For many women, life after 50 is an exciting time. Their careers are at their peak and they're enjoying time with family. They feel great and are cruising through menopause with minimal problems. Some, however, face health concerns resulting from disease, unhealthy habits, genetics, or simple wear and tear.  Fortunately, with early health screening, many serious illnesses are avoidable and treatable.  Follow our head to toe guidelines for health screenings after menopause.

Eye Exam. No, the print's not getting smaller every year. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA),"Difficulty seeing clearly for reading and close work is among the most common problems adults develop between ages 41 to 60. Along with the onset of presbyopia (nearsightedness), an increase in . . . eye health problems occur during these years." AOA recommends a comprehensive eye examination every two years.

Skin Exam. A lifetime in the sun (especially before sunscreen) leaves "golden girls" vulnerable to skin cancer.  According to the National Institutes of Health, "A person's risk of skin cancer is related to lifetime exposure to UV radiation. Most skin cancer appears after age 50, but the sun damages skin from an early age." The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends all adults (especially over 50) get an annual head-to-toe skin exam by a dermatologist.

Breast Exam. The American Cancer Society recommends all women over fifty get annual mammograms to screen for breast cancer.  Women at high-risk may need further health screenings and diagnostic tests like MRI or ultrasound.  The good news:  When breast cancer is caught early, it has a 98 percent survival rate.

Heart Exam. Heart disease and stroke are the #1 and #3 killers of women, respectively.  In addition to an annual physical that checks your weight and blood pressure, women over 50 should ask their doctor about other heart-health screening exams like blood tests for cholesterol and C-reactive protein.  Ask about electrocardiogram, a stress test, and cardiac ultrasound to assess how your heart functions both with and without stress.

Pap Smear and Pelvic Exam. If you still have your reproductive organs (uterus, cervix, and ovaries) or are taking hormone replacement therapy, you still need your annual well-woman exam, but you may not need a Pap Smear every year.

Colon Exam. People over 50 are at increased risk for colorectal cancer (the second leading cause of death from cancer).  According to the National Cancer Institute, five tests are used to screen for colon and rectal cancer: Fecal occult blood test, sigmoidoscopy, barium enema, colonoscopy, and digital rectal exam.  Ask your doctor which ones are appropriate for you. 

Bone Density Exam. Osteoporosis is a leading health concern for post-menopausal women as decreased estrogen contributes to fragile bones.  According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. people can have osteoporosis without any signs or symptoms. Health screening for osteoporosis includes a bone mineral density (BMD) test of the hip and spine by a central DXA (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) machine.

Further health screening may be indicated depending on your history and genetics. Talk to your doctor about any new symptoms, worries, or questions you may have about your health.