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8 Symptoms Women Over 40 Should Not Ignore

8 Symptoms Women Over 40 Should Not Ignore

Signs and symptoms women of 40 should not ignore…

Minor discomfort is often palmed off as ‘nothing serious’. But a number of trivial-sounding symptoms can sometimes be the signs of something more serious, and this is most apparent for women aged 40 and over.

Nieca Goldberg, MD, author of Dr. Nieca Goldberg’s Complete Guide to Women’s Health said:

“Women in midlife are often juggling 20 things at once, so they tend to neglect their own health…

“That’s why it’s especially important for them to be informed about what really needs medical attention.”

The 8 most important symptoms women over 40 should not ignore:

sings women over 40 shouldnt ignore 8 Symptoms Women Over 40 Should Not Ignore

Symptom: Pain and swelling in your calf

Probable Cause: Pulled muscle
Worst-case scenario: Blood clot in the leg

Calf pain is most common symptom of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot deep in the vein. This potentially fatal condition affects more than 500,000 people in the U.S every year, most of who are over 40.

You’re at increased risk for DVT if you’re on hormone therapy, the pill, patch or ring; if you’re a smoker, pregnant; if you’ve recently had surgery or been on a long flight; if you’re obese or if you have a family history of blood clots.

Signs it might be serious:

Significant swelling, redness, and pain (which can also be mild and easily mistaken for a cramp), are often signs that your condition maybe serious. The skin may also be warm to the touch.

Shortness of breath, coughing and chest pains maybe signs that the clot has broken free and traveled to your lungs.

When to act:

If any serious symptoms arise quickly and do not subside within a few hours, call a doctor. If you can’t be seen straight away then you should visit the ER asap.

Stephan Moll, MD, of the National Alliance for Thrombosis and Thrombophilia says:

“It’s better to err on the side of caution…
“Half of people with DVT develop a blood clot in the lungs, a condition that can be fatal.”

Symptom: Flu-like feelings (fatigue, nausea, sweating, chills)

Probable cause: Virus
Worst-case scenario: Heart attack

It’s a common misconception that a heart attack is coupled with serious chest pains, however, like Goldberg explains:

“Women tend not to have the Hollywood heart attack with significant chest pain…
“They sometimes just feel like they’re coming down with an infection.”

Among women aged 40 to 60, a heart attack is as common a killer as breast cancer, however you can reduce your risks by exercising regularly and keeping your blood pressure, weight and cholesterol under control.

Signs it might be serious:

Shortness of breath; dizziness; pressure, squeezing, or pain in the chest; pain in the back, arm, jaw, or upper abdomen.

When to act:

Time is crucial factor in surviving a heart attack, you’re at 50 to 70 percent increased risk of dying if your heart attack takes place outside a hospital.

If you experience some of the more serious symptoms, call 911. Be direct and assertive, tell them, “I think I’m having a heart attack. I need an ambulance.”

At the hospital, the staff will do an electrocardiogram to detect whether your heart is being deprived of oxygen, a blood test to measure cardiac enzymes and proteins, an echocardiogram to see if the heart has been damaged, and possibly cardiac catheterization inserting dye into the arteries to see them clearly with an x-ray.

Symptom: Burning, tingling, or numbness in your feet

Probable cause: A tight-fitting pair of shoes or socks.
Worst-case scenario: Prediabetes (elevated blood sugar levels)

An estimate 57 million Americans are prediabetic, but because prediabetes is often asymptomatic, most don’t know they’re on the cusp of serious illness – without intervention, the condition can developed into full-blown diabetes within a decade.

You are at increase risk of this condition progressing into type 2 diabetes if you are older than 45, overweight, sedentary, have a family history of diabetes, have had gestational diabetes, or if you have given birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds.

However recent studies have shown that by losing 5 to 7 percent of your body weight through diet and exercise, you can prevent the development of diabetes.

Signs it might be serious:

Some prediabetics may experience tingling and numbness in the feet, arms or hands. This occurs “because the illness damages the nervous and circulatory systems,” says John Giurini, DPM, of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.

Those with full-blown diabetes may also experience frequent urination, excessive hunger or thirst, weight loss, fatigue, or blurry vision.

When to act:

If you experience burning or tingling feet for more than a few weeks, call your internist and ask to be seen in the next week for a checkup and a fasting blood sugar test.

Symptom: Bloating and pelvic pain

Probable cause: Gastrointestinal bug
Worst-case scenario: Ovarian cancer

Many experts previously believed that symptoms for this deadly disease would not become parent in patients until it was too late, but in 2007 several medical groups, including the American Cancer Society, warned that bloating and pelvic pain could be some of the early signs. And “if caught early, ovarian cancer is up to 90 percent curable,” says Barbara Goff, MD, of the University of Washington.

You’re at increased risk of ovarian cancer if you have a family history of the illness, have tested positive for mutations in the genes BRCA 1 or BRCA 2, or have been on hormone therapy.

For those who have had at least one child, breastfed a baby, taken birth control pills, and maintained a healthy weight, risks are reduced.

Signs it might be serious:

Other common symptoms of ovarian cancer can include feeling full quickly or having difficulty eating, urinating frequently or with great urgency, and changing bowel habits.

When to act:

Linda R. Duska, MD, of the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville advises:

“If the symptoms are new, occur almost every day, last more than a few weeks, and don’t go away if you eat more fiber, reduce your salt intake, or exercise more frequently, schedule an appointment with your gynecologist,”

Diagnosis can be difficult, so don’t be afraid to push your doctor for appropriate testing: a pelvic ultrasound and perhaps a blood test to check your level of CA-125, a substance found in high amounts in the blood of many women with ovarian cancer.

