As you move into your 30’s and 40’s, you’re most likely pretty busy juggling work, home, and family. Taking care of yourself may seem like just one more thing to add to your already-packed to-do list. As a woman, your health risks change with the passing of time. What was not a concern at twenty, may become a concern at forty. That’s okay as long as you know what to look out for.
Vitamin deficiency: Vitamin deficiencies can be an issue at any age, particularly with the common American diet. However, as women age, vitamin deficiencies become even more common and can be the cause of many symptoms and conditions. Vitamin D deficiency is particularly prevalent and can contribute to increased bone-mass loss and osteoporosis. Low vitamin D has also been linked to depression. Potential deficiencies include iron, riboflavin, and vitamin B.
Breast cancer: A woman’s risk of developing breast cancer increases dramatically between the ages of 30 and 40. Many factors, such as diet, overall health, and environment, can contribute to the likelihood of developing breast cancer, but age is also a factor. This means regular breast exams, either that you perform yourself or that are performed by a doctor, are very important. Beginning annual mammograms can also reduce your chances of developing breast cancer and can aid in early treatment if it does develop.
Menstruation changes: After age 40, most women enter perimenopause, when hormones begin to fluctuate as the body prepares to transition into menopause. Changes in estrogen and progesterone, in particular, cause sleep disturbances, acne, headaches, weight gain, hair growth, dry skin, hot flashes, and more. There are emotional symptoms, too, like anxiety, short-term memory loss, and mood swings.
Metabolism slows down: Fluctuations in estrogen and insulin, combined with decreasing thyroid levels in women over 40, can cause increased hunger. Muscle mass also begins to decline, leading to decreased mobility and strength and burning fewer calories. The good news is that a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and a regular exercise routine can help counter some of these metabolic changes or ease their side effects.
Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis is, by and large, a woman’s issue. Of all osteoporosis cases in the United States, 80 percent are in women. Bone loss is a part of getting older for women, and immediately following menopause can be at its peak (up to 20 percent bone loss in less than a decade). The key is to take good care of yourself going into menopause, ensure you get your vitamin D, exercise, and eat right, and if you have risk factors, get your bone density tested.
These are some of the biggest health challenges women face over the age of 40. Remember to take care of yourself and consult a medical professional if you notice anything out of the ordinary. It is always better to be safe than sorry.