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Women's Health beyond 40!

In today's world, when it comes to beauty and fashion women above 40 years are giving women in their 20s a run for their money. They seem to be up to date on all the latest trends and styles.

But when it comes to health are you really aware or age related health problems specific to women above 40 years? In this article let us see the commonly faced health issues of women as they reach menopause and learn how you or your family member can take care of their health better through this phase of a woman's life.


Common Health problems faced by women over 40 yr:

1. Perimenopause/ menopause symptoms

2. Menstrual problems

3. Osteoporosis

4. Heart Disease

5.Risk of Cancer


1. Perimenopause/ menopause symptoms

Average age of menopause in Indian women is around 50 yr. But it could occur as early as 45 or even as late as 55 years. The symptoms tend to begin 3-5 years prior to the actual menopause.

Some of the common menopausal symptoms include hot flushes, sleep problems, mood fluctuations, weight fluctuations, vaginal and urinary tract irritation

Are you feeling any or all of these? You could be reaching menopause!

What can you do about these?

HOT FLUSHES

  • Identify specific triggers/patterns and avoid them

  • Learn to identify the beginning of a hot flush - sipping on some Ice water and moving to a well ventilated area like an open balcony or terrace could help reduce the intensity

  • Avoid spicy foods

  • Reduce caffeine

  • Avoid tight fitting clothes

  • Keep yourself well hydrated with plenty of fluids

  • Vitamin B supplements have been found helpful for some women


SLEEP PROBLEMS

  • Set a routine and stick to it. Try to go to bed at the same time every day

  • Avoid coffee/tea after 4pm

  • Donot write, read or watch tv on the bed. Keep your bed as a space where you only go to sleep

  • Avoid facebook/social media/ messaging at bedtime. Would be better to keep your phone away from the bed.

  • Have your dinner atleast 2 hours before bedtime

  • Try a glass of Warm milk or warm water before bed

MOOD FLUCTUATIONS

  • Make time for yourself.

  • Develop an exercise routine. Even if it is a 30 min walk in the park, make sure you stick to it consistently.

  • Have a hobby/ Learn a new skill and keep yourself busy

  • Talk to someone about what you are going through. You may be surprised how many women you know may be facing the same issues as you.

  • Include plenty of vegetables, fruits and natural foods in your daily diet.

  • If you are feeling exceedingly depressed unable to carry on with your daily activities, do speak to your family doctor or gynaecologist. You may need to be started on medications for the same. It is better to deal with this rather than suffer in silence.


WEIGHT FLUCTUATIONS/ BLOATING

  • Reduce salty foods/junk foods and processed foods

  • Include more of whole grains, natural foods in your diet

  • Have your meals at the right time

  • Routine moderate exercise – atleast 30min thrice a week

  • Avoid irrational diets!!

VAGINAL AND URINARY PROBLEMS

  • Always keep clean and dry

  • Donot douche!!!

  • Include more lactobacillus (good bacteria) by having curds, buttermilk or even probiotic supplements

  • Keep hydrated with plenty of water and liquids

  • Over the counter vaginal lubricants can be used during intercourse to avoid pain and discomfort.

  • In case of any Abnormal discharge –seek help immediately!!


2. Menstrual problems

The most concerning menstrual problems in women above 40 years are excess bleeding, prolonged periods, spotting in between cycles or frequent cycles. All these could indicate problems such as infections, thyroid problems or even something more serious like cervical/endometrial cancer.



DONOT ignore these symptoms and seek the help of your family doctor or gynaecologist immediately !


3. Osteoporosis

During the menopausal age, the level of estrogen reduces. Estrogen helps maintain a healthy calcium level in the bones. This low estrogen coupled with reduced calcium in the diet causes loss of calcium from the bones. making them brittle and and prone to fractures.

The most common bones to get fractured are the spine and hip bones both of which can be extremely painful. So osteoporosis is best prevented before it sets in.


So what can you do?

  • Go out in the sun more often.

  • Have an exercise routine. Yoga/ tai chi have been found extremely beneficial to strengthen your muscles and help you have a better posture.

  • Beware of steroids, over the counter pills, weight loss gimmicks. All these can worsen your osteoporosis.

  • Speak to your doctor to get an annual bone densitometry, calcium and vitamin D level check and ask him/ her about any calcium or vitamin D supplements that you may need.

  • Have a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D - nuts, greens, dairy products, eggs, pulses like rajma and soya beans, seafood.

4. Heart Disease

It is a common myth that heart attacks happen only in men. In recent years it has been found that more and more women are targets of this deadly disease.


A heart attack however in women can present differently - vague upper abdominal pain, sharp pain in the back, chest tightness, palpitations, sudden severe nausea, giddiness or excess sweating. All these are commonly ignored or mistaken to be due to acidity or other problems.


Obesity, stress and use of oral contraceptive pills can put women at higher risk.


Routine assessment of your BP, general health check up, annual ECG and Tread mill tests could help identify any problem early and treat it in a timely manner.


5. Cancer Screening

The most common cancers affecting older women are cervical and breast cancers. Though deadly, these can be completely treated if detected at an early stage. Awareness and regular screening are the only way to identify these early and get timely help.

CERVICAL CANCER SCREENING:

  • PAP smear testing +/- HPV testing every 5 years from age 30 onwards is recommended. A PAP smear is a simple test done in the gynaecologist/ family physician's clinic where a a sterile brush/ spatula is used to collect cells from the cervix for testing. It can help identify any cancer cells.

If you have never got a PAP smear and you are above 40 years of age, speak to your doctor today.

  • Repeat within 6months in case of suspicious lesions

  • Consult your doctor immediately in case of bleeding/spotting between cycles, pain during intercourse or abnormal vaginal discharge

BREAST CANCER SCREENING

  • Routine breast self exam

  • Breast Ultrasound or Mammogram after age 45yr. May be needed at an earlier age in case of a positive family history.

  • Can be repeated every 2 years in case of a normal report and once every year in case of any suspicious lesions/ positive family history.

Breast Self Exam

  • Stand in front of the mirror with arms relaxed by the side, arms pressed on the hips and arms raised above the head. Also in the lying down position.

  • Use the pads of your fingers to systematically feel all over the breast and also the nipple area.

  • While doing the above 2 steps, look for signs of breast cancer - skin changes, redness, rash, dimpling of the skin, discharge from the nipple, pulled in nipple, lump or hardness within the breast.












Hope this article inspires women like you to take charge of your health and make a positive change!

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