Women's Healthcare Guidelines

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The National Women's Health Information Center (NWHIC) offers these 10 things you can do 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. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines a drink as 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 instructions carefully. Tell your healthcare provider or pharmacist about any other medicines 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 UV protection. Use street smarts and common sense. Practice safe sex by using condoms to protect against sexually transmitted infections.

  6. Get checked. Get regular checkups, exams, and vaccines. Don't forget self-exams, too. These include skin, oral, and breast self-checks.

  7. Don't smoke. Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S.

  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 30 minutes of physical activity over the course of each day. It can greatly improve the way you look and feel.

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

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.

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

Have a dental checkup once or twice a year. Have vision and hearing checked annually.

Ask your healthcare provider if you need an annual exam.

Talk with your healthcare provider about when you should have a mammogram.

Protect yourself from the sun. Use sunscreen and wear clothes that protect your skin from sun.

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.

Have a pelvic exam and Pap test starting at age 21.Talk with your healthcare provider about his or her advice for other testing and screening for the human papillomavirus (HPV).*

Women starting at age 45 at average risk:

  • 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.

Watch your fat intake - no more than 25% to 35% of your calorie intake. Most fats should come from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.

Be aware of your weight, check your BMI (body mass index)

 Have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked

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.

Get pneumococcal and shingles vaccines. Ask your healthcare provider if any other vaccines are needed or if vaccine advice has changed.

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

Be aware of your alcohol intake and stress level.

Get a flu shot.

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

* The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises that women have their first Pap test at age 21. Women ages 21 to 29 should have a Pap test every 3 years. Women 30 and older are advised to have the Pap test plus cytology and HPV every 5 years, or cytology every 3 years. It's okay to stop screening for cervical cancer in women age 65 and over who have had no positive screening tests and no history of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) 2+ in the last 20 years. After screening has been stopped, it should not be resumed. This is the case even if a woman has multiple sexual partners.