What to Ask Your Doctor in Your 30s
It’s not so scary—but do take notes.
The morning of my 30th birthday, I woke up and instantly started crying. The first reason? I was so grateful for all the amazing things I had accomplished prior to ushering in this major milestone. The second reason? Being completely overwhelmed about all the new things that were expected, like marriage, babies, earning more money, etc.
The one thing my older friends always reminded me was that once you hit the big three-oh, things start to, err, change. A few examples include: wine and tequila are no longer my BFFs (i.e., killer hangovers), workouts becoming more mandatory, and nights in are more fun than nights out. Once-casual talks about weekend plans also shift toward more serious topics like fertility and IVF and the overall lifestyle changes that your new, womanly body requires.
“In our 30s our metabolism slows, which often results in a few pounds of weight gain,” explains Doctor On Demand’s Dr. Heather Hawthorne. “Our mood can become labile in response to increased life stressors that come with cultivating a career, raising a family, and financial planning. Our skin cells don’t regenerate as easily, so our skin can start to look dull and wrinkles usually start to appear. Our bone density also starts to slowly diminish, which can lead to osteoporosis later in life if ignored.”
Yeesh. How fun.
“It’s not all bad news, though,” she adds. “Many woman feel more confident because they have a better sense of self-identity by their 30s.” And with a newfound voice, it’s even more important to be proactive when heading to the doctor’s office.
According to dermatologist Michele Green, all women should have the following roster of healthcare experts on their roster: a primary care physician, dermatologist, gynecologist, optometrist, and gastroenterologist. “After age 30, it is recommended that you get the following screenings done: mammogram, pap test, blood pressure, cholesterol, skin cancer check, colonoscopy, and eye exams,” she explains.
Dr. Green suggests preparing your questions ahead of time, prioritizing it with your most important questions first. Be proactive by sending medical records, medication lists, allergy lists, or test results prior to your scheduled appointment, too. “This will give your physician an opportunity to review,” she shares. “If you are nervous and need moral support, ask a friend or family member to accompany you to your appointment; however, they may not be allowed in the exam room with you.”
In terms of testing, Zocdoc spokesperson and practicing internal medicine physician Dr. Keri Peterson recommends that sexually active women get tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea annually until age 25. “These can be run off your pap or with a separate swab of your cervix. After age 25, get tested regularly based on your own risk factors, which you should discuss with your doctor,” she explains. “Also, get tested before you have a new sexual partner or if you have any unusual symptoms.” Dr. Peterson also advises patients 30+ to get an HPV test every five years with their pap.
Speaking of s-e-x, fertility becomes more of a concern, especially since women over 30 start to see potential for decline. “[At age 30], the chance of conceiving each month is around 30 percent. By age 40, it decreases to 5 percent,” says Dr. Green. “A woman should ask their doctor about their chances of conceiving and about the risks of pregnancy at their age, including miscarriage rates, birth defects, and genetic abnormalities. They should also ask questions regarding C-sections, since most women at their older age are unable to give a natural birth.”
Another pain point: Extra weight gain feels harder to shake. “What you may have gotten away with eating in your 20s may now pack on the pounds,” says Dr. Peterson. “Minimize your alcohol intake to no more than one drink daily. And aim for a diet rich in lean meats, whole grains, and lots of fruits and veggies.”
Dr. Hawthorne suggest planning meals ahead of time to make better food choices and “put appointments for exercise on your calendar, and don’t miss them. Include strength training a couple of times each week to help build muscle and in turn speed up your metabolism.”
Diet and exercise play a key role in maintaining bone density, too, but you can actually “rebuild” bones as well. Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, do strength training and weight-bearing exercises, and take a collagen supplement. “Increase your protein intake, since 50 percent of your bones are made of protein,” says Dr. Green. “You should also eat a lot of high-calcium foods because calcium is the most important mineral for bone health. Vitamin D and vitamin K are also important.”
Overall, getting in tune with your body is more important than ever. “Embrace the subtle signs of aging that show up in your 30s,” says Dr. Hawthorn. “Use them as reminders that it’s time to take charge and be proactive about your health. See a doctor at least once yearly, get enough rest, commit to exercising regularly, and nourish your body with a healthy diet!”
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