womens health through the ages

Women’s Health: Beyond the basics

Women’s health programs are often most effective when care is tailored to specific stages of life. Beyond the teens it is often helpful to think of healthcare needs in terms of decades – matching care to address common complaints seen in the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and beyond. Although prevention and early detection are important factors at every age, the following are simple guidelines to help women understand care needs at different stages in life.

Osteoporosis may seem like something to start thinking about at a much older age, but during the teens is the time to get started. By age 20 young women have accumulated 90% of their bone mass, so calcium and vitamin D are crucial. Girls at this age need at least 3-4 servings of dairy a day and at least 400-800 IU of Vitamin D. Teenage girls should also be strongly encouraged to take part in regular weight-bearing activities such as dance, soccer or other vigorous pursuits. Exercise is a lifelong habit so it’s good to get started early.

The discussion around birth control typically happens in the later teens and early 20’s. Many young women are not aware that the birth control pill has been shown to substantially decrease the chance of ovarian cancer over time. Young women with a strong family history of ovarian cancer should discuss this option with their physician as the Pill may be useful in preventing this cancer prior to menopause.

Although many women are delaying pregnancy until well into their 30’s, they should actually be thinking about their fertility long before then. If having children is a goal, women need to be in sync with their menstrual cycle, medication use and family history in their early 20’s. If your menstrual cycle seems to be irregular in any way, discuss this with your Physician. Endometriosis, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Thyroid disorders can all present with changes in flow, regularity or menstrual pain and lead to fertility issues. Getting these sorted out early in life can increase your chances of conceiving naturally later on.

Supplementation with folic acid, omega fatty-acids and adequate calcium are all important at this age – especially if you are thinking of getting pregnant. Dietitians can recommend appropriate timing and quantities and review medications along with your physician. It’s important in your 30’s to ensure you have a healthy nutritional foundation and well developed exercise habits. Heart disease is the number one killer of women overall, and prevention should be started in your 30’s to lower your chances of developing the disease later in life. Keep in mind that weight is much more difficult to shed in your 40’s and 50’s so it’s important to be the weight you want to be right now.

This decade is usually all about peri-menopause and the changes that come with it. Most women do just fine, but keep in mind that you may start to suffer from hot flashes and mood changes long before you miss a period. Where possible, reduce your stress levels and try to ensure you are making your own health a priority. Although career, family and other responsibilities are competing for your time, you must remember you are no good to your family unless you look after yourself first!

What’s new in Menopause? If you have intolerable symptoms of menopause be sure to ask your Physician if you are a candidate for hormone therapy. We are now widely using topical estrogen in a pump or mini sachet; progesterone orally, vaginally or in IUD form, and have many simple options for vaginal dryness. From 50 and beyond it’s especially important to know your numbers. Know what your waist circumference, cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure are and keep them at optimal levels to be able to thoroughly enjoy the next decades and your grandkids!

Your Copeman Healthcare team is here to keep you healthy and informed, so please contact us for your personalized health concerns and questions.