As women age, their body begins to change in many different ways. Even if you’re active and live a healthy lifestyle, processes begin to slow down and body parts start to show signs of wear and tear. It’s sometimes harder to get out of bed and start moving. You may find that you get tired much more quickly. Aches and pains tend to come on faster and take longer to go away. New, strange predicaments crop up due to changes in your body’s hormones. It’s up to you to maintain control of your health. You can do this quite effectively if you have the right type of doctors for women over 50 working with you.
You won’t need all these doctors all the time. But when issues arise along the aging process, these are usually the types of doctors that are helpful to know about for women over 50.
While nothing new on your radar, your primary care physician is usually your first point of contact when it comes to your general health. Normally, they are the ones who will perform your yearly physical and take care of any minor injuries or health concerns you may have. They are also the ones who will determine whether you need a referral to a more specialized physician if a major health problem arises. As general practitioners, they can handle many of life’s more common problems, but will often refer to you a specialist if more in-depth care is needed. Cholesterol screenings and blood pressure checks should be performed regularly. But you know all this.
Here’s something to consider, though. Primary care physicians can be traditional MD’s. Or they can be osteopathic physicians, specialize in geriatrics, be a concierge doctor, internist or even a chiropractor. If you prefer to stay with one doctor for as long as possible, choosing one that specializes in health conditions that affect women over 50 is a plus.
Osteopathic medicine has become more common due to patients being more comfortable with a holistic approach to their health. An osteopath looks at the body as a whole instead of as a group of parts that are often treated separately. Chiropractors focus on maintaining balance within the body and practicing preventative care. Chiropractors and osteopathic doctors specialize in what many people refer to as functional medicine. This modality focuses on maintaining proper body function, both physiologically and psychologically.
Most people associate a gynecologist with women’s health prior to menopause. The fact is, women still need to visit their gynecologist on a regular basis after menopause as well. Just because they no longer can bear children, it doesn’t mean that their reproductive health should be overlooked. Regular pap smears should be performed as usual. As a woman ages and their hormone levels change, it can cause a variety of symptoms that a gynecologist can effectively treat. This includes vaginal dryness, weight fluctuations, loss of sex drive and changes in the hair and nails. Gynecologists also work with primary care physicians to encourage women to receive regular mammograms after the age of 40.
Glaucoma and cataracts are primary causes of vision loss in women over the age of 50. Visiting your eye doctor at least once a year for an annual exam will help you to maintain your vision. The ophthalmologist will be able to perform the necessary screenings to determine whether not your eyes begin to show signs of deterioration. With regular exams, they can keep your prescriptions up to date and your vision on point. If the signs of glaucoma, cataracts, or macular degeneration begin to appear, they can formulate a treatment plan and work to slow down their progression.
Good oral health is a must at any age. Your dentist can tell a lot about your general health just by looking at your teeth and gums. Even if you no longer have your teeth, visiting your dentist for an annual exam will allow them to check your bridge, implants or dentures for wear and tear and evaluate your gum tissue to determine if your “new teeth” still fit properly. Maintaining proper oral health is essential for good digestion as well. Your mouth is the first point of contact for food as it enters your body. Your teeth need to be able to chew it properly so the rest of the digestive tract can break it down and utilize the nutrients. Seeing your dentists on a yearly basis will help you keep your smile intact and your teeth and gums healthy.
Having a doctor on hand who specializes in internal medicine is also a good idea, whether you choose them for your primary care physician or not. Aging has a direct effect on your metabolism which, in turn, can affect almost every process and function that occurs in your body. This can include the effectiveness of your digestive system, liver function, hormonal imbalance, the onset of diabetes, or any other condition that affects the internal workings of your body. Many doctors who specialize in endocrinology have also studied internal medicine.
Doctors who specialize in internal medicine are often the ones who recommend cancer screenings and request more in-depth testing to uncover the true cause of a patient’s symptoms. Individuals who have been diagnosed with diabetes or auto-immune disorders are often seen by doctors who specialize in internal medicine.
Another key doctor that is beneficial for 50-year-old women is an orthopedic physician. One of the most relevant changes within the body as we age is the density of the bones. As you get older, some degree of bone loss is inevitable. While exercise and supplements can slow down the process, it won’t stop completely. An orthopedic physician can work with you to monitor your bone loss and help you take the proper precautions to keep your musculoskeletal system as healthy and strong as possible. Bone density tests should be performed on a regular basis to determine your rate of bone loss. These tests will also help your doctor determine if and when supplements are needed.
An endocrinologist (which sometimes falls under the same categories as functional and internal medicine) studies the endocrine system and all of the glands that work within it. This includes the thyroid, adrenals, and reproductive glands. They specialize in dealing with metabolic disorders, diabetes, and conditions that affect the hormones associated with fertility and the reproductive system. This is often the doctor you go to when you began to see the symptoms of menopause and want to get the panel of hormones levels looked at.
Functional medicine offers a holistic approach to healthcare and focuses on the person as a whole. It is often associated with both internal medicine and osteopathic medicine. Osteopathic doctors naturally gravitate toward functional medicine because it uses a preventive approach by trying first to prevent disease and second to find the underlying cause. By treating the cause of a disease and not the symptoms, it is less likely that the condition will return or become a chronic problem.
A rheumatologist is a specialization that is often chosen by doctors who practice internal medicine. A rheumatologist specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions that affect the joints. These conditions can be auto-immune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia, or they can be disorders that affect the musculoskeletal system as a whole. This includes most types of arthritis and various types of joint disease. Rheumatology also deals with chronic conditions that cause swelling, stiffness and chronic pain throughout the body.
Oncologists are physicians who diagnose and treat various types of cancer. There are several types of cancer that can affect women who have experienced menopause. These include all of the reproductive cancers (breast, ovarian, and uterine). Women in their 50s are more prone to cancers of the colon, skin, and lungs (especially if they are chronic smokers). Because there are so many forms of cancers, you will need to talk to your primary doctor or one who specializes in internal medicine to determine which type of oncologist you need.
Mental health professionals work with patients who have been diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder, or any other condition that affects their mental health and stability. There is a lot of potential change that happens during these years. Empty nest syndrome. Increasingly, divorce. Retirement. Patients who lose loved ones (which occurs with people of any age) are often referred to a counselor or other mental health professional to help them deal with their feelings of grief and loss. Depression is a common symptom that often accompanies many debilitating auto-immune disorders or chronic illness that patients may deal with as they get older. Menopause or a low thyroid can also bring on depression. Having a counselor on hand is a great way to stay grounded and keep both your body and mind in a more natural balance.
Getting older doesn’t mean you have to feel or act any differently. With the right type of doctors for women over 50 on your side, you can maintain your good health for many years to come. Each doctor serves a unique purpose and when they work together, can help you maintain a healthy, and very active lifestyle for many years to come. In some cases, performing an evaluation of your lifestyle will help you get back on track with your health. Visit the doctor. Get a clean bill of health. If you have a medical issue, address it now and then start moving forward in a healthier manner. Take the initiative. It’s your health and your life. Choose to live it to the fullest.
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