Will you be the same healthy person at 70 that you were at 20? Sure, if you take time to take care. In addition to genetics, lifestyle choices play a key role in everyone’s physical health and that means choosing what goes in and on your body, day in and day out.
20s: Take Care of your Skin
“Anti-aging should start as early as possible,” said Fadi Bacha, M.D. He is board-certified in anti-aging medicine, internal medicine, and vein and lymphatic medicine, and is the founder of the Anti-Aging Institute.
“Women should pay close attention to skin rejuvenation in their very early 20s and need to maintain healthy body composition,” said Dr. Bacha. “The timing varies depending on children, stress level and hereditary factors.”
Lifestyle factors are also at play. Tobacco usage, for example, is not only unhealthy for the heart and lungs, it wreaks havoc on the body’s largest organ—the skin.
For women who want a healthy decade in their twenties, get professional advice early. “Get established with a women’s health provider now. Develop a relationship with a provider that you trust,” said Jennifer Fuson, M.D. She is the founder and owner of Lexington Women’s Health and is board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology.
30s: Prenatal Health Starts with Your Own Health
“Most women start to experience hormonal imbalance after children or in their early thirties and it becomes very noticeable in their forties, then menopause hits,” said Dr. Bacha.
Dr. Fuson says the thirties are the time to “Take stock of your reproductive health. You may be considering starting a family or adding on to your existing family. Your provider can help you take steps to ensure the best outcome.”
She also recommends seeking advice from your health care professional if you are considering long-term or permanent contraception. “Your provider can help you choose what suits you best,” she said.
There are important health aspects before, during and after pregnancy. Lynne Simms, M.D., is board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology, and is a partner at Lexington OB/GYN Associates. For prenatal care, Dr. Simms recommends a healthy diet. In addition, “all women should be taking at least one milligram of additional folic acid to reduce the risk of neural tube defects,” she said.
Exercise has repeatedly shown to be of benefit during pregnancy. “As the pregnancy progresses some modification may be required due to changes in your body and the normal physiology of pregnancy,” said Dr. Simms. “But in general, exercise is strongly recommended. The other advice I cannot repeat enough is get your flu shot. The flu can be very serious and even life-threatening in pregnancy.”
Human beings have a lot in common but no two people are exactly the same. No two pregnancies are alike, either. “Pregnancy is an exciting, emotional, beautiful time but can also be unpredictable at any age,” said Dr. Simms. “If every pregnancy went off without a hitch I wouldn’t have a job. As obstetricians, we are here to educate and guide you, listen to your concerns, answer questions and most importantly recognize when a complication is developing that could impact you or your baby.”
She has never really cared for the term “complication” regarding pregnancy-related issues, as it implies fault. High blood pressure, gestational diabetes (also called diabetes of pregnancy) or preterm labor aren’t anyone’s fault. “Things just happen and it is part of our job to educate you on what to look out for and recognize when they start to develop,” Dr. Simms said. “Pregnancy itself has known risks, and we try to mitigate the risk as much as possible by recognizing the issue and treating it appropriately. It is always a balance between what’s best for baby as well as the mother.”
After the baby or babies are born, postpartum life varies from person to person but friends and physicians alike will tell you to sleep when you can. Breastfeeding is another variable. “For those moms and babies that struggle a bit, there are many resources available for help,” said Dr. Simms.
Women are often juggling many things, including motherhood, professional careers and relationships, leaving little time to take care of themselves ... Make time for yourself.
40s: Be Diligent About Screenings
Breast cancer screening starts in the decade of the forties for most women. This is a great time to get with your health care provider in order to re-evaluate your personal risk factors to customize a preventative health plan just for you.
Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising are on the to-do list for women of all ages, as well as avoiding sun exposure and taking care of your skin.
50s: Manage Menopause
Menopause is as unique as the individual woman experiencing it. The beginning of the end of menstruation is called perimenopause and can last for years, starting in the thirties, forties or fifties. Some women have severe physical and hormonal symptoms and some have none, or something in between. There are women who go through menopause early (in their thirties) and others later (in their sixties). No matter the timing, consult with your health care provider about menopausal symptoms.
“Most are mild and can be managed without medication,” said Dr. Fuson. “However, it is important to review your options to maximize your well-being.”
In the decade of their fifties, women are encouraged to continue mammograms and additional health screenings, like a colonoscopy. “Your provider will help you stay up to date,” Dr. Fuson said.
“Preventative health screenings are important to help prevent illness and detect problems at an early stage,” said Dr. Simms.
60s: Lead A Heart-Healthy Life
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women (and men), so it’s important to do anything and everything possible for heart health. Have a conversation with your health care professional about how to do just that. A diet low in fat and sodium is a good place to start. Learn how symptoms of a heart attack can be different for women.
Keep osteoporosis at bay by keeping bones strong with proper exercise and nutrition. A bone density test is often recommended for women at age 65.