San Diego Health - Spring 2024


Women’s Health

Through the Decades

For most women, life at 30 looks very different than it does at 50. Just as your life continually changes, so do your health care needs and concerns. Here, Scripps Clinic physicians address the most common health issues in your 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond.

30 s Your 30s In your 30s, preventive care is key. If you don’t already have a good relationship with a primary care physician—whether they are an internal medicine doctor, family physician or OB/GYN—now is the time to establish one. “Prevention is better than cure and is the heart of what we do in primary care,” says Dana Mourad, MD, internal medicine physician, Scripps Clinic, Carmel Valley. “Between the ages of 20 and 40, a lot of our focus is on investing in our health and trying to prevent disease as much as possible.” Diet and exercise are important at any age, but during your 30s, building healthy habits for a lifetime really comes into play. Quality sleep, stress management and strong social connections are also important components of good health. Make sure you’re up to date on recommended immunizations and preventive screenings, including an annual skin cancer check for any unusual spots. Pap tests for cervical cancer are recommended every three years unless you have had an abnormal result or risk factors. Another common concern in a woman’s 30s is family planning. Whether you're hoping to start a family, prevent pregnancy or have questions, your doctor can help you focus on your health. Pregnancy after age 35 is considered high-risk, so it’s especially important to understand the risk factors and any special care you might need. If your primary care doctor does not provide gynecologic care, schedule an annual visit with an OB/GYN also. “Even if you aren’t planning to get pregnant, the female anatomy is complex,” says Dina Fainman, MD, OB/GYN, Scripps Clinic. “We have expertise in a variety of womens' unique health issues.”

Your 40s In addition to Pap tests and skin checks, you’ll

likely have your first annual mammogram to screen for breast cancer at 40 and your first colonoscopy

for colon cancer screening at 45, if you are at average risk. Your doctor also may recommend cholesterol screening. If you’ve put off starting a family until now, talk to your doctor about the challenges associated with pregnancy later in life. “Women should recognize that fertility declines quite significantly after 40. Not only is it more difficult to become pregnant, but the risk of complications also rises,” says Dr. Fainman. “Still, I absolutely talk to these patients about contraception, because it is possible to become pregnant at this age.” Another concern is perimenopause, a transitional period before menopause when women experience hormonal changes. “The big talk that I have with my patients in their 40s is menopause awareness, because perimenopause starts one to five years before the official menopause transition,” says Dr. Mourad. “Menstrual changes, hot flashes, night sweats, sleep problems, vaginal dryness—these are all symptoms women may experience as part of the transition to menopause, and there are ways to help them navigate these changes and make them easier.”

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