Schedule the checkups you know you need—plus a few you might not expect.
"The best way to reduce stress is advance planning," says Alice Domar, PhD, director of the Mind/Body Center for Women's Health at Boston IVF and the author of, among other books, Self-Nurture. The LLuminari experts recommend scheduling the following appointments for optimal preventive care—with a few caveats: There's disagreement among organizations and doctors (including our own group) about which screenings you should get when. If you have a medical condition or a family history of certain diseases, talk to your doctor about what's right for you.
2. Gynecologist: Once a year. Includes Pap smear, pelvic exam, clinical breast exam, and, if you have a new sex partner, screenings for sexually transmitted diseases. If you have more than one sexual partner, you should have a Pap smear and STD tests every six months.
3. Dentist: Every six months for teeth cleaning and oral exam.
4. Dermatologist: If you're fair-skinned or have a family history of skin cancer, you'll want an annual appointment. Otherwise, go if you have any suspicious moles or skin problems.
5. Vaccinations: Make an appointment if: (a) it's time for your tetanus booster (required every ten years); (b) you're not immune to chickenpox (you need the shot if you've never had the disease or the vaccine); you're not immune to measles, mumps, or rubella (if you were born after 1956, you may need to be inoculated for all three, usually in one shot).
In your 30s, add:
6. Cholesterol screening: You need one every five years if your last test was normal. (These tests are often available at health fairs or through your internist.) Some experts say you can wait until your 40s to start unless you're at increased risk for heart disease because of smoking, family history, obesity, high blood pressure, or diabetes.
In your 40s, add:
7. Mammogram: The rigorous and evidence-based U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended starting annual screenings at 40; other guidelines suggest beginning at 50. Use your intuition and common sense based on your health and family history, and discuss your decision with your doctor.
8. Stress echocardiogram: Get a baseline analysis of how your heart is holding up.
9. Ophthalmologist: Many doctors advise going annually, although others recommend every two to four years until age 65, then annually. The visit should include an intraocular pressure measurement for glaucoma.
In your 50s and above, add:
10. Colonoscopy: Every five years.
11. Bone density scan: Start routine testing at menopause—earlier if you're small-framed, your weight is very low, you have a mother with osteoporosis, or you've had fractures (other than in a freak accident) after age 45. Some experts recommend waiting until you are 65, unless there are risk factors.
And don't forget the men in your life...
If he's in his 30s, he should have a cholesterol screening every five years. He should also be getting an annual fecal occult blood test.
If he's in his 40s or older, he needs an annual rectal exam and PSA blood test to screen for prostate cancer, and a colonoscopy every five years.
October 9—National Depression Screening Day: If you feel drained and unable to enjoy life, log on to MentalHealth.org to find a local screening site.
Third Thursday in November—the Great American Smokeout: Make a big X on that date if you smoke (call 800-ACS-2345 for information).
Vacation: Block it out now and start thinking about what you want to do. Hang a photo on your bulletin board of the beach you'll be visiting, get the maps out, do some preparatory reading. The planning and anticipation will prolong your fun.
Trouble spots: Circle times you know will be tough (the anniversary of a death, Valentine's Day) and start thinking about how to make these days easier.
Look-forward-tos: Make six dates you can't wait for—a girls' night out, tickets to a concert series, a romantic getaway.
Do-it days: Make six dates when you will spend the day crossing off all the things on your to-do list that never seem to get done.
Major occasions: Write down the date when you should start preparing for a big event, not just the date of the event itself (your parents' 50th anniversary, your turn to host Thanksgiving).
Traditions: If there are rituals you loved as a child—apple picking in September, caroling in December—add them to your adult life.
Plus, find a half hour every day to read a novel or meditate or have sex.