Menopause

Menopause Corner
Menopause Corner

Wendy Hoffman blogs about menopause and women's health—particularly focusing on how diet and nutrition can positively affect a woman's life around the age of menopause.

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"Well Woman" Check-Ups and Better Access to Preventative Care

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This is a momentous week for 47 million women in this country. That’s because many insurers are now required to cover “well woman” check-ups, a fundamental part of medical care, along with seven other prevention-related services for women without co- pays or other out-of-pocket expenses. Additional visits are also covered if a woman and her health care provider determine they are necessary.

With this in mind, it’s a good opportunity to look at what a “well-woman visit” should consist of for women aged 40-60. Hormonal fluctuations cause noticeable symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia and mood swings during these two decades. But there are other, less obvious changes to our bodies that occur “under the hood” that require your attention and monitoring if you want to remain healthy and strong in your later years.

Bone density is just one example. The decline in estrogen that propels women into menopause also causes the loss of bone mass, especially during the first two years of the menopause transition. Bone density testing is necessary for all women over age 65, but if you have a family history of osteoporosis, your health care provider might want you to have a DEXA Scan in your early 50s to monitor your bone health. If this screening test shows a loss of bone mass, there’s a lot you can do to stem and even reverse bone loss including diet, resistance exercises, supplements, and if severe, prescription medication.

Every well woman exam should include a blood pressure reading for hypertension, and a fasting blood test to measure the “good” and “bad” cholesterol levels. This helps to predict an individual's risk for the development of heart disease, which kills more women than breast cancer every year.

In addition, liver function tests, which measure certain enzymes or proteins in your blood, can indicate the presence of damage or disease. In recent years, many health care professionals have added a test to measure inflammation, called C-Reactive Protein (CRP). They believe it’s another piece of the puzzle that should be used to evaluate a person’s overall health profile.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states on their website that “the performance of a physical exam is a key part of an annual health assessment visit.” They list eight exams and screening tests for women ages 40-64.

• Cervical cancer screening (to check for cancer of the cervix)
• Clinical breast exam (a manual exam by the health care provider)
• Colorectal cancer screening (To look for cancer of the colon and rectum)
• Diabetes testing (to measure the level of glucose in your body)
• HIV Test (to check for the virus that causes AIDS)
• Lipid profile assessment (to assess the risk of heart disease)
• Mammography (xray of the breast to look for breast cancer)
• Thyroid-stimulating hormone screening (to check your thyroid gland)

Remember, how you take care of yourself now will have a profound effect on your health for years to come. If you can’t remember the last time you had a check-up, take advantage of these new provisions that eliminate financial barriers to getting the preventive services that you need.

Wendy Hoffman writes about women’s health at www.menopausetheblog.com

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About the Author

Wendy writes about women's health in midlife.

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