There’s certainly a bit of truth to the saying that “40 is the new 30.” As women now take much better care of themselves earlier in life, turning 40 doesn’t necessarily have to mean that your health starts on an uncontrollable downward slide.
Nevertheless, with age, women become more prone to health problems that can have a huge impact on their life. To live life to the fullest and enjoy life’s pleasures, it’s important to take note of what you need to do to maintain your good health.
Staying healthy is not difficult, especially if you make an effort and remain vigilant about making healthy choices. One such healthy choice is getting appropriate screening tests once you hit 40. Early detection of any issue can help in the treatment plan and improve the chances of it being successful.
Below are the top 10 health tests that women above the age of 40 should get:
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. Therefore, breast self-exams are an important step when it comes to detecting breast cancer early on. Detecting it early will significantly boost your chances of survival, but many women don’t perform these self-examinations.
Women above the age of 40 should check their breasts at home regularly and have a professional exam at least once a year.
You need to keep a look out for differences in breast size or shape, rashes, dimpling, and lumps. You should also check whether your nipples produce fluid when gently squeezed. You should be well aware of how your breasts look and feel and report any changes to a doctor.
While breast self-exams are important, women older than 40 should also get mammograms. This is the most effective screening tool for detecting breast cancer.
The American Cancer Society recommends that women between the ages of 40 and 44 can choose whether to start getting an annual mammogram, while women ages 45 to 54 should get annual mammograms.
After the age of 55, you can continue with annual screenings or get one every other year.
The number of people being diagnosed with diabetes is increasing by the day. According to the National Diabetes Statistics Report (2017), an estimated 1.5 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed among adults age 18 or above in the United States in 2015.
More than half of these new cases were among those aged 45-64, and the numbers were about equal for men and women. Living with diabetes isn’t easy and it can also increase your risk of developing other diseases. If you’re at a high risk of getting diabetes, you might need to be screened for prediabetes and diabetes every three years after the age of 40.
Some risk factors for diabetes include lack of exercise, severe obesity, having a close relative with the disease, and belonging to the African-American, Mexican-American, American Indian, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, or Asian-American racial/ethnic groups.
Fortunately, it only takes a simple urine and/or blood test to check your sugar levels.
4. Cholesterol Test
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 78 million American adults in 2011-12 had either low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels that fall in the range where professionals recommend cholesterol medicine or other health conditions that put the patient at a high risk of heart disease and strokes.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death and a stroke is the fifth leading cause of death. This is why the American Heart Association recommends that women get their cholesterol levels checked every 4-6 years, starting at the age of 20.
After age 45, screening for cholesterol once a year becomes very important, as heart disease risk increases with age. With just a simple blood test, you can find out the levels of your total cholesterol.
Having high blood pressure can damage your blood vessels and increase your risk of a stroke and a heart attack.
About 75 million American adults have high blood pressure. Women are about as likely as men to develop high blood pressure during their lifetimes.
The American Heart Association reports that a woman’s chances of developing high blood pressure increase considerably after menopause. Therefore, it’s important to have your blood pressure monitored regularly.
You can get your blood pressure checked at your doctor’s clinic and some drug stores, or you can purchase a blood pressure home monitoring kit and check it yourself. If your blood is higher than 140/90mm Hg, consult your doctor. You can lower your blood pressure through diet, exercise, and medication.
6. Colorectal Cancer Screening
Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women in the United States. In 2014, 139,992 Americans were diagnosed with this disease, including 73,396 men and 66,596 women, according to the CDC. Furthermore, the American Cancer Society states that colorectal cancer is expected to cause about 50,000 more deaths during 2018.
To protect yourself from this deadly disease, the National Cancer Institute says that people at increased risk due to a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, or due to inflammatory bowel disease or certain inherited conditions, should start getting screenings before the age of 50 and might even be advised to have more frequent screenings.
Some of the screenings for colorectal cancer are:
• Stool DNA test
• High-sensitivity fecal occult blood tests
• Virtual colonoscopy
Being a woman puts you more at risk of developing osteoporosis and broken bones. This happens due to age-related declining levels of the hormone estrogen in your body, which plays a protective role on bones in women.
Of the estimated 10 million Americans with osteoporosis, about 8 million or 80% are women. Moreover, approximately one in two women over the age of 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Midlife Health found a positive correlation between age, the time since menopause, and bone mineral density. Therefore, it’s very important for women over the age of 40 to get screened for osteoporosis. You should opt for a bone density test that shows the amount of bone a person has in the hip, spine, or other bones.
8. Skin Check
According to the American Cancer Society, around 3.3 million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every year.
Women with significant sun exposure, a family history of cancer, fair skin, the presence of unusual moles, and a history of several blistering sunburns are at a higher risk.
Skin cancer is not hard to diagnose early, if you do a self-exam every month – look for moles that are asymmetrical, larger than a pencil eraser, or have an irregular border or color.
If you notice any changes in moles, see your doctor as soon as possible.
Dry eye syndrome, glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration are the four most common eye issues affecting elderly women. To catch any eye health issues, from vision changes to cataracts and glaucoma, timely eye exams are very important.
Many eye diseases have no early warning signs or symptoms, but a dilated exam can detect eye diseases in their early stages before vision loss occurs. Early detection and treatment can help save your sight.
The National Eye Institute recommends a comprehensive dilated eye exam for everyone over the age of 50. Even if you’re not experiencing any vision problems, visit your eye care professional for a dilated eye exam. They will tell you how often you need to have one, depending on your specific risk factors. If you suffer from diabetes, you should get an eye exam at least once a year.
10. Dental Checkup
Dental conditions associated with aging include dry mouth, root and coronal caries, and periodontitis.
You should take a trip to the dentist at least once a year for an exam and cleaning. This is important not only for early diagnosis of oral issues but also to rule out the possibility of oral cancer (the sixth most common cancer among American adults according to the Academy of General Dentistry).
A yearly dental checkup is recommended for women over the age of 40. However, those who smoke or drink more than one or two drinks per day are at a greater risk of gum disease and oral cancers, in which case dental appointments are recommended every six months.
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