You may not feel different at 40 than you did at 30, but that doesn’t mean your body hasn’t changed. Turning 40 is a great time to stop and assess one’s life and one’s health. That’s because the Big 4-0h is when the realization creeps up that you are now at the mid-point of your life. For women, who have been juggling their conflicting obligations of romance, children, aging parents and a career, it represents a time to step back and take a good look at themselves, their bodies, their mental state, their fitness and more.
With the exception of bearing children, many women do not pay a lot of attention to their health in their early adult years. But disease risks and health concerns shift considerably every 10 years or so, and particularly as menopause approaches. Like it or not, women over 40 need to start paying attention to their bodies to lessen the odds of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, weak bones and other problems in the not so distant future.
Here are 10 of the most common health risks women in their 40s need to be concerned with to avoid future health issues:
- Not Getting Regular Physicals or Screenings
With the exception of birth control or having a baby, women do not always see a doctor regularly. But, once they turn 40, women really need regular screenings for their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar; mammograms; pap smears; and other health concerns based on family history or test results.
- Letting the Pounds Add Up
Even women who have been slim their whole life, notice their metabolism has changes and they have to work harder to keep off the pounds.. In fact, many adults gain an average of a pound a year as they age, which increases the likelihood of heart problems and diabetes. Then, with the advent of menopause and falling hormone levels, women over 40 also find the distribution of fat around the middle and hips shifting and need to work harder to keep pounds and inches off.
- Having an Unhealthy Diet
A healthy diet is not just about keeping pounds off. Even those who do not need to watch their weight, or those who do, need to make sure what they are eating is heart healthy, particularly for those over 40. Fatty foods can lead to higher cholesterol levels and future heart problems. Make sure your calories work for you and keep your heart and bones healthy. Focus on lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Cut down on drinking and caffeine. Also, don’t skip meals as this encourages snacking and over-eating. ”If you have high cholesterol, your doctor will recommend cutting out fatty foods, especially
- Getting Stressed Out
The competing priorities of life in middle age, such as career, finances, caring for children and aging parents, can be overwhelming and add considerable stress that can impact various aspects of your health. Therefore, it is critical to manage your stress level with daily activities like moderate exercise, relaxing evenings, walking the dog, a periodic spa day or picking up a novel and escaping into someone else’s life. Stress management is critical, since stress is one of the three main risk factors for coronary disease, a leading cause of death for women.
- Not Protecting Your Skin
Women over 40 are conscious that they skin isn’t a soft as it used to be and the need to moisturize. But a top priority is protecting yourself from skin cancer, the leading type of cancer in the U.S. Whenever going out, use a sunscreen – or makeup products – with at least SPF 15 in it.
- Not Making Fitness and Bone Strength a Priority
Losing bone strength is one of the biggest health risks for women in their 40s, as dropping hormone levels begin to affect bone density. Osteoporosis is an issue for approximately 50 percent of women and the risk starts now. Early diagnosis is important, so get a simple bone scan. Eat healthy, take calcium supplements and do weight-bearing exercise regularly, like fast walking, yoga or lifting light weights.
- Ignoring Down Times
It’s important to take care of your mental health in your 40s. Changes in mood are a normal part of life, but symptoms like extreme anxiety, a persistent loss of interest and energy, chronic inability to sleep or sleeping too much, withdrawal from usual activities, and apathy toward important matters are not. The fact is that 20 percent of women ages 40-59 suffer from clinical depression at some point.
- Not Getting Enough Sleep
Studies show that women over 40 suffer from more sleepless or sleep deprived nights than 20-somethings. Some of it is stress – about the family, the finances and such – and some is depression or anxiety. Regardless of the reason, lack of sleep takes its toll in less energy, poorer concentration and performance, and a more irritable demeanor that exacerbates the rest of your life.
- Ignoring Sensory Degradation
Having trouble reading or working at the computer? It’s not unusual. If you didn’t need glasses before age 40, the odds are that you will afterwards. Changes in vision and hearing loss common problems for people in their 40s. Get regular eye exams and, if you notice hearing issues, get a hearing exam. While senses are not as sharp as you age, unusual changes can be a sign of something else.
- Ignoring Sexual and Hormonal Health
Some women look forward to never having a period again, but menopause and hormonal imbalances can create numerous other health risks for women. Hormonal changes can impact weight gain, heart health, sexuality, mental health and other aspects of your life. Women should talk with their doctor and get tested to ensure hormonal imbalances are not unbalancing other parts of your life.
Health checklist for women in their 40s – Netdoctor
Healthy Living in Your 40s – Health Communities
Medical Tests for Women in Their 40s – Web MD
Living Healthy in Your 40s – Women’s Health
Top Health Concerns By The Decade – Forbes
Depression in women: Understanding the gender gap – Mayo Clinic