Many women may claim 40 is the new 30, but their body many not agree. Turning 40 is time to stop and assess one’s life and one’s health. The big 4-0h is when the realization creeps up that this is the midpoint of one’s life. For women, who have been juggling their romance, children, aging parents and their career, the 40s are a time to look at themselves, their bodies, their mental state, their fitness and more. Here are 10 of the most common, biggest health risks women in their 40s need to be concerned with to avoid future health issues:
- Not Getting Regular Physicals or Screenings: Unless going because of birth control or having a baby, younger women do not always see their doctor regularly. However, once they turn 40, women really need regular exams to monitor blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar; mammograms; pap smears; and tests for other health risks based on family history or previous test results.
- Ignoring the Scale: Adults gain a pound a year on average of as they age, which increases the likelihood of heart disease and diabetes. Then, with falling hormone levels, women over 40 also find their distribution of fat shifting and need to work harder to keep pounds and inches off. Even women who remained slim until 40 will notice their metabolism has changed and they have to work harder to keep off weight.
- Not Maintaining a Healthy Diet: A healthy diet is not just about keeping pounds off. It is also about the need to remain heart healthy, particularly for those over 40. Fatty foods can lead to higher cholesterol levels and future heart problems. So, make sure food choices will keep heart and bones healthy. Focus on lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Cut down on drinking and caffeine.
- Not Managing Stress: The competing priorities of life, such as career, finances, caring for children and aging parents, can be overwhelming and add considerable stress that can impact one’s health. Stress management is critical, since stress is a main risk factor for coronary disease, a leading cause of death for women. So, manage stress levels 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.
- Not Protecting Their Skin: Women over 40 know their skin is not as soft as it used to be and are cognizant of the need to moisturize. However, it is also important to protect oneself from skin cancer, the leading type of cancer in the U.S. It is imperative to use sunscreen – or makeup products – with at least SPF 15 in them before venturing out.
- Not Making Bone Strength and Fitness a Priority: Losing bone strength becomes a health risk for women in their 40s, when dropping hormone levels start to affect bone density. Osteoporosis is an issue for approximately 50 percent of women and the risk starts at 40 for many. Early diagnosis is important, so get a simple bone scan. To keep bones as strong as possible, eat healthy, take calcium supplements and regularly do weight-bearing exercise like fast walking, yoga or lifting weights.
- Ignoring Down Times: Women in their 40s should pay attention to their mental health. Changes in mood are normal, but symptoms like extreme anxiety, persistent loss of interest and energy, either the chronic inability to sleep or sleeping too much, withdrawal from activities, and apathy toward important matters are not normal. The reality s that 20 percent of women suffer from clinical depression at some point in their 40s and 50s.
- Not Getting Enough Sleep: According to research, women over 40 have more sleepless or sleep deprived nights than 20somethings. Stress about the family, finances and work and depression or anxiety keep them up. This lack of sleep results in less energy, poorer concentration and performance, and being irritable, all of which impacts other areas of their life.
- Ignoring Sensory Degradation: It is very common at this age to have trouble reading or working at the computer. If a woman did not need glasses before age 40, the odds are that she will afterwards. Changes in vision and hearing loss common for people in their 40s. Get regular eye exams and, if hearing issues become noticeable, get a hearing exam. While sensory degradation is normal, unusual changes can be a sign of something else.
- Ignoring Sexual and Hormonal Health: Many women welcome never having a period again, but menopause and its hormonal imbalances can lead to or exacerbate other health risks for women. Hormonal changes may impact weight gain, sexuality, heart health or mental health. Women should get tested to ensure hormonal imbalances are not unbalancing other aspects of their lives.
With the exception of bearing children, many women do not pay a lot of attention to their health risks in their early adult years. But disease risks and health concerns for women shift considerably every 10 years or so, with the biggest difference starting in their 40s with the start of menopause. Like it or not, women 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.
By Dyanne Weiss