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What is COPD and How Does It Affect Your Health?

It is completely normal to get a little winded while exerting yourself, but if you experience shortness of breath on a regular basis, it could very well be a problem. Difficulty breathing paired with cough, sputum, and wheezing are the hallmarks of a condition known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. Keep reading to learn more about COPD and its effects on your health.

What is COPD, Anyway?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes airflow from the lungs to become obstructed – difficulty breathing is the primary symptom. Though COPD is a disease in and of itself, it is often linked to two other common conditions – emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is characterized by inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes which are the structures that carry air to and from the alveoli (air sacs) in the lungs. Emphysema is a condition in which the alveoli in the bronchioles, the smallest air passages in the lungs, are destroyed or damaged by cigarette smoke and other toxic or irritating gases.

What Are the Symptoms and Causes?

While difficulty breathing is the most common symptom of COPD, you may also experience cough, mucus or sputum production, and wheezing. Unfortunately, these symptoms often do not present until the disease has progressed and significant lung damage has occurred. In fact, the diagnostic criteria for chronic bronchitis include a daily cough and sputum production for at least three months out of the year for two consecutive years. Emphysema is also a disease that develops over time and can cause serious damage to the respiratory system.

The shortness of breath that commonly indicates COPD can happen anytime, but most frequently occurs during physical activity. Other symptoms of COPD may include the following:

  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Chronic cough
  • Sputum-producing cough
  • Cyanosis (blue lips or fingernail beds)
  • Low energy level
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Swollen ankles or feet
  • Unintentional weight loss

Another common symptom of COPD is having to clear your throat first thing in the morning, typically due to excess mucus in the lungs. Many people with COPD experience one or more symptoms on a daily basis, though there may also be periods during which symptoms worsen for a period of several days. Additionally, the severity of these symptoms is likely to worsen over time – especially if you keep smoking cigarettes.

Smoking cigarettes is the most common cause of COPD, particularly in the developed world. In developing countries, however, it is more commonly caused by inhalation of cooking fumes in poorly ventilated areas. While many smokers develop some degree of reduced lung function, only about 20% to 30% actually develop clinically apparent COPD. Other factors that contribute to COPD include long-term exposure to air pollution, secondhand smoke, fumes, dust, and work-related chemicals. There is also a rare form of the disease caused by an alpha-1 deficiency. Alpha-1-deficiency-related emphysema is caused by a genetic condition that impairs the body’s ability to produce normal amounts of the alpha-1 protein which protects the lungs from damage.

How Does COPD Affect Your Lungs?

The lung-damaging effects of COPD are obvious in that the most common symptom is difficulty breathing, but how exactly does this disease affect your lungs and the rest of the respiratory system? In order to understand the effects of COPD, you need a basic understanding of how your respiratory system works. When you breathe air through your mouth or nose, it travels down your trachea or windpipe into the lungs through two large tubes called bronchi.

Once the tubes enter the lungs, they separate into many smaller tubes like the branches of a tree – these smaller tubes are called bronchioles, and there is a cluster of air sacs or alveoli at the end of each. Inside the alveoli are collections of tiny blood vessels called capillaries which absorb the oxygen from the air you breathe, allowing it to enter the bloodstream. From there, the oxygenated blood is pumped throughout your body, and you exhale the waste product carbon dioxide.

So, what happens when you develop COPD? Healthy lung function is dependent on the elasticity of the bronchial tubes and air sacs which enables them to physically force air out of your body. COPD causes those structures to lose their elasticity, allowing them to over-expand which prevents all of the air from leaving – it actually traps some of the air in your lungs each time you exhale. As you can imagine, it is difficult to catch your breath when trapped air prevents your lungs from filling properly.

How Else Does COPD Affect Your Health?

By the time you develop symptoms of COPD, it is likely that a significant amount of damage has already been done to your lungs, but what about the rest of the body? How else does COPD affect your health?

Long-term COPD can lead to a number of complications including frequent respiratory infections, heart problems, high blood pressure, and even depression. For people with COPD, respiratory infections are a double-edged sword. Having COPD makes it more likely that you will catch a cold, the flu, or pneumonia and any respiratory infection will make it more difficult to breathe, thus exacerbating the damage to your lungs and making your COPD worse. COPD can also cause high blood pressure in the arteries supplying blood to the lungs – this is known as pulmonary hypertension – and, for unknown reasons, COPD may increase your risk for heart disease or heart attack. Having chronic COPD may also impact your daily life to the degree that you develop depression.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is no laughing matter, and it is a very real risk if you are or have ever been a smoker. While COPD is very serious, it is also very treatable – quitting smoking and making other healthy changes to your lifestyle can help you manage the disease and improve your quality of life, but you should start sooner than later.

