Women must exercise between 30 to 60 minutes in a day.
Every woman above 40 should be screened for breast, uterine, cervical and ovarian cancer, suggests Dr Asha Dalal.
Most often we see that women, be it homemakers or working professionals, do not take adequate care of their health.
Sooner or later, it leads to weight gain, weak bones, diabetes and other lifestyle diseases.
Some illnesses, if not detected early, can also be fatal.
After the age of 35, women need to take extra care of their mental and physical health.
Here are some useful tips for women to stay healthy and active in their late 30s and 40s:
1. Watch your diet
After the age of 40 our metabolism slows but our eating habits do not change.
Sometimes this is a cause for weight gain.
So we must mind what we eat and exercise more.
It is very important to have a balanced diet. Avoid excess cholesterol and lipids.
2. Protect your bone health
Around menopause which happens in India commonly between 40 and 50 we start losing bone mass which later can lead to osteoporosis.
To prevent this it is advised to take some form of calcium and Vitamin D3.
Osteoporosis is detected by doing a bone densitometry.
This can be done at any age but it should always be done at menopause so that we are aware of our bone health at the beginning of menopause and if required osteoporosis can be treated.
Physical activity is very important to keep your bones healthy.
Women must exercise between 30 to 60 minutes in a day.
For strong bones, you must consume foods rich in calcium and Vitamin D3.
Weight bearing exercises are good.
Brisk walking for at least 30 minutes a day is recommended.
Apart from bones, it is equally important to keep your muscles in good shape.
Strength training is equally important as many women in their 40s find issues with balance especially around or after menopause.
Strength training and cardio exercises should be done under supervision.
4. Screening for malignancy
Every woman above age 40 should be screened for breast, uterine, cervical and ovarian cancer.
A clinical examination by your gynaecologist should always be done which should includes vaginal and speculum examination.
A Pap Smear, which is a scraping taken from your cervix, the mouth of your uterus, will help detect possibilities of cervical cancer.
It helps in early detection and downstaging of cervical cancer.
A mammography and/ or a sono-mammogram is done to see if there is anything suspicious in the breast.
This helps in the detection of breast cancer.
Simultaneously, you must learn how to do a self-breast examination.
Self-breast examination must be done periodically. If you find anything abnormal do visit a doctor.
To diagnose ovarian cancer or cancer of the uterus a pelvic USG is done.
If there is a suspicious finding, additional testing like tumour markers will be required which is done via blood test, CT scans, MRI etc.
All malignancies are treatable if diagnosed early.
In fact many times the first time an abnormality is detected is on a routine health check-up.
Screening for malignancy should be done annually for 3 years.
If you are at low risk, you can continue screening once in three years.
Screening stops after the age of 70 years. You need to get a screening only if you have symptoms or a history of some cancer.
Besides cancer a Pelvic USG can also detect other ailments like an ovarian cyst, fibroid, adenomyosis, or a thickened endometrium all of which can cause abnormal uterine bleeding.
So it is good to idea get a pelvic USG done.
Abnormal bleeding is one of the commonest problems women face in the 40s. A surgery is not always required but it can be treated more rationally if the cause is detected.
5. Manage menopause
Please visit a gynaecologist if you start having symptoms (also known as vasomotor symptoms) like hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, mood swings etc.
These are menopausal symptoms but may start a few years early and there is no need to suffer.
They can be treated.
If your Pap smear, Mammography, Pelvic USG are normal, you may be offered Menopausal Hormonal Therapy.
This involves giving the hormones oestrogen and progesterone.
For vasomotor symptoms you should start early after menopause.
Usually experts recommend a small dose for a short interval (3 to 5 years). The effects last for up to 5-10 years after stopping the dose.
If there is a risk factor and oestrogens cannot be given, you may be given, phyto oestrogens or plant oestrogens.
Other supplements like soya, black cohosh and drugs like gonad mimetics are also administered under expert supervision.
6. Drink plenty of water
Staying hydrated is an essential part of staying healthy.
Women are at higher risk of developing urinary tract infections than men.
It can be painful and make you extremely uncomfortable.
Drink plenty of water and oral fluids to prevent urinary infections.
7. Regular medical checkup is a must
Do regular blood tests to check for diabetes, thyroid issues, raised cholesterol, triglycerides and other problems.
A cardiac evaluation is also good even if you are asymptomatic.
This is more important after menopause.
8. Sleep well
After a hard day of work, you must get a good night’s rest.
Try and have a healthy routine and stick to it.
Avoid watching TV and using your phone before bedtime.
If you are unable to sleep, try relaxing techniques like mindfulness, listening to soft and calming music.
And if nothing works, do visit a doctor and seek help.
9. Limit smoking and alcohol
A healthy lifestyle involves limited smoking and alcohol.
Smoking tobacco is often associated with increased chances of cancer.
It is best to avoid or limit your consumption to prevent incidences of lung, mouth and cervical cancer.
10. Improve mental health
No matter how stressed you are, do not let it take a toll on your mind and body.
Given our stressful lives and pressure of responsibilities, most women, including homemakers suffer from mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
After spending a busy professional life, gradually one of your kids may leave home and you will have to manage your parents and in laws alongside your own responsibilities.
If you have no one to turn to for help, seek support from a mental health expert.
To sum up, here are a few things you will need to keep most of your health problems away:
- (Most important) Laughter and
Look after your mind and your mind will look after the rest.
Dr Asha Dalal is director, obstetrics and gynaecology, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai.
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