Women: Stay Healthy at 50+
Use this information to help you stay healthy at ages 50 and above. Learn which screening tests you need and when to get them, which medicines may prevent diseases, and daily steps you can take for good health.
Get the Screenings You Need
Screenings are tests that look for diseases before you have symptoms. Blood pressure checks and mammograms are examples of screenings. You can get some screenings, such as blood pressure readings, in your doctor’s office. Others, such as mammograms, need special equipment, so you may need to go to a different office. After a screening test, it’s important to ask when you will see the results and who you should talk to about them.
Talk with your healthcare team about whether you need a mammogram.
Have a Pap smear every 1 to 3 years until you are age 65 if you have been sexually active. If you are older than 65 and recent Pap smears were normal, you do not need a Pap smear. If you have had a total hysterectomy for a reason other than cancer, you do not need a Pap smear.
Have a screening test for colorectal cancer. Several different tests—for example, a stool blood test and colonoscopy—can detect this cancer. Your health care team can help you decide which is best for you.
Your emotional health is as important as your physical health. Talk to your health care team about being screened for depression, especially if during the last 2 weeks:
You have felt down, sad, or hopeless.
You have felt little interest or pleasure in doing things.
Get screened for diabetes if your blood pressure is higher than 135/80 or if you
take medication for high blood pressure. Diabetes (high blood sugar) can cause
problems with your heart, brain, eyes, feet, kidneys, nerves, and other body parts.
High Blood Pressure
Have your blood pressure checked at least every 2 years. High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher. High blood pressure can cause strokes, heart attacks, kidney and eye problems, and heart failure.
High cholesterol increases your chance of heart disease, stroke, and poor circulation. Have your cholesterol checked regularly if:
You use tobacco.
You are obese.
You have a personal history of heart disease or blocked arteries.
A male relative in your family had a heart attack before age 50 or a female relative,
before age 60.
Talk with your health care team about HIV screening if any of these apply to you:
You have had unprotected sex with multiple partners.
You use or have used injection drugs.
You exchange sex for money or drugs or have sex partners who do.
You have or had a sex partner who is HIV-infected, bisexual, or injects drugs.
You are being treated for a sexually transmitted disease.
You had a blood transfusion between 1978 and 1985.
You have any other concerns.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Talk to your health care team about being tested for sexually transmitted diseases.
Osteoporosis (Bone Thinning)
Have a screening test at age 65 to make sure your bones are strong. If you are younger than 65 and at high risk for bone fractures, you should also be screened. Talk with your health care team about your risk for bone fractures.
Overweight and Obesity
The best way to learn if you are overweight or obese is to find your body mass index (BMI). You can find your BMI by entering your height and weight into a BMI calculator, such as the one available at: www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi. A BMI between 18.5 and 25 indicates a
normal weight. Persons with a BMI of 30 or higher may be obese. If you are obese, talk to
your health care team about seeking intensive counseling and getting help with changing
your behaviors to lose weight.
Overweight and obesity can lead to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Take Preventive Medicines If You Need Them
If you are 55 or older, you may want to consider taking aspirin to prevent strokes. Your health care team can help you decide whether taking aspirin to prevent strokes is right for you.
Breast Cancer Drugs
If your mother, sister, or daughter has had breast cancer, talk to your doctor about whether you should take medicines to prevent breast cancer.
Estrogen for Menopause (Hormone Replacement Therapy)
Do not use estrogen to prevent heart disease or other diseases. If you need relief from symptoms of menopause, talk with your health care team.
Get a flu shot every year.
Get shots for tetanus and whooping cough.
If you are 60 or older, get a shot to prevent shingles.
If you are 65 or older, get a pneumonia shot.
Talk with your health care team about whether you need other vaccinations. You can
also find which ones you need by going to: www.immunize.org/catg.d/p4030.pdf.
Take Steps to Good Health
Be physically active and make healthy food choices. Learn how at www.healthfinder.gov/
prevention. Get to a healthy weight and stay there. Balance the calories you take in from food and drink with the calories you burn off by your activities.
Be Tobacco Free
For tips on how to quit, go to www.smokefree.gov. To talk to someone about how to quit, call the National Quitline: 1-800-QUITNOW (784-8669).
If you drink alcohol, have no more than one drink per day. A standard drink is one 12-
ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof