As women age, our bodies go through various changes that can lead to different health issues. From hormonal imbalances to chronic diseases, here are some of the most common health challenges affecting women in this age group. The more we know about these challenges, the more we can put in place helpful interventions and preventions to stay healthy.
Menopause and Hormonal Imbalances:
Menopause is not a disease or a “health issue” – it is a natural process that occurs in women typically between the ages of 45 and 55. During this phase, the ovaries stop producing eggs, and the body experiences a decrease in estrogen and progesterone levels. This change can create a range of symptoms that are a challenge to a woman’s sense of her own health and well-being and can affect her quality of life.
Menopausal symptoms can vary from woman to woman, but common ones include hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and sleep disturbances. Hormonal imbalances during menopause can also lead to bone loss, putting women at a higher risk for osteoporosis.
If you are experiencing symptoms of menopause, there are treatment options available.
Heart disease is a leading cause of death among women over 40. As women age, the risk factors for heart disease increase, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. It is also around this age that hereditary issues relating to cardiac health start to be important to monitor.
Routine check-ups are the best way to monitor your risk factors – from checking your cholesterol and your blood pressure. Lifestyle also becomes more important – the older we get, the less the body naturally “corrects” itself and counteracts illnesses that are creeping in. It’s at this time of life that lifestyle should become central to our concerns, especially making sure we walk regularly and avoid inflammatory foods (such as sugar, salt and bad fats) and foods with little nutritional value.
Breast, ovarian, cervical and bowel cancer
Cancer is a concern for women of all ages, but the risk increases as women get older. Regular mammograms and self-examinations are crucial for early detection of breast cancer. Keeping up with your cervical smears, faecal occult blood tests and having regular check-ups, especially when you are experiencing stomach or pelvic symptoms, is important.
If you notice unexplained changes in your weight or appetite, pain, loss of energy, constant tiredness, or bloating, you should see a doctor. It is important for women to be aware of any changes and be aware of the early signs of common cancers, as these symptoms are not an exhaustive list. It’s worth reading up and staying aware of physical changes to improve the chances of early detection and good prognosis.
Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by low bone density, making bones more fragile and susceptible to fractures. Women over 40, especially during and after menopause, are at a higher risk due to the decline in oestrogen levels. A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, weight-bearing exercises, getting safe outdoor time or taking vitamin D supplements in colder climates, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can help maintain bone health.
Women over 40 may experience increased emotional difficulties such as depression and anxiety. Hormonal changes, menopause, and life events like bereavement, children moving away or caring for ageing parents can contribute to these conditions. Seeking support from friends, family, or mental health professionals is important to address these issues and maintain emotional well-being.
The risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases with age and weight gain. Like with the advice for heart disease, lifestyle and routine testing become central to prevention. Type 2 diabetes can be reversed when caught early, so keeping up with routine blood tests, reducing intake of sugar and simple starches (such as white bread), and regular walking is a great ways to do that.
The risk of diabetes increases further after menopause, so keep an eye on things, even if you don’t have any family history. Early signs of diabetes include feeling thirsty, feeling tired, urinating more frequently and unexplained weight changes.
Urinary incontinence, the involuntary loss of urine, can be an issue among women over 40. It can be caused by weakened pelvic floor muscles, hormonal changes, or underlying medical conditions. There are several interventions that are successful in supporting women with this condition, and you do not need to suffer alone. Certainly, don’t avoid seeing a doctor because you feel embarrassed – this is a surprisingly common issue.
Thyroid disorders, such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, are more common in women over 40. You can develop thyroid disorders later in life, which might surprise some of you. These conditions can cause a variety of symptoms, such as fatigue, weight gain or loss, hair loss, and mood changes. Routine thyroid function tests can help diagnose and manage any thyroid imbalances, and treatment is simple and effective.
While these health issues are more prevalent in women over 40, it is important to remember that each woman’s health journey is unique. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and getting regular check-ups and blood tests can go a long way in preventing and managing these common health concerns.
Women are often expected to just “get on with it”, but your quality of life matters. Making your well-being a priority is always our advice. We are a female-run clinic and understand women can be pulled in multiple directions, often ignoring minor symptoms while prioritising the people around them. This is an open invitation to change that and ensure that you stay well for yourself and the people you love.
We offer a wide range of helpful tests and packages, including full blood profiles and menopause screening. Wellwoman screenings and much more. Book online or speak to our team today.