You’re as busy as a bee in your 30s — but don’t neglect these important health exams and screenings.
As a woman in her 30s, I understand how easy it is to neglect to make doctor’s appointments because everything from parenting to work to personal relationships always takes priority. It sometimes seems like everyone and everything else comes before us during this decade, but it’s vital to remember we can’t help everyone else grow up and succeed in life if we’re neglecting our own health and well-being.
The number of medical exams we should get when we turn 30 is somewhat lengthier than those we submitted to in our 20s, but if you think of these screenings as insurance for a healthier future, it’s easier to understand why they’re so important. Here is a list of seven exams and discussions women in their 30s should expect to have or engage in with their doctors.
1. Pap smears
Women ages 30 to 65 will have a Pap smear along with HPV test every three years, says Dr. Sherry Ross, OB-GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. Even though women under the age of 30 who have a high risk strain of HPV will most likely have normal Pap smears in the future without any treatment — the same no longer holds true after age 30, according to Ross.
“Women aged 30-65 years that have a + HPV of the high risk type are more likely to develop dysplasia or pre-cancer cells in the next few years, even if the Pap is normal,” Ross says. “If you have a history of having an abnormal Pap smear, you will need more regular screenings. HPV is the direct link to abnormal Pap smears and increasing the risk of cervical cancer.”
2. Fertility exams
There’s no denying it: No matter how we swore up and down in our 20s we’d never talk about our “biological clocks,” your 30s are a time when decisions about children and whether you want to conceive have to be addressed. “Discussing fertility testing and family planning is important to mention in your thirties,” Ross says. “If you are single and are not even thinking about future fertility, the conversation of egg freezing is timely.”
3. Breast cancer prevention
You may be too young for your first mammogram (assuming your gyno hasn’t recommended one because of a family history of breast cancer), but it’s never too soon to learn about breast cancer prevention. “Discussing a healthy and colorful diet, limiting weekly alcohol intake, regular weekly exercise, controlling your weight and getting adequate levels of vitamin D are lifestyle habits to be encouraged beginning in your 30’s and being reminded in your 40’s, 50’s and 60’s,” Ross says.
4. Skin cancer screenings
Noticing that cute mole just seems to be growing bigger each year? There’s no better time than the present to consult with a dermatologist and confirm that your sweet freckles (and any other mark you have as the result of sunbathing in your teens) isn’t melanoma.
5. Blood pressure examinations
High blood pressure can lead to artery damage and severe heart problems. Know your numbers so that you can take the necessary steps, whether that means exercising more or cutting sodium from your diet, to keep your blood pressure stable.
6. Cholesterol checks
Having high cholesterol can affect your circulation, leading to clogged arteries and even strokes and heart attacks. Your 30s are an optimal time to take control of your diet and cut out foods that could be contributing to high cholesterol — but, of course, it helps to know your numbers and where you stand with it.
7. Check your thyroid
If you’re having trouble conceiving, struggle with irregular or too heavy (or too light) periods and are experiencing symptoms commonly identified with menopause (but feel you’re too young to actually be experiencing menopause), consult with your doctor and ask if she/he feels a thyroid screening is in your best interest. More women than men are likely to develop thyroid disease and it can often happen right after pregnancy or before menopause. The good news is that it’s usually treatable with medicine.