- By Mary Caldwell For the AJC
Women who are in their 40s are in many cases reaching a new stage in their lives. Your children may be more independent, and you might have a well-established career. It can also be a time of change, when it's easier to gain weight, and you may start to see the first signs of menopause.
Being informed about the changes you may face during your 40s is an important way to protect your health for many years to come. It pays to have regular checkups and discuss any potential issues or concerns with your doctor. In addition, you may want to undergo some health screenings to confirm or rule out problems that may be more common after age 40.
What supplements should I take?
It's common for women in their 40s to be deficient in nutrients such as vitamin D, according to DoctorOz.com, so it's important to ask your doctor if you should be taking any supplements. This vitamin helps your body absorb calcium, which protects against osteoporosis-related bone loss – a particular concern as you get older.
A blood test can check your vitamin D levels, and if they're low, you may be advised stop smoking, start resistance training and add a supplement to your daily routine.
Should I be tested for diabetes?
Your risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases with age, especially after you're 45, according to Healthline. A blood test can determine whether your body is using insulin efficiently enough to help your body maintain consistent blood glucose levels.
You're at particular risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you're overweight, have a family history of the disease or have a history of gestational diabetes. If you have this disease, you're at an increased risk of developing heart disease, blindness and depression.
How can I control my weight?
Women's metabolism slows after age 40, and as a result, you'll need to eat less and exercise in order to maintain the same weight, according to DoctorOz.com. You may also have hypothyroidism – an underactive thyroid gland that can result in weight gain. If you're gaining weight, it's worth asking your doctor about, especially if you have dry skin, feel tired and are less able to tolerate cold temperatures.
Your doctor can treat hypothyroidism and also suggest an appropriate fitness plan that takes into account your age, weight and health history.
Should I keep taking birth control pills?
If you're in your 40s, you may think you've left your child-bearing years behind, but that's not necessarily true. Unless you've been menopausal for more than a year, you'll still need to take birth control. The second highest rate of unintended pregnancy is for sexually active women who are age 40 to 50, JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of The North American Menopause Society, told the Chicago Tribune.
Doctors have differing opinions on whether you should keep taking birth control pills after age 40, so talk to your doctor to find out what form of contraception he or she recommends for you.
What about menopause?
You may not be thinking about menopause yet, but it's normal for this process to occur at any age from 40 to 59, according to familydoctor.org. For an indication about when this might happen, look to when the older women in your family reached menopause. Although this can influence when you enter menopause, it's not guaranteed.
After menopause, your body produces less estrogen, and this may increase your risk of heart disease, the American Heart Association says. Heart disease is the number-one threat to women's health. Talk to your doctor about symptoms that could indicate your may be headed toward menopause and whether hormone replacement therapy is recommended.