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Making Your Health a Priority at 40

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Visiting Kaiser

I can’t believe that soon I will be turning 40! I still feel like I’m 25, and loving every little bit of life. Unfortunately, my body is slowly aging, and it is more important than ever to take care of myself so that my body can keep up with my zest for life.

One big mistake that I have made over the past ten years is not taking care of my health. I have been busy keeping up with my three kids demanding schedules, traveling to see as much of the world as I can, and sneaking in a lot (maybe too much) of work in my free time. But, I am not alone. A lot of other moms find themselves spending their 30’s taking more care of their families more than themselves, and when 40 comes around – it’s time to stop and make your health a priority.

When I was having a consult at Kaiser Permanente Orange County, I got honest with the physician I was meeting with. After my younger son was born, my OBGYN retired, and I have put off finding a new doctor for preventative care for way too long. As my 40’s have been closer in sight, I have been more worried than ever about not taking better care of myself, and would even have nightmares about the possibility of breast or cervical cancer. I opened up and shared these concerns with the physician I was meeting with, and she helped to alleviate my concerns. I thought that she would judge me or look down upon me, but she reassured me and made me feel more comfortable than any other physician I had seen before. She immediately ordered a pap smear, gave me a breast exam, and sent me downstairs to have lab work done. Thankfully – everything came back ok.

But I was lucky.

I then found it important to encourage all of you, our readers, to not make the possibly fatal mistake I made, and take care of your health – especially if you’re approaching your 40’s. Following my consultation, I expressed my passion for wanting to share health tips for women in our community that are close to turning 40, and Kaiser Permanente Orange County offered me an opportunity to speak with one of their top physicians Dr. Paula Richter.

The most valuable advice that Dr. Paula Richter provided was to have open communication with your doctor and to get preventative care. The doctors at Kaiser are passionate about keeping families out of emergency rooms and physicians offices and out enjoying life. Preventative care is the key to living life to its fullest.

What do you need to know about preventative health care as you approach 40? Find out with advice from Dr. Paula Richter at Kaiser Permanente Orange County:

The big question we all want to know is about mammograms! We asked Dr. Richter what age does she recommend a mammogram? “There are so many recommendations, so we like to individualize based on family history, and individual circumstance. Starting at 40 for a baseline is not a bad idea. Regularly is important by the time you are in your 50’s, but if it brings a piece of mind then definitely a baseline in your 40’s is helpful. Mammograms are most valuable when compared to a prior mammogram. If my patients are hesitant, we will agree on getting a baseline. If my patients get a lump a couple of years down the line, we have a baseline to compare it to.” -Dr. Paula Richter

What can you expect when getting your mammogram? “At Kaiser, we are all digital which is good for pre-menopausal breasts. It is less radiation, but still the same squeezing, unfortunately, but it is the best technology out there. Less false positives – and they squeeze because they care. If our patients are high risk, we do recommend them annually.” -Dr. Paula Richter

As I approach 40, I’m scared to death about menopause! You too? What are the signs of menopause? “Average time is 51 years old. We define it when you’ve had no period for a year. The average woman stops her period at 50, but menopause can start anywhere from 45 to 58 years, and some women even younger. Some of the pre-menopausal changes can start 5-8 years beforehand. Some of the most common signs that some hormonal changes are happening are that the periods will change. Sometimes they will get a little heavier, at times a little lighter, at times the frequency will vary a little bit. If it changes – we want to know that is just hormonal changes and nothing else your body is trying to tell us.” -Dr. Paula Richter

Am I only the one who still wants another baby? I maybe have one more year. Is it safe? “At Kaiser, they offer consults with their genetic counselors who go over the age risk with their patients and testing. At Kaiser, they have noninvasive prenatal testing where we screen your blood and amplify your DNA to screen for the most common chromosomal problems. That can be done as early at ten weeks, and it is an option that is non-invasive, and give our patients peace of mind and reassurance. We offer invasive testing with 100% certainly with amniocentesis, and we can do Amniocentesis (sampling where they sample from the placenta as early as nine weeks).” -Dr. Paula Richter

What I learned is that Kaiser Permanente is unlike any other insurance company, and truly cares about the health and well-being of their patients. As I approach my 40’s, Kaiser Permanente is a company that I trust with the care of myself, my husband, and my three young children.

Open enrollment started November 1. Explore plans with Kaiser Permanente Orange County and you’ll have the ability to select from many services for you and your family including primary and urgent care, emergency facilities, labor and delivery, pharmacy, and lab all housed under one roof. Find out more today at: kp.org/orangecounty.

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