Don’t ignore changes in your body once you turn 40

Hindustan Times | By, New Delhi
Aug 04, 2014 01:49 AM IST

According to experts, there is a need to be aware that the choices we make in our daily lives are critical in determining the wellness of our health and lifespan, especially after the age of 40. Hectic routines and high levels of stress can affect one’s health in a negative way.

Few people realise that the body starts undergoing changes when nearing 40. These changes are hormonal and can occur due to a number of reasons.

According to experts, there is a need to be aware that the choices we make in our daily lives are critical in determining the wellness of our health and lifespan, especially after the age of 40. Hectic routines, a sedentary lifestyle and high levels of stress and environmental factors can affect one’s health in a negative way.

Hormonal imbalance is at the root of a lot of health problems. “In women, symptoms of hormonal imbalance start to appear normally 10 years before the onset of menopause, called perimenopause,” said Dr Bela Makhija, director, institute of obstetrics and gynaecology, Saket City Hospital.

Hot flushes, irregular periods, sleeplessness and dry vagina are some common signs that hormones are wrecking havoc. In men too the production of male hormones also starts declining around the age of 40.

“Andropause or male menopause is not a much defined concept but men in their mid 40s, face multiple physical, mental and sexual dysfunctions. Sometimes it is compensated by the body but there are times when it is not able to. That is when one needs to see a doctor,” said Dr Anoop Misra, director and head, department of diabetes and metabolic diseases, Fortis Group of Hospitals.

Symptoms in men include rapid decline in physical performance; decline in muscle mass and increase in fat that gets distributed unevenly; frontal balding and in some cases breasts becoming prominent.

But experts do not recommend seeing a doctor unless the problem becomes severe.

Hormonal imbalance causes bloating and a majority of people tend to put on weight, especially around their waist, even though their exercise routine and food intake is the same as earlier. Thyroid, for example, is fast becoming a common occurrence among people nearing 40.

“In older people, hyperthyroidism results in symptoms opposite to young people such as irregular heartbeat/pulse; there is loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss. However, with age, Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) tends to increase which is normal,” said Dr Dinesh Kumar Dhanwal, professor of medicine and endocrinologist, Maulana Azad Medical College.

Experts warn against crash dieting or following fad diets. “The problem is we don’t look at sustainable weight management. We are only concerned about losing weight.

We must, however, not forget that it should be done the right way,” Delhi-based clinical nutritionist Ishi Khosla said.

Bone and joint-related complaints are also common as bone mass starts decreasing with age. Arthritis and osteoporosis lead to bone degeneration. The good news, however, is that joint replacement surgeries are fairly common these days.

Satinder Kaur, 47, a Patiala-based gynaecologist, had been nearly bedridden due to arthritis. Fear of surgery deterred her from undergoing knee replacement that doctors had been advising her for two years. Finally, she could no longer bear the pain and consulted Dr Ramneek Mahajan, senior orthopaedic surgeon, Saket City Hospital, who operated on her at a local hospital.

The prevalence of heart disease is also fairly common. Doctors warn that if there’s a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol etc, then one must get a heart check-up annually from the age of 30.

“Body mass index between 18 and 24, girth of not more than 32 inches is safe. Smoking and alcohol increases the risk,” said senior cardiologist Dr Akhilesh Srivastava.


    Rhythma Kaul works as an assistant editor at Hindustan Times. She covers health and related topics, including ministry of health and family welfare, government of India.

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