Turning 40 can be a glorious time for women.
Aging anxieties aside, many women become more confident, less self-critical and start to enjoy greater stability in their lives than ever before.
However, there are some health concerns to become aware of as you approach menopause. To stay on top of your health and minimize your risk of developing age-related disease, it’s wise to have a conversation with your doctor about what to expect in your 40s, 50s and 60s.
When it comes to women’s primary care, Portland providers often see with patients who are confused about what this time of life means for them. That’s why it’s important to ask plenty of questions about your changing health needs. Here are just a few of the questions women over 40 should be asking:
What supplements do I need?
Taking the right supplements can help counteract some of the problems women experience as they age.
Osteoporosis, for example, affects about 200 million women worldwide and accounts for more hospital visits for women over 45 than diseases such as diabetes or breast cancer. Women lose bone mass faster after menopause than at any other time in their lives. Fortunately, supplements such as vitamin D and calcium can help protect against bone loss.
Common supplements for women over 40 include:
- Vitamin D
Talk to your doctor about which of these might be right for you.
Is my heart in good shape?
The older a women gets, the more likely she is to develop heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for women in their 40s through 60s.
Most heart attacks result from high blood pressure, so getting your blood pressure checked regularly is an important part of women’s preventive care. Portland doctors also recommend checking your cholesterol and blood sugar to identify potential problems that could lead to heart disease.
In addition to healthcare screenings, it’s helpful to have a conversation with your primary care physician about what risk factors you have for heart disease—such as poor nutrition, lack of exercise and smoking—and how to limit them. Some women in their 40s even begin taking a daily aspirin to help prevent heart attacks and strokes, but not all women should. If you have stomach ulcers or blood-clotting issues, your doctor may advise against it.
What’s causing my weight gain?
It’s common for women to gain weight after turning 40 as the metabolism slows and estrogen levels drop. Women can have an especially difficult time controlling their weight after menopause.
Once you hit 40, your resting metabolic rate—the amount of calories your body burns while sitting or lying down—slows by 5 percent each decade. That means women need to consume fewer and fewer calories if they want to maintain their weight.
Although normal, weight gain can also signal other problems such as thyroid issues. Thyroid deficiency most commonly affects women over 40 and can lead to a host of other health issues. Your doctor can work with you to find out the cause behind your weight gain and determine a healthy weight for you.
What does menopause mean for me?
Menopause brings on all sorts of changes for women. Risk factors that didn’t cause any problems in your 30s can begin taking their toll. Your odds of developing heart disease and osteoporosis suddenly spike.
Many women will need to make lifestyle adjustments as well as ramp up their preventive healthcare routine once menopause hits. Some may choose hormone replacement therapy to alleviate the symptoms of menopause as well as reduce their heart attack risk. Whether you decide to go that route or not, it’s worth having a conversation with your doctor to make sure you understand the signs of menopause, what to expect once it occurs, and what your options are for staying healthy and active.
How often should I get health screenings?
Recommended health screenings for women change once they reach their 40s. That’s when regular mammograms get added to the list and checking for high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol become especially important.
With 50 approaching, it’s also time to start thinking about colorectal cancer screenings such as colonoscopies and fecal occult blood tests.
While there are general guidelines for when and how often these screenings should be included in women’s preventive care, Portland experts emphasize the importance of working with your physician to tailor screenings based on your personal, medical and family history.
At Northwest Primary Care, we offer a full range of preventive services to help women and senior patients overcome the challenges aging brings. Our integrated approach to medical care allows women to manage their wellness holistically and tailor their healthcare routine to their specific needs at every age. Talk to one of our Portland doctors today to get your questions about women’s preventive care answered.