If you’re a 40-something woman, you’ve ideally already established a relationship with your primary care doctor. It’s best to start consistent checkups for common conditions even earlier. However, if you didn’t start this in your 30s, it’s not too late to book those appointments.
You may already be doing many of these health screenings, especially if you visit the doctor for an annual wellness exam. To make sure you’re covering all your bases, here are the health screenings women in their 40s need.
Heart disease gets more common as you age, but the risk factors may begin much earlier. Millions of U.S. adults have high blood pressure in their 40s and 50s, according to the CDC. This is a major risk factor for heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and more.
Many women also don’t realize their own risk for heart disease. It’s the leading cause of death in U.S. women. By keeping tabs on your risk factors in your 40s, you can make changes if needed to reduce your risk.
Blood pressure checks: Get your blood pressure checked every two years if it’s normal, which is anything less than 120 over 80. For high blood pressure results, you may need more frequent testing.
Cholesterol checks: There is some controversy over the best time to start regularly monitoring cholesterol, particularly if you have certain risk factors such as obesity, heart disease or family history. You will likely start cholesterol screenings in your 40s if you haven’t already. Some organizations — including the CDC — suggest starting cholesterol checks every five years in your 20s, while others say this is only necessary for those who have certain risk factors, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. The U.S. National Library of Medicine states women should get their cholesterol checked every five years starting at age 45. Talk to your healthcare provider about their recommendations based on your risk factors.
Over one in three U.S. adults have prediabetes, according to the CDC. Prediabetes is when someone has elevated blood sugar levels, but not high enough to qualify for type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes is reversible with healthy habits and possibly medications, and routine testing can help catch it early.
Diabetes screenings: Women who are 44 years or older should get tested for diabetes every three years. Get tested sooner if you have risk factors, such as high blood pressure or a history of gestational diabetes.
The risk of cancer increases with age, and many cancer screenings begin in your 40s.
Breast cancer screening: There is some discrepancy about when you should begin breast cancer screening. Some say you can wait until age 50, while others say you should start getting mammograms every year at age 40 to 45. Those with increased risk for breast cancer may need to start sooner. Talk to your doctor to decide what’s right for you personally.
Colon cancer screening: Tests for colorectal cancer are now recommended starting at age 45. You may need screening earlier if you have a family history of the condition or have risk factors such as polyps or inflammatory bowel disease.
Cervical cancer screening: You still need to get Pap smears and pelvic exams, especially if you are sexually active. You should get a Pap test alone every 3 years. Alternatively, you can get a Pap smear and a human papillomavirus (HPV) test together every 5 years. If you have abnormal results or have increased risk factors, you may need more frequent testing.
Skin cancer screening: You should get skin and mole checks by a dermatologist every year. If you spend a lot of time in the sun (or in tanning beds) or have additional risk factors, these screenings are crucial.
While there are other types of cancer screenings, other types may not be as helpful to the average person.
Don’t neglect your eyes and teeth! Problems with vision can have a big impact on quality of life, and detecting problems early may help prevent future vision loss.
Similarly, regular dental checkups can help detect gum inflammation and cavities early. Without treatment, these small problems may progress and lead to tooth loss. It is estimated that over 40 percent of U.S. adults above age 30 have periodontitis (gum disease), according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
Vision checks: Get a vision exam at least every one to two years or more, even if you generally have good vision. For many women in their 40s, it becomes harder to see things up close (a condition known as presbyopia) so your glasses prescription may need adjustment.
Dental exams: Visit the dentist for a dental exam and cleaning once or twice a year. People who have visited their dentist in the last six months have lower rates of gum disease than those who haven’t been to the dentist in over a year.
Vaccinations are an important part of your healthcare, even in adulthood. Here are the vaccines recommended in your 40s.
Flu shot: Continue getting this every year
Tdap booster: Continue getting this every 10 years
HPV vaccine: Some women may still consider receiving this vaccine up until age 45 based on discussions with their doctors
You may be eligible for other vaccines based on your personal medical history. Talk to your primary care provider about what they recommend.
You probably have a busy schedule, but it’s better to invest in your health now and catch potential issues before they worsen. Many health issues are easier to treat when they’re detected early. This may help improve your long-term quality of life — and it may even help you save money on healthcare over time.
American Cancer Society. (2022). American Cancer Society recommendations for the early detection of breast cancer.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2021). Cervical cancer screening.
American Heart Association. (2022). Understanding blood pressure readings.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Seasonal influenza (flu) vaccination and preventable disease.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). A snapshot: diabetes in the United States.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Tetanus vaccination.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Women and heart disease.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Heart disease: it can happen at any age.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). How and when to have your cholesterol checked.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Colorectal (colon) cancer: what should I know about screening?
National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). Definition of Pap smear.
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. (). Periodontal disease in adults (age 30 or older).
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2016). Preventing type 2 diabetes.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2017). Definitions & facts of gestational diabetes.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. (2016). Breast cancer: screening.