Women’s health differs each decade in a number of ways.
Our health is ever-changing as we grow and age, and there are a number of factors that will have an impact on our health from early to later adulthood.
As we get older, our chances of developing different health conditions increase. The right information can help you live your healthiest life, and we know that early screening and prevention is often the best cure.
In honour of Mother’s Day, we will go through the top tips for women’s health. From health concerns we face as we get older to significant health issues that may affect women at any age.
- Women's Health | What To Expect In Your 20s
- Women’s Health | What To Expect In Your 30s
- Women’s Health | What To Expect In Your 40s
- Women’s Health | What To Expect In Your 50s
- Women’s Health | What To Expect In Your 60s
- Making Time For Optimal Health
When it comes to our health there are certain things that are out of our control, such as injuries or accidents. Our genetics could also make us more susceptible to developing certain conditions.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are definite variables that we can control, such as our lifestyle choices and how we can set ourselves up for better health down the line.
In this article, we are not ruling out ANY health conditions per age groups, we are simply illustrating the most common health concerns reported per decade, as well as talking you through the different steps you can take to strive for better health.
Women's Health | What To Expect In Your 20s
We expect to experience our best health in their 20s, at this point in our lives, youth is on our side. Despite this, these years should not be taken for granted as they set us up for how we will look and feel later on in our lives.
While our teenage years may seem like a distant memory by the time you reach your 20s, there are a number of integral processes that women go through between the late teens to twenties.
At this point, there is a far higher likelihood that you will be more in tune with your hormones and menstrual cycle than you were as a teenager, which will help manage monthly symptoms and offer a better sense of well-being.
Your 20s will also bring a major stage of transition in your life, you may have moved out of the family home, you may be going to college, making new friends and experimenting in a number of different ways.
So what are the biggest health concerns in your 20s?
- Your sexual health
- Your mental health
Your Sexual Health
The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention says: "Young adults aged 20–24 years are at higher risk of acquiring STDs for a combination of behavioral, biological, and cultural reasons."
It is reported that 50% of people will contract a sexually transmitted disease before the age of 25. Today, it is also reported that 1 in 4 women have either chlamydia or human papillomavirus (HPV), which is why it is so important to make sure you are up to date with your vaccinations.
While your 20s can be a time of great fun, there is always risk attached to fun.
If you have multiple partners or you are having unprotected sex, you are really putting yourself at risk by not getting tested on a regular basis.
Risky sexual behavious go hand in hand with drinking alochol on a regular and/or excessive basis and can contribute to your increased likelihood of contracting an STD, it's something you need to be mindful of during the party years.
If you are starting a new sexual relationship, it is important that you have the conversation with your new partner about your sexual history, and most importantly, theirs!
Look out for std symptoms and get tested once a year, if you have had unprotected sex, get tested sooner but make sure you read up on how long you should wait to take an STD test after you have had unprotected sex.
Your Mental Health
The world is changing. Today, social media is said to be one of the biggest contributing factors to women who are suffering from anxiety and depression in their twenties.
Young people are more likely to harshly criticize themselves when they spend a significant proportion of their day flicking through aspirational content on different social media platforms. They can begin to believe that their lives or they themselves are not good enough.
While your mental health is most likely to face different pressures in your 20s, you are more prone to facing these struggles if you are a woman in your twenties.
It is reported that twice as many women will live with anxiety and depression as men, and this risk if highest if you are in your twenties.
As Mayo Clinic says: "After puberty, depression rates are higher in females than in males because girls typically reach puberty before boys do, they're more likely to develop depression at an earlier age than boys are. There is evidence to suggest that this depression gender gap may continue throughout the lifespan."
Things you can do to help your health in your 20s
- Always use barrier protection during sexual encounters.
- Monitor your alcohol intake and always say no to recreational drugs.
- Monitor how much time you are spending on screens and social media.
- Ensure that you are building healthy exercise and nutrition habits in your 20s,
- Seek out the support you need when you need it, never put off seeing a medical professional if you are worried about your health.
Women’s Health | What To Expect In Your 30s
While the idea of entering your flirty thirties may be a little daunting. It will still be a decade of great change and excitement.
Whether you are career focused or family focused, or both, there will still be a significant number of health changes that will happen in your 30s.
This is a decade where your hormones will have balanced out since puberty but there is also an increased likelihood of experiencing hormonal issues of varying intensities.
It is also the age when women are now most likely to begin trying for a family. This can bring with it a number of other health consequences such as fatigue and stress as women try to balance their career and family lives with new arrivals.