Partly because the incidence of ovarian cancer rises with age, the ACS recommends annual pelvic exams for all women over age 40.

Symptom: Persistent cough

Likely cause: A cold
Worst-case scenario: Adult-onset asthma, a condition that can worsen as women enter midlife.

The risk factors for developing asthma include obesity, allergies, smoking, and a recent respiratory tract infection, and according to Vincent Tubiolo, MD, of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology;

“Women who have taken estrogen for 10 years have a 50 percent higher risk of developing asthma…

“And people with acid reflux are at increased risk, possibly because the acid irritates the airways and triggers an asthmatic cough.”

Signs it might be serious:

Tubiolo says, “If you cough only when you’re exercising or sleeping, that can indicate asthma,”

Other symptoms include wheezing, particularly when you exhale; shortness of breath; and tightness in the chest.

When to act:

Common symptoms of asthma aren’t usually an emergency, but an attack might be. Since the disease is progressive, it’s a good idea to consult a doctor.

Asthma is diagnosed with a pulmonary function test that measures airflow. “People feel a lot better once they receive treatment,” Tubiolo says. Reduce your risk by avoiding smoke, including the secondhand variety, and maintaining a normal weight.

Symptom: Constant tiredness

Likely cause: The flu
Worst-case scenario: Sleep disorder

Daily fatigue is often dismissed as an inevitable consequence of aging, but feeling tired no matter how well you rest is a common symptom of sleep apnea, a condition that relaxes the muscles of the throat, making it difficult to get sufficient air, and the lack of oxygen triggers mini awakenings; and restless legs syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes an itchy, twitchy sensation in the legs that makes it difficult to stay still and, as a result, fall asleep.

“Many people think sleep apnea only affects overweight men, but it’s nearly as common in women after menopause,” says Lisa Shives, MD, of Northshore Sleep Medicine, in Evanston, Illinois. Like sleep apnea, RLS often worsens as you get older.

Sufferers of RLS can control symptoms by limiting caffeine, walking regularly, and massaging or stretching their legs before bedtime.

Losing weight, avoiding alcohol, quitting smoking, and sleeping on your side, can all help to reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea.

Signs it might be serious:

If you snore and often wake up feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck, it’s likely you have sleep apnea. Other signs if sleep apnea include waking with a headache and sore throat; experiencing memory or concentration problems; feeling irritable or depressed.

Fatigue-related symptoms such as irritability are also common with RLS.

When to act:

If the symptoms persist for more than a month, see your internist, who may be able to diagnose the problem based on your description. Otherwise you will be referred to a sleep specialist for further evaluation.

Sleep apnea is treated with a continuous positive airway pressure device, a mask that fits over your nose and/or mouth during sleep and helps open airways with gentle air pressure.

Symptom: Problems with speech

Likely cause: Sleep deprivation
Worst-case scenario: Stroke

It can be easy to laugh off a slip of the tongue, putting it down to nothing more than lack of sleep. But getting sentences confuse, slurring words and mispronunciations can all be symptoms of a stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel in the brain either bursts or is blocked by a clot, depriving brain cells of oxygen.

“Language impairment when you have trouble speaking, or say nonsense words or words that don’t go together is common in left hemisphere strokes,” says Argye Hillis, MD, of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

You are at increased risk of suffering a stroke if you get migraines with an aura; if you smoke; are overweight; have heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure; if you are on the pill or taking HT.

Signs it might be serious:

Weakness on one side of the body, slurred speech, dizziness, blurred vision, headache, neck stiffness, or lack of coordination are also common indications you may have suffered a stroke.

A temporary bout of amnesia (not being able to remember what you did for the past few hours) or symptoms that last only a few minutes could signal a transient ischemic attack (TIA) – a ministroke that raises your risk of the real deal substantially, especially over the following few days.

When to act:

Receiving a clot-reducing drug within the first three hours improves the odds of recovery by 30 percent, therefore a quick response is critical.

“Call 911 if any of these symptoms develop suddenly for example, if you’re not able to do something that you could do five minutes earlier,” Hillis says.

“Even if symptoms go away on their own, you should get to the emergency room as soon as possible to be evaluated for the cause of the TIA, so a stroke can be prevented,”

Symptom: A new mole

Likely cause: Harmless skin growth
Worst-case scenario: Skin cancer

Although it is quite common to develop new moles during adulthood, finding new ones after the age of 40 could be sign of melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.

The more moles you have, the greater your risk for melanoma. Being light-skinned and spending lots of time in the sun raises your risk, as does every single sunburn.

“If you have lots of sun damage, like freckles, you have a higher risk too,” Brodell says.

You can greatly reduce your risks of developing melanoma by apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 every day, have full-body screenings annually, and check your body for new or changing moles once a month.

Signs it might be serious:

Robert Brodell, MD, a dermatologist in Warren, Ohio, and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology advises:

“If a mole new or old turns darker or black, becomes asymmetrical, or causes pain, itching, or bleeding, you should get it checked out right away,”

When to act:

Brodell suggests calling you dermatologist as soon as you notice something unusual, if you don’t have a dermatologist, ask your doctor for a referral.

The dermatologist will check your whole body for signs of skin cancer and take a biopsy of anything that looks suspicious.

“Fortunately, when melanoma is caught early it’s very curable,” Brodell says.


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