Black Hills Woman Magazine | Women's Health Advice for Every Decade of Life

Women's Health Advice for Every Decade of Life
by Dr. Angela Anderson, OB-GYN

  1. Regular Exercise. Moderate exercise, such as walking 30 to 45 minutes for a minimum of five days a week, along with muscle strengthening activities like weight and resistance training or calisthenics, provide substantial health benefits. Exercise reduces the incidence of heart disease and diabetes, may reduce the incidence of certain cancers, improves strength and balance, and helps maintain a normal body weight.
  2. The vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV), recommended for both males and females from ages 9 through 26, significantly reduces the incidence of cervical, vaginal, and penile cancers, as well as genital warts. It may reduce the incidence of HPV related head and neck cancers as well.
  3. Some menstrual abnormalities should be discussed with your gynecologist. If a girl starts having menstrual cycles prior to the age of 8 or hasn’t started by age 16, she should be seen by a gynecologist. For women during the reproductive years, periods that occur less than 21 days apart or greater than 35 days should be discussed with their doctor. Any vaginal bleeding that occurs after menopause (absence of a period for a year) should be reported to a doctor as this could be a sign of a uterine malignancy.
  4. Mammography should begin at age 40 for women of average risk of breast cancer. Those with special circumstances, for instance a family history of breast cancer, should discuss individual screening guidelines with their physician.
  5. Pap testing begins at age 21 and is repeated every three years until age 29. From ages 30 to 65 pap testing, in addition to testing for the HPV virus, is done every five years. After the age of 65, and after hysterectomy for benign reasons, no further pap testing needs to be done.
  6. Screening for sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea is recommended for all sexually active adolescents, as well as annually in all women under the age of 25. It is recommended that people born between years 1945 and 1965 have at least one test for Hepatitis C. Testing for all STDs is individualized and you should discuss your needs at your annual visit. Other tests may include syphilis and HIV.
  7. Women who are sexually active during the reproductive ages should discuss their contraceptive needs with their provider. Long acting contraceptives, like intrauterine devices and contraceptive implants, provide up to ten years of coverage. Other options include birth control pills, patches, vaginal rings, and injections.
  8. Calcium and vitamin D are important for bone health. Ages 19 to 50 should try to get 1000 mg of calcium daily, as well as 600 IU of vitamin D. For women ages 51 and older 1200 mg of calcium and 800 IU of vitamin D are recommended.
  9. Daily folic acid of 400 mcg is recommended for women who could become pregnant to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida. This dose can generally be obtained through a daily multivitamin or prenatal vitamin. Higher doses are sometimes prescribed for women who take medication for seizures, have had a baby with a neural tube defect, or who have a personal history of a neural tube defect.
  10. Other screening tests like colonoscopy, cholesterol testing, thyroid dysfunction, and diabetes should be discussed annually with your provider.

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