Health issues give you enough forewarning at times and appear out of the blue at others. Often, a blood test might not warn you about anything going amiss in your body. But even the smallest of changes can be indicative of a bigger problem. And women’s bodies usually respond to the slightest internal change, giving you the advantage of being able to address the problem at an early stage.
Paying close attention to symptoms like fatigue, nausea, or vomiting can go a long way in keeping you healthy. Here are a few checkups you can do regularly at home to figure out if and when you need medical attention.
1. Breast Exam
A breast self-exam is recommended for women of all ages at least once a month. It can be performed in the shower, in front of a mirror, or while lying down. The idea behind this is to be familiar with your breasts so that you will be able to quickly spot any changes.
- In the shower, use your fingers to move around the breast in a circular motion, up until the armpit. Look for any abnormal dents and lumps.
- In front of a mirror, drop your arms to your sides and look for any heaviness. Now, raise your arms and inspect any dimples or puckering.
- While lying on your back, raise your right arm over your head and place a pillow underneath the right upper back. Use your fingers to look for lumps. Repeat the procedure for the other breast.1
2. HIV Test
Nearly all pregnant women take an HIV test in the first trimester to rule out the possibility of being infected as delivering a baby with HIV can be risky to both the mother and the child. HIV can be transmitted due to sexual contact with an infected partner, sharing infected needles, or through blood transfusion.
If you prefer taking this test with relative anonymity, you can opt test kits available at local pharmacies. These kits require you to mail the sample to a testing lab.2
3. Heart Health Test
It is important to keep a check on your heart health as women are at a greater risk of heart disease than men.3 Your heart rate or pulse can help you spot any problems with your heart.
- To find your pulse, place your thumb and index finger of one hand on the other wrist, right below the base of the thumb.
- Set the timer for 1 minute and count your pulse.
- Usually, a pulse rate of 60–100 beats a minute is quite healthy, but if there an irregular heartbeat, visit your doctor at the earliest.
Surprisingly, a lower heart rate is often considered healthier. Conditions such as hypertension, obesity, and anemia can all cause the heart to work harder, as witnessed through a higher heart rate.4
4. UTI Test
Women are more prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs) than men due to the shorter distance between the anus and the urethra. If you have a UTI, you may experience symptoms such as pain while urinating, ache in the lower abdomen, and fever.
An over-the-counter urine test can help you detect a UTI. If you test positive, it is important to seek treatment immediately as an untreated infection can spread further up into the excretory system and lead to a bladder infection called cystitis.5
5. Pregnancy Test
Women the world over depend on pregnancy tests for everything from receiving good news to being sure that a missed period is not due to pregnancy. A home pregnancy test measures the hormonal changes in urine that accompany pregnancy. It is usually most accurate when taken at least a week or more after you have missed your period.6
Pregnancy kits are available over the counter along with directions for use. If you discover that you are pregnant, you can discuss further steps with your doctor and your family.
6. Depression Screening
Women undergo several changes in their life, many of which are governed by their hormones. As a result, they are much more susceptible to depression, especially as a severe form of the premenstrual syndrome, right after childbirth and close to menopause.
How can you differentiate between depression and the blues? Ask yourself this: Do your feelings of loss and sorrow last longer than a few weeks? Do these feelings seem unrelated to any specific life event? Have you withdrawn from your usual activities? If your answer is yes, it’s probably a good idea to undergo a proper depression screening with a counselor.7
|↑1||Breast Self-Exam. National Breast Cancer Foundation.|
|↑2||Information regarding the Home Access HIV-1 Test System. U.S. Food And Drug Administration.|
|↑3||Pai, Jennifer K., Tobias Pischon, Jing Ma, JoAnn E. Manson, Susan E. Hankinson, Kaumudi Joshipura, Gary C. Curhan et al. “Inflammatory markers and the risk of coronary heart disease in men and women.” New England Journal of Medicine 351, no. 25 (2004): 2599-2610.|
|↑4||All About Heart Rate (Pulse). American Heart Association.|
|↑5||Cystitis. NHS Choices.|
|↑6||Doing a pregnancy test. NHS Choices.|
|↑7||Depression in Women: 5 Things You Should Know. National Institute Of Mental health.|