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The FabOverFifty Checkup Checklist

2014 February 18
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These days, “you’re your own best doctor.”

… says Carolyn Nemec, MD, a women’s health specialist with The Cleveland Clinic. “You have to take charge of your own health.” The first step is making sure you’re getting all the medical tests and checks an FOF needs.

Here’s Dr. Nemec’s list of medical musts for your next appointment. Print it out and tuck it in your datebook so you can be sure to have another healthy fifty years.

  • A full-body skin check. “Every year, every woman should have her skin checked from top to bottom for signs of skin cancer. Some general physicians will do this, or they’ll send you for a consult to your dermatologist. Make sure you point out any changes you’ve noticed in your own moles and sunspots, and make sure your doctor is checking everywhere from your scalp to the soles of your feet.”
  • A mammogram AND a breast exam. “There’s been a lot of conflicting information lately about when to get a mammogram, but here’s the bottom line: Every woman over fifty needs a yearly mammogram. All the medical societies, from the American Medical Association to the American Cancer Society, agree on that point.
  • Make sure your doctor or OB/GYN also does a breast exam! I’ve had patients tell me, ‘I had my physical, but my doctor didn’t do a breast exam.’ That’s not okay. You need a breast exam every year.”
  • A pap test AND an HPV test. “You should be getting a pap every three years. If you’ve had an abnormal pap in the past, it may be more frequent. At the same time, you should also get a second swab to check for HPV (human papilloma virus), a virus that can be a precursor to cervical cancer. That’s critical! For some reason—I’m not sure why—some women aren’t getting that second swab. If your doctor’s not doing it automatically, you need to find a new doctor.”
  • A colonoscopy. “Starting at age 50, you need one every 10 years. If there’s a family history, start even sooner.”
  • Tests on your blood sugar, blood pressure, lipids and BMI. “These are critical screens for heart disease and metabolic syndrome, a precursor to heart disease. Not all doctors are talking about metabolic syndrome, but in women’s health we’ve been aware of it for years. Basically, as a woman ages into her 40s and 50s her metabolism can change, putting her at risk for heart disease and diabetes. The five critical factors that signify a problem:
    • Blood sugar is over 100 MG/DL
    • Triglycerides greater than 150 MG/DL
    • HDL under 50
    • Blood pressure of 130/85 or higher
    • A waist measurement over 35 inches or a BMI is over 25

Ask your doctor if he or she screens for metabolic syndrome, and make sure you know your own numbers. You are your own best advocate.”

Carolyn Nemec, M.D., is a family physician who specializes in women’s health at The Cleveland Clinic.

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  • SaraWald says:

    this is handy info!

  • Helen Kenney Poore says:

    This is such important info and, with all the information available to us on the internet, there is no excuse for any woman to not be self educated about her body. Doctors have hundreds of patients, we have one body, learn to know it better then the doctors.

  • htwollin says:

    This list is missing probably one of the most important but also most often not done for women and that is the thyroid profile – T3/T4/TSH/total T. Undiagnosed hypothyroidism fosters a host of long term negative effects, including uncontrollable cholesterol.

  • PNUTBUTTA says:

    LOOKING healthy is TOTALLY DIFFERENT from being healthy! All of the above can creep up on you as HBP (high blood pressure) did me when you hit 50! (..not to mention weight gain in the middle); however, I’m told I still look 30! Imagine what I’d look like if I lost 20 or 30 lbs!! :) KEEP THE LIST–GOOD ADVICE!!!

  • thereislightonthehorizon says:

    Don’t forget a List of all of your over the counter and prescription medications and supplemental vitamins and minerals.

  • KAPUMAKA says:

    This is great. What a nice article

  • sdresner says:

    don’t even wait until you’re over 50…just do it!

  • shellrobin says:

    Thanks as my annual exam is due soon!

  • jeannie11 says:

    useful info!

  • claire2665 says:

    This is a wonderful checklist. The key to good health is preventive medicine, the sooner something is detected the easier it is to treat and the outcome is usually better.

  • gingerpye says:

    I just had a checkup with a new Dr. and the Dr. did the HPV test. I was reluctant to get it since I had never been told about it but since it was covered by insurance I did. Thanks for letting everyone know that test should be done!

  • MCatherine says:

    I was fortunate to have a doctor who PARTNERED with me when deciding a treatment plan, then taking charge of my own recovery once diagnosed with head/neck cancer was the MOST empowering TWO steps I took in a highly DIS-EMPOWERING experience. I’m happy to share what I did and learned with anyone who may be facing a really challenging time.

  • carrimak says:

    Vitamin D should also be checked. Many women are deficient, and it turns out that Vitamin D is important for a host of reasons. See this article from the New York Times:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/27/health/27brod.html

  • Debi says:

    Good information. Guess it’s time for that darn colonoscopy.