Exams: The 40s
So, you’ve reached your 40th birthday. If you’re like many women, you may feel that in your 40s you start to gain weight more easily than when you did in high school, back in the day. It may be difficult to imagine fitting into that pair of jeans you remember from your teen years. During your exam, your doctor may discuss health and nutrition goals such as reaching and maintaining a healthy BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9. As you may imagine, diet and exercise are the mainstay treatments for achieving your goal BMI.
In your 40s, your doctor may bring up the issue of when to start getting screening mammograms. This is a good time to discuss with your doctor the benefits versus risks of screening mammograms. For women at an average risk for breast cancer, recommendations on when to initiate mammograms varies among national expert groups. The American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommend starting routine screening mammograms at age 40. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening mammograms every two years starting at age 50, and that the decision to begin mammograms before the age of 50 should be an individual one based on a woman’s values concerning the benefits and harms.
Exams: The 50s
Menopausal symptoms are common in the 50s. The average age of menopause is 51. You may want to discuss with your doctor the benefits versus risks of hormone replacement therapy and other alternative treatments available for hot flashes and other menopause-related symptoms.
The risk of heart disease in women goes up significantly after menopause. Your doctor will focus on checking on risk factors including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Tobacco use or exposure to second-hand smoke can increase your heart risk, as well.
Starting at age 50, your doctor will also talk with you about starting several screening procedures, including colon cancer screening and others.
Exams: The 60s
The risk for osteoporosis in women increases dramatically in the years after menopause. Treating osteoporosis can help reduce your risk of hip, spine, wrist and other types of fractures. Your doctor may ask you about risk factors for osteoporosis-related fractures such as a history of a previous fractures in your adult years, family history of fractures, smoking, alcohol use, and low body weight — less than 127 pounds.
Diet and weight-bearing exercise are important components in preventing osteoporosis. In particular, your doctor may discuss the importance of getting enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Some women may also benefit from calcium and vitamin D supplements.
A bone density test can be helpful in diagnosing osteoporosis. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that all women 65 years and older should be screened with a bone density test. Testing should also be considered in woman 50 years and older who have risk factors for osteoporosis.
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