Blood Sugar and Bone Density Tests
Fasting Blood-Sugar Test
What it is: A test that screens for diabetes
What it measures: The sugar in your blood after an eight-hour fast
Who should get it: Women who have a family history of diabetes, have high blood pressure, or are overweight (yes, that includes those who've packed on the pounds during or after a pregnancy). Those who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes have up to a 50 percent chance of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life. If you're diagnosed with diabetes, it most likely will be controlled through a combination of diet, exercise, and, if necessary, insulin injections.
How often should you get it? Most women should be tested at age 40, and then every year or two afterward. But if you've got any risk factors, most doctors recommend starting screening around age 30. Know you're at risk? If you're diabetic, ask your doctor about a blood test called the A1C, which measures the percentage of glucose attached to red blood cells in the bloodstream. If your A1C level is above 7 percent, your risk of complications from diabetes is much higher.
Bone Mineral Density Test
What it is: A test to check for osteoporosis, a disease that affects about 8 million American women each year and occurs when the bones become thin and weak
What it measures: Bone density, using a machine called a dual energy photon absorptiometer, or DEXA Who should get it: Normally, this test isn't recommended until a woman hits menopause. But you should ask your doctor about a baseline bone scan at age 35 if you have a family history of osteoporosis, are on thyroid medication, or are taking steroids to treat asthma or even eczema. "All of these medications accelerate bone loss," says Melba Ovalle, M.D., director of Osteoporosis Centers of America in Chicago and Orlando. This problem can also be compounded by lactation. If you don't get enough calcium during this time, your body takes it from your own bones to give it to your baby. If your scan reveals early bone thinning (a condition known as osteopenia), your doctor may recommend preventive measures ranging from weight-bearing exercises to calcium supplements to Fosamax, a medication that helps prevent further bone breakdown.
How often should you have it? It depends on your test results. If you don't have early signs of osteoporosis, you may not need to be screened again until you hit menopause.
Hallie Levine is a freelance writer based in New York City who has been published in Fitness, Glamour, and Redbook.