Health Maintenance, Females

A healthy lifestyle and preventative care can promote health and wellness.

  • Maintain regular health, dental, and eye exams.

  • Eat a healthy diet. Foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein foods contain the nutrients you need without too many calories. Decrease your intake of foods high in solid fats, added sugars, and salt. Get information about a proper diet from your caregiver, if necessary.

  • Regular physical exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Most adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (any activity that increases your heart rate and causes you to sweat) each week. In addition, most adults need muscle-strengthening exercises on 2 or more days a week.  

  • Maintain a healthy weight. The body mass index (BMI) is a screening tool to identify possible weight problems. It provides an estimate of body fat based on height and weight. Your caregiver can help determine your BMI, and can help you achieve or maintain a healthy weight. For adults 20 years and older:

  • A BMI below 18.5 is considered underweight.

  • A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is normal.

  • A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight.

  • A BMI of 30 and above is considered obese.

  • Maintain normal blood lipids and cholesterol by exercising and minimizing your intake of saturated fat. Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Blood tests for lipids and cholesterol should begin at age 20 and be repeated every 5 years. If your lipid or cholesterol levels are high, you are over 50, or you are a high risk for heart disease, you may need your cholesterol levels checked more frequently. Ongoing high lipid and cholesterol levels should be treated with medicines if diet and exercise are not effective.

  • If you smoke, find out from your caregiver how to quit. If you do not use tobacco, do not start.

  • If you are pregnant, do not drink alcohol. If you are breastfeeding, be very cautious about drinking alcohol. If you are not pregnant and choose to drink alcohol, do not exceed 1 drink per day. One drink is considered to be 12 ounces (355 mL) of beer, 5 ounces (148 mL) of wine, or 1.5 ounces (44 mL) of liquor.

  • Avoid use of street drugs. Do not share needles with anyone. Ask for help if you need support or instructions about stopping the use of drugs.

  • High blood pressure causes heart disease and increases the risk of stroke. Blood pressure should be checked at least every 1 to 2 years. Ongoing high blood pressure should be treated with medicines, if weight loss and exercise are not effective.

  • If you are 55 to 79 years old, ask your caregiver if you should take aspirin to prevent strokes.

  • Diabetes screening involves taking a blood sample to check your fasting blood sugar level. This should be done once every 3 years, after age 45, if you are within normal weight and without risk factors for diabetes. Testing should be considered at a younger age or be carried out more frequently if you are overweight and have at least 1 risk factor for diabetes.

  • Breast cancer screening is essential preventative care for women. You should practice "breast self-awareness." This means understanding the normal appearance and feel of your breasts and may include breast self-examination. Any changes detected, no matter how small, should be reported to a caregiver. Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) by a caregiver as part of a regular health exam every 1 to 3 years. After age 40, women should have a CBE every year. Starting at age 40, women should consider having a mammogram (breast X-ray) every year. Women who have a family history of breast cancer should talk to their caregiver about genetic screening. Women at a high risk of breast cancer should talk to their caregiver about having an MRI and a mammogram every year.

  • The Pap test is a screening test for cervical cancer. Women should have a Pap test starting at age 21. Between ages 21 and 29, Pap tests should be repeated every 2 years. Beginning at age 30, you should have a Pap test every 3 years as long as the past 3 Pap tests have been normal. If you had a hysterectomy for a problem that was not cancer or a condition that could lead to cancer, then you no longer need Pap tests. If you are between ages 65 and 70, and you have had normal Pap tests going back 10 years, you no longer need Pap tests. If you have had past treatment for cervical cancer or a condition that could lead to cancer, you need Pap tests and screening for cancer for at least 20 years after your treatment. If Pap tests have been discontinued, risk factors (such as a new sexual partner) need to be reassessed to determine if screening should be resumed. Some women have medical problems that increase the chance of getting cervical cancer. In these cases, your caregiver may recommend more frequent screening and Pap tests.

  • The human papillomavirus (HPV) test is an additional test that may be used for cervical cancer screening. The HPV test looks for the virus that can cause the cell changes on the cervix. The cells collected during the Pap test can be tested for HPV. The HPV test could be used to screen women aged 30 years and older, and should be used in women of any age who have unclear Pap test results. After the age of 30, women should have HPV testing at the same frequency as a Pap test.

  • Colorectal cancer can be detected and often prevented. Most routine colorectal cancer screening begins at the age of 50 and continues through age 75. However, your caregiver may recommend screening at an earlier age if you have risk factors for colon cancer. On a yearly basis, your caregiver may provide home test kits to check for hidden blood in the stool. Use of a small camera at the end of a tube, to directly examine the colon (sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy), can detect the earliest forms of colorectal cancer. Talk to your caregiver about this at age 50, when routine screening begins. Direct examination of the colon should be repeated every 5 to 10 years through age 75, unless early forms of pre-cancerous polyps or small growths are found.

  • Hepatitis C blood testing is recommended for all people born from 1945 through 1965 and any individual with known risks for hepatitis C.

  • Practice safe sex. Use condoms and avoid high-risk sexual practices to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Sexually active women aged 25 and younger should be checked for Chlamydia, which is a common sexually transmitted infection. Older women with new or multiple partners should also be tested for Chlamydia. Testing for other STIs is recommended if you are sexually active and at increased risk.

  • Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones lose minerals and strength with aging. This can result in serious bone fractures. The risk of osteoporosis can be identified using a bone density scan. Women ages 65 and over and women at risk for fractures or osteoporosis should discuss screening with their caregivers. Ask your caregiver whether you should be taking a calcium supplement or vitamin D to reduce the rate of osteoporosis.

  • Menopause can be associated with physical symptoms and risks. Hormone replacement therapy is available to decrease symptoms and risks. You should talk to your caregiver about whether hormone replacement therapy is right for you.

  • Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater. Apply sunscreen liberally and repeatedly throughout the day. You should seek shade when your shadow is shorter than you. Protect yourself by wearing long sleeves, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses year round, whenever you are outdoors.

  • Notify your caregiver of new moles or changes in moles, especially if there is a change in shape or color. Also notify your caregiver if a mole is larger than the size of a pencil eraser.

  • Stay current with your immunizations.