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While many women accept the symptoms of menopause (such as hot flashes and mood swings) as an inevitable part of life, others find it difficult to come to terms with this change.  Unfortunately, most women tend to sweep the symptoms, and other health problems they may be experiencing, under the rug rather than deal with them.

If you are a woman above the age of 40, or know someone who is going to turn 40 soon, this year, in honour of International Women’s Day on March 8, make sure they don’t ignore their health.

Here are a few tests that women should take after they turn 40:

  • Pap smear. Women over 50 should have this test done every two years to detect infection, abnormal cervical cells and cervical cancer which is caused by the HPV virus; symptoms only become apparent in the advanced stages. Cervical cancer is the second most common cause of cancer related deaths in women worldwide.
  • Bone density scan (DXA). Recommended for women over 65 and those who are at risk for osteoporosis (the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density). This test measures bone density in the hip and spine. There is no cure for osteoporosis, so early detection and timely treatment is the best way to deal with it.
  • Vitamin D levels. Most women are found to be deficient in vitamin D, which is essential for the body to process calcium. A lack of vitamin D, which can be due to inadequate exposure to sunlight, can result in unhealthy bones. Vitamin D also aids in preventing heart disease and age-related eyesight problems. Deficiency can be countered by spending at least 30-minutes in the morning or evening sunlight and taking vitamin supplements. Tests should be conducted after a consultation with a doctor.
  • Mammograms. To rule out breast cancer risk, mammograms should be conducted annually by women over 40.

– Dr Samia Babar

The writer is Director, Health Awareness Society.

First published in the Health Advertiser Section of The DAWN National Advertiser on February 26, 2012.