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Life changes every decade, and so does your health status. Your body transforms, your brain and cognitive development differs, and so does the environment around you. If the 20s are a time of transition, then the 30s are when most women feel socially and economically stable. However, this is also the decade when most women also juggle family and work, and a lot of women find it difficult to focus on their own health.

Since the 30s are when a lot of working women these days are starting to get married and have children, this decade becomes quite crucial. Not only should your own health be a priority during this decade, but having children also requires you to pay attention to issues you may pass on to the kids and how pregnancy, childbirth and childcare will affect your health in the long term.

This apart, the 30s are also the time when a lot of women experience fears about cancer - especially breast cancer - and other lifestyle diseases like hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, etc. Many also suffer from hormonal imbalance and reproductive health issues like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, uterine fibroids, etc.

This is the reason why being aware of all the health issues you might face in your 30s is important. Here is everything you need to know about being 30 years old and above, and all the changes you might experience in your health in this decade.

  1. How your body changes in the 30s
  2. Health issues you are at risk of in the 30s
  3. Tests women in their 30s must get done

With age, changes in how your body functions are bound to happen. These changes are likely to affect a number of aspects of your health. Here are a few changes women in their 30s will notice during the decade.

  1. Metabolism decreases in the 30s
  2. Hormonal changes in the 30s
  3. Skin and hair changes in the 30s
  4. Bones loss in the 30s
  5. Fertility decreases in the 30s
  6. Mental health in the 30s
  7. Muscle loss in the 30s

Metabolism decreases in the 30s

If you have been slowly gaining weight, especially around the abdomen, hips, breasts and face then welcome to the 30s. Your metabolism just isn’t what it used to be, so the rate at which your body synthesises food to make energy has slowed down. This also means that you will have to restructure your diet and exercise routine to catch up to your age. Cutting off unhealthy, fried foods, sugar, alcohol and smoking is a good thing to do. Increase the intensity, duration and nature of your exercise routine, and take up jogging, cycling, swimming, or other activities.

Hormonal changes in the 30s

If the 20s are when your estrogen and progesterone levels were at their peak and performing well, your 30s are when the levels of these hormones might shift. Testosterone production, which has a role to play in muscle development, is also affected in the 30s. Add lifestyle factors to this list, and chances are your hormone levels are going topsy-turvy during the 30s, which can be evident in acne breakouts, facial hair and confirmed diagnosis of PCOS, fibroids, etc. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating well and exercising enough can bring some balance back into your endocrine system.

Read more: Female hormones

Skin and hair changes in the 30s

You might slowly observe changes in your skin’s texture. Not only can your skin appear duller, it’s not uncommon to even find a few wrinkles. The same goes for your hair - the rate of growth would have decreased and you might spot white hairs. This is because your skin and hair cells are not forming as quickly as they used to. This is a normal part of ageing, but you can improve your diet, cut off habits like smoking and drinking, and take plenty of fluids to improve your skin quality naturally. But don’t expect miracles, because even though you’re just in your 30s, you are still ageing and this is a natural process that cannot be reversed.

Bones loss in the 30s

Women tend to have smaller bones and bone mass than men, and the development of bone mass usually peaks in women by the time they’re 19 years of age. In the 30s, this bone mass can take a hit. This could happen due to deficiency in calcium, protein, vitamin D, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and fluoride intake (yes, there’s more to bone health than just calcium). Pregnancy and breastfeeding, especially the latter, can also affect bone health in the 30s.

Breastfeeding women need to take calcium supplements because a lot of their calcium is being passed to the baby via breast milk. These are just some of the reasons why you might experience bone loss in your 30s, and while there might not be too many effects in the 30s itself, you might have increased risks of osteoporosis and osteopenia later.

Fertility decreases in the 30s

You might have heard of this one, especially from parents and doctors: your fertility levels decrease in your 30s. While you might feel more ready for a family and a baby after 30 years of age because you feel more financially secure, medically, your chances of getting pregnant decrease as you progress into your 30s. By the time you’re 35 years old, fertility decreases further, and getting pregnant becomes more difficult. This happens because your female hormones get more slowly secreted in the 30s, affecting the menstrual cycle and fertility. This is also the reason why many couples in their 30s have to use assisted reproductive therapy (ART) and in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) to get pregnant.

Mental health in the 30s

The 30s are a critical time for mental health. The burden of caring for children, spouses, parents and in-laws usually falls on women in their 30s. Add to this a career for working women, and it’s quite the juggling act that most women in their 30s are accomplishing every day. Of course, this juggling can take a toll on mental health. Women in their 30s are likely to have issues like stress, anxiety, depression and postpartum depression to deal with. This is the reason why women in their 30s also need to prioritise their mental health above everything else, for certain periods of time if not every day. This can only benefit in the long run.

Muscle loss in the 30s

Those toned arms and legs tend to get more difficult to maintain in your 30s. The main reason behind this is loss of muscle mass, which begins soon after you cross 30 and fail to tailor your lifestyle accordingly. This muscle loss happens partially due to low metabolic rate, but the predominant reason is sarcopenia or age-related muscle loss. This is a natural part of ageing, and after 30, you can lose as much as 3-5% of muscle mass per decade. The rate of this loss is higher for those who leave inactive or sedentary lives. Getting enough protein and fiber as well as getting enough exercise daily is very important to minimize muscle loss after 30.

Due to ageing, lifestyle factors and gender, women in their 30s are actually at risk of developing multiple health issues. The onset of these problems depends on how well you’ve been taking care of yourself in your 20s, but genetics and ageing play a huge role too. So, some of these issues are easily avoidable, and manageable if you are indeed diagnosed with them. Some problems, like miscarriage, heart disease and cancer, are bound to get worse with age. Here are the diseases you should beware of in your 30s.

