You’re no longer considered a youngster.
But you’re not real old, either.
Welcome to your 40s, a decade that can be pivotal to your health.
“In your 40s, you’re approaching middle age, so preventative care is important,” said Alicia Saville, a nurse practitioner of Novant Health Pfafftown Family Medicine in Pfafftown, North Carolina. “You want to treat issues before they become problems and help track your progress toward your health goals.”
A routine annual physical examination is a productive start to monitoring your health and preventing minor problems from escalating. Your physical usually takes less than 30 minutes and is covered 100 percent by your health insurance as a preventive service.
Saville recommends 12 screenings, tests and immunizations that you should have in your 40s.
1. Body mass index (BMI)/obesity screening
Your weight and height are measured to calculate your BMI. If your BMI is 25 to 30 percent, you’re considered overweight. Anything more than 30 percent is obese. The higher your BMI, the more chance you have of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and other diseases. Losing about 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can help reduce the risk of developing illnesses associated with obesity.
2. Depression screening
You'll answer a series of questions to determine if you’re depressed or at risk for suicide. Your doctor will assess your situation and, if necessary, recommend treatment that could include counseling and/or medication.
3. Alcohol, smoking and substance misuse screening
You'll fill out a questionnaire to determine amounts and frequency of use. If your answers raise concerns, the doctor will follow with questions to determine if there’s a dependence. If you’re using tobacco or other potentially harmful drugs, your doctor will discuss quitting and a plan to achieve it.
4. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening
Everyone should be tested for HIV (through a blood test) regardless of sexual activity or lifestyle. HIV can be transmitted through body fluids like blood, semen and breast milk, or by sharing needles and blood transfusions.
5. Blood pressure check
Your doctor will measure blood pressure with a cuff. The result is two numbers: top (systolic) and bottom (diastolic). For a healthy person, a normal range is under 130 on the top and under 80 on the bottom, guidelines that were lowered in late 2017. If you have other medical problems or diseases in your family, your blood pressure goal may be lower than 130/80. If you’re at risk for developing high blood pressure, your doctor can recommend diet and exercise plans to reduce your risk.
6. Cholesterol screening
A cholesterol screening (also called a lipid panel) is a blood test that measures the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood. Those numbers help determine if you’re at risk for cardiovascular disease. Your body needs some cholesterol. But if you have too much, it can build up in your arteries and put you at risk of stroke and heart attack. Your doctor will recommend lifestyle changes if you’re at risk.
7. Diabetes screening as part of a cardiovascular risk assessment
You’ll take the fasting plasma glucose test, which involves checking the glucose level in your blood while you are fasting. If your blood glucose level is too high, you will be retested later to confirm a diabetes diagnosis. If there’s a problem, a doctor will recommend lifestyle changes.
8. Mammogram screening for breast cancer
Women should begin mammogram tests (it’s an X-ray of the breast) at age 40 to establish a baseline, then every year.
9. Pap test screening for cervical cancer
Women also get a Pap test, which looks for any abnormal cells on the cervix, as well as for HPV (human papillomavirus) infection. Women should have their first Pap test at age 21, and be retested every three to five years.
10. Eye and dental exams
If you wear glasses or contact lenses, keep up with the changes in your vision by updating your prescription. But you also want to be certain there are no vision problems developing. You should have eye exams at least every two years once you’ve reached 40. Schedule dental cleanings and exams every six months, and be diligent about brushing and flossing.
11. Influenza vaccine
Get an annual flu vaccine before flu begins spreading in your community. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in your body. So aim to get your flu shot by the end of October.
12. Tetanus-diphtheria booster
You likely received tetanus and diphtheria vaccines as an infant or youth. A booster is recommended every 10 years. You’ll receive the shot in your arm.
Find a Novant Health primary care physician who can help with your everyday health concerns and protect your health with regular checkups, immunizations, health screenings, and treatments for illness and injuries.