6 Things You Should Know About Your Health Before You Turn 35, According To An Expert
The big 3-5 is an important milestone for a lot of us (though age, as they say, shouldn't define you). By now, it's probably helpful to know how investing works, as well as what you're looking for in a partner, if you're looking for one at all. But when it comes to your health, things start to change once you're five years out from 40, and it's important to have an understanding of the baseline. From your reproductive health, to your family history, you should know these six things about your health like the back of your hand by the time you're 35.
Education about your health becomes important in your mid-thirties because of several things. For one, you enter the most common age group for the risk of certain cancers, such as breast and ovarian cancer. For another, if your aim is to one day have children, experts say now is the time to start planning that process. "Childbearing may not be your goal at or after age 35, but again, knowing the status of your reproductive health gives you an indicator of what’s going on with your body in general," Ann Mullen, director of health education at Cycle Technologies, tells Bustle.
Furthermore, in today's political climate, when women's healthcare is under constant threat, it's important to be your own advocate as best you can. Knowing about these six aspects of your health are just the first step; acting on them is next.
1. Your Risk Of PCOS And Endometriosis
"The things you should know about menstruation before age 35 are also the things you should learn ideally when you’re 13 and start having periods," says Mullen. For example, conditions such as PCOS and endometriosis that affect about 5-10 percent of women do not begin later in life. They begin right away in adolescence when a [person] starts menstruating."
If you experience symptoms that could be signs of PCOS or endometriosis, such as painful periods, uncomfortable sex, or nausea during your cycle, you should get them checked out ASAP, and definitely before your 35th birthday. "These can be indicators of possible risk for subfertility, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and it’s better to address earlier than later," says Mullen.
2. Your Family History Of Illness
If a family member died of breast cancer or some other disease with high genetic risk, or an illness that came on in their mid-30s, now is the time to know about it. Breast cancer history is particularly important because it tends to develop during this age period, according to the organization Cancer Research UK. Collect a family history of deaths and illnesses, as much as possible, so that you and your doctors can be informed about illnesses that potentially run in your family.
3. Your Menstrual Cycle And How It Changes
What does your cycle look like? How long does it last in a typical month, and how does it affect your behavior and feelings? "When your periods are regular, you can generally be reassured that you are ovulating regularly and that your hormonal 'household' is in order," Mullen tells Bustle. "When the timing of your periods starts go get wacky, then you know something’s up." She recommends tracking your period using apps or a calendar. "This helps you know when irregularity is real or simply perceived, and it gives your doctor good information about your fertility-health and hormonal status."
4. What Your "Normal" Period Looks Like
"About the landmark age of 35 [...] it is very helpful to be familiar enough with your own menstrual pattern so that you are able to recognize when changes occur and when you are starting to head toward age-related subfertility and menopause," says Mullen. What does your every-month cycle tend to look like? How much do you typically bleed, and what color is it? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you figure out other questions about what's going on in your body.
5. How Contraception Works For You
By this point in your life, it's helpful to be familiar with the contraceptive option that works best for you, should you choose to use it. How do various options work with your lifestyle, other medications, hormonal balance, mental health, and other aspects of your life?
6. Your Vaccine History
By 35, the vaccines of your teen and childhood years may be in the distant past, but it's also the period where you have to be a grown-ass adult and have your medical records in order. What have you had done, when, and what do you require before you travel? Adults often require vaccinations specific to them, like the flu vaccine, so having your records will help you determine what you need to have done.
If you're not at 35 yet, don't wait till then to get your health house in order. Make sure you're getting your annual physical (with the same doctor), along with any other appointments that need to be taken care of. More knowledge about your body and your health means more control over your decisions in the future.