For many of us, our thirties are the years when we start to knuckle down and work out exactly what we’re doing career and family wise. And while we’re focussing on that, it’s easy to let health slip down the agenda.
According to experts, however, we should be just as mindful in our thirties about our health as we will be in our fifties and sixties.
“It’s not about suddenly making huge changes,” Dr. Kim Glass, a GP at Bupa Health Clinics says. “Similar to being in our twenties, we should remain mindful of how much alcohol we drink and avoid smoking, but we also need to be aware of potential female health issues,” she adds.
So what exactly are the female health issues that are most likely to affect us in our thirties, and how can we do our best to reduce our chances of being impacted by them?
Every year in the UK, around 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and it’s the most common cancer in women aged 35 and under. That’s why, between the ages of 25 and 49, women are invited to have a smear test every three years – and it’s extremely important to go. “Early detection of any problems can hugely influence the outcome,” explains Dr Glass.
“One in 20 women have a smear test result that comes back abnormal. While this doesn’t mean they have cancer, investigating can help reduce the risk, and can detect harmful viruses like subtypes of HPV (Human Papillomavirus) which can lead to cervical cancer in later life. I can’t say it enough – these screening tests really do save lives,” she urges.
The doctor also notes that women who notice any irregular bleeding should speak to their GP about it as a precaution. “While this usually isn’t a sign of something serious, irregular bleeding can sometimes be a symptom of an infection or a benign endometrial or cervical polyp (which is a non-cancerous growth in the womb or cervix lining),” the expert says.
Cervical cancer isn’t the only cancer risk for thirty-somethings. “Women in their thirties should regularly check their breasts and the surrounding area for lumps,” says the doctor. “It’s important to know what your own breast tissue feels like and to be breast aware so that if anything changes, you’ll be able to spot the signs early on.”
As part of a generally healthy lifestyle, Dr. Glass adds that “it is also important to follow a healthy diet, rich with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.” Yes, doctor.
For many women, their thirties can be very stressful. Pressures at work and financial responsibility are just a couple of the things going on for many in this decade.
“When we’re stressed we release hormones, including cortisol, which can cause your body to be stuck in ‘fifth gear’’; but we’re not designed to be in the fast lane all the time,” notes Dr. Glass. “If this is not managed correctly, stress can cause immune system problems which could increase our risk of infection. Stress can also be the cause of cardiovascular disease or problems with our digestive system later in life.”
Women in their thirties are more likely to develop musculoskeletal problems, than those in their twenties. “Our muscles wear with time and as we age our joints degenerate, which means that we’re at a greater risk of twisting a knee or spraining an ankle,” says the expert.
“We’re not as flexible as we were and therefore short, high-intensity exercises during this decade can fuel back, knee and hip problems. It also puts stress on our joints which could prompt problems in the decades to come. To counteract this, start a sustainable fitness regime that works for you and your lifestyle,” the doctor adds.
To help women in their thirties reduce the health risks they could face in later life, Dr Kim Glass has these top tips:
It goes without saying that women should never miss a cervical screening test. But be vigilant in between tests as well. Any irregular bleeding should be checked. Also get into the habit of checking your breasts every day in the shower and be breast aware.
It’s easy to get swept up in everyday life but try and avoid stress by taking stock of life when things start to become overwhelming. Introduce regular exercise so you’re getting some time to de-stress. Exercising also releases endorphins, which makes us feel better.
Warm up, warm down
Make sure you always warm up and down before and after exercise, otherwise the only lasting effects you’ll have is painful joints and other muscle problems.
Exercise regularly. This will help offset the risk of osteoporosis and help your body hold onto muscle mass. It also maintains a woman’s natural range of motion helping to keep flexibility.