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Women’s Health Through the Years

Learn how to monitor your health and thrive at every life stage.

As you grow older, your body and your priorities continuously change. Although you cannot stop the clock from ticking, you can better prepare yourself for life—both today and to come—by learning how to proactively manage your health at any age.

Your 20s and 30s: Preparing for Pregnancy

In addition to annual wellness exams and regular Pap tests (every three years from ages 21 to 65), you may be considering how to best prepare for a healthy pregnancy.

“I recommend consuming a nutritious, well-balanced diet, exercising at least three times per week, and taking a daily multivitamin with iron,” says Michael Tiffany, DO, FACOG, Obstetrician/Gynecologist at Prevea Health. “If you plan to become pregnant soon, switch your multivitamin to a prenatal vitamin right away.”

If you become pregnant, ask your provider which medications are safe to continue taking and ways to stay physically active.

The following ideal weight-gain ranges during pregnancy are based on body mass index (BMI) before pregnancy:

• BMI of less than 18.5: 28 – 40 pounds

• BMI of 18.5 to 24.9: 25 – 35 pounds

• BMI of 25 to 29.9: 15 – 25 pounds

• BMI of 30 or greater: 11 – 20 pounds

Your 40s and 50s: Screenings and Self-Care

You may require annual mammograms and additional screenings to check your cholesterol numbers (every two years) and diabetes risk (every three years beginning at age 44). Schedule a first colonoscopy at age 50.

Also, take a look at your mental and emotional health.

“Trying to balance family, career, and social life can be difficult,” Dr. Tiffany says. “On top of that, many women go through perimenopause between ages 48 and 52. This causes hormone level changes that can intensify stress and may affect your relationships and overall quality of life.”

Help protect your mental and emotional well-being by prioritizing your needs. Dr. Tiffany recommends exercising regularly, engaging in hobbies you enjoy, socializing, making time for yourself, and most importantly, reaching out for help and guidance from a trusted health care provider whenever you have questions or concerns about the physical or mental/emotional changes you are going through.

Your 60s and Older: Weight Management and Bone Health

“Women in this age group often gain weight during menopause,” says Erica Barrette, MD, FACOG, Obstetrician/Gynecologist at OakLeaf Clinics. “Reduced estrogen levels and decreased muscle mass due to aging can make it harder to lose or maintain weight.”

Excess body fat, particularly stored around the belly, increases risk of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death for adults in the U.S. You can help prevent age-related weight gain through minor adjustments to your exercise routine.

“Everyone thinks the solution is to just go out and run,” Dr. Barrette says. “Running is great from an aerobics standpoint, but it is not the only answer. Incorporating weight training into your exercise routine two to three times per week can help you maintain or increase your muscle mass, which can help you manage your weight.”

Strength training plus adequate calcium intake (1,200 milligrams per day) can help reduce your risk for osteoporosis. Begin screening for this bone disease at age 65.

 Learn more at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital or at HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital.

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