Good Health in your 40s, 50s and Beyond
SIOUX FALLS (Aug. 1, 2013) - Women at all ages just want to feel good and enjoy a high quality of life. Yet in the 40s, 50s and beyond, multiple issues can stack up, preventing women from experiencing optimal health.
Feeling out of sorts with troubling symptoms is not a “normal part of aging,” said Dr. Janell Powell, Internal Medicine specialist with Avera Medical Group Internal Medicine Women’s.
Earlier in life, women may have gotten used to a medical focus on their reproductive system. Yet at mid-life, attention to the entire body is important, because as the decades pass, it’s more and more common to develop one or more chronic conditions that need ongoing management.
“The first step in approaching your health at any age should be prevention,” said Dr. Powell. It’s important to talk with your physician about what screening tests are recommended for your age, whether it’s a Pap smear and pelvic exam, mammogram, colonoscopy, cholesterol and blood sugar blood tests, or bone density test.
One obvious issue is menopause. Warm flushes or hot flashes are the classic symptom, but the first sign that a change is coming is often more subtle. “Women often start to notice a change in their menstrual cycle,” Dr. Powell said. For example, their cycle may go from every 28 days to every 22 or 23 days, or every 30 days. Women may notice that their flow is heavier or lighter, or it alternates between heavy and light.
With perimenopause, women may experience heart palpitations, which are common with hormone fluctuations. They may notice mood changes – feeling more frustrated or anxious – or insomnia.
Treatment for such symptoms should be weighed between possible risks and quality of life. Hormone replacement therapy has been linked to increased cancer risk, so it might be better to treat the most troublesome symptoms, for example, with a mild sleep aid or antidepressant. On the other hand, if you’re completely soaked with sweat after a hot flash in a public setting, “that’s a quality-of-life issue,” Dr. Powell said.
Along with menopause comes the increased risk of bone loss through osteoporosis. Dr. Powell said it’s never too late to begin drinking more milk, eating yogurt, or taking calcium supplements. Bone density testing is important after menopause to determine risk of bone loss.
Women in their middle years should also be aware of possible issues such as heart disease, thyroid conditions, diabetes, high blood pressure and gastrointestinal problems such as acid reflux disease or irritable bowel syndrome.
At any age – and especially at midlife – women can help manage their own health through lifestyle changes.
Eat a healthy diet in order to maintain a healthy weight: Rather than going on a strict diet to lose weight, make wise changes that will last a lifetime. Include more vegetables, fruits, lean meats and whole grains. Limit carbs – especially white flour and white sugar.
Exercise: Engage in some activity at least four to five times a week. If you’re not able to exercise that often, “anything is better than nothing,” Dr. Powell said. “Be active as much as you’re able to be.”
Be aware of your mental health and stress management: Women try to balance many roles. This might include career, being a wife and mother, or caring for elderly parents. “It can get to be overwhelming, and as a result, it’s not unusual for women to experience some degree of anxiety or underlying depression,” Dr. Powell said. Find positive ways to manage your stress, and don’t be afraid to ask your physician for help.
To learn more, go to www.AveraInternalMedWomens.org