and manage your total cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar level and triglycerides. Talk to your provider about how to stay heart healthy. Learn the symptoms of a heart attack and stroke.
This is the time of life when you need to keep your thinking ability in good shape, so make sure your brain stays busy. Read. Work on crossword puzzles. Take up a new hobby or learn a new language—any kind of mental activity is good for your brain.
Memory loss is another new concern. A little memory loss is normal as you grow older. But if your memory problems become troubling, be sure to tell your provider. Early diagnosis and treatment can be effective in slowing the progress of memory loss.
It may be time for another colonoscopy. Schedule a screening colonoscopy every 10 years or more frequently if polyps are found.
Like millions of other women, urinary incontinence may become an issue at this time in life. Don’t let embarrassment stop you from seeking help. Lifestyle changes, medical devices, pelvic floor physical therapy or a simple outpatient procedure are very effective in treating this problem.