So what are the biggest health concerns in your 30s?
- Hormonal Issues
The average age to have a child is rising, while the age you have your first baby at largely depends on where you are from, women in the U.S. are now more likely to have their first child in their early 30s, with many other developed countries following suit.
When you hit the 35-year mark, you may experience a drop in estogen and progesterone. This change in your hormone levels can causes changes in your menstrual cycle, your cycle may become longer or shorter, heavier or lighter.
At the age of 30, a woman's chance of conceiving each month sits at 20%, by age 40, this likelihood is reduced to 5%.
As progesterone and estrogen volumes decline, there is an increased risk of experiencing:
- Mood changes
- More frequent urinary tract infections
- Vaginal dryness
- Low libido
Your fertility says: "It's a biological fact that as women and men age, their potential to have children decreases, although the exact time when this starts to happen can vary among individuals."
You should consider undergoing hormonal tests in your thirties due to the fact that the two primary female sex hormones will begin to naturally decline. Whether or not you are starting a family, understanding your hormones can go a long way in explaining day to day symptoms that you may be experiencing on an on-going basis.
There is always going to be a chance that you will experience stress or on-going stress, known as chronic stress at any age.
Women, unfortunately are more susceptible to feeling stressed on an on-going basis than men reports an fMRI study which sought to illustrate neural responses to stressors.
The study found that: "(1) That men are able to use cognitive regulation with less effort than women and (2) That women use positive affect in the service of down-regulating negative affect to a greater extent than men."
In simpler terms, the study found that men have the ability to regulate stress with less effort than women, and women rely more on positive reinforcement than men.
When you're in your 30s, it's especially important to keep an eye on your stress levels because this decade will be busy with work and it is the most likely time that women have children, these two factors coupled with all of the other responsibilites you might have raked up over the years could leave you feeling exhausted if you don't get a handle on how to manage your stress from an early age.
Things you can do to help your health in your 30s
Start incorporating calcium-rich foods into your diet as your chances of developing osteoporosis are higher in your 30s.
Turn off from work when you're not there, and focus on the best stress busting strategies that work for you.
Make sleep a habit, not a luxury, good performance rests on the shoulders of good sleep, always ensure that you are getting enough.
Women’s Health | What To Expect In Your 40s
There are a number of changes that you can expect in your 40s, among them are a reduction in muscle mass, decreased bone density, a slower metabolism and increased weight gain.
Those ingredients might not sound like something you want to buy, but with the right know-how, you'll be able to make this decade one of decadences.
So what are the health concerns in your 40s?
- Lowered bone density
- Significant weight gain
Lowered bone density
Osteoporosis is a condition which occurs when the bones may become brittle or fragile due to a loss of tissue that cushions the bones.
Osteoporosis affects around 10 million people in the U.S., with 80% of sufferers being women.
Often, osteoporosis develops due to hormonal changes or vitamin and nutritional deficiencies.
There are a number of reasons that women are more likely to experience osteoporosis than men, one of the leading reasons comes down to our physical make-up, for instance, women have smaller, thinner bones than men.
Women of all ages can get osteoporosis, though it will generally doesn’t begin to affect women’s health until they are in their 40s, which is the decade in which the skeleton starts to lose bone mass.
Another leading cause of osteoporosis in women comes down to hormonal changes that are inevitable in later life. When estrogen declines, it can lead to a decrease in the protective tissues that coat your bones, one of estrogen’s main functions is to bind calcium to bones, which is why maintaining bone strength is more difficult at this age.
Your overall bone density will begin to decline at the age of 35.
Even though the majority of women will be diagnosed with osteoporosis in their 50s, now is the time to take action in maintaining strong and healthy bones via following an active lifestyle and ensuring that you are getting your daily intake of calcium and vitamin D.
Significant weight gain
Muscles burn more calories than fat. Does that sound odd? Let's unpack this statement. Muscle tissue goes further to fuel your metabolism in a more active way than fat tissue does.
Muscles burns more calories than fat tissue because muscles grow through a process called protein synthesis in the cell. Protein synthesis takes such a significant amount of energy that you can burn calories long after your work-out as your muscles grow and develop.
This means that the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn, even when you're relaxing.
The potential to gain a significant amount of weight in your 40s may occur to a condition called sarcopenia which is marked by a notable decrease in muscle mass each year, the process generally starts from the age of 40 years. Most people will lose half of their muscle mass by the time they reach the age of 70.
