A Guide to Women’s Health in Your Forties
As women mature, their health concerns evolve with them. When you enter your 40s, you might notice changes in your body. Now’s the time to stay on top of your preventative care, comprehensive screenings, and diagnostic tests so you can make well-informed healthcare choices.
Living your healthiest life starts with primary care.
Your primary care provider (PCP) is a medical professional you trust to be your go-to doctor for annual physical exams, regular checkups, prescriptions, and specialist referrals. Your PCP can evaluate your personal and family medical history, determine your risk factors for certain diseases, and monitor your overall physical and mental health.
As you age, your risk increases for obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, certain cancers, and osteoporosis, among other conditions. Your primary care provider will inform you when to complete certain health screenings and tests and help you remain knowledgeable of your health status and risks. In medical situations with multiple diagnostic and treatment options, your PCP can help you make decisions that consider your quality of life and health goals.
Annual visits with your primary care provider may cover the following:
- physical exams and health screenings
- chronic disease management (e.g., diabetes, hypertension)
- mammography referrals
- Colon cancer screening options
- healthy lifestyle guidance, including exercise and nutrition counseling
- support for managing perimenopause-related health concerns such as sleep disturbances or fatigue
- coordination of care with specialty services, as needed
Listen to your gut — support your GI health.
Bloating, gas, constipation, and changes in bowel habits are more common in middle age. Your gastroenterologist can work to identify the cause of any uncomfortable GI symptoms that sometimes may be embarrassing to discuss. Treatments are more effective and even life-saving when GI issues are diagnosed in their early stages.
If you don’t have an elevated risk for colon cancer, you should start screening for colon cancer at age 45. To address any issues with the health and function of your GI tract, you may also need additional studies as recommended by your gastroenterologist. These efforts can help diagnose and manage common GI conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, pelvic floor dysfunction, and gastrointestinal cancers.
Your provider can help you modify your diet, make other lifestyle changes, and manage your medications to promote the health and function of your gastrointestinal system.
Fuel your wellness journey with nutritional choices.
You’ve probably realized that you can’t eat the same way you could when you were a teenager anymore. Different foods are tolerated differently in mature bodies. However, you may be unaware of your body’s unmet nutritional needs or not realize how your dietary choices may lead to high cholesterol, raised blood pressure, pre-diabetes, or undesired weight gain.
Heart disease is the number one killer of women in your age group. So, managing obesity, cholesterol, and blood pressure may even save your life. While exercise is vital for cardiovascular health, your diet also plays an essential role in supporting cardiovascular health.
Beyond disease prevention and management, your diet can also contribute to your immune system, bone strength, sexual health, cognitive function, and the appearance of your hair, skin, and nails.
A registered dietitian can help you create a personalized nutrition plan to meet your body’s changing needs. You can discuss tips to:
- maintain a healthy weight
- support your body’s changing nutritional needs during perimenopause
- address dietary concerns related to your medical conditions
- address any specialized dietary needs
- cook quick, nutrient-dense meals for you and your family
- use nutrition to support your mental health and emotional well-being
Your gynecologist provides far more than birth control.
Whether you are single, dating, in a sexually monogamous relationship, pregnant, or managing the symptoms of perimenopause — your gynecologist can help.
In your 40s, you should continue getting your annual well-women’s visit and regular pap smears with your gynecologist. They can also diagnose and treat vaginal infections, endometriosis, cervical dysplasia, uterine fibroids, vaginal dryness, and other common gynecological issues for women your age.
Other women’s health concerns your GYN can address include:
- contraception consultations and administration
- perimenopause symptom management
- diagnosis and treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome
- screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections
Breast cancer risk rises after age 40.
Yearly breast cancer imaging is recommended for breast cancer screening. Your gynecologist or primary care provider may recommend various types of imaging, including a mammogram, depending on your risk of developing breast cancer. They can also provide the following breast health services:
- clinical breast exams
- orders for mammograms, breast ultrasounds, and MRIs depending on risk
- breast cancer prevention strategies
- referrals for genetic counseling and testing for breast cancer
- diagnosis and treatment of fibrocystic breasts, breast pain, and nipple discharge
Focusing on your mental health isn’t selfish. It’s self-care.
Living with anxiety or depression can sometimes feel overwhelming, and it’s okay to acknowledge that it might impact your energy for others and your daily responsibilities. It’s important to note that many people, including a significant number of women, navigate these challenges every day.
An accurate diagnosis can help bring clarity and understanding. Mental wellness isn’t one-size-fits-all; it’s about finding personalized support and tools tailored to your unique journey.
Whether you’d like to have a healthier relationship with your body, process past traumas, or refine your responses to life’s stresses, a behavioral health specialist can support you. They can also help you manage:
- perimenopause-related emotional changes,
- relationship conflicts,
- life transitions, and
- eating disorders.
Written by Dana Kantrowitz. Medically reviewed by Morgan Allyn Sendzischew Shane, M.D., MSCTI.
Compassionate care for every woman at every age.
The Comprehensive Women’s Health Alliance at the University of Miami Health System provides expert-led care for women of all ages. Our Women’s Nurse Coordinators can guide you through your healthcare journey and coordinate your care. To make an appointment, call 855-3-4-WOMEN (855-349-6636) or request an appointment.