Forty is often seen as a significant milestone… a ‘big’ birthday. But if you’re busy getting on with life, it can be hard to see what all the fuss is about.
If you’re in your 40s now, you’re part of one of the first generations likely to be balancing a young family of your own with the responsibility of ageing parents. Your life expectancy is higher than your own grandparents and parents too, so looking after yourself becomes even more important to ensure quality of life as you age.
The key to health in your 40s? Taking it into your own hands. Literally.
Your health in your hands
Self-health checks become key to preventative health in your 40s. Getting hands-on and knowing your body can help identify issues early.
Keep an eye on moles and freckles—would you know if one had changed? Skin cancers aren’t usually painful, so early detection relies on you checking for changes. Signs to look for include new moles and freckles, changes in size or colour, moles that bleed or itch, or a spot that develops a lump or is raised from the skin surface.
It’s important to check testicles for changes. Its recommended to do regular checks from puberty, but it becomes more important in your 40s as your risk of disease can increase. If you notice any lumps or thickening of the tissue, talk to your doctor.
Self-checking breasts for lumps or changes is most effective when you’re familiar with the normal appearance of your breasts. It’s recommended you check your breast, armpit and up to your collarbone. Get into a habit of checking in the bath or shower, and remember a lump isn’t the only thing to check for. Keep an eye on dimpling of the skin, swelling of the breast, breast or nipple pain, or redness or flaky skin.
If you do notice a change, talk to your doctor straight away. Acting quickly can make all the difference for effective treatment.
Keeping your heart healthy needs some extra attention in your 40s. Heart health checks in your 40s include:
- annual blood pressure check once you’re over 40 (or earlier if you have a family history of high blood pressure, stroke or heart attack)
- blood tests to check things like your cholesterol levels—recommended every five years from 45, or from 40 if there’s a family history of heart disease
- from 40, your body mass index (BMI), weight and waist measurement should be checked by your doctor each year.
Women’s health and hormones
Every woman is different. Some women in their 40s are falling pregnant, naturally or through IVF, and starting families. Others may be starting to notice changes to their menstrual cycle as hormone levels begin to change.
Hormonal changes signalling the start of menopause can start as early as your 40s—you may even enter perimenopause, which is the lead up to menopause. You may experience symptoms up to 10 years before menopause, including irregular periods, trouble sleeping and vaginal dryness. If you’re not sure about your symptoms, talk to your doctor.
Keeping the kids covered
If you have older children, they’re likely to be living at home longer than ever before. Which you may encourage, or not! If your children are still under your roof, it’s worth looking into their health insurance coverage to make sure they’re still covered under the family policy, or have their own policy.
Manage the demands on your time
Your 40s are a demanding decade, with needs from children and parents intersecting. To support everyone who needs you, your own health must come first. Make time for your physical and mental health—even if it means booking out time in your calendar just as you would for any other appointment.