Other reasons for a loss in muscle mass and increased weight gain may include hormonal changes, inflammation, the development of other health conditions and a significant decrease in the amount of physical exercise a person is getting.
The best way to avoid the effects of your metabolism slowing down is to stay active and eat well, but don't feel bad for enjoying yourself or for taking some time for TLC, life is for living!
Things you can do to help your health in your 40s:
If you haven’t already, start tracking how much calcium and vitamin D you are getting each day. It is so important that you stay on top of getting sufficient vitamins and minerals for healthy bones and overall vitality.
If you smoke, stop now. Smoking increases your risk of developing osteoporosis.
Stay active, try light resistance and weight training to help keep your bones healthy and strong.
Track your hormones, the average age to experience the menopause if 51 years of age, if you start tracking your baseline levels now, you will be able to better understand your levels further down the line.
Women’s Health | What To Expect In Your 50s
When you hit your 50s, you need to start taking a range of health testing into consideration, most notably, you need to be attending pap smears, monitoring your blood pressure and taking cholesterol tests on a regular basis as part of your healthy living routine.
Other screening tests are recommended from the age of 50 and onwards including colorectal cancer screening, and mammograms, with regular breast screening throughout your 50s.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends women aged 50 to 74 have mammograms biennially starting at age 50. The American Cancer Society recommends women start mammograms at age 45 and have them every year until age 55, and then start having them every other year.
So what is one of the biggest health concerns for women in their 50s?
- The Side Effects Of Menopause
As stated, the average age for women to experience menopause is 51 years. The menopause generally lasts for 1-3 years. Menopause is diagnosed when you have gone 12 months without experiencing a period.
The Side Effects Of Menopause
Each woman's experience of the menopause will differ to the next, but some of the most common early signs of menopause include longer or shorter, heavier or lighter periods, hot flashes, night sweats, rapidly changing temperatures, sleep issues, fatigue, weight gain, thinning hair, dry skin and loss of breast fullness.
The menopause can be a cause of distress for women and hormone fluctuations may cause depressive or anxious states, which is why we will explain the symptoms of the menopause so you are best equipped to tackle it head on.
During perimenopause, hormonal imbalances are common, in particular, you can expect to experience a lowered volume of testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone. The leading symptom of perimenopause is a change in your menstrual cycle, this can include periods becoming lighter or heavier, longer or shorter. Spotting between periods is also common.
If you have a persistent change of up to 7 days, you are said to be in the early perimenopause stage, if you have a persistent change of upto 60 days, you are said to be in the late perimenopause stage.
Insomnia is said to affect up to half of women who are experiencing perimenopause, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Women who are in perimenopause or menopause stage are 2.5 to 3 times more likely to experience severe sleep problems, for a number of variables. These factors can include: hot flashes and night sweats, which make it more difficult to fall asleep, less time spent in REM sleep which is responsible for memory retention, learning and regulating your mood, sleep apnea, which is defined as momentarily not breathing while falling asleep and restless leg syndrome which is characterized by a tingling in lower limbs, this often results from iron deficiency which is common in women of an older age
Hot flashes are often associated with the menopause but it is helpful to know that they can begin during the perimenopause too. Hot flashes are the female body’s reaction to the lowered level of estrogen which is being produced in the ovaries. If you think about it, estrogen is a natural drug which has been pumped around the body during the body’s lifetime to date. When estrogen ceases to be produced, the body begins to withdraw and so begin the onset of hot flashes.
A hot flash is described as a spreading feeling of warmth throughout the body, that is most strongly felt in crevices and the neck. It is also common to experience sweating and an increased sensitivity to warm environments.
80% of women will be affected by vaginal dryness during the onset of perimenopause, with a further 20% of women experiencing vaginal dryness during the post-menopause stage. During the later stages of perimenopause. The lowered volume of oestrogen can begin to make the walls of the vagina thinner and dryer.
Vaginal dryness can cause friction during sex which may lead to lowered sexual desire or libido in later life. Vaginal moisturizers, the use of estrogen-dominant contraceptives and vaginal estrogen creams are said to be the best treatments for vaginal dryness as a symptom of perimenopause.
Lower Bone Density Or Osteoporosis
According to the Cleveland Clinic, there is a direct link between lowered estrogen and a lower bone density and/or osteoporosis.
As women enter menopause, bone can take longer to rebuild and this is said to be directly correlated to estrogen which plays an important role in the maintenance of healthy bones.
