Have your healthiest year ever
New Year, new deja vu. Haven't you seen these get-healthy resolutions before? Lose 20 pounds! Exercise daily! Cut out junk food! Oh, that's right, you made them last year and the year before--and gave them up before Groundhog Day. The problem's not you; it's your resolutions. "Women wish they were thinner or younger and buy into impossible goals that have nothing to do with who they are," says Tieraona Low Dog, MD, a Prevention advisory board member and the author of Life Is Your Best Medicine. Research shows that trying to improve your health using shame and guilt-based strategies doesn't work; it's not sustainable and it's just no fun. "Stop holding yourself to unrealistic standards and everything else will take care of itself," Dr. Low Dog says. Use the three checklists that follow to create a customized plan that really will keep you healthier--and happier--every day all year long.
Use this at-a-glance list to make sure you don't miss any of the maintenance tests and screenings you need. Make the appointments now and you'll be free and clear for the rest of the year.
Your yearly physical
Even if you feel fine, check in with your primary-care doctor at least once a year. "This is your chance to get the complete picture of your health, as well as to track your progress over time," says Judith Volkar, MD, a gynecologist at the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Specialized Women's Health. The bonus: Your physical should cover all of the following items on your to-do list.
Blood pressure check
Get this reading every 2 years to confirm that you're in the healthy range (less than 120/80); get it annually if you're 40 or over and have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or have any other risk factors.
Get this blood test at least once every 5 years. For good heart health, your total blood cholesterol level should be less than 200 mg/dL; your HDL (good) cholesterol, more than 50 to 60; and your LDL (bad), less than 130. Triglycerides (fat stored in the blood) should be under 150 mg/dL.
If you've felt down for 2 weeks or longer at a time, ask your doctor to test you for depression. She'll talk to you about common symptoms such as sleeping too much or too little, overeating, or having trouble concentrating, and she can refer you for counseling if you need it.
"Even if you're not due for a Pap test, you need a pelvic every year, because it looks at many other critical health issues, such as other cancers, too," says Dr. Volkar.
Cervical cancer screening (Pap test)
If you're between 30 and 65, get this screening every 3 years, with an HPV (human papillomavirus) test every 5 years. HPV is a leading cause of cervical cancer.
If you're over 25, you should be tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and other STDs every time you change sexual partners.
This protective shot is recommended for everyone age 6 months and older. (So if you can read this, you need one.) If you've scheduled your primary-care visit in the early fall, ask your doctor for the shot. It's also available for a small fee at drugstores and health clinics.
If you had chicken pox, you're at risk of this painful, itchy condition, which is actually an adult resurgence of the childhood disease. If you're 60 or older, ask your doctor about the onetime herpes zoster vaccine, which helps prevent shingles.
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