Take Charge of Your Health
Your 40s What's going on? A pivotal decade for a lot of women, your 40s are the time when you start to come into your own. While your self-confidence abounds, you might think that your metabolism has come to a screeching halt. It hasn't, but it's time to pay attention to portion control and to incorporate strength training into your schedule. "There's an accelerated breakdown of tissues as we age, so you have to be more strategic with your workouts," says Wendy Bazilian, R.D.
Tests and Checkups
Regular mammograms are critical now; women in their 40s need one every year. Continue regular Pap smears, annual eye exams and physicals.
Avoid heart disease by maintaining an active lifestyle and choosing vegetables and high-fiber, low-fat foods. And don't neglect your bones. If you haven't already, "now's the time to get your bone density and vitamin D levels checked," says Lamm.
Being proactive also means paying closer attention to your weight--if you're gaining or losing at an abnormal rate, you could have thyroid issues. More than half of American women over age 40 have three or more common symptoms of thyroid disorder, but most don't talk about it with their doctor.
Also, ovarian cancers are more common in this decade--and usually aren't detected until advanced stages because symptoms aren't acute. The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition recommends a transvaginal sonogram/ultrasound and CA-125 blood test for women at high risk.
What's going on? It becomes ever more crucial in your 50s and beyond to use the wisdom of experience you've gained to know what's normal for your body--and what isn't. Simply being proactive will go a long way toward continued health.
50s and Beyond
Tests and Checkups
In these decades, heart health becomes more important, especially since heart disease is the biggest killer of women over age 35, and the risk of both heart disease and stroke increases with age, according to AHA statistics. The signs of a heart attack are drastically different for women than for men: unusual fatigue, shortness of breath and minor chest discomfort. The AHA advises getting a stress test, EKG and blood tests.
Dr. Judith Stanton, who specializes in women's health at the California Healing
Institute, recommends getting a colonoscopy at age 50 and then every 10 years thereafter. "Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women," she says, "and it is entirely preventable with routine screening."
Menopause usually arrives at this age. Symptoms (called perimenopause) can start as early as your late 30s. It occurs around age 50 for most women, but everyone's different. It's not something women need treatment for unless symptoms (like hot flashes and night sweats) from decreasing hormone levels become severe.
Calcium intake is also critical to prevent osteoporosis; take a supplement if you're not getting enough calcium through food. Postmenopausal women older than 50 need 1,500 milligrams per day.
As for when you can quit those Pap tests, the American Cancer Society says that, if you're at least 70, have had at least three normal Pap tests and no abnormal results in the last 10 years, you can finally stop putting those feet in the stirrups.