The big 4-0. Turning 40 is a milestone that is oftentimes celebrated as a significant time of transition, particularly in women’s lives. Kids are typically grown and gone. Your parents may need you more now. Your career might be at its peak or you may be venturing into a new industry altogether at this age. Whatever is happening, one thing that’s certain to change is your hormonal state of being as you move into menopause.
Granted, the average age of menopause for U.S. women is 51, with most women reaching this milestone somewhere between ages 45 and 55, however, you hormones are doing plenty to prepare you for something that may still be a decade away.
While you aren’t technically considered "menopausal" until you’ve stopped your periods for a solid consecutive year, you can expect a number of changes throughout your body, from outer aesthetics to internal organs and heart health.
This life stage is called "perimenopause," or the "menopause transition." It is defined by physical, emotional and psychological changes. Here, we dissect each of these so you can experience this transition with as much education and ease as possible.
Blood pressure. Have your blood pressure taken at least every two years; more often if it is at or above 120/80 mm Hg.
Bone mineral density exam. If you are at increased risk for osteoporosis or low bone density because of using certain medications; have a disease or condition known to be associated with bone loss; or if you have recently broken a bone under certain circumstances, consider getting screened sometime during this 40th calendar year.
Breasts. Opt for a monthly self-exam and schedule a clinical one annually or as suggested by your healthcare provider. Those with a family medical history of breast concerns including breast cancer should consider getting screened early on and frequently.
Cholesterol: Have your blood cholesterol tested every five years or more frequently if you have risk factors for heart disease.
Mental Health. Perimenopause can cause sudden hormonal ups and downs that can affect your physical and mental health. During your well-woman visits, talk to your doctor or nurse about your mental health and well-being. If you’ve already been diagnosed with a mental health condition, follow your doctor’s advice about any medicines and steps you can take at home to feel better that support and complement the chemical and bodily changes happening as you age.
Pap Smears. Get a Pap test every three years or both a Pap test and an HPV test every five years (you can get both tests at the same time). Of course, if you have any STIs, multiple sex partners, abnormal pap smear results or other issues, be sure to talk with your OB about how often they recommend you visit for screenings.
Shots. Also known as immunizations. Talk with your provider to confirm you are up-to-date with any immunizations you are interested in receiving.
Teeth. Visit your local dental office regularly, maintaining routine checkups, as this can locate oral health problems ranging from loose teeth to lost bone density.
Weight: Ask your health care professional for more information on healthy weight guidelines or weight-management strategies. Hitting 40 can bring about some major changes to thyroids, metabolism and eating habits.
Perimenopause can be exhausting and stressful, making it difficult to maintain good mental, physical and emotional health. Stay optimistic and informed by reaching out and staying on top of the above areas preventatively.
Are you nearing or beyond the age of 40 and have wisdom to add? Please feel free to comment below!