As we approach middle age, different health risks can become more important to be aware of and to consider in living out our daily lifestyles. Here are some of the biggest health risks for women in their forties, and way to best prevent them.
As women approach middle age, our risk of developing breast cancer increases. It’s important to perform a breast self exam about once every month. Consult your doctor to learn how to best examine your own breasts at home to look for lumps or other possible signs of breast cancer. In addition, women over the age of 40 should get a mammogram once every year or two. Catching breast cancer early on is important for successful treatment.
A few things you can do in order to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer are to limit your consumption of alcohol, and meat and dairy products that contain added hormones. Also don’t smoke, and try to avoid medical procedures that use high doses of radiation.
Our risk of cervical cancer also increases during menopause and pre-menopause. Women should be getting pap smears and pelvic exams from their gynecologist every three years starting at the age of 21 to screen for HPV, the leading cause of cervical cancer. If you do have HPV (Human Papillomavirus), you may need to get pap smears and be screened for cervical cancer more often.
In order to prevent cervical cancer, always practice safe sex in order to prevent HPV. Also talk to your gynecologist about HPV vaccines like Gardasil and Cervarix.
Heart Disease & Diabetes
As a woman in your forties, you are more likely to suffer from heart disease and diabetes. Have your blood pressure taken at least once per year. You can also use the automated blood pressure machines at your local pharmacy to check your blood pressure. Also be sure to have a blood cholesterol test done every five years or more, according to your doctor’s recommendations.
In order to prevent heart disease and diabetes, maintain a healthy diet and get plenty of physical activity, even into your middle age. Cut down on the consumption of animal products as they can be high in cholesterol, and make an effort to decrease your intake of sugar and saturated fats. Also try to take time at the end of your day to unwind and participate in stress-reducing activities to prevent hypertension.
Osteoporosis & Poor Bone Health
Another risk that we face as we approach middle age is the potential of developing osteoporosis. Bone mineral tests are typically performed in women aged 65 or older, but can be done sooner for women who have been prone to bone fractures or have a family history of osteoporosis. If you’re concerned you may be suffering from poor bone health, it’s important to bring up with your doctor, even early on in order to prevent your bone health from worsening.
Take care of your bone health by being sure to get plenty of Calcium. Consider limiting your dairy consumption; dairy products do contain a large amount of calcium, but the acidity of dairy foods actually causes the body to leech calcium from the bones in order to break them down. Instead, opt for dark leafy greens like kale and chard, switch to soy or almond milk that is fortified with calcium, or take a daily calcium supplement for women.
* “Health Checklist for Women Over 40,” www.webmd.com
* “Health Screening – Women Age 40-64,” www.nlm.nih.gov
* “Your Mental Health at Midlife,” www.healthywomen.org
* “Breast Cancer Prevention,” www.mayoclinic.org
* “Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine,” www.cdc.gov