Believe it or not, many women after 40 feel healthier and better than they were in their 20s. That’s what gaining some wisdom and taking care of yourself does for you, go figure. Maybe you’re one of those ladies? Find out the truths, myths, and everything in-between for women after 40 in this guest post from health writer Caitlin.
We don’t just seek to manage the changes our bodies go through as we age – we strive to be at our absolute healthiest so that we can feel our best. But there’s just so much out-dated women’s health information out there to watch out for. The intentions are good, but for the sake of our health and well-being, we have to ensure we’re up-to-date and properly informed about some common misconceptions.
The deal with hysterectomies
Let’s get straight to the point: if your doctor tells you that you need a hysterectomy, take the recommendation with caution. Look for a second opinion and a third one even – unless it’s an emergency, of course. Hysterectomies have saved many women’s lives, and there’s no doubt about that, but the majority of hysterectomies today could be avoided.
Medicine has greatly advanced, and there are alternative, safe treatments that spare the uterus. They can replace hysterectomy procedures for non-cancerous conditions such as endometriosis, vaginal bleeding, uterine prolapse, and fibroids. If you do, after all, need a hysterectomy, ask about the new minimally invasive options.
Perimenopause and pregnancy
Did you know that women in their 40’s follow right behind teenagers as age groups with the most unplanned pregnancies? Yup, and that’s because there’s a stunningly widespread misconception out there about fertility during perimenopause.
Here’s the deal. Even when your periods are few and far between, you can still get pregnant. And that’s all the way up to menopause when it has been a full year since the final menstrual period.
The increased risk of UTIs
Perimenopausal and menopausal women are more prone to urinary tract infections. That’s a fact. But the reason behind this is not the result of being exposed to more bacteria, as many women mistakenly believe. UTIs become frequent as estrogen levels drop, and this is because estrogen plays an important role in protecting the body against infections. Lowered estrogen levels, vaginal dryness, and frequent UTIs are all connected. There are some helpful prevention strategies for recurring UTIs, as per Harvard Health:
- Urination habits: sitting in a relaxed seated position and relaxing pelvic floor muscles instead of straining to urinate
- Making sure you empty your bladder completely
- Emptying the bladder after sex to flush out any additional bacteria introduced to the urinary tract
- Drinking plenty of water and emptying the bladder regularly so that bacteria doesn’t build up and increase the risk of infection
The estrogen roller-coaster
Here’s a myth for you: estrogen levels go on a slow and gradual decline after 40.
Although this belief is so popular, it’s far from the truth. Estrogen dominance is very common for a number of reasons. Estrogen actually goes on wild rides often during perimenopause, reaching levels higher than those of younger women and then plummeting all the way down. It’s these fluctuations of estrogen that cause uncomfortable symptoms similar to those of menopause – hot flashes, mood swings, trouble sleeping, etc.
Doctors recommend reducing excess estrogen with natural supplements or using natural progesterone to prevent these estrogen spikes and regain physiological balance. It is possible to alleviate these symptoms and keep your estrogen fluctuations at bay. Just make sure to visit your doctor and ask about natural treatment.
Along with that, we can’t stress enough the importance of exercise and a healthy diet. Not only will it help regulate estrogen levels, but it’s also the absolute best way to raise dopamine levels naturally. By increasing dopamine production, you’ll be helping your entire system regain balance starting from the top – and that’s your mind. Never forget that although all these changes are of a straightforward medicinal nature, our bodies depend so much on our minds to guide them.
Breast cancer and genetics
When it comes to breast cancer, way too many women think they’re in the clear because there’s no history of it in their family. But here are the facts: about 10% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have a close family member also diagnosed, and another 10% have someone further down the family tree with the same diagnosis. The other 80% have no family history of breast cancer at all.
If you’re among the women who listened to their doctor’s advice and started to get regular breast cancer screenings, that’s the way to go. But if not, take this advice and pencil one in right now. Family history is one risk factor for breast cancer, and that’s why doctors are so pressing about it, but it’s not the only one.
Preventing heart disease with statins
Statin drugs are prescribed to help lower cholesterol levels, and their popularity has increased over the years as some studies have pointed to their role in preventing heart disease. But don’t be too quick to jump on the statin bandwagon. There hasn’t really been a single randomized controlled trial to prove this effectively.
They might be right for you, but what I’m just suggesting here is that we have to be cautious with prescription drugs as a form of prevention. If you’re concerned about heart disease, consult your doctor and learn about the details of your situation. When it comes to reducing the risks, lifestyle changes are always the best way to go.
Women after 40: Final words on health
Being over 40 now is different than it was for our mothers. Medicine has advanced and the lifestyle is different, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. The attitude has especially changed; your mother probably would have never wanted to talk about her reproductive health, estrogen, or the symptoms of menopause. And here we are, with an entire community dedicated to sharing stories and informing ourselves.
In light of that, let’s get rid of the old myths and use the advantages and the knowledge of the modern day so that we can nurture our well-being and feel our best.
About today’s writer
Caitlin is a bookworm and recreational dancer. She is also a medical student in love with science in all its forms. When she is not trying to find the meaning of life and Universe, Caitlin is researching and writing about various health-related and well-being related topics. She is happily addicted to art in all its forms, grilled tofu, and hiking. To see what Caitlin is up to next, check out Twitter.