The second week of May has been dedicated, by the Department of Health and Human Services, to promoting Women's Health. Monday, the 12th, is dedicated to reminding women the importance of an annual checkup.
The No. 1 killer of women is heart disease. The Women's Heart Foundation reports that 8.6 million women worldwide die from heart disease each year. Many more are living with heart disease and don't know it. Heart disease can be diagnosed and treated before it kills if it is caught early. Part of a routine checkup is assessing you for any risk factors that might be associated with heart disease. If a problem is found, solutions can be explored. Sometimes it requires medication, but some problems can be addressed by looking at diet and life style.
By the time a lump is felt in the breast, a woman probably has had the cancer growing for awhile. Mammograms save lives. They can find a suspicious mass before a women feels the mass. Your provider can help you schedule a mammogram. But breast cancer is not the major cancer killer of women, lung cancer is. Just like lumps in the breast, growths in the lungs are not usually diagnosed until the person has had the disease for a while.
Many people think that only people that smoke get lung cancer. That is not true. At a check up, your provider will listen to your lungs. I know of an OB/GYN doctor here in town that was routinely listening to her patient's lungs when she heard a rattling sound. She referred the patient to a lung doctor who very quickly diagnosed lung cancer. The lady is still alive because she got into treatment early. She never smoked cigarettes and did not consider herself at risk. Her checkup ended up saving her life.
Part of a checkup is having your blood pressure taken.
High blood pressure is often referred to as "the silent disease." You may have high blood pressure and not even know it. By the time you are symptomatic, head ache, tingling in your hands, blurry vision, your blood pressure is probably lethal. It can be controlled with medications and lifestyle changes. Blood pressure readings reflect how hard your heart has to work to pump blood out to your body and how hard it is still working when it is trying to relax. An elevated blood pressure not only affects your heart and brain, it also impacts all of your major organs.
The American Diabetes Association estimates that 9.7 million women in the United States have diabetes. Most of the damage that happens to the human body from diabetes occurs during what is called the pre-diabetic state. That is when the blood sugar is elevated but the individual does not know it. When the blood sugar is elevated, blood is more like maple syrup than flowing blood. This ends up clogging up the kidneys and decreases nutrition to other parts of the body. A simple blood test can tell if you are at risk for developing diabetes.
Blood pressure measurement, temperature, respiration counts, pulse counting are called our "vital signs." They are called the vital signs because they are a clear indication on how vital, necessary for life, organs are functioning. All are part of a routine health check.
A checkup is a time to discuss with a health care provider not only your physical, but emotional, concerns. If you are having long periods of sadness maybe your hormones are out of balance or you may be suffering from depression. Your health care provider can help you get the help you might need.
Wishing you a happy and healthy life.
Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital's Family BirthPlace. Her column appears every other week in Healthy Living. Contact her at email@example.com.