Dear Dr. Brandi – Which annual health checks should a woman in her early 40’s get? I feel like the guidelines keep changing, and I want to make sure that I am staying on top of things!
This is a great and timely question! I recommend starting with your annual wellness check with your Primary Care Physician (PCP). The visit should include testing for blood pressure, diabetes, and weight management. Anyone over 35 should also be screened for cholesterol. These screenings are crucial since the number one and number three causes of mortality are cardiovascular failure and stroke, respectively.The ACOG recommends a Pelvic exam for women every three years, but due to increasing rates of HPV, many Gynecologists are advocating for an annual cadence. If you have risk factors for infection or notice any changes, be sure to see your doctor sooner than later. Also, check your insurance to find out whether you’re covered for an annual check. The ACOG also recommends an annual mammogram for women starting at age 40 years old. Breast cancer is the number 2 cause of cancer-related deaths.
If you have a first degree family history of colon cancer, start getting colonoscopies at 40 years old; otherwise begin getting screened at 45 years old.
If your PCP doesn’t recommend a depression, anxiety, or substance abuse screening, I recommend asking for one. Ask your doctor for a referral and keep in mind that it may take some time to find a practitioner.
If any health issues arise between your annual visits, be sure to notify your doctor and have them addressed immediately. Early detection – and action- is a key to preventing long-term and chronic disease.
For more detailed guidance on regular health screenings, here’s a great comprehensive guide from the Women’s Health Services Initiative.
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