Your 40s, A Time of Change
Entering your 40s is a tremendous occasion, but also signifies a big transition in terms of your health.
What a milestone! Your 40s! This is such a time of transition for so many women. Possibly your children are growing up, or maybe you are taking care of aging parents. Could it be the time in your life where you are headed for a big career change? Whatever the situation is, your 40s are here and it is not too late to start taking care of yourself. Many may have neglected their health up to this point due to caring for children, building a career and other responsibilities. It is time to take care of you!
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends a gyno exam every year that includes a pelvic exam.
- A pap smear is different from a gyno exam. Most doctors recommend a pap smear every 3 years unless you have multiple sexual partners or a weakened immune system.
- This is the stage in life where you generally will begin menopause. You are officially in menopause after you have not had a period for 12 consecutive months.
- Menopause begins for most women at the ages of 45 to 55. The average age is 51.
- "Perimenopause" is the stage just before you are officially in menopause. It can consist of years of skipped periods, heavy or lighter than normal periods, sleep issues, hot flashes, irritability, heart palpitations and vaginal dryness.
- If you are looking to get pregnant during your 40s, you need to see an OB doctor and discuss pregnancy at this stage. Some women require a little extra help getting pregnant as it is generally much more difficult in your 40s.
- Vasectomy or tubal litigation is still a popular choice of birth control at this stage in life.
- Birth control methods have improved for women in their 40s. For example, the birth control pill used to be considered unsafe for this age group, but advancements have made it much safer and effective for this age group.
- IUD's, vaginal rings and implants are options many women in their 40s use.
- Tetanus shot is recommended once every 10 years
- Pneumococcal shot of 1 to 2 doses is recommended if you smoke or have certain chronic conditions.
- Hepatitis A & B is recommended if you are traveling or live in an area where this is a common disease. They are also recommended for drug users and those with multiple sex partners.
- Most physicians recommend you get a flu shot each year
- A full yearly checkup is necessary at this stage of your life.
- It is never too late to begin a healthy eating and exercise program.
- Your bones are more fragile at this stage in life; take care of them by making sure you intake plenty of calcium.
- A diabetic screening should be conducted every 3 years after the age of 45. More often or earlier if you are at risk or overweight.
- A yearly cleaning is recommended. Twice a year is even better.
- Many women at this stage in life begin to deal with anxiety and depression. This can be due to so many changes in their life as well as hormonal changes.
- If you are feeling "blue" often and struggling with a variety of feelings, visit your doctor and express the concerns you are having.
- Blood pressure should be checked at least every two years and more often if it is higher than 120/80.
- Cholesterol should be checked at least every 5 years.
- Continue with monthly self-breast exams.
- A mammogram is generally recommended every year starting in your 40s. Cancer can't be always found by a self-breast exam.
- Conduct a skin self-exam once a month.
- Visit the dermatologist once a year for a complete screening.
- Apply sunscreen on a regular basis. Protect your skin.
Compared to your 20s and 30s, your health concerns are much more dynamic and require consistent monitoring. Conditions like breast cancer can be stopped provided you stay on top of your health. By now, you're probably very experienced at detecting any changes in your body. And while some of the changes that start occurring in your 40s are not pleasant to think about, paying close attention to your health and establishing a good routine can help you meet these changes head on.