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Essential Preventive Care Benefits For Women

  •   by Medihelp
  •   10 August 2016
  •   1016 view(s)

Although women share many health risks with men, they also face unique health concerns specific to their gender. To minimise these risks, women need to be mindful of their health by ensuring they receive the essential preventative care.

No one knows your body better than you do, so listen to what your body may be telling you. If you notice anything strange, i.e. shortness of breath, a change in skin colour, unusual rashes or sudden weight loss or gain, consult with your healthcare practitioner.

However, health problems may not show physical symptoms, which is why visiting your healthcare practitioner for medical screenings and a physical examination is essential. Tests relevant to your lifestyle, age, family history and any health issues specific to you will be performed.

Important screenings for women

Breast cancer
To test for breast cancer, a mammogram (an X-ray of the breast) will be taken to see if there are any tumours that are too small to feel by hand. The early detection of breast cancer will enable easier treatment. Mammograms are especially important for women who have a history of breast cancer in their family.

Cervical cancer
From the age of 21, a woman should get a Pap smear at least every three years. A Pap smear is used to screen for cancer and find abnormal cell changes before any cells progress into cervical cancer.

Blood glucose test
A blood glucose test is most often used to screen for type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes. The test measures the amount of glucose, your body’s main source of energy, in your blood. The sugar in your blood is controlled by insulin. If your body fails to produce enough insulin, the sugar in your blood will increase, leaving you susceptible to organ damage. Alternatively, your blood glucose level may be too low; this condition is called hypoglycaemia. Low blood sugar can lead to both long-term and short-term complications.

Cholesterol test
A cholesterol test is performed by your healthcare practitioner to measure ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood. Your body needs cholesterol to function properly, but too much cholesterol can lead to serious health issues such as heart disease, a stroke and clogged arteries. Women should receive routine cholesterol screenings by age 45 or younger. To be safe, get your cholesterol tested every five years from the early age of 20, or yearly if you have any other health complications such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

Bone density test
A high percentage of women, especially older women, suffer from osteoporosis. This disease causes bones to become weaker and more brittle. A bone density test will determine if you are at a higher risk of breaking your bones by measuring the density of bone minerals, namely calcium.

The body mass index (BMI) test
This test is performed to determine if you have excess body fat. You can use an online calculator to help you measure your weight status; however, for more comprehensive weight tests, you should visit your healthcare practitioner. Being overweight can lead to various health complications, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Pregnancy tests
Every woman hopes for a smooth pregnancy and most of the time pregnancies proceed without any problems for mother and child. However, preventative measures before and during your pregnancy are essential.

If you have any intention of becoming pregnant, speak to your doctor. Your doctor will detect any risks or areas of concern regarding existing medical conditions, family medical history, medication requirements, etc.

You will also need check-ups during your pregnancy to assess both your and your baby’s health.

Take charge of your health

Although preventative care is essential for women, a healthy lifestyle is equally important. Make sure you maintain a healthy weight, keep physically active, eat healthy foods, avoid any smoking and limit alcohol intake.

If you don’t belong to a reliable medical aid scheme, you should try to join one as soon as possible. Medihelp is an affordable medical scheme in South Africa that offers medical cover and hospital benefits for women of all ages. Medihelp members also have access to HealthPrint, a free online health programme.

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