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Farge: Changes, concerns for women’s health evolve into someone’s 40s

Forty is more than a milestone birthday — it’s the start of a big decade of change for a woman’s health.

During this decade, a woman’s metabolism slows down, estrogen may start to wane, symptoms of perimenopause (or menopause transition) begin and more.

Here’s four essentials for staying healthy during your 40s and beyond:

Don’t forget your pelvic exam and pap smear

You might be in your 40s, but this is still an important test to check for cervical cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.

Pelvic examinations are recommended every year. Depending on your medical history, your doctor may recommend a pap smear every 1 to 5 years.

Talk to your doctor about perimenopause

The level of estrogen in your body rises and falls unevenly during perimenopause and your menstrual cycles may become irregular, lengthen or shorten and/or become heavier or lighter.

Other symptoms can include moodiness, insomnia, vaginal dryness, cognitive problems and more.

From diet to lifestyle changes to medications, your doctor can advise on different ways to manage these symptoms.

Schedule an annual mammogram

Starting at age 40, yearly mammograms are recommended by the American Cancer Society. A mammogram can often find or detect breast cancer early, which is when it’s easiest to treat.

In addition to a traditional mammogram, St. Charles Parish Hospital now offers Hologic® digital breast tomosynthesis or “3D mammograms,” which take multiple images as an x-ray arm sweeps in a slight arc over the breast, allowing the doctor to examine one breast layer at a time.

The combination of 2D and 3D mammography has been found to identify up to 20 percent more invasive cancers than conventional 2D mammography alone.

Establish (and maintain) healthy habits

Eat right, exercise, practice selfcare and get a flu shot every year.

These healthy habits go a long way to maintaining a woman’s overall wellbeing, especially as your metabolism slows down.

Finding the right OB/GYN is important for women to stay healthy.

From annual exams to menopause, Ochsner’s OB/GYNs offer the care you need through all stages of your life.

Dr. Diana Farge is a Baton Rouge native and is an OB/GYN at Ochsner Health Center – River Parishes in LaPlace. Farge went to the University of Louisiana Lafayette and Louisiana State University New Orleans for medical school. Farge completed her OB/GYN residency at LSU Baton Rouge, where she served as chief resident. For more information or to make an appointment, call 985-652-3500.