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Women's Healthcare Guidelines

Follow these 10 steps for better health:

  1. Be informed. Learn about health promotion and disease prevention. Ask your healthcare provider for specific information about your needs.

  2. Be good to your bones. For healthy bones, be sure to get calcium every day with plenty of foods and drinks that have it. This includes milk and dairy foods, tofu, leafy greens, canned salmon or sardines, and juices or breads with added calcium. Ask your healthcare provider if you need calcium supplements.

  3. Don't use illegal drugs and limit alcohol. For women, the definition of moderate drinking is 1 drink a day. A drink is 1 5-ounce glass of wine, 1 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits. Keep in mind that the alcohol content of each type of drink can vary. For illegal drugs, there is no safe or moderate use.

  4. Take medicine wisely. Read the labels and follow the directions carefully. Tell your healthcare provider or pharmacist about any other prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, herbs, or supplements you are taking. This is because they could change the effects of your medicines. For your safety and to lower your risk for side effects or interactions, tell your healthcare provider if you use any illegal or recreational drugs. If you have any questions about side effects, call your healthcare provider or pharmacist.

  5. Play it safe. Prevent injuries. Use your seatbelt. Wear a helmet when you ride a motorcycle or bicycle. Use smoke and carbon monoxide detectors at home. Wear sunscreen and sunglasses with 100% UV protection. Practice safe sex by using condoms to protect against sexually transmitted infections.

  6. Get checked. Get regular checkups, exams, cancer screenings, and vaccines as directed by your healthcare provider. Don't forget self-exams, too. Check your skin and mouth. Be familiar with how your breasts normally look and feel. Report any changes to your healthcare provider right away.

  7. Don't smoke. Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. Ask your healthcare provider for resources to help you quit.

  8. Eat smart. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Enjoy a variety of foods from each food group and eat sensible portions.

  9. Get moving. Get at least 150 minutes of physical activity over the course of each week. It can greatly improve the way you look and feel. Try exercising for 30 minutes at least 5 days a week. Also do muscle strengthening exercises 2 days a week.

  10. Do things you enjoy. Take time for yourself. Connect with family, friends, and your community.

Maintaining good health

This chart shows general healthcare guidelines for women. But is not meant to replace any advice from your healthcare provider. Please use it as a reminder to take care of your personal health needs. And use it as a list of topics you may want to talk about with your healthcare provider.

Each day Each month Each year Other

Exercise 30 minutes a day 5 to 7 days a week

Do an oral cavity self-exam, gums, teeth, lips, tongue

Ask your healthcare provider if you need an annual exam.

Have a dental checkup once or twice a year.

Have vision and hearing checked annually.

Talk with your healthcare provider about when you should have a mammogram to screen for breast cancer. Women at average risk may start yearly mammograms at age 40.

Protect yourself from the sun and skin cancer. Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and wear clothes that protect your skin from sun. Don't use tanning beds or sunlamps.

Do a full-body self-exam for moles or other skin conditions. Have your healthcare provider look at moles every year, or right away for new or changed growths.

To screen for colorectal cancer, women at average risk starting at age 45 should have:

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, or
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years, or
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years, or
  • Yearly fecal occult blood test, or
  • Yearly fecal immunochemical test every year, or
  • Stool DNA test, every 3 years
If you choose a test other than a colonoscopy and have an abnormal test result, you will need to follow-up with a colonoscopy. Screening advice varies among expert groups. Talk with your healthcare provider about which tests are best for you.

Some people should be screened using a different schedule because of their personal or family health history. Talk with your healthcare provider about your health history.

Limit your saturated fat intake. Saturated fat is found in foods like butter, shortening, and meat. Most fats should come from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.

Be aware of your weight. Ask your healthcare provider what your goal weight should be. They can help you reach that weight.

Have your blood pressure checked yearly if you're 40 or older or if you are at risk for high blood pressure.

Have your blood pressure checked every 3 to 5 years if you're 18 to 39 and don't have risk factors for high blood pressure.

Starting at age 45: every 5 years have a full lipid profile test for cholesterol and triglycerides.

Earlier screening is advised if you have risk factors for coronary artery disease.

Eat sources of protein, such as lean or low-fat meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts.

Eat 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

At least half of all of the grains eaten should be whole grains.

Consume 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products per day.

Have a pelvic exam and Pap test starting at age 21 to screen for cervical cancer. Talk with your healthcare provider about other testing and screening for the human papillomavirus (HPV).*

Be aware of your alcohol intake and stress level.

Get a flu shot.

Get vaccines as directed by your healthcare provider.

Get a tetanus/diphtheria (td) booster every 10 years.

After age 65:  Get the pneumococcal vaccine. This is also advised for people under age 65 who have health problems that increase the risk for serious problems and death.

* The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises women to have their first Pap test at age 21. Women ages 21 to 29 should have a Pap test every 3 years. HPV testing alone can be considered for women who are ages 25 to 29, but Pap tests are preferred.

Women ages 30 to 65 have 3 choices for testing:

  • Pap test and HPV test every 5 years
  • Pap test alone every 3 years
  • HPV testing alone every 5 years
It's OK to stop screening for cervical cancer in women age 65 and over who have never had abnormal cervical cells or cervical cancer and have had 2 or 3 negative cancer screenings in a row. Talk with your healthcare provider for any exceptions to these guidelines.