05/16/2016 03:59 EDT | Updated 05/16/2016 03:59 EDT

Over the Age of 35? The Questions Every Woman Should Ask Her Doctor

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Female doctor discussing with a patient

It’s always important to have regular checkups to make sure our bodies are in tip-top shape. But for women over the age of 35, it’s especially imperative as the risk of developing age-related illnesses increases at that point.

But having conversations about health concerns can be nerve-wracking. What questions do we ask our doctor and how do we make sure we’re getting the most out of our consultations? In partnership with Poise Impressa, we’ve equipped you with seven topics to bring up at your next appointment.

1. Do I still need to get pap smears?

Under new recommendations, every woman over the age of 21 in Ontario, sexually active or not, should get a pap smear every three years. After 35, it’s recommended that women take the test every five years but it's important for your doctor to tailor that timing to you and your health history. It is estimated by the Canadian Cancer Society that last year 1,500 Canadian women were diagnosed with cervical cancer and 380 of them died from the disease. Early detection increases the chances of survival.

2. Why am I leaking?

If you need to use the washroom frequently and if laughter is often met with wet pants, bladder leakage could be the culprit. It’s often the long-term effect of vaginal childbirth where a woman’s pelvic floor muscles becomes stretched and eventually weaken. Bladder leakage can also occur during menopause when vaginal tissue becomes less elastic, the lining of the urethra begins to thin and pelvic muscles begin to lose their strength. There are ways to treat bladder leakage and a doctor can help match you with the method that best suits you.

3. Do I need a colonoscopy?

Colorectal cancer is the third-most diagnosed cancer among women and men and at 50 you should start screening yourself for the disease. Doctors will remind you of that milestone but family medical history may encourage you to get a colonoscopy sooner. Having that talk with your doctor is important so you can be in control of your own health.

4. Do I have to worry about my cholesterol?

One in every six adults has high cholesterol and the problem affects women more than it does men. It’s particularly important for women going through menopause to talk to their doctors about their cholesterol levels as these bodily changes can sometimes lead to high cholesterol. A doctor can help suggest ways to prevent the disease and regular check-ins on cholesterol levels are important as the condition is not often associated to any significant signs and symptoms.

5. How do I know if I’m going through menopause?

Hot? Cold? Irritated? The signs of menopause are fairly obvious. When a woman’s natural estrogen and progesterone levels start to decrease, she can feel a myriad of the following menopausal symptoms: hot flashes, vaginal dryness, decreased libido, and bladder leakage. Menopause occurs anywhere between the ages of 45 and 55 but sometimes symptoms begin much earlier. Having a chat with your doctor about your symptoms can help you live a more comfortable life. Open that conversation so that you can get the help you need.

6. Is it normal that my bones ache?

In a word: no. Achy bones aren’t a normal occurrence and may suggest that you may have osteoporosis, the disease of the bone. Women over the age of 50 are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis, so consistent conversations about bone health is important.

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