Basic health checkups for women of all ages

Over the years, your body, like your life, undergoes transformations. And as your body transforms, so does your risk of disease.

That’s why taking a proactive approach to basic health checkups is so important. By keeping your family’s health history in mind, standard medical exams allow you to listen to your body and catch something as early as possible—even if you don’t have symptoms.

But how do you know which screenings are right for you? At what age should you have certain check-ups and how often? The details can get confusing and overwhelming, so seeing a primary care physician like Sumaiya Iqbal, MD can help clear things up.

For women in their 20s and 30s

Your 20s and 30s are a crucial time for health checkups because that’s when several conditions like cervical cancer, hypertension, and anxiety disorders can start to appear. Detecting and addressing them early can make a huge difference in your long-term well-being.

Through health screenings, you’re “taking essential steps to ensure your health is on a solid footing,” says Dr. Iqbal.


A pap smear, or pap smear, is a quick procedure that checks for changes in the cells of the cervix that could indicate cervical cancer. The doctor uses a small brush or spatula, often called a “cytobrush” or “cervical brush,” to carefully collect cells from the cervix.

  • Starting age: 21
  • Frequency: Every 3 to 5 years, depending on your age and HPV status
  • Conducted by: An obstetrician/gynecologist during an examination of a healthy woman or a primary care physician

Blood pressure screenings

Blood pressure screening is a simple, non-invasive test that checks for signs of hypertension (high blood pressure). Hypertension often has no symptoms, and early detection helps prevent related health problems.

  • Starting age: Childhood
  • Frequency: Once a year
  • Conducted by: Primary care provider during routine wellness appointments

Body mass index (BMI) projections.

BMI screenings check your height and weight to assess your overall body health and weight-related risk factors. Although it does not provide a definitive diagnosis, it serves as a starting point for promoting a healthy lifestyle.

  • Starting age: Childhood
  • Frequency: Annual or more frequent monitoring when lifestyle changes are made
  • Conducted by: A primary care provider during a routine health checkup

Diabetes screening

Diabetes screening involves a blood test called A1C, which measures average blood sugar levels. Since diabetes is a common condition, early detection allows for effective management and lifestyle changes.

  • Starting age: Age 35 for those who are obese
  • Frequency: Every 3 years or more often for people with certain risk factors or a family history of diabetes
  • Conducted by: A primary care provider or endocrinologist

Routine screening for anxiety disorder

Routine screening for anxiety disorders involves answering standardized questionnaires to assess your anxiety levels. This is a recent recommendation from the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Identifying anxiety in its early stages can help you get therapy or medication to improve your quality of life.

  • Starting age: 19
  • Frequency: As needed or based on your primary care provider’s recommendations
  • Conducted by: Primary care provider during preventive health examinations

Screening for depression and suicide risk

The USPSTF recommends screening for depression in everyone, including pregnant and postpartum women and the elderly. Like screening for anxiety, early identification of depression can get you faster access to therapy or medication.

  • Starting age: 19
  • Frequency: As needed or based on your primary care provider’s recommendations
  • Conducted by: Primary care provider or OB/GYN during preventive health exams

For women in their 40s and 50s

When you reach your 40s and 50s, you enter a period where the risk of diseases such as breast cancer and colon cancer increases. Early detection through screening can lead to more effective treatment, better outcomes, and preservation of overall health and well-being.

Starting around age 40, talk to your primary care doctor about these health screenings:


A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast used to detect early signs of breast cancer. Mammograms can identify breast abnormalities long before you notice any symptoms.

  • Starting age: 40 or earlier if you have a family history of breast cancer
  • Frequency: Annually or more often if you are at higher risk
  • Conducted by: A radiologist or at a breast imaging center

[h3] Screening for colon cancer

Colon cancer screening includes either a colonoscopy, which is a visual examination of the colon, or stool tests to look for signs of colorectal cancer. Early detection is key for colon cancer, and screening can detect precancerous lesions, making it highly treatable.

  • Starting age: 45, although individual and family history may influence the age of onset
  • Frequency: Every 1 to 10 years, depending on the method and findings
  • Conducted by: A gastroenterologist for colonoscopies or a primary care provider for stool tests

Lipid screening (cholesterol)

Lipid screening measures cholesterol levels in the blood. High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease and regular screening helps prevent it.

  • Starting age: About 40 years in most cases
  • Frequency: Every 5 to 10 years, depending on results
  • Conducted by: Primary care provider during routine wellness checkups

Continued Pap smears, blood pressure checks, BMI monitoring

These checkups, which take place from your 20s and 30s, continue to be important for monitoring your overall health. They provide ongoing assessment and early detection of various health factors.

Extended routine screening for anxiety disorder and depression

These screenings, which should have started around age 19, should continue at your annual health checkups with your primary care provider. The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that these screenings continue until age 64. The USPSTF says current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for anxiety disorders in older adults.

For women aged 60 and over

As you reach your golden years, the risk of age-related diseases such as osteoporosis and certain cancers increases. Stay on track with the health screenings you need to be proactive with your health.

Bone density screening (DEXA scan)

A DEXA scan is a type of X-ray that measures bone mineral density, assessing the risk of osteoporosis and the potential for fractures. This screening helps identify bone health and the risk of osteoporosis, which becomes more common with age.

  • Starting age: Usually at age 65, although the timing varies depending on individual bone health and fracture risk
  • Frequency: It depends on the initial findings and individual risk factors
  • Conducted by: Radiology or imaging center

Ongoing screenings

Pap smears, blood pressure checks, BMI monitoring, colon and breast cancer screenings, and depression/anxiety screenings should continue. These examinations have been part of your ongoing health monitoring since your earlier years and remain important as you age.

Your family history matters

If someone in your family has or has had a certain disease, this may mean that you need to start screening earlier and have it more often. That’s why your family health history is a vital factor in shaping your approach to health screenings. It offers crucial information about your genetic predisposition to specific conditions, allowing your primary care provider to create a personalized screening plan just for you.

Share your family health history with your primary care provider so they know if/when you should start certain screenings.

If you have any questions or concerns about health screenings, your primary care provider is a great resource.

“Ensuring your health and well-being continues as you age is our priority,” says Dr. Iqbal. “We are here to support you through every stage of your life journey.”

Next steps and resources

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your doctor. Always consult your doctor for individual care.

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