Make health screenings part of your New Year’s resolutions, from Harvard Women’s Health Watch

Keeping up with new developments is a good idea, but it's even more important to stick with tried-and-true steps to keep track of your health. The January 2011 issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch outlines 11 health checks you should routinely have, including these:

  • Height and weight. Losing height is a normal effect of aging. Sometimes, though, it's caused by tiny fractures in the spine that may be the first sign of osteoporosis. Changes in weight are even more important. Unintended weight loss can be a sign of serious illness, while excess weight raises your risk for diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Your body mass index (BMI) is a good way to track weight. (You can calculate your BMI online at http://health.harvard.edu/bmi.) A healthy weight corresponds with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9; overweight is 25 to 29.9; and obese is 30 or more.
  • How often: At routine office visits.
  • Bone mineral density. Bone mineral density declines with age. A test known as DXA uses a small amount of radiation to measure bone density in the hip and spine. This information helps you and your doctor determine your chances of breaking a bone.
  • How often: A baseline DXA in women at age 65, earlier in women with risk factors. Ask your doctor about when to repeat the test.
  • Blood lipids. Total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, and triglycerides are measured with a blood test called a lipid panel or profile.
  • How often: At least every five years.
  • Mammogram. For women over 50, professionals agree that mammography, a specialized x-ray of compressed breast tissue, helps detect breast cancers at their earliest and most treatable stage. In addition, a clinical breast exam (CBE) done by a physician may find a lump not visible on x-ray.
    How often: Mammography every one to two years; CBE annually.

Read the full-length article: "11 for 2011: Eleven important ways to assess your health"

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