You may be as old as you feel, as the old saying goes, but when it comes to health risks for women there is no age immune from illness and ailments. A woman in her thirties customarily faces health risks completely different from what she might encounter in her forties, fifties, sixties and beyond. Those first couple of decades of adulthood bring pregnancies, family obligations, demanding careers and the combination of some or all the aforementioned at once. Amid all those responsibilities there is a tendency to forget to take care of yourself.
You’re putting your own health on hold, juggling your obligations in the home, workplace, and community.
An ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure. Being monitored and screened regularly by a health care professional is a hallmark of preventative medicine. While we’re mentioning old sayings, ignorance is not bliss when it comes to dealing with health risks and avoiding illness, disease and even injury. A woman should be aware of the risks if she expects to steer clear of them. There is no guarantee of optimal health, even when taking all the precautions, but routine examinations and screenings are well worth the investment.
Recent studies, including one by the Journal of Family Practice, reported that “women had a significantly higher mean number of visits to their primary care clinic and diagnostic services than men.” However, both genders clearly underutilize diagnostics and screenings, especially that which is age-specific.
You can’t screen for everything, but if women had a clearer picture of what is likely to be detrimental to their health and around what age, they might circumvent pain and suffering.
What to Watch for in Your Thirties…
A growing number of women are more career-oriented, delaying marriage, motherhood and other traditional life commitments. Yet the thirties are still regarded as a decade of good health, with a majority combining careers and family life.
Here is a checklist of health threats for women in their thirties:
- Cholesterol and blood pressure can be silent killers and periodic screening (suggested every two years) is recommended starting in your twenties and throughout your thirties.
- Routine screenings for human papillomavirus (HPV) and PAP for cervical cancer need should start in the thirties to reduce risks.
- Breast cancer, the number one cancer killer of women, can be eliminated if discovered early with timely screenings
- Metabolism slows and it tends to be the age where women start to gain weight, especially around the stomach and hips. This makes it difficult to lose weight and reason to start a healthy dietary regimen.
- Muscle mass is more difficult to maintain, and heart-healthy activities are more essential than ever. Today’s young woman is more attuned to exercise, whether it is distance running or weight training than her mother and grandmother at that age.
- Fertility or the ability to procreate tends to subside as a woman enters her thirties and drops off sharply as she approaches 40. This may lead to more complications during pregnancy and giving birth.
- For those who have spent hundreds of hours expose to sunlight during their teens and throughout their twenties, this is the time they start paying the price, increasing the risk of skin cancer and damage wrought to aging skin by acne, rashes, and infection.
Your Forties: Transitioning into Middle Age…
Forty may be the new thirty, but ultimately you can’t fool Mother Nature from the health hazards of middle age. You can lighten the impact with proper care and monitoring.
Here is our health risk checklist for women in their forties, with a reminder that risks in your thirties also apply.
- Heart disease is the number one killer of women and the first signs are likely to show up in your forties. Monitoring cholesterol and blood pressure routinely is more important than ever.
- Cancer becomes an increasing risk for women as it does for men, with the former paying special attention to breast, colorectal and cervical cancers. Mole examinations are recommended for early detection of melanoma.
- Diabetes may introduce itself to you in this decade with news that blood sugar levels are now a concern. Type 2 diabetes is common for women in their forties. The good news is that diet and exercise can reduce the risk here, and it is quite easy to detect and diagnose with routine checkups by your family doctor.
- Stress may undermine your health, signaling several disorders that may be held at bay, even cured, by diet and exercise.
- Osteoporosis is a common condition for women in their later years, but it is likely to first be detected in their forties. Changes in diet are a huge preventative, with calcium supplements often prescribed. Again, exercising is crucial for continued mobility ex=specially to bolster weaker weight-bearing bones. A fall may not be prevented, but a broken hip as a result of a fall can.
- Untreated cataracts and other eye ailments can rob some of the joys of life. Regular eye examinations are a must.
- One woman out of every eight is likely to have a thyroid problem in their lifetime. Detection is important because most thyroid cancers are responding to treatment if detected soon enough.
Your Fifties: Keep Old Age Ills at Bay…
Many women in their fifties are still fit and active, with the average lifespan of a woman in the United States about 73. If you are still healthy, you might take special care to reach old age without serious illness or health complications.
Our checklist for your fifties is based on health issues that come from more than half a century of living and maybe the decade with the greatest extremes in how one looks and feels. What should you look for in your fifties over and above health concerns already addressed?
- Chronic pain from arthritis is more common in this age group, and the mobility you once enjoyed is threatened. This includes back pain and worsening osteoporosis. Care must be taken with the prescription drugs that ease this pain to avid misuse.
- Obesity increases immobility and the strain on heart, back and hips and makes it even more difficult to be motivated to exercise and choose a healthful diet over comfort foods, Weight gain and muscle loss are early signs that obesity could be a threat.
- Sight and sound — or what you hear and see— need not be disabilities in your fifties. Make sure both eyes and ears are examined by a specialist because these losses can be corrected.
- You may be healthy and active, but many in this age group are menopausal, but hormonal changes need not bring misery to what should be a productive period of your life.
- Mental illness often strikes early, well before the fifties, but you may experience the first signs of memory loss, dementia and the dreaded Alzheimer’s Disease at this stage in life. Timely detection and prevention will enhance the quality of life, even if there is no cure, per se, in the years that follow.
Chronic pain including arthritis, back pain, and osteoporosis are a major concern.
- More than ever a woman in her fifties needs even more frequent screenings for many of the issues already addressed, including colorectal cancer, PAP smears, mammograms, blood pressure, and cholesterol readings.