So everyone is saying 35 is the new 25! However, there are still medical conditions that are common in women over 35, despite how young we feel. Below are some key medical conditions that you should know about.
Primary care physicians, such as myself, begin screening women at age 35 for thyroid disease. Hypothyroidism (low thyroid functioning) and hyperthyroidism (high thyroid functioning) are the most common types. Hypothyroidism may cause certain biological changes in your body such as weight gain, cold insensitivity, and constipation. Hyperthyroidism typically does the opposite. Screening for thyroid disease during your annual healthcare visit is important. There are medications for both that can treat your illness if you are diagnosed.
During your annual healthcare exam, your doctor may also check your cholesterol (lipid panel). Not all cholesterol is bad cholesterol! LDL (also called low density lipoprotein) is considered the “bad cholesterol” that can clog your arteries. HDL (high density lipoprotein) is considered the “good cholesterol” that protects your heart from heart disease. Therefore, having a total cholesterol that is high is not always a bad thing! High LDL can make you at higher risk for developing diseases such as heart attack and stroke. Please review your results with your primary care doctor for more information.
High blood pressure
At every doctor’s visit, your doctor measures your blood pressure. A good blood pressure reading is at 120/80 or below where 120 is called the systolic blood pressure and 80 is called the diastolic blood pressure. Both are important for maintaining good health. A low salt diet and regular exercise can help keep that number close to normal. High blood pressure can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure if not well treated. Keep a blood pressure log and bring it to your next doctor’s visit so that you and your doctor can have a clear picture of your health at home.
During your annual healthcare exam, your doctor will likely screen you for diabetes. Symptoms of diabetes include feeling thirsty and hungry, and urinating often. Diabetes, Type 2, can be genetic or acquired through poor eating habits. The test for diabetes, the hemoglobin a1c, can gauge the severity of your sugar levels. A normal hemoglobin a1c is less than 5.6%. Pre-diabetes is a hemoglobin a1c of 5.7% to 6.4%. Many people fall in the range of pre-diabetes and don’t even know it! Pre-diabetes does not necessarily give you symptoms. If no dietary or lifestyle changes are made while in the pre-diabetes range, a person may very well develop diabetes quickly. Diabetes is a hemoglobin a1c of 6.5% and above. Having diabetes is not a death sentence, but can lead to some complications such as vision changes, kidney function problems, and blood vessel problems.
The leading cause of cancer in women is breast cancer. Screening for breast cancer starts at age 40 and annual screening is suggested. Many women, in fact, can develop breast cancer at an earlier age, but family history likely plays a role in such women. Early detection of breast cancer via mammography saves lives!
Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer in women. Screening for colon cancer is actually age 45 and not age 50 as it was previously! There are many modalities to screen for colon cancer: colonoscopy, barium enema, flexible sigmoidoscopy, FIT testing, Cologuard, and occult blood testing. Please see your doctor to see which screening test is best for you.
Women over the age of 50 are at high risk for osteoporosis, which is a weakening of the bone. Screening with a DEXA scan is crucial for diagnosis. Women over the age of 50 should be taking calcium and vitamin D supplements to build up their bones. Osteoporosis can lead to hip or back fractures.
This is a short list and does not encompass ALL the diseases to worry about after age 35. However, this list covers the common concerns. Please schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor soon to discuss all that I talked about.
Take care and stay healthy during COVID!