Women, especially moms, are often in the business of taking care of everyone and everything – except themselves.
But, a healthy mom starts with a plan, according to Holly Thacker, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic.
She said, once a year, women need to check off several tests and screening measures to ensure good health. This includes annual visits to a primary care physician, a dentist, and setting health goals for the coming year.
Dr. Thacker said cancer screenings are a must – including a pap smear, colonoscopy and mammogram – all of which are based on individual needs.
She said a thyroid exam is a good idea too.
“Just simple palpation of the neck,” she said. “Women have a relatively high rate of thyroid cancer, so that’s something that should be assessed from a cancer perspective.”
As far as blood tests go, Dr. Thacker suggests checking thyroid levels, cholesterol and blood sugar at recommended intervals.
Checking bone density is another important piece of the puzzle.
“If you’re within two years of menopause, or you’ve broken a bone, or somebody in your family’s broken a hip, or you have certain medical conditions that put you at risk, or you’ve skipped periods for several months when you were younger in life; these are all warning signs that you should be assessed sooner than age 65, but certainly every woman by age 65 should get a bone density,” said Dr. Thacker.
Women should also get a pelvic exam every year, whether they need a pap or not. It’s also a good time to talk to the doctor about the muscles that support the bladder, bowel and uterus – known as the pelvic floor.
“If you’ve gone through a pregnancy, even if you haven’t had a vaginal delivery, that’s a lot of trauma on the pelvic floor and some women can leak urine,” said Dr. Thacker. “That’s not a normal part of aging, and you don’t necessarily need surgery to correct that.”
According to Dr. Thacker, exercises and devices are available to prevent and treat pelvic floor weakness and improve quality of life.
Dr. Thacker also encourages women to take at least 10 minutes each day to think about themselves and focus on their own wellbeing and health.