In the busyness of your daily life, whether you’re juggling work, family, and other responsibilities, it can easily feel like another squeeze on your time to stay vigilant about your health. But it’s important that we all – and especially as we get older – listen to our bodies even amid the chaos.
Your midlife body has a way of sending out warning signs when something isn't quite right. I cannot tell you the number of clients I’ve worked with who have been struggling with symptoms of all kinds for years, hoping that they might magically go away. You’ve probably heard people say that health is wealth and maybe it’s true that you only miss good health when it’s gone. Think of today a chance to check with where you are and how you feel about your current health and ask questions and/or seek help if you feel something isn’t quite right.
When you’re in the menopause years, the lack of oestrogen can wreak havoc on your body and bring a heap of unwelcome symptoms but tune in to what for you isn’t normal. There are any number of signs that your midlife body is not working at its best but here are some of the main ones. There is crossover here with some classic menopause symptoms, but don’t be fobbed off that the cause is menopause and should, perhaps, be left to play out. If in doubt, always check things out with your doctor and don’t wait for things to get ‘bad enough’ to seek help.
Don’t confuse common ‘normal’. Just because many women suffer through symptoms, doesn't mean you have to suck it up.
Boob changes - midlife warning sign #1
Everyone knows that lumps are not a good thing. They can be caused by hormonal changes, but you don’t need me to tell you they could also be the big C. Don’t rule out other boob irregularities. Nipples that have suddenly gone inwards. Skin that is sagging. Dimpling or puckering of skin. Discharge from your nips. Swelling either of your breasts or under your armpits. Don’t sit with questions – get booked in with your doctor ASAP to get this ruled out. You’ll only be worrying anyway, so get the answers you need quickly.
Chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure - midlife warning sign #2
These are classic signs of a heart attack but could equally be something musculoskeletal, linked to acid reflux or be a lung infection. Always err on the side of caution, and especially if the pain seems to have come on quite suddenly, isn’t relieved by rest and is present with other symptoms like feeling nauseous, light-headed, or short of breath. Don’t rule this out because you’re female. After menopause, your risk for cardiovascular problems shoot up, so you’re at perhaps greater risk than men.
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath - menopause health warning #3
Anyone can notice a temporary difficulty now and again and causes can be incredibly varied, from a panic attack or asthma to a heart attack or stroke. A good rule of thumb is that if it is severe, sudden or is very limiting to your normal daily activities, seek immediate help to rule out the more serious causes.
Coughing up or vomiting blood - midlife warning #4
Where blood is present as an unusual symptom, it’s best not to mess around. If you occasionally cough a little blood during a violent coughing bout with a cold, it’s probably nothing to worry about. If this happens more than a couple of times, get yourself checked. There are too many possible to talk about here but make an appointment to see your doctor. Vomiting blood is more serious and may need emergency medical treatment. Don’t try to be your own doctor – let the experts take care of you!
Persistent fatigue - 'take note' sign #5
Feeling tired now and then is common – especially if your menopause is giving you sleep issues - but if you find yourself exhausted day after day, it's time to pay attention. Chronic fatigue can stem from various underlying conditions, such as anaemia, thyroid problems, or even a sleep disorder. Don't hesitate to consult your doctor, who may recommend blood tests to rule out some of the main vitamin and mineral deficiencies like vitamins B and D and iron, and an underactive thyroid. It’s not always possible to get a full range of tests for a variety of reasons, mainly financial [on the NHS] but practitioners like me can help you delve deeper if you don’t get the answers you’re looking for.
Unexplained weight changes - midlife warning sign #6
Sudden weight loss or gain without an apparent reason should raise a red flag. While it could be due to stress or a fluctuation in your eating habits, it's crucial to rule out any underlying health issues. Make an appointment with your doctor who may order tests to evaluate your thyroid function, hormone levels, or check for potential digestive disorders. Weight loss is linked to a wide variety of health complications.
Persistent digestive issues - take-action symptom #7
When digestive problems like bloating, indigestion, feel full or irregular bowel movements, pain or bleeding of any kind become your regular companions, it's time to investigate further. These symptoms might indicate food sensitivities, gut imbalances, or even conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The starting point should, of course, be your doctor who will take a case history and make may some recommendations or even send you for some tests. Keep in mind, mainstream medical professionals are focussed on disease states. They want to rule out inflammatory bowel disease and other conditions, and testing options (even if you are referred to a specialist) can be limited. Once the ‘big stuff’ has been eliminated, you might find you’re no further forward. Functional medicine practitioners like me offer a range of tests from comprehensive stool tests, intolerance and allergy panels and breath tests that may shed some light on the situation.
Unexplained pain - don't-ignore-me sign #8
Persistent or recurring pain that doesn't seem to have a clear cause should never be ignored. It could be a sign of an underlying condition, such as inflammation, hormonal imbalances, or even something more serious. Make an appointment with your doctor who can conduct a thorough evaluation of your symptoms and recommend appropriate diagnostic tests like imaging or blood work.
