With the start of National Women’s Health Week (Sun., May 8 -- Sat., May 14), coinciding with Mother’s Day weekend, Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC) physicians want to remind women to make their health a priority, understand what steps they can take to improve their health and schedule their annual well-woman visit on National Women's Checkup Day, Mon., May 9.
Robin Motter-Mast, DO, chair of the family medicine department at GBMC, says that it’s no secret that, in general, mothers make the daily tasks of work and family life their main concern and put the needs of their spouses and children above their own.
“Encouraging your mother, sister, wife, girlfriend and all the women in your life to take time for their health and to receive regular health exams, increase their hours of sleep, discover ways for stress management, make time for regular exercise and start a proper diet are all very important for their well-being,” says Motter-Mast. “This is the most appropriate time to encourage women to make their health a top priority.”
Studies have shown that women have taken on many additional roles and responsibilities, both in the workplace and at home over the years but also face a plethora of health concerns as they age, mostly having to do with hormonal issues (menopause and perimenopause), which can increase a woman’s risk of heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis, along with other conditions ranging from fatigue, hot flashes and low libido.
"It is extremely important for everyone, especially women, to treat going to their doctor as a priority."Robin Motter-Mast
Motter-Mast recommends that women discuss a "Well-Woman List" with their physician that might include the following:
- Blood pressure screening. Biennially, women, 18 years of age and older, should have their pressure checked. Normal blood pressure is 120/80. "If greater than 120/80, then more frequent screening is necessary," says Motter-Mast.
- Cholesterol check. Women, 45 years of age and older, should have their cholesterol screened if they are at an increased risk for coronary artery disease.
- Pap smears and pelvic exams. Every three years for ages 21-65 with cytology (conventional or liquid based) alone. This screening may be extended to five years for women ages 30 to 65 if a combination of cytology and human papillomavirus (HPV) testing is done.
- Mammograms and breast exams. According from the America Cancer Society, women, ages 20 to 40, should have a breast exam at least every three years. After 40, the exam should take place annually.
- Others screenings include: bone density, blood glucose, colon cancer, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Body Mass Index (BMI), skin and dental.
Motter-Mast stresses that Mother’s Day is the perfect time to remind all the women in our families to schedule their yearly well check-up or annually see a doctor about a health issue. “Mothers owe it to themselves to make their health their number one priority. The better a woman takes care of herself, the healthier they can be to take care of their family," adds Motter-Mast.