After the all-nighters, weekend drinking binges, and stress of your 20s is behind you, turning 30 can feel like a big milestone for your health. You might be in good shape physically. But, you may no longer have the luxury of eating and drinking whatever you want. Plus, if you don’t have kids or a life partner, yet, your fertility could come into question in a big way during this decade. Your late 20s may have been all about establishing yourself in the world and starting to develop healthy habits. However, your 30s are an important period for your wellbeing. You’ll want to continue to schedule annual visits (or every two years, if you’re healthy) for a physical, plus your OB-GYN and other specialists, as needed. Here are some questions to ask your doctor at your checkups.
I’m thinking about having children soon (or someday), what can I do to make sure my fertility is on track?
Women in their 30s are well aware that there’s a ticking clock on their fertility. It is more difficult for some women to conceive after age 35. That’s why it’s important to discuss your family plans with your doctor and/or OB-GYN, notes Dr. Kristine Arthur, an internist at Memorial Care Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California.
“If you want to have children in the future, age does matter,” she says. “Many women falsely believe that if they decide to wait to have children in their late 30s or 40s, it will be easy with modern medicine. That is not the case. While there have been great advances in technology, age is still the ultimate factor in whether a woman is able to become pregnant. This does not mean you should rush into motherhood, but simply keep it in mind when planning your future.”
If you’re interested in freezing your eggs, that’s another topic to discuss with your doctor in your late 20s and early 30s, Arthur recommends.
(And once you have kids, don’t forget to continue taking care of yourself! Ask your doctor about birth control options or family planning options if more little ones are in the works.)
Am I at a healthy weight, and what can I do to maintain it?
Your lifestyle, diet, and exercise habits in your 30s are important to discuss with your doctor, says Dr. Lisa Doggett, a board-certified family physician in Austin, Texas. “You’ll want to discuss lifestyle habits that may have health implications, such as substance abuse, including alcohol and tobacco, and choices around diet and exercise,” she says.
Your doctor will monitor your BMI (body mass index) and use it to assess your risk for diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes.
If you already work out regularly, Doggett says that your 30s are the time to keep that up. “Exercise is critically important at all stages of life. But it may be particularly important in your 30s to ward off chronic disease and other health problems later on,” she says. “Developing a daily (or almost daily) exercise routine can do more to improve health than any medication, supplement, or vitamin.”
She also recommends a plant-based diet with at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, lean meat, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy. “Watching calories is important. A lot of people tend to see their weight start to creep up in their 30s. They should take steps to keep that from happening,” she says.
Do I need to be screened for cancer?
As you’re keeping up with your regular health checkups, be sure to ask your doctor about which screenings you’ll need.
“Even though it’s not common, it is possible to develop certain types of cancer in your 30s,” Arthur says. “This is particularly important if you have any family history of cancer. For instance, colon cancer screenings typically start at age 50. But if you have a first-degree relative that developed it at a younger age, you would need to start screening sooner. For example, if your dad was diagnosed at age 45 you should start screening at 35.”
Arthur also says to stay vigilant and let your doctor know if anything is going on with your body. “If you have a breast lump or a suspicious mole, get it checked out. There’s a good chance it is benign, but don’t ignore it because you are young.”
How might stress impact my health? Do you have any suggestions for lowering my stress level?
Between your job and kids, your 30s can be a high-stress decade. Doggett says you should talk to your doctor about healthy strategies to cope with your mental health. You can also work with a therapist or counselor if you wish.
“Find ways to cope with stress, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques or yoga. [This] can improve your quality of life and overall health,” she says. And, don’t forget about self-care. “Getting enough sleep—generally seven to eight hours a night—is important to overall health. [Plus, it] may even help reduce weight gain and some chronic disease, too.”
Do I need to update any vaccinations?
If you were vigilant about getting vaccinations in your early 20s, it might be time to renew a few of them. Ask your doctor what they’d recommend.
“You’ll want to update your immunizations in your 30’s, including getting an annual flu shot and tetanus shot every ten years,” Doggett recommends. And, if you haven’t gotten an HPV vaccine before, she says it is not too late. “It was just approved for men and women up to age 45 to prevent cervical cancer and genital warts.”
Your 30s are an exciting time. Put in the time to find practitioners who work for you and get comfortable asking them questions—even the tough ones—so you can enjoy the healthiest decade possible.