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6 Health Tests That Could Save Your Life

Young Women are important driving force of our society. A single loss of life has disastrous consequences to the many living around her and a great loss to the nation. The leading causes of female death in Malaysia of the age group 20 – 40 years are:

1. Ischemic Heart Disease – Heart Attacks
2. Cerebrovascular Disease – Stroke and loss of neurological function
3. Septicemia – Infection leading to multiple organ failure
4. Pneumonia – Severe lung infection
5. Breast Cancer & Cervical Cancer

Women of 20 – 40 years are generally obese and overweight, commonly seen. This is due to abundance and excessive consumption of food, lack of exercise leading to accumulation of fat and resulting in Obesity. Therefore, women are requested to perform annual health check up and perform the following screening test.

1. Blood Pressure Screening:

Kindly visit a doctor and get your Blood Pressure checked. Before checking make sure you have rested well, not smoked or exercised. You must not have undue stress or in pain. Blood pressure should be checked every two years once if you have normal blood pressure (lower than 120/80). Blood pressure should be checked once a year if you have blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89. If your blood pressure is high, it can read as BP > 140mm Hg systolic / 90 mmHg diastolic, repeat it after 4 hours. If blood pressure remains high, you need to consult your family physician for further assessment and discuss further treatment.

2. Check Body weight and calculate BMI:

Obesity is a leading predisposing factor for many diseases. If your body weight and BMI is within normal, your probability of getting Cancer, Diabetes Mellitus, Hypertension, and Hypercholesterolemia are less. This prevents from heart attacks and stroke.

BMI means Body Mass Index. It is calculated by measuring your height in meters and body weight in kilograms. Individual BMI could be calculated by a standard formula. It is an indirect calculation of body fat.

BMI = Body weight in Kilograms/ Height in meters X Height in meters.

BMI Categories:

  • Underweight = <18.5
  • Normal weight = 18.5–24.9
  • Overweight = 25–29.9
  • Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater

3. Check your blood – Fasting Cholesterol Levels:

Fasting cholesterol screening test measures your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), serum total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides. A small sample of blood is taken from your arm. Your blood sample is then analyzed in a laboratory. Women should fast (avoid consuming food, beverages and medications, usually for nine to 12 hours) before your blood test. If you aren’t fasting when the blood sample is drawn, only the values for total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol will be usable. That’s because the amount of LDL (bad) cholesterol level and triglycerides can be affected by what you’ve recently consumed.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that occurs naturally in all parts of the body. Your body needs some cholesterol to work properly. But if you have too much in your blood, it can combine with other substances in the blood and stick to the walls of your arteries. This is called plaque. Plaque can narrow your arteries or even block them.

High levels of cholesterol in the blood can increase your risk of heart disease. Your cholesterol levels tend to rise as you get older. There are usually no signs or symptoms that you have high blood cholesterol, but it can be detected with a blood test. You are likely to have high cholesterol if members of your family have it, if you are overweight or if you eat a lot of fatty foods.

You can lower your cholesterol by exercising more and eating more fruits and vegetables. You also may need to take medicine to lower your cholesterol.

4. Check your fasting Blood Sugar to exclude Type 2 diabetes:

Women more than 35 years of age or older should consider getting tested for diabetes and prediabetes. If you are 25 or older and overweight, BMI more than 25 perform a screening test.

The screening tests available are HbA1C test, a fasting blood glucose test, or an oral glucose tolerance test. After these tests you can be diagnosed to have normal blood glucose, diabetes, or prediabetes. If you are told to have prediabetes, then you should take steps to prevent type 2 diabetes. If you fall into high risk then you will be required to be retested once again yearly.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. About 95 percent of people have type 2 diabetes. Women can develop type 2 diabetes at any age, even during childhood. However, this type of diabetes develops most often in women at the age of 30 -40 years. People who are overweight and inactive are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

In type 2 and other types of diabetes, you have too much glucose, also called sugar, in your blood.

People with diabetes have problems converting food to energy. After a meal, food is broken down into glucose, which is carried by your blood to cells throughout your body. With the help of the hormone insulin, cells absorb glucose from your blood and use it for energy. Insulin is made in the pancreas, an organ located behind the stomach.

Insulin is made in the pancreas.

Type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance; a condition leads to excess weight in which your body’s cells do not use insulin properly. As a result, your body needs more insulin to help glucose enter cells. At first, your pancreas keeps up with the added demand by producing more insulin. But in time, your pancreas loses its ability to produce enough insulin, and blood glucose levels rise.

Over time, high blood glucose damages nerves and blood vessels, leading to problems such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, dental disease, and amputations. Other problems of diabetes may include increased risk of getting other diseases, loss of mobility with aging, depression, and pregnancy problems.

5. Breast Cancer Screening:

Excessive growth of body cells (breast cells) leads to development of breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women.

Women < 35 years can perform Self Breast Examination to check your own breasts for lumps, changes in size or shape of the breast, or any other changes in the breasts or underarm (armpit). Ultrasound examination of Breast performed by trained sonologist every 1 – 2 years once. Women 35 – 40 years can have Mammogram done 1- 2 years once and monthly self breast examination looking for lumps and bleeding or discharge.

Mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. It is the best way to find early breast cancer. This helps doctor to diagnose early and treat before cancer becomes big and cause symptoms. Having regular mammograms can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer.

6. Cervical Cancer Screening:

Women > 25 years are advised to perform annual PAP smears, which are useful to detect early cervical cancer. Currently experts are recommending screening for the presence of HPV (Human Papilloma Virus). If the screening for HPV virus is negative then women can have PAP smears performed once in every 5 years.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). HPV is a different virus from HIV and Herpes. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active women get it at some point in their lives. There are many different types of HPV. Some types of HPV can cause genital warts and cervical cancers. Genital warts usually appear as a small bump or group of bumps in the genital area. They can be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower.

Women can get HPV by having oral, vaginal, or anal sex with someone who has the virus. It is most commonly spread during vaginal or anal sex. HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms.

Healthy lifestyle like balanced diet, regular exercise, annual health screening and prevention of communicable disease increases the life expectancy of women. Women of 20 -40 years can have the following immunization to prevent against the communicable disease:

a) Human Papilloma Virus HPV immunization – 3 doses
b) Flu vaccine every six months
c) Varicella vaccination against Chicken Pox disease
d) Hepatitis A & Hepatitis B combine vaccine.

A woman’s health/fitness is directly proportional to the fitness of their families. Hence, they should proactively walk that extra mile and get the abovementioned health checkups done, as a matter of prevention and early diagnosis, than to wait for the day when it’s too late.

Everybody is different. Consult your Doctor to further discuss about health screenings that are most relevant to you and also your family. Just remember, prevention is the key to good health.

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