As you age, you may begin to notice that you are gaining weight that you cannot seem to lose or you are gaining weight in particular areas, like the abdominal area, thighs or back. This is common as women age and the metabolic rate begins to slow down. As we age, we may also find it more difficult to fit exercise into our daily routine which may contribute to finding it more difficult to budge the pounds.
You may also find it interesting to know that lowered estrogen may cause increased Lipoprotein Cholesterol, also known as LDL or bad cholesterol. This cholesterol is often stored in the arteries and causes an increased risk of heart disease in older women. As LDL increases, high-density lipoprotein also known as HDL or good cholesterol begins to decrease. HDL is the cholesterol which transports bad cholesterol to the liver for processing and then out of the body.
Lowered estrogen can cause a weakening in the pelvic muscles that are involved in bladder control. The continuing lowered level of circulating estrogen in your system can lead to incontinence.
The risk of bladder issues are most commonly caused by hormonal changes, including pregnancy, giving birth or perimenopause.
Cutting down on caffeine and alcohol, exercising regularly with an emphasis on kegel exercises and losing weight can drastically improve your continence.
Changes In Sexual Function
As you age, your libido, also known as sexual desire may decrease. This is a perfectly natural part of the ageing process and it isn’t something you should worry about unless you are noticing a drastic change in your level of sexual satisfaction. Try to remain open and honest with your partner about how you are feeling when it comes to intimacy and work out new ways that you can enjoy a mutually satisfying sex-life.
Things you can do to help your health in your 50s:
Monitor how many steps you are taking a day. It would also be useful to invest in wearable device that monitors and keeps track of your heart rate so you can begin monitoring your baseline heart rate while exercising.
Keep a diary of the menopause symptoms you may be experiencing and start to work on strategies that can combat these symptoms, if you require support during this time, make sure that you have a support network around you and that you are reading up on the steps you can take to relieve your day to day symptoms.
Eat a varied and nutritious diet, it may be a good time to meet with a nutritionist who can talk you through how to optimize your diet as you age, this could be hugely helpful in helping you make the right decisions in eating for better health moving forward.
Women’s Health | What To Expect In Your 60s
The majority of women and men will retire from their employment in their 60s, which can bring with it an upheaval in one’s emotional and physical health as people strive to fill their days with things that are as fulfilling as their past employment had been.
This is a time in which women and men will find themselves with a lot of extra time on their hands but may not know what to do with it, which can bring on a sedentary lifestyle, and in some a feeling of deflation.
When you reach your 60s, it is more important than ever to focus on your emotional and physical strength. This decade illustrates a real importance in preventing inflammation, maintaining healthy heart health and moving as much as is possible to strengthen your bones and joints.
So what is the biggest health concern for women in their 60s?
- Heart disease
In a survey conducted by the American Heart Association, about half of the women interviewed knew that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, yet only 13% said it was their greatest personal health risk.
While heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women, women are more likely to die within a year of having a heart attack than men. Women are also less likely to respond well to the treatment of heart disease.
Heart disease isn’t something that you should just begin to worry about in your 60s. Heart disease can affect both women and men at any age, in fact studies have shown that there is a higher number of younger women being diagnosed with heart disease.
Family history is the leading risk factor for developing heart disease.
Other risk factors that might increase your risk of having a heart attack include diabetes, certain chemotherapy or radiation therapies, menopause, inactivity, smoking and mental health conditions.
The average age for a heart attack in women is 70 years of age, which is why it is so important to start taking steps to building and maintaining a healthy heart during your 60s.
Things you can do to help your health in your 60s:
If you’re still smoking, quit now.
Avoid a sedentary lifestyle - stay as active as you can.
Eat less red meat and incorporate more healthy fats into your lifestyle. You can learn more about healthy fats here.
Remember that your metabolism isn’t the same as it used to be, but remember to enjoy yourself.
Making Time For Optimal Health
Whatever decade you’re living through, making time for optimal health becomes easier when you invest in using healthy techniques that work with you, as opposed to against you.
It’s also important to remember that life is for living and you shouldn’t set boundaries that are too strict because at the end of the day, life is for living.
One of the best things we can equip ourselves with, whatever the decade, is as much knowledge as we can about our health.
With LetsGetChecked, knowledge is at your fingertips and you don’t need to deviate from your busy schedule, you can take our at home health testing options at a time and place that works for you with 24/7 access to your results and on-going support from our medical team.
Written by Hannah Kingston | Medically Approved by Dr. Dominic Rowley