A woman in her 40s or 50s is likely to have a set of challenges which are unique to this phase of life. Parenting teens or tweens is one of those challenges. A working mother is likely to be in a role with a high degree of responsibility at work. She is likely to be caring for her elderly parents or parents-in-law. She is likely to be in the perimenopausal age which brings a whole new set of physical, mental, emotional and social challenges. Basic, but important health tips for middle-aged women must be practiced.
The perimenopausal phase for a woman begins about 2-3 years before menopause. Menopause is the cessation of periods for a whole year. Perimenopausal symptoms may affect almost all aspects of health.
Common symptoms are:
* Hot flashes, cold sweats
* Mood fluctuations including irritability, tearfulness, feeling emotional, feeling lonely
* Skin changes like dryness, wrinkles, itching, hair loss
* Memory loss
* Sexual issues such as vaginal dryness, decrease in libido, loosening of the vagina
* Urinary leakage, urgency
* Weight gain, especially in the abdomen region
* Developing thyroid issues, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, weak bones, depression etc.
Health tips for middle-aged women
Being mothers of teens or tweens may be stressful in its way due to various causes. Dealing with their emotions, peer influence and pressure, deciding career paths, relationship issues etc takes a toll on a mother’s emotional health.
Healthcare for middle-aged women is hence of utmost importance to help them achieve a good quality of life and enjoy a healthy long life. Fit at forty, strong at sixty, and independent at eighty must be the goal.
1. Lifestyle changes:
Mothers of this age group must be mindful of what they eat. Certain supplements are all the more important at this age. For example, calcium through dairy products, millets etc keeps the bones healthier. Soybeans and derivatives help in providing nutrition as well as natural estrogens which help deal with some symptoms. Having plenty of fiber in the diet improves gut health and prevents gastrointestinal cancer. Protein needs also change with age.
About 120-150 minutes of exercise per week is recommended for these mothers. This should include moderate intensity of aerobic exercise, balance-related exercises and strength training. Aerobic exercise can be of any kind but must be sustained for at least 30 minutes.
Sleep is a vital healer. A good 7–8-hour undisturbed sleep will help rejuvenate the body and mind. Sleep hygiene is important too. Avoiding late nights and LED screens at least two hours before bedtime helps in improving sleep quality.
Mothers must engage in their hobbies. They provide a sense of fulfillment, achievement and contentment. Endorphins, the feel-good hormones kick in and boost mental health.
2. Screening for diseases:
Regular health screenings for women are a must. Various non-communicable diseases must be screened for.
* Diabetes, the silent killer, is diagnosed with blood sugar tests annually.
* Routine blood pressure must be checked to pick up undiagnosed hypertension.
* Thyroid function tests help unravel thyroid-related problems which are likely to crop up at this age.
* Weak bones can be picked up on the bone mineral densitometry or BMD check.
* A clinical breast examination, mammogram and ultrasound will be able to pick up breast cancer in the early stages.
* A Pap smear or a cervical cancer screening test will help in diagnosing precancerous cells in the neck of the womb.
* Haemoglobin, vitamin D and B12 tests will pick up these deficiencies.
* A body mass index will establish whether weight loss is a priority or not.
Certain supplements may be essential in this age group, depending on the blood test results. Calcium and vitamin D supplements help in keeping the bones stronger. Multivitamins help in addressing some deficiencies in this age group.
4. Mental health:
The spouse or partner and family needs to be aware of symptoms that need to be reported. Mothers may be feeling extremely lonely, emotionally deprived, or volatile with mood fluctuations. As long as they are fleeting and the woman can cope, it is of little worry. However, if the mother is becoming more withdrawn, isolated, sad and not enjoying things that she enjoyed in the past, it requires medical attention. Counselling will generally help. In some situations, psychiatric inputs and medication may be required. So, a mental health check is important.
In conclusion, mothers of all age groups require a unique and specific kind of healthcare. Looking after oneself will have compounding effects on the family and quality of life.