Magazine article USA TODAY

Women Should Establish a Lifetime Game Plan. (Health Care)

Magazine article USA TODAY

Women Should Establish a Lifetime Game Plan. (Health Care)

Article excerpt

According to the Vagisil Women's Health Center, females of all ages need to be proactive about their health care, following game plans during various phases of life.

During the teen years

* Know your body so that you can recognize when something is different.

* Discuss your changing body with your current physician or suggest to a parent that you would like to switch to an adolescent specialist or gynecologist you would be more comfortable with when discussing feminine health concerns. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has recommended that girls have their first visit to a gynecologist between the ages of 13 and 15.

* Learn about sexually transmitted diseases from a reliable source. Ask questions and get tested if there is any chance you have been exposed.

* Keep track of when your periods start and stop, as well as anything out of the ordinary, such as severe pain or unusually heavy or light flow.

* Learn to examine your breasts properly and do so regularly. Bring any abnormalities to the attention of a parent or health care provider.

* Be aware of your discharge and feminine odor. A certain amount is quite normal, but if the color or odor changes noticeably, you might have an infection and will need to be treated by a physician.

* Don't smoke.

* Don't substitute dieting for eating healthy foods regularly.

* Make regular exercise part of your life. Get involved with a sport, work out, or take exercise classes.

* Talk to your mother or an aunt about any health conditions or diseases that might run in your family, such as breast and ovarian cancers and endometriosis, and inform your doctor.

During the reproductive years

* Schedule your annual visit to the gynecologist at the same time each year for a check-up and Pap smear.

* Call your gynecologist if you discover something strange, such as a bump or lump, or notice unusual discharge or a change in your menstrual cycle.

* Understand the difference between "just an itch" or signals of an infection. If an itch doesn't go away after use of an over-the-counter product, you should consult with your doctor.

* Discuss birth control options with your gynecologist. There are new methods available that you may not be aware of. Different methods may work better for you at different times of your reproductive years.

* If you are considering becoming pregnant, discuss this early on with your gynecologist, who can get you on a regimen of vitamins and diet to prepare your body.

* Keep track of your periods, noting any changes to your physician. Certain changes can signal an existing or future problem, including early-onset menopause. …

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