The Top 5 Surprising Risk Factors for Heart Attack

According to the CDC, a heart attack occurs in the United States every 40 seconds. Also known as myocardial infarction, a heart attack occurs when part of the heart fails to receive adequate blood flow. Each year, nearly 800,000 Americans suffer a heart attack and, for more than 200,000 of them, it is a second attack.

Heart attacks can range from mild to severe, but the scary thing about them is that they can come on seemingly without warning. What’s more, about one in five heart attacks is silent – this means that it causes damage to the heart muscle but shows no sign of it. You may already know about certain risk factors for heart attack such as obesity and genetics, but there are some surprising risk factors you should learn about as well.

What Exactly Happens During a Heart Attack?

Your heart is the center of your cardiovascular system – the system that is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood throughout your body. When you breathe air into your lungs, the oxygen enters your bloodstream and is then transported throughout the body. Not only does your heart pump oxygenated blood to other vital organs, but it requires a certain amount of oxygen itself in order to function properly. When that oxygen supply is reduced or cut off, it can trigger a heart attack.

In simple terms, a heart attack happens when oxygen-giving blood flow to the heart is severely reduced or cut off completely. There are a number of different contributing factors which can cause this to happen, but atherosclerosis is the most common. If you have high cholesterol and follow an unhealthy diet, you are more likely to develop an accumulation of fat in your arteries. That fat combines with cholesterol and other substances to form plaques that thicken the artery walls, causing them to narrow which then restricts blood flow – this is called atherosclerosis.

When an artery becomes so narrowed that it restricts blood flow which triggers a heart attack. The longer the heart is deprived of oxygen, the more damage it is likely to sustain. Treatment for heart attack involves opening the blocked artery to restore blood flow. Once that goal is accomplished, additional treatments or therapies may be administered to mitigate symptoms and to repair the damage.

What Are the Risk Factors for Heart Attack?

Eating an unhealthy diet and failing to get any regular exercise are two of the biggest risk factors for heart attack along with obesity and family history. Your risk for heart attack may also be higher if you have certain cardiac risk factors such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. What you may not know, however, is that there are some other indications which may not seem related to your heart health but could very well contribute to an increased risk for a heart attack – here are the top 5:

  1. Your skin is dry and scaly.
  2. You’ve been exposed to environmental toxins.
  3. You take OTC pain relievers for cold or flu.
  4. You have chronic shoulder pain or stiffness.
  5. Your ears have taken a beating.

If you have dry patches of red, scaly skin on your body – particularly on the elbows – it could be more than just dry skin, it could be psoriasis. Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition triggered by autoimmune activity that speeds up the life cycle of cells, causing them to accumulate on the surface of the skin in formations known as plaques. Because the driving force behind psoriasis is inflammation, it has been linked to heart disease. In fact, studies show that having psoriasis can increase your risk for heart disease by two to three times. This could also mean an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

The air you breathe, the food you eat, and the products you use could be full of toxins without you realizing it. Though hidden toxins are dangerous, it is the obvious things like smog which are the most damaging. Environmental toxins like smog can wreak havoc on your health, but you may be surprised to learn that they could also increase your risk of heart attack. Studies show that cumulative exposure to smog can worsen cholesterol and other risk factors for heart disease and, in conjunction, heart attack.

When you are hit with the flu or develop a cold, you probably reach for over-the-counter medications to relieve the aches and pains. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen are generally regarded as safe, and they can help relieve mild symptoms. According to a study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, however, these same drugs could increase your risk for a heart attack if you take them while suffering from a respiratory infection. Researchers have yet to explain the link, but it could be related to an increased risk of bleeding and blood clots.

Chest pain that radiates to the neck and arm can be an early indication of heart attack, but what about shoulder pain? Chronic shoulder pain may not directly cause heart problems, but recent studies have identified a correlation between an increased risk for heart disease and shoulder trouble. In a study of 36 participants, those with numerous risk factors for heart disease were found to be 5 times more likely to have shoulder joint pain than those with no cardiac risk factors.

