8 Preventative Screening Tests for Women Over 50

September 25, 2022

woman having a mamogram

If you are a woman over 50, you’re likely already coping with the symptoms of menopause. But menopausal brain fog, night sweats, mood swings are not the only things you should be concerned with, as preventative screening for eight conditions that can afflict women over 50 can help to keep you healthy:

One - Mammogram

A mammogram is a special x-ray study of the breasts, designed to detect breast cancer when it is in its very early stages and cannot be felt. Although various agencies have differing recommendations on just how often a woman should have a mammogram, most recommend a first baseline mammogram between the ages of 40 and 50, with screening every two years after that. If you have a family history of breast cancer or are at higher risk due to other factors, you will want to rely on your physician’s recommendations.

Two - Bone Density Measurement

As hard as it is to believe, your bone mass peaked when you were in your 20s! So by the time you are over 50, especially if you have gone through menopause, the likelihood your bone density is below normal for your age is quite high. Generally, it’s recommended to have this test starting at age 65, but you can get it earlier if you have a family history (especially your mother) of osteoporosis (thinning bones) or a history of fractures.

Three - Cholesterol Check

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women, and high blood cholesterol is one of the risk factors for developing it. Cholesterol is measured by a simple blood test and if it’s high, your doctor will discuss prescribing cholesterol medications to reduce your risk. If your levels are normal, most physicians recommend getting it checked every five years.

Four - Blood Pressure Measurement

High blood pressure pushes against the walls of your blood vessels and can lead to damage and can also negatively affect your heart as well as your brain. Your blood pressure should be measured at every doctor visit. The top number is your systolic pressure, which is a measure of how much pressure your blood is exerting when your heart beats. The bottom number is the diastolic pressure and measures the pressure when your heart relaxes. Your blood pressure measurement should be lower than 130/80. If it’s consistently high, you’ll need to go on medication to control it.

Five - Hepatitis C Screening

The virus that causes Hepatitis C wasn’t discovered until 1989, so if you were born between the years of 1945 and 1965, you may have unknowingly been exposed through a blood transfusion or other risk factors before the virus was known. Screening is done with a simple blood test and it’s important because the Hepatitis C virus does liver damage over time and you’ll show no symptoms until the disease is advanced. If you test negative, unless your risk factors have changed, you won’t need another test.

Six - Blood Sugar (Glucose) Screening

Diabetes is a major risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease, stroke and risk of a heart attack. Diabetes occurs when your pancreas is no longer able to keep up with the body’s demand for insulin, a hormone that is crucial for cells to be able to use glucose for energy. If you are over 45 you should be tested and sooner if you have diabetes symptoms such as blurred vision, burning in your legs and feet or excessive urination.

Seven - Colonoscopy

Early detection of colorectal cancer is so important to prevent this deadly disease. Most women should have their baseline colonoscopy at age 50, sooner if they have a family history of colon cancer or have other risk factors such as a history of Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. A colonoscopy consists of the doctor inserting a flexible scope into the rectum and colon so the walls of the intestine can be visually inspected. If polyps are found they can be removed or any suspicious areas can be biopsied. If your test is normal you’ll likely be asked to repeat it in ten years.

Eight - Pap Smear

A Pap smear is a small sample of cells scraped from your cervix during a pelvic exam. This test is recommended for women between the ages of 21 and 65. Generally this test is done every year, but if you have had three normal tests in a row, you can likely go three years before having it done again.

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