Navigating women's health through the decades
5/5/2015 3:58 PM
In Your 20s
1. Schedule annual physicals.
You’ll want to find a primary care doctor you like and trust. Annual physicals are the best way to see where you stand and catch emerging problems early. Your doctor should check your body mass index (BMI) and blood pressure as well as your thyroid health and cholesterol levels.
2. Get rid of any unhealthy habits you might have developed in high school or college.
You’re smarter now, right? Don’t let bad choices become a permanent routine. An important realizition to make is that as you approach your 30s, poor eating habits will take a toll on your health and scale.
3. Consider getting screened for sexually transmitted diseases if you are not in a monogamous relationship.
If you’re under age 26 and haven’t yet had the human papillomavirus vaccine, ask your doctor if it’s worth considering now. Annual Pap smears will pick up abnormal changes caused by HPV.
4. Make sure your diet has enough calcium and vitamin D.
Many women don’t think about osteoporosis until they’re much older, but that’s a mistake since 90 percent of our bone mass is formed by age 20.
In Your 30s
1. Watch the scale.
The pounds can creep on at any age, but many women in their 30s struggle with weight for the first time. Your metabolism can start to slow around age 35 and added weight will affect your knees, your back and many of your body’s functions. If you’re juggling work and family, you’ve got to make time for yourself to stay healthy and fit.
2. Make sleep a priority.
Busy moms and professionals may find sleep an elusive dream, but rest really is essential to good health. Make sure your sleep environment is comfortable and allow time to
wind down in the evening. When you function
your best, you’re more helpful to others.
3. Pay attention to menstrual changes.
Whether you’re having babies or not, talk to your doctor about periods that are heavier or more painful. This could signal polycystic ovary syndrome, a thyroid problem or fibroids.
4. Be familiar with your blood pressure.
If you’re getting annual physicals, your doctor should be checking this each time, but if not, make sure to get it tested at least once a year. Many women begin to develop hypertension in their 30s, but they aren’t aware. Protect your heart now by getting informed.
In Your 40s
1. Make mammograms part of your planning.
Your doctor can help you evaluate your personal and family medical history to figure out when you should start and how often you should get them (annually or biannually). Learn to self-examine your breasts for lumps or changes.
2. Find out about diabetes.
If your doctor hasn’t already been screening you for diabetes, starting now is a great idea. That’s because Type 2 diabetes becomes increasingly common after age 40. The American Diabetes Association says you should get checked at least every 3 years after age 45.
3. Reevaluate your calorie intake.
Your metabolism continues to decline, which means that you could begin to gain weight even if you are eating the same amount you consumed in your 30s. You will want to make different choices and eat smaller portions.
4. Keep moving.
Studies have shown that 20 to 30 minutes of exercise most days will help you maintain your weight. At this age, if you want to lose, you’ve got to go for a full hour. Strive for activities that help you preserve muscle mass and bone density as you age.
In Your 50s
1. Be vigilant about heart health.
After age 50, a woman’s risk for heart disease really increases as you lose some of the protection that estrogen provided in your younger years. It’s important to know all your heart-health numbers and to discuss them with your doctor.
2. Get screened for colon cancer.
The good news is it’s often preventable—if you catch polyps when they’re still in the precancerous stage. You can schedule a colonoscopy or other screening options.
3. Discuss menopause symptoms with your doctor.
Hormone therapy isn’t as widely prescribed as it used to be as a result of concerns about breast cancer risk and other possible side effects. But many doctors will still recommend it for short-term use if menopause symptoms like hot flashes and mood swings are severe.
4. Get vaccinated against the flu every year.
As you get older, the risk of serious complications from the flu increase, and getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself.
In Your 60s
1. Get your bone density tested.
By age 65, all women need a bone density test (DEXA scan), according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
It’s a painless X-ray. You also need to protect your bones with ample calcium.
2. Increase your vitamin B12 intake.
You need this nutrient (found in seafood beef and fortified break fast cereals - to produce healthy red blood cells and to protect your nervous system. Research shows it may even help prevent memory loss.
3. Decrease your chances of catching pneumonia by getting the vaccine by age 65.
Most people only need one dose.
4. Inquire about the shingles vaccine.
Shingles is caused by the chickenpox virus, and causes a painful rash as well as nerve pain. Anyone who’s had chickenpox is at risk (the virus lays dormant in your body and reactivates later on in life), but the vaccine can cut your chances dramatically. It’s currently recommended for adults over 60.
Did you know
women need 1,000 mg of calcium each day.
women need 1200 mg of calcium each day.
Women 19-70 need 600 IUs each day.
Women 70 and older need more - 800 IUs
Women 19-30 years need about 2000
calories each day to maintain a healthy weight.
Women 31-50 years only need 1800 calories
a day. 51 year or older? You only need about
1600 calories each day.