When you think of heart disease and heart attack risk factors, your ears probably never enter your mind. According to new research, however, prolonged or frequent exposure to loud noises was correlated with higher rates of irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), heart failure, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. So, while noise may not directly cause heart disease, it may have a negative impact on various aspects of cardiac health which could contribute to a higher risk of a heart attack.

Heart-related symptoms are never something you should ignore, even if they seem mild. You should also keep in mind that the symptoms of heart attack look different in men than in women, so take the time to educate yourself for your own protection.


The Top 6 Things You Should Never Do to Your Eyes

Take just a moment to think about what life would be like without vision. Unless you were born blind, you have no concept of what it means to not be able to see, but if you were to suddenly lose your vision, you would very quickly learn just how much relied on it. Because your vision is so essential, it pays to take good care of your eyes. Unfortunately, you are probably making some simple mistakes on a daily basis that could be dangerous for your eyes.

Maintaining healthy eyes and proper vision requires more than just an annual visit to the eye doctor. First and foremost, you need to understand how your daily habits have the potential to affect your eyes and thus your vision. Next, you should educate yourself about the most common eye problems, so you can learn how to avoid them. That’s exactly what we’re going to cover in this article, so keep reading!

Never Do These 6 Things to Your Eyes

When it comes to keeping your eyes healthy, it’s largely a matter of common sense. You should never put something in your eye that you aren’t absolutely sure is safe, and you should take basic precautions regarding exposure to bright light. In addition to these basics, never do the following 6 things:

  1. Never sleep in contacts. Contact lenses physically cover the surface of the eye which can block oxygen from reaching the corneas – this can result in infection or corneal ulcers. Even the “overnight wear” contacts can contribute to this problem so always remove your contact lenses for anything longer than a cat nap.
  2. Never wear makeup to bed. Not only is wearing your makeup to bed bad for your skin, but it can clog the glands around your eyes and increase the risk of skin irritation. Always include makeup removal in your nightly skincare routine.
  3. Never apply liner to your waterline. Applying liner to your waterline might complete your look, but it can also mix with your tears and coat your contact lenses with particles that attract bacteria. Stay safe by only applying liner to your outer lash line.
  4. Never use expired eye care products. Eye care products have an expiration date for a reason – not only are they less effective past that date, but they could actually harm your eyes. Always check products like eye drops, contact solution, and even the contacts themselves to make sure they are fresh.
  5. Never misuse eye drops. While eye drops may help to relieve problems like redness in the short term, using them more often or for longer than recommended can actually make the problem worse. For example, redness-reducing eye drops work by shrinking the blood vessels in the eye, but that can lead to circulation problems if you use them too much.
  6. Never skip your annual eye exam. Your annual eye exam is your best protection against serious and chronic eye problems – problems that can occur within the structure of the eye where you can’t see them. An annual eye exam does more than just check your vision – it also checks for problems like glaucoma and macular degeneration.

In addition to avoiding the six things listed above, don’t make the mistake of ditching your sunglasses during the winter. Though you may be tempted to soak up every ray of sun you can on a bright wintery day, you still need to protect your eyes from UV rays – the sun can still damage your eyes even in the winter. Wearing sunglasses does more than just make it easier to see in bright conditions – they also help prevent corneal burns, cataracts, skin cancer on the eyelids, and even macular degeneration. Just make sure that the shades you pick block at least 99% of both UVA and UVB rays.

What Are the Most Common Eye Problems?

Now that you know the basics about what not to do to your eyes, you should take the time to learn some healthy habits for protecting your eyes and that starts with learning about some of the most common eye problems. The more you know about common eye issues, the better you will be able to protect yourself from them or, at the very least, identify the symptoms early on so you can seek treatment. These are the five most common eye problems:

  1. Cataracts – A cataract is a clouding of the lens that can obstruct your vision. In most cases, cataracts are related to aging, but other factors such as smoking and diabetes can contribute as well. Symptoms of cataracts may include blurred vision, faded color vision, glare, poor night vision, and double vision. Unfortunately, cataracts do not go away, and surgery may be required if they cause vision loss sufficient to impact your daily activity.
  2. Refractive Errors – Vision is the result of light passing through the structures of the eye and being refracted, or bent, to form images. When that refraction becomes skewed, it results in vision problems such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. These problems are best treated with corrective lenses.
  3. Glaucoma – The term glaucoma refers to a collection of diseases that damage the optic nerve in the eye, typically the result of fluid accumulation and rising pressure inside the eye. Unfortunately, symptoms of glaucoma typically don’t develop until the problem becomes advanced and vision loss due to glaucoma cannot be restored. Increased intraocular pressure can be corrected with medicated eye drops, however, to slow or prevent progression.
  4. Diabetic Retinopathy – A complication of poorly managed diabetes, diabetic retinopathy is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue in the eye. In the early stages, this condition causes no or only mild vision problems, but it can progress to total blindness. Controlling blood sugar is the best way to prevent this problem.
  5. Macular Degeneration – The leading cause of vision loss, macular degeneration affects more people than cataracts and glaucoma combined, and it is an incurable eye disease. Macular degeneration is caused by deterioration in the central part of the retina, the macula, and there are several different types of the disease. Risk factors for macular degeneration include genetics, age, race, and smoking habits.

