Health Checks for Your Twenties and Beyond
Molly Mann | DivineCaroline
October 06, 2010
My mother and I both take pretty good care of ourselves. We try to eat well and exercise, we take supplements, and we see our doctors regularly. But because we’re more than four decades apart in age, our health care needs differ greatly—as do all women’s. As we move through the decades of our lives, the age-specific concerns related to our physical wellness evolve as well. By being aware of what they are and how to test for them, we can achieve optimal health at any stage.
In Your Twenties
Most women consider their biggest health risk to be breast cancer and, increasingly, heart disease. Those are indeed grave issues later in life, but for women in their twenties, according to Gigi El-Bayoumi, associate professor of medicine at George Washington University Medical Center, the area of greatest concern is actually sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that more than half of the approximately 19 million new cases of STDs per year occur in 19- to 24-year-olds, because women in this age group tend to have more sexual partners than other demographics.
El-Bayoumi also notes that women in their twenties are the most common victims of eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and orthorexia, an unhealthy obsession with “healthy” food.
In addition, she recommends that females in this age group get an annual Pap smear to check for the human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common STD, as well as regular checks for chlamydia and gonorrhea. She also refers women who suspect they may have an eating disorder to the National Eating Disorders Association for more information about treatment and specialists in their areas.
Starting at age 20, women should also start taking 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day to prevent bone loss, according to the daily recommended adequate intake.
In Your Thirties
Fertility begins to decline slightly in your early thirties, according to Renee Scola, an internist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. That’s a problem for women who put off childbearing. If you’ve been trying without success to conceive for over a year, talk to your doctor, who may recommend fertility testing.
This is also the decade when overweight women may develop pre-diabetes, blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. If you have any of the risk factors for diabetes, like being overweight or sedentary, or having a family history of the disease, get regular glucose tests.