In between hectic work schedules, visits with the family and volunteering at church, women in their 40s and 50s need to relax … and see their doctor.
Many health issues pop up during these years and, according to Marshall Medical family medicine Dr. Steve Uzelac, having regular check-ups is the best way for women to stay in good health. “They’re important,” Uzelac said of routine tests, mammograms, PAPs, colon cancer screenings and osteoporosis screenings.
The doctor also recommends that women in this age group stay current on their vaccinations — flu shots every year, tetanus shots every 10 years and, if they haven’t already had one, a Tdap vaccine that protects against whooping cough (cases dramatically increased last year), tetanus and diphtheria.
Women also need to pay attention to their heart. Coronary artery disease is “one of the most common causes of death for women as they get older,” Uzelac said.
More than one in three female adults has some form of cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association. It’s important to meet with your doctor and talk about the risk factors,” Uzelac said, adding that family history also pays a role in women’s heart health. Women should know that a heart attack might present itself differently to them than men. “They may have other symptoms that are more subtle — chest discomfort like heartburn and difficulty breathing,” Uzelac explained, adding that many will tell their doctors, “And I just don’t feel right.”
Getting cholesterol checked, eating a low-fat/cholesterol diet high in fiber, quitting smoking, managing your weight and exercising — “Those are things that have shown to help decrease the risk of coronary artery disease,” he added.
Women should also have their blood sugar tested to determine their risk for pre-diabetes and diabetes, Uzelac said.
And then there’s menopause — hot flashes, irritability, sleepless nights and more.
“There’s not really one treatment that works for every lady,” Uzelac said, regrettably. “There are a number of drugs that can be prescribed by a physician and I know that out there in the community there are some plant-based treatments people try.”
Doctors used to rely on hormone replacement therapy to alleviate menopause symptoms but studies found that the hormones increased some patients’ risk of heart attack and other health problems. Physicians still use estrogen in some cases, Uzelac said, explaining, “We try to use the lowest dose we can and for the shortest period of time.” They also prescribe antidepressants to patients who have difficulty sleeping or don’t feel rested after they’ve slept.
Menopause patients need to talk with their doctors about any treatment’s risks and benefits, Uzelac continued, and then they can develop a treatment that’s “tailored to that particular lady’s symptoms.”
“Some decide ‘I’ll just let Mother Nature take her course,’” he added.
But that approach shouldn’t be used with any other discomforts or concerns. Uzelac said women need to be as forthcoming as a person can be when talking to their doctors about their health.
“I’m there to give advice and provide information,” he explained. “So if I don’t have the information coming from the patient I can’t give my best advice I can’t do my best job to help that person.”
“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”