HCA Virginia - July 08, 2020

Mature. Mid-life. Middle-aged.

No matter what you call them, your 40s are a time to take your health a little more seriously and be proactive in protecting your quality of life with each passing year. Regular screenings help you manage the health challenges mid-life can bring by detecting potential problems when they are most treatable.

For your best health, find a primary care doctor and build a partnership that lasts for years. Don’t forget to maintain the good habits you started in your 20s and 30s by continuing to get regular physicals and other needed screenings to keep that healthy momentum going strong.

Here’s a list of the screenings and tests you should have as you head into your 40s.

Colorectal cancer

The American Cancer Society recommends that everyone at average risk of colorectal cancer start regular screening at age 45. Testing can be done with a stool-based test or a visual exam of your colon and rectum with a colonoscopy every 10 years or sigmoidoscopy every five years. If you choose to begin screening with a stool-based test, any abnormal test results should be followed up with a colonoscopy for a more accurate diagnosis.

You are considered an average risk for colon cancer if you have:

  • No personal history of colorectal cancer or certain polyps
  • No family history of colorectal cancer
  • No personal history of inflammatory bowel disease

Eye disease

Eye disease can often go unnoticed until it’s done permanent damage to your eyesight. Watch for the early signs, which may start around this age. A comprehensive eye exam is the best way to detect an issue before it becomes a serious health concern.

  • If you are 40 or older, get a comprehensive dilated eye exam to set a baseline for future examinations.
  • Your ophthalmologist will recommend how often you should have follow-up exams based on the results of your initial screening.
  • Screening can detect diseases like glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy in their early stages when they’re most treatable.

Cholesterol

As you get older, your cholesterol levels tend to go up. High cholesterol indicates you could be at risk for heart disease if you don't take steps to address the issue. Expert opinions vary on the age cholesterol screening should start. Still, most agree it should be a regular practice by the time you hit middle age.

  • There are both good and bad types of cholesterol. Different blood tests are used to measure each type.
  • You should have regular fasting lipoprotein screenings to measure your total cholesterol and monitor any changes.
  • Your doctor will use your health history, risk factors, and lifestyle to determine how frequently you should be screened.

Blood Sugar Level

High glucose or blood sugar level can lead to insulin resistance, prediabetes, and diabetes and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.

  • If you are a woman over age 44, you should have your cholesterol checked every three years.
  • If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about the need for earlier testing.
  • If you have high blood pressure or other risk factors for diabetes, you may need more frequent testing to ensure your blood sugar level is within a healthy range.

Breast health

A mammogram is an X-ray of your breasts that can help detect breast cancer. Deciding when to begin having mammograms and the testing schedule you should follow is a personal decision you should make with your doctor's help. It's essential to find an OBGYN you can trust.

  • If you are aged 40 to 44, you should have the choice to start annual mammograms if that’s your preference, according to the American Cancer Society.
  • You should discuss the risk of screenings versus their benefits with your doctor to determine what's right for you.
  • If you’re 45 to 49 years old, you should get a mammogram every year.

Cervical cancer

It’s a common misconception that you can stop testing for cervical cancer once you quit having children. But that’s not true, according to American Cancer Society Guidelines.

  • Continue the cervical cancer screening you started in your 30s with a combined Pap test and human papillomavirus (HPV) screening every five years through age 65 as long as your test results are normal.
  • If you’ve had a totally hysterectomy with removal of your uterus and cervix you should stop having cervical cancer screenings unless your hysterectomy was in response to cancer.
  • If you are at higher risk for cervical cancer or screening shows abnormal results, your doctor can help determine your best screening schedule.

It’s safe to get care

Don’t put off the screenings and medical tests you need because you’re worried about the coronavirus (COVID-19). We are committed to your health, and we're taking every precaution to keep you protected. Visit our Coronavirus Resource Hub for details on all the ways we’re working to keep you safe so you can be confident in getting the care you need.

Are you looking for a primary care physician to help manage your care and address any issues that arise over the years? Visit our online physician directory to find a primary care doctor and schedule an appointment today. Now is the time to start building your healthcare team.


Sources: