Like many women, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about the health of others, whether it’s your children, spouse, partner, parents or friends. To be your best for them, however, you have to prioritize your health, and that’s what a yearly well-woman visit with your primary care physician is about.
Here’s what to expect and how to get the most out of it:
Prepare like a pro
You will derive the most benefit from your well-woman visit if you take an engaged, proactive approach to it, and that starts with arriving at your physician’s office prepared.
Details are important, such as the age at diagnosis of a cancer and the type of cancer a relative has been diagnosed with, for example. Before your appointment, find out about health conditions that run in your family, such as cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and coronary artery disease. That information will help your physician determine your risk. Make a list of your current medications and take it with you.
Be ready to share
A key part of your well-woman visit is your history intake. A nurse or your physician will ask about your personal and family health history, diet, exercise habits, sexual health, medications and more. Be sure you provide thorough, accurate information so your physician can build an authentic picture of the state of your health.
Embrace the exam
The physical exam portion of the well-woman visit is an opportunity for front-line detection of potential underlying issues. Expect your physician to measure your height, weight, body mass index, blood pressure and temperature. He/she may also check your breasts and pelvis for abnormalities.
Set your sights on screenings
Your physician will discuss with you or provide several screenings that can help prevent disease or detect it early when it’s easier to treat.
• If you’re younger than 40, you should have a blood pressure check at least every two years, a cholesterol check as recommended by your physician based on your risk, a blood glucose check to screen for diabetes as recommended by your physician, and a pelvic exam and Pap test every three years.
• If you’re 40 or older, you should have a blood pressure check each year, a cholesterol check as recommended by your physician, a diabetes screening every three years beginning at age 44, a colonoscopy every 10 years beginning at age 50, and a mammogram every one or two years as recommended by your physician. Talk to your physician about how you can determine your breast cancer risk. Knowing whether you are low, medium, or high-risk can help guide to how often do you have a mammogram in your 40s and 50s.
Say what’s on your mind
Remember, your well-woman visit is your time to ask questions, raise concerns, and set and make plans for achieving goals related to your health, so don’t hold back. Steer the conversation wherever you’d like it to go.
Dr. Holly Stevens is an obstetrician/gynecologist at Novant Health Carolina Women’s Health Associates – China Grove.