Because you use your eyes all day every day, you may not notice when small or subtle changes occur. As soon as you become aware that something has changed, you should contact your doctor. Catching eye problems in the early stages is essential for treatment, especially for diseases that can lead to a partial or total loss of vision. Even if it turns out to be nothing, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Pregnant? Here Are 6 Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy for Diabetics

Pregnancy is a challenging time for any woman. Between the hormone fluctuations, swollen feet, and sore back, just making it through your daily routine can be rough. If you are pregnant and have diabetes, however, things can get even more complicated.

It is entirely possible to manage your diabetes while pregnant, but there are a few special precautions you should take for your own safety and for your baby’s wellbeing. Keep reading to learn about six simple tips for a healthy pregnancy with diabetes.

The Top 6 Tips for Managing Diabetes While Pregnant

If you have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar levels stable is of the utmost importance. Your diet and lifestyle play an important role in diabetes management and, if possible, you should get things under control before you even think about getting pregnant. Whether you planned to get pregnant or not, however, there are some simple tips you should follow to ensure a healthy pregnancy if you are diabetic – here are the top six:

  1. Understand the risks. During the first 8 weeks of pregnancy is when your baby’s heart, brain, kidneys, and lungs start to form and high blood sugar during this period can affect your baby’s development and increase the risk for birth defects. High blood sugar may also increase your risk of miscarriage and the risk that your baby might be born too early.
  2. Get your bad habits under control. If you are a smoker, you should quit. If you are obese, lose some weight. If your diet is unhealthy, fix it. Making improvements to your diet and lifestyle will not only benefit your health but the health of your baby as well. The sooner you get your health under control, the better it will be for you and your baby.
  3. Control your blood sugar. As a diabetic, you should already be taking steps to keep your blood glucose levels stable, but this becomes increasingly more important if you are pregnant. Talk to your doctor about the best method for managing your blood sugar and then stick to his advice. You’ll also need to test your blood sugar regularly, so you will know when it is getting too low or too high. While pregnant, you should be testing your blood sugar at least once an hour.
  4. Pay attention to your diet. The food you eat is the biggest factor that affects your blood sugar levels, so be very mindful of your diet. Focus your meals on low-glycemic foods like lean proteins, whole grains, fresh vegetables, and healthy fats. Try to limit your intake of refined sugars and processed carbs because these foods are the most likely to cause a spike in blood sugar. If you have trouble keeping food down during pregnancy, keep some whole-grain crackers handy to settle your stomach when you have morning sickness.
  5. Develop a support network. Being pregnant is difficult enough, but the added challenge of diabetes on top of it can be overwhelming at times. Talk to your partner about what they can do to help you manage your diabetes while you are pregnant and don’t be afraid to rely on them when you need help. You may also find it beneficial to join an online support group or find one in your community. Not only is it helpful to have this kind of support, but it will benefit you to connect with people who are in the same situation as you.
  6. Consider going off your oral diabetes medications. For many diabetics, oral medications are essential for managing blood sugar. Unfortunately, diabetes medications like metformin have not been proven safe for use during pregnancy. There is no concrete evidence to suggest that they are dangerous, but neither is there enough evidence to show that they are safe – it is better to be safe than sorry. Talk to your doctor about going off your diabetes drugs and what you’ll need to do to manage your diabetes in another way.

As a diabetic, getting pregnant comes with certain risks, but diabetes is by no means impossible to manage while you are pregnant. If you are not currently diabetic, don’t assume that you are out of the woods – gestational diabetes is a condition that affects about 4% of pregnant women. For your own safety and for the health of your baby, talk to your doctor about diabetes if you are pregnant so, if you have it, you can get it under control.

