With seemingly endless streams of wellness tips, tricks and advice, we went to the experts to find out what women should really do to live their healthiest lives at every age.
You know the main role of your 20s is just figuring out how to do life, but it’s also a crucial time to start laying the groundwork for healthy habits that will follow you throughout your years. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends instilling a daily routine with at least 30 minutes of physical activity, at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep and a healthy diet.
One key practice to begin in your 20s, according to Dr. Julia Watkins at the West Little Rock Women’s Center, is an annual pelvic exam. Patients should also receive a pap smear every one to three years, the regularity of which is a decision to be made with the help of a gynecologist.
This stage of life is when you begin conversations with your doctor about your future — like if you plan on having children any time soon — but also about your family history.
Dr. Tonya Martin-Dunlap, a breast oncology surgeon at Arkansas Breast Surgery, suggests getting a yearly breast exam starting at age 25, the same age to begin genetic testing for those with an elevated personal risk. Make a list of all cancers on both sides of your family, noting specific types of cancer and ages at which family members were diagnosed, and ask your doctor if genetic testing is appropriate for you.
For many women, their 30s are focused on motherhood. For those concerned with the natural decline in fertility that begins at age 30, the Central Clinic for Women says not to worry. They suggest taking folic acid supplements for red blood cell formation and talking to your OB-GYN about pursuing a healthy pregnancy.
But for all women, being proactive about your health is the best type of medicine, and that goes double for heart disease. As the number one killer of women in the U.S., heart disease and the battle against it is vital, and that fight starts young.
Elements like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking are all basic risks for heart disease, and according to Dr. Deepali Tukaye, a cardiologist at CHI St. Vincent Heart Institute, lack of activity and stress can also play a huge role.
Cholesterol and blood pressure levels rise as we age, and with them the risks for heart disease. This is especially true after menopause, and while that may seem far off now, the lifestyle habits your form in your 30s will drastically affect your chances down the road.
Maintaining your weight, eating properly, stress management and regular exercise, particularly workouts that get your heartrate up, are all great ways to boost cardiovascular health. Talk with your primary care provider about any heart issues in your family, and stop in at least once a year for a checkup.
It’s a well-known guideline that all women should receive a yearly baseline mammogram starting at age 40, if high personal risk for breast cancer hasn’t begun that routine already. And with the well-known statistic that one in eight women develop breast cancer in their lifetime, it’s natural to feel a little nervous when this appointment rolls around.
Digital breast tomosynthesis, also known as 3-D mammography, is an improved screening technology that increases cancer detection rates and decreases the need for additional mammographic images, especially in patients with dense breast tissue where tissue overlap can make traditional screenings difficult to read.
“The need for fewer additional mammographic views decreases patient stress and anxiety,” says Dr. Gwendolyn Bryant-Smith, chief of breast imaging at UAMS.
Bryant-Smith’s team is able to perform a 3-D mammogram in less than 10 minutes, with patients receiving same-day results and much-needed peace of mind.
By this stage in life, the hope is that you’ll be able to see all the ways those healthy habits set in motion years ago are paying off. Even so, staying vigilant about rising obstacles is essential, such as scheduling a colonoscopy every 10 years beginning at age 50. Talk to your doctor about new wellness regimens, covering topics like diet, exercise and whether you should be taking low-dose aspirin regularly.
Although the medical world is making strides in informing women on concerns like heart disease, much of society is still fairly reserved on the topics of menopause and postmenopausal issues. Forces at Little Rock Gynecology and Obstetrics and West Little Rock Women’s Center are doing their best to change that.
Vaginal rejuvenation procedures like the ThermiVa Thermal Energy Treatment at Little Rock Gynecology and Obstetrics and MonaLisa Touch at West Little Rock Women’s Center offer restorative effects as an alternative to surgery. These quick treatments can help relieve common postmenopausal problems like vaginal dryness and painful intercourse, and even potentially reduce the risk of breast and endometrial cancers.