  • High blood pressure: Often called a silent killer, hypertension or high blood pressure can often show mild or no symptoms. According to John Hopkins Medicine, 7% women between the ages of 20 and 34 years have hypertension without realising it. It might show up especially during pregnancy, with gestational hypertension. If left untreated, hypertension can affect the heart, kidneys, blood vessels and the brain.
  • Diabetes: Just like hypertension, you could have diabetes and not know it at all. Obesity is a leading cause of diabetes in your 30s, and so are unhealthy eating habits. Maintaining a balanced diet and cutting off sugar, processed food and junk food is of vital importance if you want to avoid diabetes.
  • Obesity: Your metabolic rate is low, muscle loss and bone density loss are both starting - these are enough to make you gain weight. If you have hormonal imbalance, high cholesterol and other issues, chances of obesity are higher still. It’s best not to take obesity and weight gain lightly because it can cause other issues like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
  • Stroke: While older women are at a much higher risk of strokes, John Hopkins Medicine reveals that there is a 32% rise in strokes among women between 18 and 34 years of age. This is because the risk factors for cardiovascular diseases have increased among millennial women, Further, being pregnant or on contraceptive pills also increases the risk of strokes among women.
  • Miscarriage: The later you get pregnant, the higher the risk of miscarriage. Women trying to get pregnant in their 30s might have to deal with recurrent miscarriages, infertility, ectopic pregnancy and other issues too.
  • Cancer: Unfortunately, it’s never too early to get cancer and women of all ages are at risk of breast cancer. Of course, having a genetic history of cancer makes the risks much higher for women in their 30s.
  • Autoimmune diseases: A study published in Emerging Infectious Diseases in 2004 revealed that 8% of the world’s population suffers from autoimmune diseases, and 78% of that population is female. Apart from genetic factors, autoimmune diseases can be triggered by infections, and women in their 20s and 30s are especially susceptible to those - especially if they’re sexually active with multiple partners or lead an unhealthy lifestyle. Early diagnosis can make the management of autoimmune diseases easier.

Establishing a relationship with a good doctor is very important for women in their 30s. Not only can this help you figure out what health issues you’re at greater risk of, but it can also make it easier for you to avoid and manage them. There are a number of tests and screening that are recommended to women in their 30s, and these are apart from tests during pregnancy. Here are some of the tests you should get done regularly if you’re in your 30s, and more often if you’re particularly at risk.

  • Blood pressure: It’s fine to get your blood pressure tested once or twice a year if you’re healthy, but if your BP is at or above 120-80 you should get it checked more often. The same goes for low BP, especially if you have anemia.
  • Cholesterol: You should get a complete lipid profile done once every three to five years. But if you already have a cholesterol issue then this test should be conducted more often, as per your doctor’s recommendation.
  • Breast exam: You should conduct a breast self-exam at least once every month. While in your 30s, you can get a clinical breast exam done once in three years, unless you’re at risk.
  • Dental exam: Professional tooth cleaning is very important to avoid dental health problems, so you should visit a dentist once every six months or at least once a year. This can also help you understand if you have tooth decay or substantial bone loss.
  • Diabetes screening: If you’re healthy, you don’t need to get a diabetes screening until you’re 45 years old. But it’s best to consult your doctor to find out if you’re at risk and need to get this screening done while in your 30s. 
  • Eye exam: You should get a complete eye exam done at least twice in your 30s, unless you have vision problems, a family history of eye problems, eye injury or infections, or diabetes. If you have any of these issues, eye exams should be conducted more often.
  • Pelvic exam: All women above the age of 18 years, especially sexually active ones, should get a pelvic exam done at least once a year. These can help reveal if you have any uterine abnormalities or other issues.
  • Pap test: You should get a pap smear or pap test done at least once every three years. It’s best to get an HPV test done once every five years too. These can reveal if you’re at risk of cervical cancer. If you have multiple sexual partners, HIV/AIDS, weakened immune system or a history of abnormal growths, it’s best to get the pap test done more often according to the recommendation of your doctor.
  • Thyroid test: You should get your thyroid function tested at the age of 35 years, and once every five years from there onwards. However, if you have a family history of hypothyroidism, it’s best to get tested once every year or two.
  • Skin check: The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you get your skin tested by a dermatologist at least once every year to ensure you don’t have skin cancer or other issues like eczema. If you have a history of skin diseases or infections, this screening should be done more often at the discretion of your dermatologist.
  • STD screening: Getting checked for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is very important in your 30s, especially if you have multiple sex partners or have a history of diseases like chlamydia, gonorrhea, etc.
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References

  1. RWJBarnabas Health [Internet]. New Jersey. USA; Health Tips for Women in Their 20s, 30s, and 40s
  2. Office on Women's Health [Internet] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Healthy living in your 30s.
  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine [Internet]. The Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Health System; 5 Health Problems You’re Actually Not Too Young For
  4. National Institutes of Health; [Internet]. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Osteoporosis: Peak Bone Mass in Women
  5. Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School [Internet]. Harvard University, Cambridge. Massachusetts. USA; Preserve your muscle mass.
  6. Johns Hopkins Medicine [Internet]. The Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Health System; High Blood Pressure/Hypertension
  7. Fairweather, DeLisa and Rose, Noel R. Women and Autoimmune Diseases. Emerg Infect Dis. 2004 Nov; 10(11): 2005–2011. PMID: 15550215
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