Follow This Daily Routine to Get a Good Night’s Sleep Every Night

When you wake up in the morning, do you feel groggy? Do you drag yourself out of bed, feeling as if you have barely slept? Sleep is one of our most basic needs as humans, yet many people fail to get enough of it on a daily basis. You may not realize it, but the negative health effects of sleep deprivation can start to set in after just one night of poor sleep.

If you feel like you could be getting more or better sleep on a daily basis, take a moment to examine your current routine. Do you give yourself enough time to sleep a full eight hours? Do you guzzle caffeine in the morning and into the afternoon? Do you give yourself time to wind down before you hit the hay? These are things you should think about, but you should also consider implementing the following daily routine to make sure you get a good night’s sleep every night.

Wake Up – 6 am

You can choose the time you wake up each morning, but for the purpose of this article, we’ve chosen 6 am. More important than the wakeup time you choose, however, is making sure that you wake up at the same time each day. Set your alarm for the time you want to get up and then actually get up! Don’t hit the snooze button or lay around in bed – get up and get started with your day.

Drink Water – 7 am

During the first hour after waking up, you should drink a full glass of water. Fill up a big glass and sip it while standing in front of a south-facing window to get your daily dose of sunlight and Vitamin D. If you want to maximize your benefits, fill up a water bottle and go for a 15-minute walk outdoors.

Eat Breakfast – 8 am

Even if you aren’t feeling hungry, it is important to start your day right with a healthy breakfast. The best breakfast is one that is rich in lean proteins and healthy fats – this will keep you feeling full and satisfied throughout the morning because it provides slow-burning energy. Skip the sugary cereal, muffins, and bagels because they’ll just spike your blood sugar and cause you to crash later.

Start Work – 9 am

When you get to work, you might be tempted to start off by pouring yourself a big mug of coffee. Unfortunately, drinking coffee within 90 minutes of walking can actually keep your body from waking up naturally, so make sure to wait at least an hour and a half after waking to pour that first cup.

Drink More Water – 10 am

Coffee should not be the only thing you’re drinking at work, especially in the morning. You should plan to drink a full 8 ounces about every hour. It may help to keep a water bottle on your desk where it can be a visual reminder to stay hydrated.

Take in Some More Sun – 11 am

If you weren’t able to take in your daily dose of sun in the morning, give it another try mid-morning. If it’s cloudy, or if you don’t have access to a sunny window, consider setting up a light therapy device on your desk. You can set it on a timer and reap the same benefits as natural sun exposure without leaving your desk or missing out on valuable work time.

Eat a Healthy Lunch – 12 pm

At lunchtime, choose a healthy option like a nice salad with chicken or fish, some chopped veggies, and a handful of toasted nuts. You could also opt for a sandwich on wholegrain bread, just make sure you don’t overdo it on the mayonnaise. If you can, try to enjoy your lunch outdoors.

Take a Walk – 1 pm

After you’ve eaten lunch, go for a brisk walk if you have enough time. Exercising during the day will help with your natural sleep cycle later, and your sleep will be more restorative as well.

Put Away the Mug – 2 pm

If you’ve been drinking caffeine during the day, 2pm is the time to put away the mug. If you drink caffeinated beverages after 2pm, it can interrupt your natural sleep cycle later and affect your sleep quality as well.

Take a Power Nap – 3 pm

If you are experiencing an afternoon slump and you want to take a nap, go for it – just make sure that you don’t wait much longer than 3pm to do and limit it to 30 minutes. Short naps just 20 to 30 minutes in duration are unlikely to interrupt your sleep cycle later, but longer naps might.

Take your Supplements – 4 pm

Rather than taking them first thing in the morning, some health professionals recommend taking supplements in the afternoon. Some supplements you might take to improve your sleep include omega-3s, vitamin D3, and magnesium. You can also take melatonin at night if you struggle to fall asleep.

End the Work Day – 5 pm

You’re lucky if you have a job that ends right at 5pm and allows you to go home, leaving your work behind. If you aren’t so lucky, end your workday as soon as it is realistic and avoid taking your work home if you can. It is important to draw a line between work time and personal time.

Have a Healthy Dinner – 6 pm

To prevent digestion from interfering with your sleep later, you should have dinner at least two hours before bed. You should also try to make it a healthy, balanced meal with lean proteins, whole grains, fresh veggies, and healthy fats.

