May 16th, 2008
11:10 AM ET

Making medical "me time"

By Val Willingham
Medical Producer

I have never been one for running out and getting medical tests.  Even though I work in the CNN medical unit and report on the importance of preventive medicine, I always seemed to lag behind on mammograms, physicals and exams.  So when I got my first colonoscopy a few months ago, even I was surprised that I took the time to do it.

When I was younger I saw my doctor once a year but as I got older and became a mom, I sort of put myself on the back burner.  My daughter's health, my husband's health, even my dog's health were more important.  I used to squeeze in my own medical appointments between work, tennis practice, play rehearsals and driving lessons. The only time I saw a doctor was in the emergency room for minor cuts and scrapes.   So after my daughter went off to college, I began to reevaluate my health and realized I needed to get back on track.   I scheduled a mammogram, a physical, dental and eye exams and the colonoscopy.   As I ticked off my medical "to-do list" it felt good to know I was taking better care of myself. 

Doctors say many busy women put off important tests because they just don't have time.  They seem to focus on other things or other people instead of themselves.  And that's not good, because in order to stay healthy women should be getting certain tests every year. (Watch Video)

Beginning in our 30s or younger, women should know their numbers, their cholesterol, their blood pressure and how much they weigh.  The American Heart Associations says heart disease is the Number 1 killer of women.  Physicians say the focus on heart health should begin at a young age.  That means exercise and eating a healthy diet that's low in sodium and fat and high in Omega 3 fatty acids.  And be sure to load it up on fruits and veggies.

Regular breast exams, pelvic exams and pap smears also are important, and some women may want to consider adding more calcium to their diets for strong bones.

In our 40s, women are generally encouraged to begin getting regular mammograms. Although there's been some controversy on this topic, the American Cancer Society says mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early. The earlier it's found the better chance of survival.

In our 50s, women should get colonoscopies for detection of colon cancer... and we must keep up with regular checkups.

So if you are one of those women like me who's been putting off important diagnostic tests, don't wait any longer.  Give yourself a little medical "me" time and get back on a healthy track to life.

Do you get regular exams to stay healthy?   How difficult is it for you to keep up with medical appointments?   Tell us about it.

Editor’s Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

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soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Nadim

    The article is the thing i needed to wake up and make some medical " me time". People usually put loved ones health and well-fare infront of there own.
    I heard there is a website about the screening tests advised at different age groups, i think it was called the US preventive task force, but i have not been very successful in finding it. If it is not too much trouble could you point me out to that website or a similar website to enlighten me more.

    Thank you in advance

    May 17, 2008 at 09:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Laurie

    It isn't just you, Val. I am sooo bad at getting tests done. I need a mammogram and colonoscopy–both run in my immediate family. And even as I've sat in the ICU unit this past long, awful week, watching to see if my friend with emphysema and pneumonia improves, I need to schedule my own X-ray, and find out why my breath has started wheezing. The pap test. Will I ever get any of these done? Yea, eventually, after I stop taking care of my friend, her daughter. When my work schedule relaxes some. When I have the money, when when when... I'll do it if YOU will.

    May 17, 2008 at 18:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Janet Coffin

    Good Morning, I heard some of what Dr. Gupta and his lady guest said about Vitamin D but, did not get the full story. How much and how often should we take it and how do we know we need it? I'm 80 years old. Yes, I will also ask my doctor. Just curious because my husband was recently advised to take Vitamin D. We live in Nevada and I thought we would surely get enough sunshine here. Thank You, Janet

    May 18, 2008 at 10:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. sabina haque

    I am a 41 yr old female who stays in shape by exercising at the gym. I eat more than 30-50 grams of protein a day but my protein level stays at 6.0. By eating that much in order to raise my levels because I do activities that require at least 6.0 grams or more, I am worried about the possibility of overdoing it. My question for the doctor is about protein.
    Is it possible to eat too much protein in one day? What is a safe amount? What does the body do with protein it doesn't need? Does it store/get rid of it?

    May 18, 2008 at 20:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Paul Johnson

    I use late Dec- early Jan to get all my medical work done - sort of a built-in New Years resolution. A full physical, an eye exam, a full body dermatology exam and a dental appointment. A colonoscopy every five years starting at 45 is a good idea but mandatory if there is a family history of colon cancer. I think I deserve at least the same level of maintenance as I give to my car.

    May 21, 2008 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Sue Injaian

    About 20 years ago, I had an hysterectomy. I have been getting annual internal exams ever since, but now I wonder if they are necessary as I have no ovaries and no uterus. Can anyone comment on this? I am 70 years old.

    May 25, 2008 at 14:40 | Report abuse | Reply
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    My daughter has taken time to go to numerous doctors, but the frightening fact is that no one, even John Hopkins Hospital Staff has not been able to diagnose her problem. She has a small area on her upper hip area that was sensitive and became very thick. They have deided she does not have Morphia (Scerloderma). Biopsy of the area 12-13 weeks ago, the biopsy areas became infected, she was hospitalized and then began having traveling joint pain. The joint pain is gone, but one of the biopsy areas still has not healed. It should have healed in 4 days. She continues to work, but is in pain. Can anyone help or shed some light on this condition?

    June 7, 2008 at 11:00 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.