In no other time has our health been more of a focus than it is now. If we ever took our bodies and their optimal functioning for granted, 2020 has brought wellness into sharp focus, as we try and safeguard our health, as well as the health of those we love.
As a woman, the best gift you can give yourself is trying to be as healthy as possible, by making time for regular exercise and eating well, as well as prioritising your mental health (especially when things get tough). When it comes to your physical health though, you also need to be proactive about going for regular check-ups, especially as we enter the second half of the year.
Here are three essential checks that you must schedule in (write them straight into your calendar!):
- Pap smear
We didn’t say it was a comfortable one, but it is indeed an essential one. Besides, a few seconds of discomfort are worth it, in order to check for the presence of abnormalities in your uterus, including the cells that could indicate cervical cancer. In fact, did you know that cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer among South African women after breast cancer*? After the age of 21, it’s recommended that you go for an annual pap smear, whether you are sexually active or not. Many medical aids such as Fedhealth pay for pap smears and other health screenings from Risk, depending on which option you choose.
- Breast exam and/or mammogram
You should be examining your breasts yourself regularly, checking for any changes to the breast tissue. Some doctors advise checking them once a month in the middle of your cycle, as your hormones just before and after your period can make your breasts feel “lumpier”. Checking them in the shower is one easy way, but you should also take a good look in the mirror to see if their shape has changed (look for dimples, nipple changes, sores, growing veins or hard lumps). If you have any concerns then visit your GP and they can do a thorough check in their rooms, after which they can recommend a mammogram or ultrasound if either of you are concerned.
- Blood pressure
It’s a common misconception that women don’t suffer from high blood pressure like men do – but this is simply untrue. According to WHO data, approximately 27.4% of men and 26.1% of women in South Africa have hypertension. The Hypertension Society of South Africa states that approximately 4 out of 10 adults (over the age of 25) have hypertension globally, with roughly half of these people completely unaware of their condition. High blood pressure can lead to heart disease, strokes and kidney disease, but luckily there are lifestyle changes you can make, as well as medication you can take. You should have your blood pressure taken once a year at your GP, so they can assess your risks and make suggestions for further tests if necessary.
The kindest thing you can do in difficult times like these is to take care of yourself – and ensuring that you do these essential checks is one easy way to do this.