Relax a Bit – 7 pm

After dinner is the perfect time to relax and take a little time for yourself. Engage in a relaxing activity you enjoy for 30 to 60 minutes as a means of blowing off steam and relieving stress.

Time to Unplug – 8 pm

At least an hour before bed, you should put away your smartphone and turn off the TV. Too much exposure to blue light (such as from TVs and mobile devices) can throw off your body’s melatonin production which could keep you from getting sleepy at the right time for bed.

Follow Your Routine – 9 pm

In the final hour before bed, you should complete your nightly routine. Maybe you’ll take a soothing bath, read a good book, or complete your skin care routine. It’s also a good time to turn down the thermostat a few degrees because a lower body temp is associated with improved sleep quality.

Hit the Hay – 10 pm

You should be going to bed at the same time each night, making sure you have time for a full 7 to 8 hours of sleep. It may help you fall asleep to keep your bedroom cool, quiet, and dark so use blackout curtains and a white noise machine, if needed, to make it happen.

It may take time to adjust your sleep habits, but you will find that the effort is well worth it. Start today by making some simple changes to your routine that will support healthy sleep. Once you’re able to implement this daily routine on a regular basis, you’ll be sleeping like a baby every night of the week!


Are You A Woman Over 40? Take These Medical Tests Today

Turning forty can be a bit of a shock but with age comes experience and, hopefully, wisdom. Unfortunately, getting older can also come with an increased risk for certain health problems. If you’re in the tail-end of your thirties or you’ve already gone over the hill, there are certain medical tests and health screenings you should take to make sure you stay healthy for decades to come.

The Top 10 Medical Tests to Take After 40

Though you should always keep an eye on your weight and activity level, these and other things become increasingly more important as you age. Keep reading to learn about the top ten medical tests and health screenings you should have after 40 to keep an eye on your health. Here they are:

  1. Blood pressure – The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends having your blood pressure checked at least once a year starting at age 20, but you should have it done more often as you get older. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, so make sure you’re in the healthy range which is below 120/80 mm Hg.
  2. Blood lipid profile – A simple blood test is all you need to check your blood lipids – this includes LDL or “bad” cholesterol, HDL or “good” cholesterol, and triglycerides. These are also risk factors for heart attack and stroke, so have them checked at least once a year.
  3. Blood sugar – If you are obese or have a family history of diabetes, your risk of developing the condition is much higher. A fasting glucose test will give a good indication of whether or not you are diabetic, as can an A1C test and a review of symptoms such as frequent urination, increased thirst, and increased appetite.
  4. Eye exam – Even if you have never had to wear glasses, an annual eye exam is important to catch developing problems in the early stages. Once you hit 40, you should be tested annually for glaucoma and various forms of retinal
  5. Mammogram – Recommendations vary regarding mammograms for women – some say you should have them annually after age 40 while others say wait until 50. The American Cancer Society recommends annual breast cancer screenings for women between 45 and 54 with biennial screenings for women over 55.
  6. Pap smear – Women of childbearing age should receive an annual pap smear, but once you are done having kids, you may not go to your ob-gyn as often as you used to. Once you hit 40, however, it is recommended that you have a pap smear and an HPV test every 3 to 5 years. If you have multiple sexual partners, you may want to include an STD test as well.
  7. Skin exam – Prolonged sun exposure without protection can greatly increase your risk for skin cancer and other dermatological problems. By the time you hit 40, you’ve accumulated a lot of sun exposure, so it may be time for a skin exam. In fact, most dermatologists recommend annual exams.
  8. Thyroid test – It is estimated that as many as 13% of women between the ages of 35 to 65 have hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid gland. When you hit 35, it is a good idea to have your thyroid function checked at least every 5 years – more often once you hit menopause.
  9. Mental health screening – Mental health problems like depression and anxiety can affect women at any age, but hormonal changes related to menopause might cause new problems to develop in your forties. Talk to your doctor about mood-related symptoms and consider a mental health screening.
  10. Dental exam – It is estimated that as many as 90% of people around the world have some level of gingivitis or other forms of periodontal disease. As you get older, you may develop dental problems that could increase your risk for gingivitis. Daily oral hygiene is important to prevent periodontitis, but you should also have a professional cleaning every 6 months.

When it comes to your health and wellness, you are your own strongest advocate. Make sure you see your doctor at least once a year and talk to him about the medical tests and health screenings from the list above. Even if they don’t show any developing problems, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you are in the best of health. If they do show something, you’ll have hopefully caught it early enough to treat it properly.


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