Updated: May 22
Being a healthy hiker means you take care of yourself. If you're a woman over 40, you've probably fallen behind on self-care. No, I'm not talking about the mani-pedi's; I'm talking about all the things you should do to take care of your health so you'll be hiking for years to come.
Women tend to take great care of themselves while they are of childbearing age so that should they carry a child, they will give them the best possible outcome. However, the problem is that this sets you up to stay healthy only because it provides care for someone else. Once you're done having kids or become dedicated to a career, you continue in the mindset of always caring for others and putting yourself last. You ignore your symptoms to make sure junior gets to tumbling class on time, or you cancel a well-woman visit because their boss moved the timeline up on a big project. When the pandemic stopped elective procedures, you might not have rescheduled appointments for preventative care.
Ignoring basic preventative care puts you at risk of developing a major medical issue that keeps you from hiking and from taking care of the other people in your life. You won't be much help to your kids, partner, or boss if you aren't healthy!
How is your health in the following areas:
Cardiovascular - Are you performing at least 20 minutes of aerobic activity four to five times a week? Daily aerobic exercise keeps your heart healthy, fights weight gain, and improves fitness for hiking.
Musculoskeletal - Are you working to maintain or build strength three to four times per week? Are you performing weight-bearing activities to help strengthen bones? If you're over age 65, have you had a DEXA scan? Have you discussed calcium supplementation with your doctor?
Skin - Hikers experience increased sun exposure, often at high altitudes with less atmospheric protection. When was your last skin cancer screening? Is there a spot that you've been meaning to get checked out but forgot about?
Dental - Dental care has been another casualty of pandemic interruption. Have you resumed your regular biannual cleanings and checkups? Does your dentist screen for that and mouth cancers? Is there a tooth that's been bothering you, but you've adapted and chew on the other side? Now's the time to get it checked out!
Breast - Do you perform your monthly breast self-exams? Most organizations recommend a baseline mammogram at age 35 and annual screens beginning at 40 years of age. If you're over 40, have you had your annual mammogram?
GastroIntestinal - Are you struggling with heartburn or digestive distress? The American Cancer Society lowered the recommended age of first screening colonoscopy to 45 years old. A repeat test should be conducted every 10 years. There are several other screening tools available, so be sure to discuss with your doctor and choose what is right for you.
Gynecological - Visit your doctor if you notice anything unusual with your cycle or experience any atypical symptoms. If you're between the ages of 30 and 65, you may only need a Pap Test every three to five years, so be sure to follow your doctor's recommendations for follow-up.
Vision - When was your last vision screening? Do you need an updated prescription for glasses or contacts? Vision changes happen so slowly you may not notice. Therefore, annual screenings are important to keep your sight healthy! Especially in light of recent findings of a correlation between cataracts and dementia!
Endocrine - Women often attribute the various symptoms they experience with aging to menopause. However, thyroid dysfunction can also cause many of the same issues. Don't suffer through and assume nothing can be done! Talk to your doctor about options for helping you thrive during this season.
Immunizations - It's important to discuss with your doctor what vaccines you should get, including those for Flu and Shingles.
This list is by no means exhaustive. If you've neglected your self-care, start with a physical or well-woman visit with your primary doctor and make a plan for getting all appointments and tests done so that you can be the healthiest hiker you can be for many years to come!