If you’re a young Gen Xer like me—or one of the first Millennials—that means you are in your 40’s. And the time has come for additional health concerns and needs.
Even if you’ve spent your 20’s and 30’s living an active and healthy lifestyle, your body starts to change in your 40’s. And staying on top of doctor’s visits can help you minimize the risk of future complications or chronic, debilitating illnesses.
Taking control of your health in your 40’s with guidance from your physician is important for your longevity, as well as your quality of life as you age. On that note, here are five key health appointments you should start scheduling asap.
1. A General Physical
This one should go without saying, but a general physical is the first appointment you want to make in your 40’s—and it should be an appointment you make every year. During a general physical, your doctor will run through a list of questions about your own medical and family history, and get up-to-date on your medications and allergies.
The physical exam portion will feature an assessment of your heart, lungs, abdomen, eyes, ears, mouth, muscular system, weight, blood pressure, and blood work. Which will give the doctor a snapshot of your current health situation.
This appointment is the perfect time to ask your doctor any questions you might have and talk about strategies for staying healthy.
2. Diabetes Screening
Diabetes screenings are important in your 40’s because, per the CDC, the risk of Type 2 diabetes increases with age beginning at age 45. Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can be hereditary. But Type 2 is commonly associated with poor eating habits.
It’s also connected to conditions like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which has symptoms like irregular periods, acne, unwanted hair growth, and weight gain.
Prediabetes and diabetes can be tested with a simple blood test that will measure your blood sugar levels. The doctor can also provide direction for diet and exercise, and provide any medicine or treatment necessary to help manage or stimulate insulin.
Like a general physical, you should also schedule a diabetes screening annually.
3. STI Screening
Growing up in the 1980s meant growing up in a world where safe sex was a constant hot topic due to the rise of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like HIV/AIDS. So, what I’m about to share might cause a bit of deja vu.
STIs are often associated with younger age groups. But the research shows a dramatic increase in older adults in recent years. Those of us aged 40 to 44 are currently the second-largest category for new HIV infections.
No matter your relationship status—single, widowed, currently back in the dating pool after a divorce, or even married—it’s a good idea to get an STI screening if you’re having unprotected sex.
In addition to HIV weakening your immune system, syphilis can cause neurological issues, herpes can cause painful outbreaks, and Hepatitis B and C can lead to liver cirrhosis or cancer.
An STI screening will consist of a urine test for gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomonas, and a blood test for everything else.
4. Gynecological Exam
Annual gynecological exams are still very important in your 40’s, even if you’re done having kids or not sexually active. These appointments matter because of the growing prevalence of breast cancer, cervical cancer, autoimmune diseases, and hypertension in your 40’s.
Fertility can also be a major issue in your 40’s, and that means advanced fertility interventions might be necessary. For many of us, our 40’s is when we start our transition to menopause. So checking in with your OBGYN once a year is a smart decision.
Your appointment will include a clinical breast exam to check for lumps, skin changes, nipple discharge, and swollen lymph nodes. You’ll also get a pap smear and a screening test for cancer and precancer of the cervix.
If you’re looking to conceive in your 40’s, an appointment with your OBGYN can include testing to evaluate how aging is affecting your fertility.
Along with a gynecological exam, you should also schedule a mammogram. The risk of breast cancer increases after the age of 50, according to the CDC. But the purpose of screening in your 40’s is to identify abnormalities or cancer at an early age, so treatment can begin ASAP.
A mammogram is simply an x-ray picture of the breast that doctors use to detect early signs of breast cancer. Even though it might feel a bit weird to put your boobs on a plastic plate and have them squished in a pretty uncomfortable manner, this one appointment could be life-saving. It’s absolutely worth it.
Other health appointments to consider in your 40’s are dermatological exams for early detection of skin cancers and a colonoscopy to test for colorectal cancer. It’s also a good idea to visit your dentist regularly because healthy teeth and gums can prevent inflammation, which can make you more susceptible to conditions like heart disease.