Essential health checks for women in their 50s

Written by denise schipani
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Essential health checks for women in their 50s
(Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)

Colonoscopy

Book your first colonoscopy soon after your 50th birthday. No matter what your family history, age 50 is recommended for a first screening. If no polyps are found, repeat testing every 10 years. But if your doctor finds polyps classified as adenomas, which have cancerous potential, you need repeat colonoscopies every three years.

Heart health check

A thorough exam early in this decade should include screening for your overall risk of heart disease. First up, a look at waist circumference. The bigger you become around the middle, the greater your risk of metabolic syndrome, including diabetes and heart disease. A circumference of more than 35 inches is cause for concern.

You might think about asking for a blood test called the C-Reactive Protein test. An electrocardiogram is smart for any woman over age 50, even in the absence of symptoms.

If you have a family history of heart disease or if you have symptoms like chest discomfort, shortness of breath, palpitations, or if you’ve been diagnosed in the past with a heart murmur, you’ll want to schedule an echocardiogram, a noninvasive sonogram of the heart.

Bone density test

Routine bone-density testing should start at age 65, while younger women should be screened only if they are at risk for fractures. That said most women today have been getting screened earlier.

Think about getting your bone density checked if you are or were a smoker, if you were prescribed steroids such as asthma medications, are very thin -- there's an added risk for being thin and Asian -- have a strong family history of osteoporosis or have lost height in the last year.

Vaccine update

Everyone born between 1945 and 1965 should get tested for hepatitis C. 75 percent of adults with the virus were born during those years. While the reasons are not completely understood, what is known for certain is that early detection and treatment will save lives. It was previously thought that only those with certain risk factors get tested, but given that many people are silent carriers and considering that hepatitits C can lead to deadly diseases including cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer, screening seems smart.

Check on your tetanus booster, too; you need this vaccine once every 10 years.

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