Over 40? Don’t Forget These Tests

Now that you’re 40, what should you do to take care of yourself?

Now that you’re 40, what should you do to take care of yourself?

This is a question that we should all ask ourselves once the big 4-0 becomes a reality. This is the time to realize that you’re getting older and you must make sure that you’re on top of your health. It’s the time to consider potential health concerns, and to learn how to deal with them now so that you don’t end up battling a serious illness later.

As a woman, have a yearly mammogram starting at the age of 40 (unless you have a family history, in which case you may start getting screened at a younger age). The incidence of breast cancer is on the rise, but with early detection, you can beat this disease and continue to live a normal life. Further, if you have a family history, have the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene blood tests taken. You may not want to know if you have the breast cancer gene, as BRCA is called, but this is a test that could save your life. It’s much easier to take advantage of preventive medicine than it is to deal with the effects of a disease that has taken over your body. And of course, perform self-examinations each month.

According to Dr. Oz, you should get a colonoscopy starting at 40 if you have a family history of colon cancer. If you don't have a family history or other issues that might warrant an earlier colonoscopy, you can probably wait until you hit 50.

After your 40th birthday, visit your doctor for a complete physical examination, during which your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol panel, hormone levels, thyroid and weight are evaluated. It is especially important to stay on top of heart-related tests because heart disease is the number-one killer of women.

Have an overall skin examination by your dermatologist. Melanoma is a serious and often deadly form of cancer, and early detection can mean the difference between life and death.

Another test to consider is a bone density test. Typically, you don’t need to have this test taken until you’re 65, but some women have risk factors that necessitate earlier testing. These risk factors include: having suffered an adult bone fracture, early menopause (before the age of 45), being a thin woman (weighing less than 127 pounds), a family history of osteoporosis, being on steroid medications for three months or more, being a smoker or a former smoker, drinking more than two drinks a day and having low calcium levels.

With today’s medical technology, you can prevent illnesses and health complications with early detection. You must be your own advocate and take care of yourself. As we age, it’s especially important to eat right, exercise, sleep and manage your stress.

And there may be a great deal of stress. The forties can be a hard stage of life. You may go through some major life changes -- divorce, second marriages and families, kids going off to school, parents passing on and financial difficulties, especially in this economy. So, it’s never been more important to take care of yourself. As women, many of us feel selfish or guilty when we do things for ourselves, but we couldn’t be more wrong: How can you expect to show up bright-eyed for your kids, your partner, your work, and your friends when you don’t take care of yourself first?

Fill your own tank before you can do for others. It’s not being selfish; it’s being self-aware. Being self-aware by taking care of yourself is probably the most selfless thing you can do. When you take care of yourself, you have the energy to be there to take care of your family, your work and whatever else comes your way. Life really can begin at 40 if you let it.

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