Constant headaches - menopause warning sign #9
Frequent headaches could be a sign of migraines, high blood pressure, muscular, eye or dental problems among others. So don’t put off asking for help because you Googled it and have convinced yourself you have a brain tumour. Consider, sometimes people do hear news they don’t like when they reach out for help but, for most people, the cause is more likely to be benign. Frequent headaches can be a symptom of perimenopause or even a food intolerance. If the doctor gives you the all-clear, know that I am happy to help you explore further.
Mood and mental health changes - don't-stay-silent sign #10
If you notice unexplained changes in your mood, such as persistent sadness, anxiety, or difficulty concentrating, it's essential to seek help. Mental health issues are just as important as physical health concerns and their impact on your life can be immense. The doctor or mental health nurse in your practice is your first port of call and they should be able to signpost you to help. As with all aspects of your health, you deserve to feel well inside and out. Sometimes you need to push for the support you need. If you feel your concerns are not being taken seriously, you can ask for a second opinion. There maybe someone in your doctor’s practice who is the mental health lead or, if you suspect you are going through menopause, you could start with the menopause specialist if they have one.
Persistent skin problems - listen-to-your-body signal #11
Skin is your body's largest organ, and any persistent issues deserve attention. Whether it's unexplained rashes, acne breakouts, or excessively dry or oily skin, these can be signs of underlying hormone imbalances or allergies. Start with your doctor or a local skin clinic who can conduct a thorough examination and suggest appropriate tests, such as allergy testing to uncover the root cause. Nutrition practitioners like me may also be able to help find out why your skin is misbehaving if you’re out of options elsewhere. There’s a big link, for example, between gut health and skin, and this is rarely explored in conventional medicine. Remember, the body keeps a score so if your food and lifestyle have been off for a while, skin problems could be your body’s way of telling you to take notice.
Abnormal menstrual changes - don't miss this sign #12
Ladies, pay close attention to any unusual changes in your menstrual cycle. Irregular periods, heavy bleeding, severe cramps, or the sudden absence of your period could indicate hormonal imbalances like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, fibroids, or other gynaecological conditions. Book to see your doctor who may recommend blood tests or imaging studies. Mainstream medicine has its limitations. You’re really wanting to get disease states ruled out. Where the waters are still unclear, I can offer a range of tests, including the DUTCH test, which uses dried urine to assess your hormones and how your body metabolises them.
Any kind of unusual bleeding at all, in fact - sign #13
If you're experiencing unusual bleeding, such as between periods, after sex, or in your stool, it could be a sign of an underlying health issue such as haemorrhoids or any one of several menstrual irregularities like endometriosis, fibroids, or the perimenopause. If could be something worse, like cervical or bowel cancer. Blood in your urine could be a sign of a urinary tract infection, kidney stones, or even bladder cancer as a worse-case scenario. Don’t rely on online health forums or Facebook groups for others’ opinions on what might be wrong. Take your symptoms right way to a doctor. As always, the getting an appointment as soon as you notice something might be wrong means you get answers much quicker and, if there is a medical problem, your chance of a successful outcome is also increased.
Changes in vision - midlife warning #14
Changes in your vision, such as blurriness, double vision, or loss of vision, could be a sign of an underlying health issue such as diabetes or even a stroke. It might be worth making appointments with both your doctor and an optician to get some tests done. Regular eye tests are a good idea anyway since they can spot problems from the very first sign rather than when a problem is more sizeable. There can be many reasons why eye problems develop but diabetes is the leading cause of sight loss in the UK, according to Diabetes UK.
Changes in moles - notice-me sign #15
A great many people have moles, and these are normally no cause for concern. However, changes in the size, shape, or colour of moles could be a sign of skin cancer. If it’s itching, flaking, or weeping, again, book an appointment with a doctor. It doesn’t matter whether the change has been a little while coming or you’ve noticed changes inside of a few weeks. If your doctor thinks it’s a melanoma, you would normally be referred to a specialist within a couple of weeks.
Persistent cough - health warning #16
A cough that lasts for more than a few weeks could be a sign of any one of several things, including asthma or bronchitis, heartburn, allergy, hay fever and, obviously, all those other things you’ve been worrying about. After cold and flu, a cough can linger for weeks. The NHS considers a chronic cough to be anything lasting longer than eight weeks. If you’ve had a cough that’s not gone and you’re beyond this point, get on the phone and book an appointment. If your cough is accompanied by blood, seek more immediate help. The most common reason is a chest infection but don’t leave things to chance.
Listening to your body is crucial for maintaining good health. If you experience any of these warning signs, don't hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor. Remember that, even if there is something medically wrong, getting treatment earlier gives you the best chance of putting things right as quickly as possible and of a full recovery. But also keep in mind, working with a nutritional therapist specialising in functional medicine can offer a holistic approach to address underlying imbalances. I can help you identify the root cause of your health issues and develop a personalised programme of diet and lifestyle changes to support your wellbeing.
If you're ready to prioritise your health and unlock the potential for a vibrant life, I invite you to book a free wellwoman call by clicking HERE to book into the Food Fabulous diary.