8 medical tests every women needs

8 Medical Tests Every Woman Needs

Make a mental checklist of all the things you do to keep yourself healthy. It's a good bet you thought of your workouts, your good-for-you diet and maybe even a daily vitamin. Great! But if keeping up with medical tests isn't on your list of healthy behaviors, you're falling into the mistake that many fit women make: thinking regular exercise plus smart nutrition exempts you from getting routine exams. To truly keep your body healthy, here's what you need to know.

TEST: Pap Smear

WHO TO SEE: Gynecologist 
WHY: Collecting cells from the cervix during a pelvic exam is the best way to tell if your cervix is healthy -- cell changes can lead to cervical cancer. 
HOW OFTEN: Starting at age 21, most women need to be screened every other year or less, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Once you turn 30 -- and you've had three consecutive negative tests and no abnormal history -- you can get it done once every three years.

TEST: Clinical Breast Exam

WHO TO SEE: Gyno or general practitioner (GP) 
WHY: She can feel or see abnormalities in breast tissue, skin and nipples that can indicate cancer. 
HOW OFTEN: At least once every three years in your twenties and thirties. But if you want to be checked more frequently, simply ask. After age 40, go yearly.

TEST: Skin Cancer Screening

WHO TO SEE: Dermatologist 
WHY: She can ID weirdly shaped moles or other growths that might be cancerous or precancerous. 
HOW OFTEN: Get new or changed growths assessed ASAP. If you're a current or recovering tanning-bed or sun lover, are fair or dotted with moles or freckles or have a family history of skin cancer, see the derm twice a year. If not, go annually. 
FAST FACT: Derms are better at diagnosing melanomas than primary-care docs, finds a recent study. The result of better screening? Higher survival rates.

TEST: Hearing Test

WHO TO SEE: Audiologist or certified speech-language pathologist 
WHY: Peppering conversations with "Say that again?" is a real problem for the more than 12 percent of people in their twenties and thirties who already have some form of hearing loss, according to a recent study. 
HOW OFTEN: Once every 10 years until age 50, then every three years.

TEST: Immunization Check

WHY: Up-to-date vaccinations protect you from all sorts of diseases, including some you thought went the way of the dinosaur, such as whooping cough. 
HOW OFTEN: At your next physical, have your M.D. review your vaccination history. Some inoculations become less effective over time, so you may need a booster. For example, tetanus shots are vital every 10 years, no rusty nails required. 
FAST FACT: One in eight U.S. adults surveyed say they are too busy to get a vaccination, reports the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

TEST: Blood Pressure

WHY: The higher it is, the greater your chance of having heart disease, a stroke or kidney damage. 
HOW OFTEN: Once every two years if it's 120/80 or below. If you've already been diagnosed with hypertension -- or your doc says you're at risk -- measure your BP at home regularly, too. (We like digital cuffs that do all the work for you, like those from omronhealthcare.com.) 
FAST FACT: In the U.S., about one in eight women ages 20 to 44 has high blood pressure. Taking the Pill, pregnancy and being overweight can up your risk.

TEST: Cholesterol Panel

WHY: High cholesterol means higher risk for heart disease. You want total cholesterol under 200 mg/dL; LDL (bad cholesterol) under 100 mg/dL; HDL (good stuff) 60 mg/dL or more; and triglycerides under 150 mg/dL. 
HOW OFTEN: At least once every five years, starting at age 20.

TEST: BMI / Weight

WHY: Pick a disease, any disease: Chances are, being overweight puts you at an elevated risk. Your M.D. should weigh you and calculate your body-mass index, the measurement of your weight relative to your height. 
HOW OFTEN: Yearly. And if you're looking to shed pounds, weigh yourself once a week at home and visit your physician monthly to help track your progress.