Simple Health Steps for Women in Their 40s & 50s
1. Revisit your contraceptive method.
"If you've been on oral contraceptives, as you get older you may want to consider switching to an IUD or other method, due to cardiovascular risk factors," says JoAnn Manson, chief of the division of preventive medicine at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital. Birth control pills may increase some women's risk of heart disease.
2. Manage menopause.
One day, it's birth control; the next, hot flashes. Welcome to midlife. Talk to your medical provider before menopausal symptoms kick in and discuss what you might want to do to decrease discomfort. "If you have moderate to severe menopausal symptoms and are at low risk for breast cancer and heart disease, short-term hormonal therapy (HRT) might be right for you," Manson says.
3. Keep an eye on your calcium.
If you have not already started monitoring your bone health, while you're moving into menopause is a critical time for women to preserve it and stave off osteoporosis. If you don't get enough dairy in your diet, take a twice-daily supplement with calcium and vitamin D. Vitamin D is the key that unlocks the calcium so your body can use it. Ask your doctor whether you should have a bone density scan to screen for early osteoporosis.
4. Don't forget key screening tests.
Make sure you get regular mammograms starting at age 40 - you should have a conversation with your doctor about when to start because experts disagree, diabetes screening starting at 45, and a colonoscopy at age 50 (earlier if you're at high risk). Also, because thyroid disease is common in older women, ask your doctor whether you should consider a thyroid screening. Pap test, pelvic exam, and breast exam should be done yearly.