Women’s Health: What to Look Out for Over 40

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As a woman, your health risks change with the passing of time. What was a concern at twenty may not necessarily be a concern at forty. That’s okay as long as you know what to look out for. Here are the top ten health risks facing women over 40. With knowledge comes power, so read on and become more powerful!

Heart Disease

Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women over the age of 40? This is a serious issue ladies! We need to know the signs and causes of heart conditions to be able to prevent this from being a major risk. Factors such as poor eating habits and smoking can cause heart disease and greatly increase the risk of heart attacks! To learn more about women’s heart health and preventive care, check out Go Red for Women.

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 (over the age of 40, this happens to women naturally but a deficiency in vitamin D accelerates the problem) and osteoporosis. Low vitamin D has also been linked to depression and seasonal affective disorder. Other potential deficiencies include iron, riboflavin, and vitamin B.

Breast Cancer

The risk of a woman 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. At age 30, the chance of a woman developing breast cancer is significantly lower than at 40. In only 10 years your risk grows by leaps and bounds. 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.

Accidental Pregnancy

Yes ladies! You can still get pregnant over 40! Many women believe that once 40 hits, birth control is not necessary anymore. Not true! Every woman’s body is different and there is no set age when a woman can’t get pregnant. Though pregnancy over 40 is possible, it’s not always advisable.

Women over 40 need to be aware of the risks to themselves and their developing child. Labor problems, exacerbation of preexisting conditions (diabetes, heart problems, and high blood pressure) or even pre-eclampsia can occur. Not to mention that the risks of the child having genetic abnormalities is greatly increased. If you don’t want to get pregnant, use protection! And if you do, consult a physician so you and your child will be as healthy as possible!

Blood Clots

Again, blood clots can be an issue at any age. Women over 40 have a greater risk of developing them, and many of us don’t recognize the signs until it is too late. If you have swelling or pain in your calf, you should get it checked out as soon as possible. Especially if there is redness and warmth to the touch as well. If this is the case, get to the E.R. or the doctor as soon as possible just to make sure. Better safe than sorry! If you wait and it is a blood clot, it can be life threatening!

Diabetes

The risk of developing diabetes has increased exponentially in all age groups in recent years. However, women at 40 or older have an increased risk. Weight and diet also play a role. Diabetes is the number 6 killer in women 45 to 54, so get tested! And get active! A healthy diet and regular exercise can help reverse the effects of prediabetes. Getting tested is easy, so don’t wait too long.

Menopause

This one is pretty well-known. At some point over 40 all women go through menopause, and we also go through perimenopause (pre-menopause). Perimenopause can affect your body in many ways and it is important to know what you can do to help with symptoms. Also, heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis can all develop in conjunction with menopause so pay close attention to your body, and talk to your doctor regularly to ensure that you do not have any serious medical concerns.

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, make sure your get your vitamin D, exercise and eat right, and if you have risk factors get your bone density tested.

Adult Onset Asthma

Most people think if you have asthma, it developed during childhood. This is not the case! Hormonal fluctuations (like those occurring during perimenopause and menopause) can contribute the onset of asthma. If you have a nagging persistent cough, get winded and cannot catch your breath for a long period of time after or are wheezing, seek medical attention. Asthma is treatable and once diagnosed that cough and shortness of breath will be manageable or gone entirely.

Stroke

Women have more strokes than men. And most women are not too worried about having a stroke. Sad but true. Women over 40 are at a greater risk especially if they have HRT (hormone replacement therapy such as taking estrogen) during and following menopause.

Just remember the warning signs of stroke known as FAST.

Face: If one side of the face droops when asked to smile, it is most likely a stroke.

Ask: Ask the person to lift their arms if one droops or drifts downward and can’t be held up, likely a stroke.

Speech: if asked to say a simple phrase and the words are slurred or speech is strange, it may be a stroke.

Time: Call 9-1-1 immediately if you observe any of these symptoms!

There is a “golden hour” in stroke treatment and treatment within that first hour of symptom onset is most effective for survival and recovery!

These are ten of the biggest health risks women face over the age of forty. Keep in mind, they are not the only risks. Remember to take care of yourself and to consult a medical professional if you notice anything out of the ordinary. It is always better to be safe than sorry!

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